Dr George Geroe, About his mother, Clara Geroe,
By: Christine Vickers,
On: 26th August, 2013,
c. 118.02 mins.
Transcribed by: A. F. Rooke,
Date: 15th -16th September, 2013
Christine Brett Vickers is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and historian (PhD, LA Trobe University) at present researching the history of psychoanalysis in Australia some of which is being recorded in a blog: Freud in Oceania.
_Photograph courtesy of George and Anne Geroe._
*CV: All right, okay, today is the 26th of August, and Im talking to Dr George Geroe, largely about his mother, who is the psychoanalyst, Clara Geroe. the intention, and I think with Dr Geroes agreement, is for this to go onto the historical record. Ill be lodging it in various libraries like the National Library or in the State Library and in due course. Is that okay with you?
GG: Yes, thats fine, and I think you mentioned something about copyright; I'm not interested in that.
*CV: Thank you, all right.
GG: Ive no wish to burst into print at my age.
*CV: Okay, so it can be, its quite an open, any researcher can use it?
GG: Yes, right.
GG: Were an uninteresting lot, there are no family secrets.
*CV: (laugh) Okay. Can you just talk to me a bit about your mother, and her personality, and what she was like, how do you remember her, just broadly?
GG: A very lovely, warm, caring, lively woman, not always easy, I think she could come home from work, tired and stressed, but I think everybody that had anything to do with her, both loved her greatly, and were much impressed by her, a person; and she was a complete idealist, believed in what she did, and lived for her work, even, shortly before he death when she was a walking pathology museum and in intensive care at the Royal Melbourne, she was still making arrangements, a week before her death, to go to seminars, and to make bookings for concerts and plays, and she was completely rapt in family, friends, and her work.
*CV: When you say not always easy, what do you mean, when she got tired?
GG: When she came home, and if she was stressed, shed find something and, you know the hat that or, (actually?) wasnt to her liking or something, and shed say so, and shed yell, and give in to a lot of (quiet?) lot of by and large and, she was less so than many, but by and, my father copped most of it, and (laugh) gave as good as he got, or a bit better? Others, such as her sister, whos lived with us in her later years, as a widow, and acted as our housekeeper, well housekeepers not right, but shes, as a housewife I suppose, because my mother was fully occupied, I mean they were domestically around, but she cops it much more than I did, and as I got a little older I was more (laugh) inclined to answer back, too, oh but she let it all blow over and.
*CV: Everybodyd move on.
*CV: Yes. Its understandable, she worked very long days.
GG: She worked very long hours, I mean, she didnt start early, and she was always running late, because partly, she never learned to drive, shed try to learn, and shed just panic and, but she never drove independently, so my father acted as a chauffeur, in later years, I mean we didnt have a car til 1948, and, yes, and in central Europe this was almost normal, in middle class circles, there were very few had cars, and most of them if they did have a car, well a chauffeur went with it automatically, that was much less of a deal than having the car, and the labour was incredibly cheap, then, and with pre-war Europe. Oh, I forgot what I was, started to say.
*CV: Thats okay? And what do you know about your mothers childhood, and where was she born?
GG: She was born in Papa, which is a large provincial town, in whats, well the Hungarian for it is 'Dunantul', well, the maps usually have it as Trans-Danubia, which is the old Latin name for it from back in the days of the Roman Empire, oh, Im just trying to remember, oh the date of her birth, I cant, but it was a fair while ago (laugh)!
*CV: Yes. And was she eldest child, or?
GG: No, she was the youngest child by a very big margin, and I think her arrival, or whatever, the pregnancy, when something of a not altogether welcome surprise, that doesnt mean that she wasnt a loved and well looked after child, in a provincial, middleclass family?
*CV: What work did her father do?
GG: He was a wholesale grocer, I suppose youd say grocer, he traded in food and drink, the business was run from our house, which was a big country house, with a big archway and a passageway, and thered be a stream of horse and drays, walking, coming in and out as hed check loads and arrivals and departure of all this, hed supply pubs and shops and things, only it wasnt a retail shop, it was a wholesale business, well both, a food and alcohol and, whatever.
*CV: And did he inherit that from his father, or had he built it himself?
