And so that would be about ’45, ’44/’45 so the Russians are in. So now she made contact with London, my parents. So we were in contact again and now was the business how do we get out? So she went every day and put in petitions here and there and I suppose our luck was because we were too young to be of use to the communist state, the grandmas were too old, so eventually they let us go, end of ’46 she got the papers and we emigrated. So I’m not a refugee, I am an emigrant. And we even got some of the furniture out. So we were reunited in 1946, so we met our parents for the first time, well yes, in London.
INT: Do the boys have much of a memory of….I was going to say
SU: No, the boys don’t remember as much as I do.
INT: And would they have remembered their parents because they were only 2?
SU: No they were only 2, they didn’t remember the parents. I hardly remember my father, I just remember one or two incidents with my mother; jumping up and down in her bed or, you know, her teaching me how to pray and things like that. But, no…
INT: And how was it?
INT: How was it when you met them for the first time?
SU: Well the wonderful thing was that this little grandma of mine was a really remarkable woman and she always talked about my parents, so much so, showed us pictures, that we felt we knew them.
She told us stories about their childhood, everything, so that they weren’t strange. And showed us photographs, she says in her letters that I kissed the photographs every day, you know. And why aren’t they coming back but I didn’t…I myself, you know, I felt I knew them because she made it so. I mean I think back now how clever she was, how insightful, you know she was a wonderful, wonderful woman. So but then I was very disappointed because I was dying to see my brother and sister, John and Eva, the English ones. But they weren’t at home. I was desperately disappointed. It wasn’t until December that I saw them because, unbeknown to me, they had been evacuated during the war. And they were, at first, in a Jewish nursery in Knutsford near Manchester, in a Jewish Nursery. And I was bullying my parents so in December they took myself and my two grandmothers, I don’t think the boys were there, to Manchester and we spent the night there.
And I remember there was an announcement on the news that in this particular nursing home a fire had broken out and a child had died and my father went berserk, but it wasn’t my brother and sister. So the next day we went there and, we went to this nursing home, and my father went in with the grandmothers and I was just sitting outside and this little girl comes in, out to go to the loo or something, and she looks me up and down and I later on I was introduced to her as my sister. And of course we couldn’t communicate, they were 4 years old and I was 11 and we had no language in common. So I spent the night there in the nursery with them. It was December and it was cold, I remember lying in a cot beside my little brother John and we just sort of held hands in the dark, you know, across the bed. So they stayed there and we went back to London and, you know then our life began in England.
INT: What did your father do during the war?
SU: My father, he first worked in, I think, in a book shop, and he had some Hungarian contacts in London, he was a jeweller by trade. And then he worked for a man called Mr. Vees who was a jeweller. I think he was a jeweller anyway and, in an office, and eventually that’s what he did during the war, yes. And after the war he went into partnership with another Hungarian and opened a shop in Hatton Garden. And my brother Joe eventually carried on. Two of my brothers are in the trade.
INT: And is that jewellery?
SU: Yes and little grandma in one of her letters says to my parents during the forties, you know, maybe one day Joseph or one of them will carry on and that’s what happened.
INT: So you went to school in London? And you said you must have had…
SU : I went to school in London for a year.
INT: Right which as you said was a very steep learning curve
SU: Well yes, I couldn’t speak. I went first in Golders Green. My parents had to buy a new house, and moved to Golders Green because of, you know, the family was going to be enlarged and I went to the local school in Golders Green. They put me in there the first week I arrived. I couldn’t speak. I had a few words like window and pencil and nothing else. And two of the little girls from the school came and picked me up and walked me to school and all I knew was that when they said 54 I had to say ‘yes’ because I was number 54 in the class.
INT: 54? That’s a big class.
INT: On the register?
