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Single Men and Women

Steven (Istvan) Erdos

My name is STEVEN (ISTVAN) ERDOS I was born in Budapest, Hungary.

As a Jew, I went through the war- years in Hungary, and after the war, when the Russians occupied Hungary, I decided to escape. Crossing borders at night and dodging border guards with machine guns was an ordeal, but I made it to Vienna at the end of 1948. After a short stay in Vienna I ended up in Salzburg, where I worked for the American Occupying Forces as an interpreter.

It was in Salzburg at the end of April 1951, that I finally received notice that my papers have arrived, allowing me to immigrate to Canada. By this time Salzburg was ‘home’ at it was a difficult task to gather my small belongings, and particularly difficult to leave friends who had not got them yet.

Everybody came out to the railway station to say goodbye and to have a last drink together.

The train took us to Bremen where we were settled into a temporary housing development for the few days we had to spend there before embarking.

The day finally arrived when we again gathered our small belongings and a truck drove us to Bremanhafen- where all the immigrants were concentrated along the planks of the boat. Surprisingly there were Canadian naval officers – sailors and nurses awaiting us but the biggest surprise was a military band playing music while we were processed to enter the ship

The boat was the S.S. NELLY a fairly small (32.00 ton) army carrier which had been used before this trip to carry troops during WW II.

Four of us had a cabin together – it was not too spacious but it was adequate for us.

We sailed out late afternoon from Bremenhafen – the sea was fairly calm.

Next morning – a beautiful sunrise- we approached the English coast and admired the beautiful scenery – particularly the White Cliffs of Dover.

And then the boat turned into open sea! I am a really bad sailor; sometimes even a small boat ride upsets my stomach! The water was much rougher, and I got sick immediately.

I spent the whole over-sea voyage in my bunk bed. At one point an order came on the loudspeaker that EVERYBODY had to go to the upper deck. I sent a message to the authorities that if they wanted me out there, they had better come and CARRY ME OUT!

I could not eat – only drink. Luckily on the second day at sea there was a knock on the door and a sailor came in distributing MATZA (UNLEVENED BREAD) to Jewish passengers since it was PESACH (Passover). This was the only ‘food’ which I had till Halifax.

The first time I stepped out of the cabin was when somebody started shouting "I SEE LAND!" From then on I got better and better and when the boat finally docked in Halifax and they needed interpreters for Canadian Immigration Authorities, I immediately volunteered since I spoke Hungarian, English, German, French and Serbian. It was a very pleasant immigration officer and we got along wonderfully. The procedure was to find out the immigrants’ real names (some came with falsified papers), then if they wanted to change their names, perhaps to more English sounding ones, also their destination and finally if there was anybody waiting or looking for them at arrival.

It was late afternoon when the officer thanked me for my services and gave me a beautiful book about Canada.

Since I had a few hour time before our train’s departure from Halifax, I walked into the city. I had a friend with me and as we walked I mentioned that I DID NOT SEE THE HORSES – because Halifax looked to me like an OLD WEST TOWN that I used to see in western movies.

Finally the time came to board the train. It was a very long ride to Toronto but by that time I was mentally prepared to settle into my ‘new country’.

I found a job in the profession I learned, working for an optical company. Shortly afterwards I met a lovely girl and got married. Eventually, my father in law and I started a business, which I had for over 35 years, he having retired after 25years. After initial difficulties we started to make a decent living. We raised two lovely daughters, both university graduates, and are enjoying our three wonderful grandchildren.

I am a proud Canadian! This country has been good to me and to my family. Whenever I travel, I proudly display my Canadian emblem.