**GG: **I dont how the business came, I dont know much about his family, I dont think I met I met some of them, I think there were a couple of country doctors, whom I remember only very vaguely, that wasnt a lot of contact, I had more contact with her mothers family, who came from a smaller country town, also in Trans-Danubia, everybody on that side of the family came from what you call the Dunantil or the Trans-Danubia, called Tapolca, and they, she came from a vineyard and wine cellars, I think they were reasonably well-off, and theres some story of my aunts, which my aunt, and that my mother strongly repudiated, and they had originally a pub in the forest, theres the biggest forest in Hungary, the Bakony forest, and that he was in cahoots with the 1848 revolutionary, some chap they called Sour Joe, but, when I asked my mother to comment on that, he said that: (In Hungarian), which roughly translates as a crazy old woman, soft in the head, as I said her sister was about 20 years older, and was a bit soft in the head, so it may well be a complete myth.
*CV: How many brothers and sisters did she have, your mother?
GG: Oh she had two sisters, who were much older than her, oh I think something like 18 or 20 years older, they were both school teachers, who married, both of them married fairly eminent engineers, there was a boy who died as a small child, of diphtheria, and my mother was a late surprise, it was a long time before my mother was born.
*CV: She was born very much after that, long time?
GG: Oh, the boy was the first child, and he died as a small child, oh then there were the, oh there were two sisters, Wilma, and Borka. Borka came out as a widow after the War, having been stripped bare of all, her means of livelihood by the communists, for so there were four children, one of whom dies young, and the other two, they, the sisters were close all their lives. ( Ann Geroe relates that Borka was 'badly damaged' by surgeons during a gall bladder operation: they cut through the muscle resulting in a large hernia. She believes this is the reason that Borka was able to leave Hungary in the 1950s).
*CV: Great, so your mother was virtually an only child.
GG: Well she had a funny life as a child, I think her mother was, Im sure she was a good mother, and they loved each other, and she spent a lot of time with us in Budapest, and in her old age, she actually did, a couple of years before we came to Australia, she sold her house, and spent all her time oscillating between the three daughters, but I think she was sort of pretty much involved in small-town, middleclass social life, and being generally genteel, and I think the older sisters had their own lives, I think much of the time they, oh as she was growing up they were already school-teaching, but there were a large number of peasant girls, in the house, because it was a business as well as the household, and I think the draymen were sort of fed and looked after as they were, oh their carts were loaded and unloaded and so on and their girls in the kitchen, and looking after them, and I think she spent more time with the peasant girls in the house, than she would have with family (laugh), which I think was probably quite good for her, it certainly gave her a vast fund of Hungarian folk songs that shed burst into when she was feeling good.
CV: Asks about Clara's education.
GG: Yes, well, education wasnt for girls, or well brought up girls it wasnt considered quite proper, in early 20th century rural Hungary, and theres a very old, a Presbyterian and a, reformed Protestant Church of Hungary, which is equivalent to Presbyterian, here, high school, in the town, you know centuries old, the resident aristocrat who one, some stage, more or less dominated the town, was one of the Esterhazy, not the great Prince Esterhazy who was not very far up the road, but this was a junior one, oh the Count Esterhazy I think, was established under his patronage, the Esterhazys were Catholics, but this branch of the family was a Protestant, and there was this old, and I think very prestigious, high school, and I think she was the first girl to be admitted there, into the higher, and to the higher classes which wasnt available, elsewhere, and she was very proud of that.
*CV: Yes, yes. And what sort of subjects did she like studying?
GG: Well, she was certainly not talented, mathematically, and I doubt if she studied the sciences, very much, shed have been very good at Humanities, she was widely read, and very taken with literature and the arts, so despite becoming a doctor (laugh), I dont think it was a particularly scientific upbringing and I dont think she ever had a great knowledge of the physical sciences and certainly wasnt mathematically inclined.
*CV: Was there anybody, a teacher, who influenced her, particularly?
GG: She never talked about particular teachers, I mean apart from her sisters were both teachers, oh and I think both the fact that she insisted on matriculating and on going on to university, was a bit of a shock to the family, oh her sisters certainly were just as bright as she was, and they were highly intelligent and energetic women, wouldnt have done that, or even wanted or had the thought of doing it, there were complete difference in upbringing and attitudes, because her sisters grew up and were had their character formed, before the War when society and the world was stable, and there were no problems, whereas, she had her girlhood during the War, or adolescence and for whoever reached the world after the War, where society had disintegrated, the Empire had broken up, and the Emperor was dead and his son was deposed, and there was no stability in society, and it was a different world, and everybody was ruined, the currency, well I dont think the inflation was quite as spectacular as in Germany, where people took wheelbarrows of money, to buy a loaf of bread, but it was almost as bad, the middle classes were pretty much ruined, in 1918.