SU: On the register. And during lunchtime because there were too many children in the school we went, there were British restaurants, wartime restaurants, and a bunch of us went to the British restaurant and I remember sitting there crying my eyes out because I didn’t know how to use a knife and fork. These little girls were eating with all sorts of strange things like spam, which I thought was terrible with these jelly bits in it and custard, I’d never eaten custard, and I didn’t know how to use the implements. But anyway after Christmas my parents put me into a boarding school, a weekly boarding school in London, in Sheen, to learn English, and I’d go home and I was crying and I said “Why’d you put me off, I’ve been waiting all this time and now you send me away again”.
You know, I was devastated. But anyway I went to school there and I just learned English, I just had to. If I didn’t know what grass was they took me out and they showed me, that’s grass, you know, and it took me about a year. And then they put me into a French school in Sutton Waldron which was really away but by this time I was 12 and my contemporaries were learning a second language, and it was desperate for me to learn French when I could hardly speak English, and, you know, I’d have to conjugate verbs and I couldn’t do it, you know, and the teacher in desperation said “well do it in Hungarian”. So I put it on the board, conjugated in Hungarian and then he’d be pleased because he recognised the Latin, you know, he went off and I was left off the hook.
So I was there only a year because, no only a term, because they had a, infantile paralysis broke out and one of the children died and my parents whipped me out, you know, didn’t want me to get it in my sort of still dilapidated state. And I then went to a school, which was an extraordinary school, it was a progressively coeducational school and my brothers were already there in Kent, called Longdean school which had its foundations actually in Scotland I discovered, in a school called Kilquhanity somewhere in Ayrshire. And it was run, they put me there because it was run on, well it was very free. It had a farm attached, education wasn’t the high priority but, you know, the arts and farming, you know it was to build us up. And so I was there until I was 16 and managed to fail most of my O levels, but undaunted I went to another school and started on my A levels.
INT: So were you…was that residential as well?
SU: It was in Kent, yes. It was in Chiddingstone, near Tunbridge Wells, in a castle, Chiddingstone Castle. An old pseudo castle. And it was a wonderful place really. The friends I made there, schoolchildren, I still have, you know. So it was the beginning of proper education. From there at 16 I went to Welwyn Garden City to a proper school where they taught you lessons and concentrated on the academic side so I was there for a couple of years and…
INT: And then you went to university?
SU: Well they fortunately, well, I was allowed to give up things like maths, and you needed maths. I didn’t know the difference between arts and sciences so, you know, I had to do a lot of work during the holidays. And when I went to the school in Welwyn Garden City I had to take up science and maths, you know, at 16 from scratch because, you know, I was allowed to give it up. That wasn’t so important. In Longdean school, the teachers…only the headmaster had a degree. They were refugees and, you know.
INT: Were they Jewish refugees or…? Was it a mixture of refugees?
SU: The teachers?
SU: Well, one was a Sri Lankan,
SU: And he wasn’t Jewish. But I think, I only learned recently that the nurse was Jewish and the German teacher was half and half.
INT: And the children who were there were they…?
SU: The children were mostly, well, delinquents sent by London County Council because of the free atmosphere. But the trouble is that the balance was tipped in favour of the… you know, because they paid for it, you see my parents paid for us, but they had too many of these children so the school really went…In fact in 1952 it went into dissolution because it, some of the staff were a little delinquent too! But it was a sort of free and happy place. We got plenty to eat and the arts.
INT: And I think compared with what you’d gone through
SU: Yes. This is why my parents put us there and, you know, I think you could be vegetarian there, you know, it was all health, it was avant garde. It was…you know.
INT: And you could be a child.
INT: You could be a child. Which I think is…
SU: Yes and, you know, we had a wonderful time there. We built a lorry with the biology teacher, and on this lorry we went to Italy and Spain.
INT: Good grief, fantastic.
SU: And we made costumes out of sack cloth and dyed it and acted out Shakespeare plays. You know, we had real fun but academic education wasn’t too seriously taken.
INT: But on the other hand it’s a holistic view of education.
SU: Yes it was, it was. I never regretted it. It was wonderful.