Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Ch.9 From Italian refugee camp to...Canada

Not every young Hungarian volunteered for the US Army. Some were afraid that a war such as the Korean one, can happen again, so the idea did not seem, all of a sudden, so attractive. They had tried consoling Peter in this manner. Then, in a couple of days, after an emotional farewell, several young men were on their way by air to the USA, apparently to San Francisco.

Celebration of March 15, a Hungarian festive holiday, in the Colony.
The first Hungarian national festive day in the Colony was March 15.and was celebrated by the compatriots with the National Anthem and flag, their mind on their loved ones at home.
As a fourth grade student, in 1948, at the time of the 100.anniversary of the 1848 Freedom Fight, Peter remembered well the occasion. That celebration took place in his hometown’s Teachers’ College. The practice elementary classes for teacher-students were also present when the national flag was raised, right in front of the senior choir, led by Professor Arato. These student-teachers taught them to read and write, as well as to behave in class, protecting, guiding them through the 4 years of elementary school.
Peter remembered the sudden spring that exploded from the normally short winter, even promising the prospect of summer in the not too distant future. He remembered the little dispute with his mother, when he wanted to dress in shorts while she insisted on the long pants of the winter, still. But the tears in the eyes of the 10 year old did not last long when he saw the other kids, all in their winter garb. And all of them had the proud, three-colored rosette in their buttonholes, and all knew by heart the most famous Petofi poem written for the occasion of March 15, 1848. They could not really comprehend the day’s significance, the 100 years that had passed since, and the two world wars, one of which had been affecting their young lives as well. These barely teenaged children could only feel the pride of being a Hungarian that the National Anthem on that day is more festive than on other days, that the message of the most famous poem’s of Petofi had a more urgent tone that was valid for all ages and eras.
The inhabitants of the Colony must have all had similar thoughts when only after 8 years of the 100th. anniversary of the 1848 Freedom Fight, were recalling the painful days of the 1956 Freedom Fight and Revolution.
The waiting for some news continued, while some in the Colony had tried to find an occasional job in the local community. Peter and his new friend, Mike, had found in the nearby fishing village a small family store whose front sign must have survived many tens of years. With their rudimentary Italian they have convinced the proprietor to have the store sign repainted. The owner was the most surprised when he went out to the street with them to examine the rather beat up sign and consider the necessity of the offer. So, they have began their task for which they had no knowledge or experience whatsoever. The job which had lasted 3 days did not seem at all long, when compared to the speed of the other work projects in the village. The two fresh paint artists had walked the daily 4 km's , there and back, always passing by a couple of seaside villas being constructed by Italian workers. Somehow it always looked as if these workers were on their lunch break, coffee break or afternoon siestas. But even if they were actually working, they always waved to Peter and his friend and implored them to „Piano, piano...” take it easy, don’t rush, the job will wait for you. In other words, the foreign painters had taken on the local work moral, so that the painting of the store sign, consisting of two words „Pescheria Nonni”, lasted 3 whole days!
Their wage was 5,000 lira for each, which then was the equivalent of 9 dollars. However, the money from the Nonni family had assumed historical perspectives in the lives of the two Hungarians ,then, as this was their first, ever, money earned in the free West!.
The weeks became months from the time passed at the orphans’ resort when a larger group, being offered to settle in Australia accepted and finally left the Colony. In a few weeks the first letters and postcards had arrived from this group, relating their trip that took them more 5 days by several air flights to reach their new home! The ones still in the Colony had chosen Canada, as that was by then the only country willing to have them. Peter made his choice based on the not very scientific criterion by looking at the map and compared the relative distances of the two continents - from Budapest!
Canada was closer.
From his childhood readings he had recalled the red uniformed Canadian Mountain Police, the huge spread of the land across the North American continent, the terrible winters that were worse even those of Sweden. There was one last letter from his benefactor at the BBC, encouraging him, congratulating him on choosing Canada, because „for a young man that is the best choice in 1957. Old Europe is a much more difficult place, we have unemployment in Britain, just go on to Canada.” He managed to notify his parents back home of his decision to emigrate to Canada and his dad sent back a telegram agreeing.