*CV: And she discovered Freud, about this time?
GG: Well thats an interesting story, I see from your letter, [he disputes the version Clara told to Douglas Kirsner: Meanjin 1982, that she decided at 16 that psychoanalysis was what she wanted to do) its not quite how she told it to me, or how I remember her telling it to me, oh you mentioned Ferenczi, there was a Hussar regiment, quartered near Papa, and Ferenczi was a doctor, with the regiment, and he gave some lectures, about recent advances in psychology, and you know, whats new from Vienna... he wanted to establish psychoanalysis in Hungary, and doctors and teachers and others of a kind, were encouraged to go to these lectures, and her two sisters as school teachers, went along, and she snuck in with them, and she heard a series of lectures about psychoanalysis, from Ferenczi, she may have bought a book too, I dont know, but I was told that she actually sneaked into these lectures, and so, already as a high school girl she was quite familiar with the concept of psychoanalysis, though I dont think at that stage she had any plans to become one.
CV: Asks about Clara's decision to go to University: was the family surprised?
GG: Well, I dont know if surprised, but I dont think her parents would have been terribly keen on the idea, but then, I think they would have probably thought that the world was falling to bits anyway. You know and, there were enormous differences in England after the War, but there was nothing to compare to what happened on the losing side.
*CV: Indeed, yes.
GG: It was much magnified (laugh).
*CV: So was it medicine your mother studied, or?
*CV: She went to university to study to be a doctor, or?
*CV: Why did she decide to do that?
GG: Im not sure, I think, well I think shed have known that she wouldnt make a physicist or any, something like that, she wasnt mathematically talented, oh I think she was interested, very interested in people, and idealistic and wanting to do something worthwhile, and she was very keen to get the hell out of Papa which is a town and a community that would have been off - 'Chekhoffia', like 'dullness' - and she (laugh) wanted to get the hell out of it, as far as she was concerned you werent living, if you werent in Budapest, Vienna, Prague, or Paris.
*CV: I see, yes. And when did she start analysis, her own, was it with Ferenczi, or?
GG: Oh no, no, she was a, certainly would have attended lectures by Ferenczi, but Ferenczi never analysed her, she was trained by Balint.
*CV: So, what was life like, the 1920s, was when she was going to university?
GG: Yes, in the early 20s, yes.
*CV: Did she like the, did she ever speak about those days?
**GG: **Oh yes, she spoke a lot about her student days, oh I think she started - Im not sure whether she started in the university in Budapest or in Pech, which is a larger country town in the south of Hungary, its just been the UNESCO Cultural Capital of the Year or something, Ive never been there, though I almost went there by accident, but thats another story. Oh, and this was, Hungary was quite chaotic at this time, at, when the Hapsburgs were deposed, I think it was, in 1918 or 19, its the country first came under the prime ministership of a liberal, democratically inclined aristocrat, Count Karoly who wasnt very effective, and who was overthrown by a militant communist revolution, and the response, of the victorious allies, to that, theyd already disarmed what was left of the Hungarian Army, was to arm the Rumanian Army and invite them to come into Hungary, depose the communists, and help themselves to anything that wasnt nailed down, which they did. And a lot of the, and I think most of the universities were closed, and there was a lot of fighting and rioting and general chaos going on, so she and most other students, would-be students, went abroad, and she continued their studies at the German language university of Prague, and later, and Im not sure why, went from Prague to Graz, in Austria, and then when things settled down in Hungary, finished her medical studies, in Budapest. So she
*CV: Was very mobile.
GG: Oh yes, but this was common in Europe, and the students, I dont think theyre encouraged to or just like it here, would shift from university, year to year, and the universities would accept each others students, quite a, oh its coming back a fair bit oh, my granddaughters just come back from doing a half-year in America.
CV: But, probably not as a result of political events.
GG: No. Well I think this happened before the War when there were, the political events werent er on the, I think she, students just liked travelling round, and German was an almost you, sort of for you lingua franca in central Europe, and everybody spoke it, sort of thing?
*CV: And so where did she, did she do an internship, or, a hospital?
