Ruby, my advice to you is: “Follow your dreams, be yourself, treasure family!”
Tom is my 76 year old paternal grandfather and likes to be referred to as ‘Papi’. He told me that he called his father that and wants to continue the tradition so in honour of this I will refer to Tom as Papi. He describes himself a “content pensioner with a lovely family” who he enjoys spending time with.
Papi was born in Budapest, Hungary on the 30th of May 1944. This was near the end of the second world war but Papi’s family were in hiding and remained so until the end of that year. His father even had to change their surname as ‘Krausz’ was a commonly known Jewish last name and it was dangerous to be Jewish in Hungary at the time. The name of their street was ‘Keve Street’ so they changed their surname to Keve so that his sister Vera wouldn’t forget it. Papi was too young to remember anything about hiding however he was told stories about the starvation and how his parents didn’t think he was going to make it as he was ill with pneumonia, tuberculosis and chronic malnutrition. I was struck by Papi’s comment that actually there was no shortage of water because there was a great deal of snow, but there was a severe food shortage.
Papi’s family consisted of his sister (Vera) who was eight years older than him and his two parents (Rose and Stephen) who lived through and survived both world wars. Papi remembered that they would talk about them frequently but in quite ‘a matter of fact’ way. Rose and Stephen explained to their son that “they were happy that they survived” but he knew them to be vehemently anti-war, and fearful of being thrown into that predicament and danger again.
When the Soviet (Russian) army came and liberated them from the German occupiers, they returned home and resumed their lives, however, it was still very difficult to adjust. Vera, was deeply upset about the war and still thinks about it to this day. His father went back to work in textile printing and put on a brave face for the family whilst his mother continued to work in “random“ places for example electronics and as a seamstress. When he was 6, Papi went to a primary school called ‘Keve Street Primary School.’
After the war Stephen rebuilt his business only for the Communist Hungarian government to take it away from him again. When Papi was 12 there was an uprising against the Russian occupation. This was an opportunity for Papi and his family to escape from Hungary and move to England. In a dramatic and daring escape they secretly trekked overnight for 6 hours to get to the border of Austria. It was highly secretive and only their immediate family knew of their plans. After a mere two weeks they flew to England where they lived in Brent Cross. Papi attended a school called ‘Whitefield’ which was walking distance from their home. His sister Vera, went straight into working as she was 20 years old and his parents both tried to resume their professions in their new home.
Papi currently lives with his wife (my grandma whom I call Grandi) who he met in 1963 at a Jewish dance in Belsize Park. They married in 1966 and have two sons, Rob and Al (my Dad). They lived for many years in America, Holland and France but amazingly they now live in Belsize Park metres from where they first met, which I think is very sweet!