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noticed several trucks with young people waving Hungarian flags yelling, “Russkie go home!” It was very confusing for many of us because we were told the Soviet Union “liberated” us and we were in debt to them. When we got back to the orphanage all the supervisors were glued to the radio and by nightfall we heard shots being fired. They asked all of us if we had a place to go, as we were allowed to leave in case we had to go into hiding. Anti-Semitism was alive and well in Hungary, and there was a great deal of fear that we were in danger again. I knew that my grandparents were living with my mother at the time, to help her to recover from an illness, so I headed home to them because my dad lived a lot farther away, and all transportation had come to a complete halt. By that evening the fighting began in earnest and I was pretty scared, running all the way home often hiding inside of buildings when the shots sounded close by. It took me a couple of hours to get home. AM: You and your father tried to escape Hungary during the revolution but were captured. Please tell us about that experience. IS: One day when the curfew was lifted, Dad came to get me so I could be with him and practice my cello. When we got to his place safely, he told me that we would go down to the countryside very early the next morning to bring back some meat and other food supplies. I was pretty excited because we didn’t have much to eat and we hadn’t had any meat in weeks. It’s kind of funny now to think back how I never questioned why we had to leave the next morning at 4:00 am with 30 other people on a truck; why were we sleeping in a country school class room the next day; why were we not allowed to turn any lights on; why were we always changing trucks and drivers as we went from one town to the next with no food in sight? Then one day we were walking through really rough terrain from 4:30 am until dusk and everyone was whispering. Not until we were captured did I realize that my father and all these people were trying to escape from Hungary because they had had enough of the Soviet occupation. They all wanted to come to America in search of freedom and a better life. I was pretty confused and I didn’t want to leave my mother behind and especially my grandparents—or at least I wanted to be able to say good-bye. But we were captured pretty close to the border, fortunately by Hungarian soldiers, so we were not killed or raped which is what happened to many people captured by the Soviets. It was an experience I will never forget. AM: How did you learn your father tried again and had successfully escaped from Hungary? A L I V E E 24 A S T B A Y d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 6 IS: I received my first letter from my father on April 24th, 1957 exactly on my 10th birthday. He was in New Jersey with some distant cousins who were very happy to welcome him to America. My understanding is that he left a week after he dropped me off at my mother’s and went by himself. He did not want to put me in danger again. In his letter he promised to take care of me and eventually to bring me to America to be with him again. I believed him because my father always kept his promises to me. AM: You were eventually able to join your father in America. How were you able to get permission? IS: It took seven long years! I applied and it was refused. I appealed then had to wait six months and start the process all over again. In 1962, when President Jack Kennedy met with Nikita Khrushchev at the Austrian Summit, things began to change. You could almost feel it in the air. And one night I woke up around two o’clock in the morning and I just knew that I had to write a letter to our Premier, Janos Kadar, and ask him to allow me to join my father in America. I hardly remember what I said but I knew it was good and I put my letter in the mail the very next morning. I did say a prayer and hoped for the best. I heard from the Ministry a couple of weeks later and the rest is history. AM: What was it like for you to suddenly come to America at the age of 16 and enroll in high school without knowing a word of English? IS: Talk about a culture shock! I landed in Los Angeles on Friday, September 13 and started my junior year in high school on Monday, September 16. It was probably one of the loneliest times in my life. It felt like I had this thick wall between me and everyone else and I had nothing in common with anyone here. I had never worn any make up, tight clothes or pants. Everyone looked so much older than me. My father said I must learn the language so I could be at the university at age 18 along with everybody else. High school was just a stepping-stone to learn the language and according to my father, at the university I would meet the kind of people that I would have a lot in common with. Academically, I was way ahead of my classmates. All I had to do was to master the English language. I am still working on that! The sixties were a very tumultuous time in America: the Vietnam War; the beginning of the Cultural Revolution; the assassination of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King. I wasn’t really sure if I wanted stay in America at the time. Thank God, I did! AM: You went to college at UC Santa Barbara, and after graduating, married the big man on campus, had two beautiful children and enjoyed a successful career in fashion. Did you ever think that would


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