Flee­ing from the Rus­sians

Ip­swich res­i­dent’s har­row­ing jour­ney to Oz from war-torn Europe

The Queensland Times - - NEWS - HAY­DEN JOHN­SON hay­den.john­son@qt.com.au

AF­TER an ex­tra­or­di­nary jour­ney from Europe to escape death at the end of World War II, Alec Gazsik truly ap­pre­ci­ates Aus­tralia as the lucky coun­try.

Mr Gazsik and his fam­ily trav­elled to Aus­tralia as refugees in 1949.

His father, a welder, was con­scripted to Hitler’s Ger­man Army in Hun­gary years ear­lier.

Ger­many’s hold on Hun­gary fell as the Rus­sians moved fur­ther across the coun­try – spell­ing dan­ger for Mr Gazsik’s father.

“Peo­ple like him were on top of the hit list,” he said.

His father was taken into cus­tody by the Rus­sians three times and ques­tioned.

The third time Mr Gazsik se­nior dis­ap­peared – the fam­ily be­liev­ing he was dead.

“Through a friend, we found out he was in Aus­tria and my mother was told she had to be there on a cer­tain date with me and my brother or he was go­ing to Eng­land, mov­ing on,” Mr Gazsik said.

The fam­ily walked across Hun­gary and boarded a cat­tle truck to Italy be­fore re­unit­ing.

With­out iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pa­pers, they were al­most turned away.

“We were sit­ting on a bus and

my mother and I were at the front and dad at the back,” he said.

“When the in­spec­tors came through, my mother said ‘my hus­band has our pa­pers and he’s up the back’.

“For­tu­nately by the time they got to the back of the bus the in­spec­tors for­got about us up the front.

“That’s how we got through.” The fam­ily ap­plied for refugee sta­tus.

“We were close to go­ing to a South Amer­i­can coun­try, be­fore the Aus­tralian High Com­mis­sion of­fi­cials came round,” Mr Gazsik said.

At the time, Aus­tralian of­fi­cials were not tak­ing preg­nant women – of whom Mr Gazsik’s mother was one.

“For­tu­nately the Aus­tralian doc­tor who ex­am­ined her fal­si­fied the doc­u­ments and let us come to Aus­tralia,” he said.

On that boat trip to Aus­tralia, 19 of the 31 chil­dren aboard died of mal­nu­tri­tion.

When the fam­ily ar­rived in the for­eign land, they set­tled into a mi­grant camp at Be­nalla. “My father had to work for the govern­ment and pay back the ship fare,” Mr Gazsik said.

“He went to work cut­ting red gum sleep­ers on the Mur­ray River.”

Since the dan­ger­ous jour­ney across the seas in 1949, Mr Gazsik has built a suc­cess­ful life in Aus­tralia.

He be­came a church min­is­ter, mov­ing to Ip­swich about 20 years ago.

He says refugees who come to the coun­try will get the most from life if they in­te­grate into Aus­tralian cul­ture.

“I lament the fact we don’t en­cour­age more in­te­gra­tion,” he said.


Photo: Rob Wil­liams

SUR­VIVOR: Alec Gazsik fled from Hun­gary to Aus­tralia.

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