Hungarian immigrants flee to a better life here in Australia
ABOUT 14,000 Hungarians were welcomed as immigrants to Australia after the 1956 revolution against Soviet repression in their own country.
Monika Bugar, now treasurer of the Gold Coast Hungarian Senior Citizens Club, was among them.
She had the opportunity to meet the prime minister at the time, Robert Menzies, and to tell him how grateful she was for the chance of a new life.
"I had the privilege to meet him and thank him," Monika said.
"I had to leave Hungary because my husband was involved with the revolution.
"He wouldn't survive if he lived in Hungary. I was expecting my first child.
"It was very hard for us to get used to Australia at the beginning.
"I couldn't read very much. The first five years wasn't a picnic.
"We had to flee our country. I come from a family of nine so it was hard for me to get away from my family.
"I missed them for years and years. We wrote letters.
"The first time I went back was in 1989 but it was still a bit touchy because every week you had to go to the police to report."
Monika's husband was later given a pardon by the Hungarian authorities.
When the couple fled to Vienna in the '50s, they applied to go to America, Canada or Australia.
"Thank goodness Australia was the first one to give us a helping hand," Monika said.
"I went back to Hungary two years ago - I had my 60th high school reunion.
"Hungary has changed for the better.
"But all my family's here in Australia. This is my country now.
"And we are so glad we are here."
Monika, at 79, enjoys a taste of her birth country at Gold Coast Hungarian Senior Citizens Club celebrations.
In February, the club partied on its 15th anniversary.
"We had a lot of guests from other states and also politicians and local government people," Monika said.
"We have five people who are over 90, and two people over 100 but they are in the nursing home.
"We have a couple of people who play instruments.
"We always have a bit of entertainment and a Hungarian lunch, and a guest to speak."
Monika estimates there could be 4000 to 5000 Hungarians on the Gold Coast.
The club meets every Tuesday from 10am-1pm at the Broadbeach Senior Citizens Centre.