This story is the culmination of a labour of love by three generations of one family. Ilona told her story to her daughter Emily who transcribed and translated it from Hungarian, and she, together with her partner Digby and their daughter Ester, have over several years of work, transformed it into this heartfelt book.
Ilona’s Story starts in Hungary in 1916 and depicts, in beautiful detail, the life of her family in the town of Kunszentmiklos. Their happy family life is juxtaposed with the growing anti-Semitism to which they were exposed.
From 1944 the family was forced to ‘be invisible in Budapest’ where they survived by being taken in by various friends or employees of their extended family. Separated from her husband, Ilona and her children were forced to move around constantly and take on different personas to avoid capture and deportation. She describes the anxiety and unceasing fear of being exposed until the city was liberated by the Russians.
After the war they remained in Hungary until the revolution of 1956 when they realised that they would need to escape in order to provide a better life for themselves. They immigrated to Australia and established themselves in Melbourne, working hard to make a new life, eventually owning a restaurant and later moving to Sydney.
This book reveals Ilona as a woman with the strength of character and love for her family that enabled her to survive real hardship after her happy pre-war life was stolen from her.