The last two episodes I've done have been with the two oldest people I've interviewed so far, though you would certainly not have guesed their age from looking at them ! They also both shared Hungarian ethnicity without having ever having grown up within the current territory of Hungary.
At 95, Anna's story really gave me the chance to go back in time as she described life growing up in a rural Hungarian area in Austria, a life so different to what exists now, and it is a worthwhile reminder of what many post-war European migrants came from. It also occured to me that it was a life not dissimilar to other parts of the world even today, where people still live a more simple, rural life style, growing their own food and where everyone knows each other.
Anna was born in a Hungarian village in what was then Yugoslavia, but is today Croatia, and not many years before Anna's birth had been a part of the Hungarian Kingdom. After talking to Anna and Jenny before her, I was prompted to do a bit more research about the history of Hungary and Hungarians in the early 20th century. One key fact was that Hungary lost 60% of its territory after World War 1, after effectively being on the wrong side of the war. This left millions of ethnic Hungarians living in neighbouring countries of Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Yugoslavia, Austria and Poland, and many Hungarians would migrate even farther afield.
In the video below you can see how the borders of Hungary have changed over its history and why there are still Hungarian speaking minorities in various countries nearby to modern Hungary.
With many of the people I've interviewed so far, the conversations have stimulated my interest in finding out more about the place where they come from and I've gone off and done some reading on the history, geography or culture of each place, so that I had a better understanding of the context that they described or to help understand a particular tradition or custom in their country. I hope that other people who listen will feel this urge to expand their knowledge and horizons too, and part of the purpose of this blog I hope is to provide a broader understanding of the context behind these very personal stories.
Of course, this was not the only interesting aspect of Anna's story. It was just as much if not more a window into the early experiences of post-war European migrants coming to an Australia that was a lot less culturally diverse than it is today. It is often good to hear these stories from old migrants, about the struggles they had and how they managed to overcome them and gradually build a life. Some of the struggles were different perhaps to those today, and as Anna mentioned, there is encouragement and support for multicultural activities and traditions to be preserved, but there are also many things which are still pretty common - struggles with language and customs and trying to find work...and I hope these stories from older migrants serves as encouragement for other younger migrants today, who may be finding things hard, and gain heart from the fact that others before them have struggled hard for years and years, but that they succeeded in the end.
I certainly look forward to hearing more stories from these older migrants and learning from their experience !
If anyone wants to contact me, either to participate in the podcast or knows someone who might want to participate and has a story to tell ( from ones of the 140 or so countries I haven't covered yet ! ), you are welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.