Andrew (András) Szabo
|Country of Origin
|Date of Birth
|Year of Arrival in Australia
The Story of Andrew Szabo, translator, cameraman, professional drummer, musician-accompanist, sales representative.
Andrew was born in 1923 in the Hungarian resort town of Keszthely, on the shores of the great Lake Balaton, the “inland sea” of landlocked Hungary, an idyllic destination for holidaymakers, particularly in summer months. He was the son of Menyhárt Szabo and Mária (nee Kövér), from a Roman Catholic family and had a younger brother named György. His father was a baker by trade and a businessman owner of a productive, large scale bakery providing them an advantaged lifestyle. Andrew grew up in Keszthely and matriculated at the private Roman Catholic Saint Norbert Premonstratensian high school there.
During his teenage years two factors played an important role that were to influence him in his future pursuits in life. One of them was that, in order to back up the curricular German language taught at school, his parents sent him to an Austrian family in Graz (Austria) where German was spoken. He experienced three consecutive summers with them resulting in an enriched command and fluency. The other factor emerged when he started attending the social dances organised by his school for their students. At age 14, instead of being preoccupied with dancing he was fascinated by the drum player’s skill and the captivating beat of the music played. Playing the drum became his objective, later to become his more than hobby, his intense passion and a good money earner as a young adult performing at elegant lakeside resorts in summer. He proudly completed his full drum kit from savings put aside whilst a high school student.
Succumbing to parental pressure, Andrew enrolled to the Agricultural Academy of Keszthely, a tertiary college where large country property, animal husbandry and farm management was taught. In 1944, at age 21 while in his 4th semester of study, Andrew was called up for National Service in a Hungary involved in Word War II.
He was posted to an artillery unit in Sopron, near the Austrian border, for the initial training. A month later, for the advanced training he was sent to the School of Artillery at Hajmáskér in the central North-west. By that time, the Soviet-Russians were rapidly advancing from the East and approaching the national border of Hungary, then invaded by Nazi Germany. A measure to safeguard the military training was the transfer of the artillery school outside Hungary, thus both staff and trainee artillerymen were taken to near Stettin by the Baltic Sea in Nazi occupied Poland. However, owing to his fluency in German, Andrew was picked out to train and serve as army interpreter-translator from German to Hungarian at a specialist crash course in Berlin.
Berlin at the time was subjected to the heaviest of Allied air bombardment. Soon, the military centre of translation was relocated to the small, safe Bavarian village called Pressath. By March 1945 Prassath was taken by the American Army pushing forward from the West. Later, when word was received that they were approaching the village, Andrew discarded his military uniform, changed to a civilian outfit and tried to melt into the village folk. He nevertheless was picked out as a suspect person and taken to a P.O.W. camp in Bamberg for interrogations. By producing his student identity card issued by the agricultural college in his home town Keszthely, Andrew managed to convince the camp authorities that he was a work-experience student stuck in Germany during his studies.
He was set free and soon formed his own band which was contracted by the entertainment unit of the American forces. He performed with his band until his migration to Australia where he saw his real future.
In June 1949, Andrew arrived in Australia as a refugee, then termed as a “Displaced Person” from Naples aboard the American, Liberty class ship “General Black” to disembark in Pier 1, Melbourne, after a four week long voyage. He was taken to Bonegilla migrant camp where he stayed on with fellow refugees until the end of the coal miners nationwide strike which had paralysed Australian life.
Please See Part 2.