Fleeing from the Russians
Ipswich resident’s harrowing journey to Oz from war-torn Europe
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.
PEOPLE LIKE HIM WERE ON TOP OF THE HIT LIST. ALEC GAZSIK
SURVIVOR: Alec Gazsik fled from Hungary to Australia.