GG: No, and I dont think there was an internship, system, but I think she was desperate to get out of Papa, and she was desperate to go to Budapest, and she got a job, as a very junior doctor in a pathology laboratory in a hospital for the, the hospital for nervous diseases, in Budapest, that was her job, after graduating from university.
which, I dont think she was terribly interested in, and but it let her live in Budapest, and get the hell out of Papa! (laugh)
*CV: How long was she there, then, at this job in the hospital?
GG: A year or two years, and I dont think it was very well paid, and there was some newly set-up, womens magazine, and she took a (laugh) moonlighting job, writing health and beauty tips on that, to pay the rent, and I dont think the magazine was doing very well, so shed write her questions in to herself and give what she hoped were interesting answers.
*CV: Okay! (laugh) Good for her. Yes.
GG: I dont think she had any ambitions to be a journalist or a beautician and something, she just wanted to stay out of Papa!
*CV: She just wanted to stay in Budapest, so she had to pay the rent.
*CV: Where did she go after that job, what happened?
GG: Well, this is whats led her to becoming a psychoanalyst, oh the hospital, oh well, I think their treatment lines and things were pretty much standard for their time, and people were given a variety of stimulants and sedatives, and physical treatments, ranging from cold showers, to electric shocks, and she is, it was obvious to her, even as a very young doctor, that while some of the people were obviously very sick, a lot of them were obviously neurotic, and not physically ill, and the thought of how to manage these people better, that her knowledge of psychoanalysis from her schoolgirl days, helped her, and she decided that there had to be something better done for them, people disabled by their neuroses, and that psychoanalysis was the way to do it. And she contacted psychoanalytic circles as a young doctor, and went into training under Balint, with, who she maintained a lifelong friendship, and he came out and visited us in Australia several times. And she always visited him when she went to England, both he and his wife were close personal friends of hers, but Balint was her, actually her training analyst.
*CV: So that began, in the late 1920s?
GG: Yes, or it might even been much later, on, Im a bit vague about dates, I mean I was born in 1930, and all this was happening before I was born. I think by the time I was born, she was established as a practising psychoanalyst.
*CV: Coming back to, Id just like to know, how did your mother and father meet, was your father also a doctor?
GG: No, my father had a very chequered career, his ambition always was to travel and be a sailor, and before the War he was, as a schoolboy, was accepted to be a trainee merchant navy officer in the Austro-Hungarian Navy, which believe it or not existed, merchant navy, based on Trieste and Fiume. Fiume is a small town, near Trieste, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is a, its oh apparently a very selective, oh college, and he was very proud that he was selected but he was told to go home, and get his matriculation first and then go to sea there and, go to college the year after. Well by the time hed finished school, the War had been going for a couple of years, and things were bad, there was no navy left, and the academy had closed down, so he went in the Army and had a pretty rugged time, fighting against the Russians in the high Carpathians, where they didnt do much harm to each other, but were decimated by their own commissariats, they froze and starved. He came back in poor physical health, with, while he didnt know it then, but what turned out to be TB, and a bleeding peptic ulcer, which was much more serious in those days, than now, he first decided that if he couldnt be a sailor he would go back on the land, hed grown up on a farm, his father was the manager of an estate of an absentee landlord, and came the communist revolution, and their motto was that all the great estates would be broken up and the land subdivided among the peasants, and they didnt need an agricultural college, I mean that was crazy, but that was what happened, so he couldnt go to study agriculture, so he thought hed do medicine, himself, but the part where he came from, he came the lower Danube Valley, on what we call the Vajdasdag, oh which is part of the newly created Yugoslavia then, the Serbs call it the 'Voivodina', so there was a big demand in university places, and as he came from the part that had become part of the new Yugoslavia, he was doing medicine in Zagreb, and at the time when my mother was in Prague, in Czechoslovakia, but she had a room in a boarding house that was run by a butcher who had a big home, and would lease the rooms out to students, and my aunt, (Illush?), was also a medical student, in Prague, and also had a room, in the same boarding house, and the two girls became close friends, lifelong friends. My father came to visit his little sister, met my mother (laugh), and the romance went on from there.
*CV: Oh, right. So your mother and your fathers sister, were friends?
*CV: Thats how they were introduced?
