John (János) Herendi OAM
|Country of Origin
|Date of Birth
|Year of Arrival in Australia
Story of J. Herendi OAM, teacher, editor, publisher, community leader (1925-2011). PART 1
Son of a machine toolmaker, John was born in the historic city of Eger in Northern Hungary in 1925. After completion of his secondary schooling at the Roman Catholic religious order Cistercian college, he studied Philosophy and Humanities for some time at the Péter Pázmány University of Budapest. The event he counted himself fortunate and privileged to experience was when, as a young local, he witnessed excavations under archeologist Dr. Vidor Pataki around the famous, national heritage Castle of Eger which unearthed objects of enormous value museological significance. Well into his second year at university, due to the outbreak of WWII and the deep anxiety felt by individuals, John decided to quit his studies to be back with his family throughout that crisis time while contemplating his own future. When the Red Army and rampant Communism started to threaten future freedoms in an impoverished postwar Hungary, in 1945he fled with his family to promising Austria.
Proficient in German, he followed successfully lectures for two and a half years at the Faculty of Medicine in Graz. But once more he had to give up his tertiary studies due to personal financial misery and hunger which started to affect him in a similarly impoverished postwar Austria. Seeking a secure and intellectually rewarding career in life, John went to England with his family. He started to work as a humble brickworks hand. A year and a half later, in 1950, John, his parents and his sister decided to migrate to Australia where they saw their future.
The family arrived in Adelaide where they settled in a totally foreign but welcoming surrounding. Lacking proficiency in English at the beginning, John again had to contend with menial work, working as fettler for the railways for eleven years. In 1952 he married Martha, a compatriot, and they had two sons. Studying at night, he obtained his BA degree at the University of Adelaide in 1966. Afterwards he taught Social Studies, General Science and German at high schools for twenty four years until retirement in 1990. In his teaching career John also taught History, Geography, Hungarian Studies and Multicultural Studies.
Refugee arrivals from the failed 1956 Hungarian Revolution trickled down in big numbers to boost the Hungarian community in Adelaide. The need to provide greater community service for cultural outlet, social functions, fellowship of old WWII veterans, church and welfare groups, a play group, scouting and Hungarian language school for the youngsters and children, particularly to those from mixed parentage, became necessary. John and like-minded benevolent organisers took up the challenge with outstanding results. As president of the Hungarian Association in Adelaide for many years he was involved in all facets of multiculturalism and ardently supported the work of the “Good Neighbour Council” welcoming migrants from Europe. The “Captive Nations Association” where representatives from various ethnic organisations aimed to bring to public awareness the tyranny and oppression suffered in Communist dominated European countries (1953-1989), was similarly supported under his presidency. For a total of 6 years in 2 separate terms, John was the President of both the Council of the Hungarian Associations in South Australia and of the Federal Council of the Hungarian Associations in Australia & New Zealand.
In 1966 he joined the Hungarian Scouts in Adelaide as secretary, and was scoutmaster from 1970 to 1978. John helped establish Hungarian as a matriculation subject in South Australia.
Parallel to his teaching career, John dedicated his free time to the nurturing of Hungarian heritage, particularly the language among the younger generation when it became evident that when they listened to and spoke English all day, they forgot and fell behind in proficiency in expression. So, the Hungarian Language School was established in 1959 where John taught the Hungarian language. Its successor school, The Hungarian Community School where he was the principal from 1985, both he and his wife Mrs. Martha Herendi instructed youngsters with missionary zeal until his retirement from teaching in 2001.
(See PART 2)