Kathy and her granny were allowed to leave Hungary and decided to emigrate to Israel. Kathy wanted to remain in Hungary to finish her education but that was not possible. In the beginning, aged 16 she worked in a factory, which she hated. She moved to live on a Kibbutz, which she loved from the age of 24 and lived there for ten years.
INT: So you and your grandma and your aunt all went to Israel together just before she died?
KH: Yes, we went in January ’59 and she died in April.
INT: Happy to have done the journey to the Promised Land and all that.
KH: Very, very happy.
INT: Did she feel it was, I’m just putting words into her mouth, the culmination of what she’d been living for and all that, that religiousness, did that drive her to go there? Or was it partly escaping? Was it a pull thing or a push thing? Was it getting out of Hungary or getting in to Israel?
KH: For my aunt it was getting out of Hungary, for my granny it was getting to the Promised Land. For me, I didn’t want to go but I didn’t have a word…I didn’t have a say in the matter.
KH: I did try to have a say in the matter. I wanted to finish school which would have been another year and a half. I loved school, I always loved school.
And she [her teacher] had a word with my aunt and my granny, but they said no, so I had to go [ Israel]. So that was my education interrupted and I hated it, I absolutely hated it. And of course I got to Israel and if I wanted to eat I had to work so that was the end of my education until as an adult I tried to do something about it.
INT: So going back to Israel, what work did you do when you had to work straight away and couldn’t go back to school? Were you living in kibbutz?
KH: Not then.
KH: I lived not far from Tel Aviv, in a suburb, it had a different name to it but it’s really like a suburb of Tel Aviv and I got a job in cosmetic laboratory at sixteen years old and I worked there for quite a while and then I learned about philately and numismatics and I worked with stamps and coins for donkey’s years and became quite an expert, a recognised expert in the field actually. But I hated living in the city and in my twenties I went to live in a kibbutz.
INT: You were already an expert in your twenties? A recognised expert?
KH: In a particular field, just philately and numismatics: stamps and coins, that’s all.
KH: I always like to learn things, even today I still do.
INT: So did they do Ulpans and programmes for new immigrants in that/at that time?
KH: Yes and for a little while I was in one and learned Hebrew very quickly because it was important.
INT: You already could read it.
KH: I already could read it, yes, slowly but it was an advantage yes.
KH: My aunt could read it as well but she never actually learned to speak the language. She tried hard, she did really try her very best. Not everybody is good at learning languages, my aunt wasn’t. I was very lucky, I happened to be quite good at learning languages, so I did, and I was also young; she was in her forties and I was a sixteen-year-old, that is a big difference.
KH: My granny of course never did but then she only lived there for about three/four months.
INT: So that was…what year was it when you moved there? ’58?
INT:’59 when you went to Israel. So were there a lot of other Hungarians leaving at that point?
KH: No, no, very few indeed, maybe three other families in the year, that’s all.
NT: So when you, you worked in the jobs that you said and after a bit you wanted to leave the city and move to the kibbutz, that was with your aunt?
INT: Oh right.
KH: [I was] on my own.
KH: No, not that easily. It was not acceptable that an unmarried girl…I was twenty-four by the time I went to the kibbutz so I was not a teenager but it was not acceptable that an unmarried young woman should leave her family and live on her own. It was not easy but I’ve done it.
KH: And I loved living in the kibbutz and I lived there for about ten years. In the kibbutz you do everything and anything. I like that and I loved the kibbutz and I still do to this day but I was kind of getting towards my mid-thirties and I kind of realised that I never, I never stood on my own two feet. I went from my aunt’s home to the kibbutz, and the kibbutz is also a cocoon, it takes good care of you, it’s quite wonderful. But I kind of got to the point where I had to prove to myself that I could stand on my own two feet and it was now or never. I felt it was now or never. I was getting towards my mid-thirties, I was thirty-four years old and I felt that if I didn’t do it then and there I would never do it.
KH: And then I had to decide where to go and what to do and for all kinds of reason, climate being one of them, a major one actually, political situation at that time being another one. The Levantine life being another one.
INT: The what?
KH: Levantine, Mediterranean.
KH: Nerves and shouting and…everything being on high do all the time was something I found very difficult to cope with. I still do today. I don’t go to nowadays but I still did many, many years later when I went to visit while my aunt was alive and I was living here in Scotland, I still went to visit her every year and I still found that life very difficult to cope with. Nothing wrong with it, I just don’t suit it. You know how life is and what behaviour is like.
INT: All outside and screaming?
KH: It suits lots of people; it doesn’t suit me.
KH: Yeah. Nothing can be done quietly, everything is done by shouting and screaming and what bothered me more than people were shouting and screaming all the time was that when I went there I shouted and screamed.
INT: And you… what work did you do in the kibbutz and then what work did you do when you first came here?
KH: In the kibbutz I used to work with children.
KH: But I also worked in the kitchen, in the pardes which is the…there is a special name for it and I forget it…it is the orchard only for citrus fruit.
KH: The climate was very difficult for me. When I first got to Israel it was January and the sky was blue and the palm trees were waving in the wind and I thought ‘Wow, it’s beautiful.’ And they said to me ‘Just wait until it gets to the summer! And then the summer came and I got the shock of my life and people said ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it!’. Well I never did; some people can cope with hot climates and some people can’t…well I can’t.
KH: In the kibbutz itself was a factory and the factory sent me, a factory for plastic things, and at one point they sent me to do, to learn about export and I did.