|My father as goalkeeper, 3rd from right, front row|
"So we were back in Eötvös u. It was January and very cold, as is usual in Hungary at that time. Snow and frost. People were starving. There was a ceramic stove in the flat which heated two rooms. It worked on fuel, which was difficult to get. We didn’t do much in the next few days. We looked around the house for any food that might have been left there. Every now and again we heard the boom of large calibre guns.
I began to think of how to make a living. I remembered that the area where I had worked with Boschán was in a reasonable state so, about a week after settling down, I walked over there to see if I could find anybody. It was all in one piece but I found a note stuck on the door to the basement to the effect that if anyone wanted to start working they should report next Monday. The firm was called Boschán Ignácz, Vízvezeték és Központi Fűtés Szerelő Vállalat. [Ignácz Boschán, Plumbing and Central Heating Company] So I returned on the Monday morning and found Béla, who was of course my friend. We embraced each other, happy to be alive, and I learned that his two brothers, who were the ones with engineering qualifications – one had a university degree, the other had finished high school – had perished. Béla did the office and bookkeeping and he asked me if I would consider starting up the business in junior partnership with him and his brother’s wife. I said yes, I would do that, because I needed to earn some money quickly. It must have been mid-February, 1945.
Boschán’s workshop was in Honvéd u, very near the Vígszinház [Comedy Theatre]. It was mainly a store for materials, plant and tools, but there were a couple of machines there for bending aluminium, lead and zinc sheets – roof work. The cellar was divided into office, workshop, and store. Béla had also been in labour camp in the Ukraine and was extremely lucky because in his particular group over half were killed, mainly by typhoid. The rest were brought back. They were somehow dispersed in Eastern Hungary and no attempt was made to take them to Germany.
Sooner or later, two or three of the old work force reported for work – plumbers, heating fitters, and so on. At that time it was still quite risky to walk in the city because the Russian soldiers were not very selective and if they felt like taking a few people off the streets they just took them.
The behaviour of the Russian troops, even allowing for the fact that this was war time, was not as civilised as we hoped. They got a bad reputation for what they did in Budapest during the war. Of course, they were not as well-organised or as cold-blooded as the Germans had been, but they were so unpredictable that people were afraid. They changed moods from one moment to the other. I had little experience of this directly since we were rarely raided. I remember once when two young Russian soldiers came round demanding watches but we lived on the fourth floor and by the time they got to the second floor they had quite a collection and were happy. The majority of the liberating Russian forces did not come from Central Russia but from Uzbekhistan, Turkestan, Kazakhstan and Siberia. Some of them, possibly the majority, were very good hearted, but very childish and quite unsophisticated, therefore dangerous.
The city was full of them. My brother-in-law, Zoli, who came back from a camp in Transylvania, was walking on the street three days after he had returned. That day the Russians rounded up some 200 people, bundled them on to a lorry, and took them to barracks with a view to deporting most of them. Zoli, who was about 27 and had just suffered three years in labour camp, was rounded up with them. However he was ‘lucky’: he had stomach trouble and about half a day after he was locked up he started vomiting and the Russians were so worried that he might be carrying some infection that they kicked him out.
They deported about 110,000 people at this time from Budapest alone. I know of other people who were suddenly surrounded by a Russian patrol and taken off to Russia. There was no rhyme or reason in it."