3rd December 2016
A Great Clanfield Welcome
- Author: Anne Cleaver
- Published: 1st September 2014
Janos and Julianna met whilst living in the Hungarian capital Budapest. Janos used to take his laundry to the same washer woman as Julianna, who was working as a nanny at the time. They were from the same village of Hajdúnánás and she had seen him working in his police uniform in but wasn’t that interested! By co-incidence they’d both moved to Budapest around the same time, and he began to walk her home regularly and their relationship blossomed.
They married on 14 June 1951 at a local registry office, the only witnesses being Janos’s sister (also called Julianna) and brother in law. They informed their respective parents after the event.
Janos found work as a sand moulder in an iron foundry in Budapest, living in a one bedroom ground floor flat, with his wife, son John who was 5 and daughter Margaret who was 4. When the local foundry closed, work was harder to come by and despite Julianna taking on cleaning work, the family had little money. There was also lingering oppression by the ruling communist party which made life particularly unbearable.
Janos and Julianna made a decision to seek a better life away from poverty, oppression and instability, which meant leaving Hungary. They left with little more than a few clothes and some coins. The family fled across the Austrian border in February 1957, with Janos’s brother Gyula, his wife and their 3 children also intending to follow them. They used the cover of snow and the lack of border guards to mask their escape that night for fear of being shot by border patrols.
In Austria, the family of refugees were initially provided with food, clothes and shelter by local farmers and then stayed at an army camp in Vienna. Janos’s brother decided to return to Hungary at the last minute, so the family of four continued from here alone. By chance Julianna heard a radio broadcast from a Hungarian family who had settled in England - it sounded like what they were looking for and the family decided this would be a good place to live, from the various countries they were offered residence. Numerous train journeys through Europe and finally a ferry from Ostend to Dover saw them arrive in England. Stops at Hednesford and Corsham eventually saw them move to Clanfield in May 1957.
The village’s “Hungarian Relief Committee” included locals Mrs Fellowes, Mr Brotherhood and JM Miller & Sons a local builder, who took it upon themselves to refurbish the empty school house which was owned by the Church who rented it to the family. The personal touches made the family feel really welcome, even leaving a Hungarian bible in the property. Despite not speaking English, Janos managed to find work as a sand moulder once again at a factory in Farlington. He later became a bus conductor with Southdown in 1966. By then he’d purchased his first car, to help with travel to work and the family became well known in the village. Their English improved over time with help from the children and television. The villagers’ welcome and wonderful kindness is something the family are eternally grateful for.
Sadly Janos passed away in December 2012 but Julianna remains a resident of the village. Son John still lives in Clanfield and daughter Margaret not far away in Sussex. Grandsons Mark and Matthew still live locally and before he died Janos attended Mark’s wedding to local lass Lucy Harper
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29th November 2016