GG: Yes, she introduced her brother, whod come to visit her. Oh but he didnt finish Medicine, and he went down with TB, his father disappeared, under unexplained circumstances, whether he deserted the family, or was murdered, was never, oh, and well but nobody knows, oh, oh theyre both possibilities. As I say, he was in and out of sanatorium at that stage, and he had a mother and two younger sisters, the sisters were both university students, (Father) was a medical student, in Prague and then later Vienna. He didnt finish his medical course, but did a transfer to Law.
*CV: Oh, okay, so did he finish Law?
GG: Yes, he had a Doctorate of Law, but he never practised as a lawyer, yes, I suppose he was a corporate lawyer, you know, like for a corporation.
*CV: So when, and what year did your parents marry?
GG: I dont know, I hope it was before 1930! (laugh), when I was born, I wasnt sure, I wasnt there!
*CV: So you were born?
GG: Yes, I think they were very proper young people, actually.
*CV: Yes they were very what?
GG: Very proper young people.
GG: Which, though, I must say they were very broadminded, they put up with my ways, I was, far less puritanical?
*CV: (laugh) Okay, than they were, yes. So you were born in, when were you born? In 19?
GG: In February the 16th, 1930.
*CV: Okay, and where was that?
GG: In Budapest.
*CV: In Budapest.
GG: In the Rokus Hospital, which you might have seen on TV recently, they did a series, on Semelweiss, and Puerperal fever, well thats where Semelweiss was the doctor and discovered the cause of Puerperal fever, and was run out for telling obstetricians to wash their hands, between patients. It was considered, an eccentric, a revolutionary idea, in his time! (laugh) But the hospitals still there, and by the look of it on TV, it hasnt changed that much!
*CV: So, in the 1930s, what, your, the family was living in Budapest?
*CV: There was you, your father, and mother, and your mother was practising as a psychoanalyst, then?
GG: Yes. Oh she was a practising psychoanalyst, ever since I can remember, oh in fact I know she was a practising psychoanalyst before I was born.
*CV: And who were her associates, in Budapest, was that the Balints?
GG: Well certainly the Balints, I can remember family, they had many friends, and a lot of people in and out of the house, and they came from all over the place, because a lot of them were students together, and theyd come and visit us from all parts of central Europe, they didnt go much beyond central Europe. I mean those sort of boundaries, whether they be in northern Italy or in Austria, Germany, or Czechoslovakia, were about as far as most of them would have considered going, in those days, England or Spain or southern Italy, would have been considered remote places.
*CV: So were there other psychoanalysts that used to visit, or that?
GG: Oh we, yes, I mean they were always having conferences and meetings and God knows what, because Id be firmly told to go away and not make too much noise, I had my own room, I had my own governess, I usually had a grandmother or two around, though usually one grandmother at a time, I think there were two sisters on both sides of the family, and I think theyd sort of work out and which grandmothers were shuttled where.
*CV: In the 1930s, you know, the Nazis were rising, coming to power, in Germany, how did that start to impact, did that start to flow over into Hungary?
*CV: Early on?
GG: Oh, I mean I was certainly aware of it for just from dinner table conversations, my father was very interested in politics and current affairs, there was and theyd been well informed on what was happening, and what was likely to happen in the future, there were no illusions about it?
*CV: So what sort of plans were they making, were they planning to leave?
GG: Well my mother had no plans, except, for expressing (laugh) general strong disapproval, my father was much more practical, and I think he had made up his mind, a couple of years before we left that we had to get the hell out of there, and he had no illusions about what was coming, he was quite realistic, and I know a lot of friends, and a lot of conversation, were telling him, you know, he was crazy to uproot his life, and to go to God knows where, that all this idiocy would blow over.
*CV: Okay; he didnt think so?
GG: Because he, I think he had no illusions, about either the present or the future, and but he had pretty shrewd judgement.
*CV: So what sort of things did he do, what sort of efforts did he make, did he sort of approach embassy, you know, apply, to get out?
GG: Oh Im sure that, oh there was great difficulty in getting permission, to get in anywhere, and I dont know what preliminaries were made, but they picked New Zealand first, which would have been largely my fathers choice, I think, he was a passionate hiker, or what do you call it in Australia, bushwalkers, and a field naturalist, and hed spent most of his free time either walking in the hills or rowing, or on trips on the Danube, or various lakes, and he was prominent in a movement, which still exists, called the 'Die Naurfreunde', thats German for Friends of Nature, which was a Swiss based movement, to give moderately priced outdoor holidays for people who probably wouldnt be in a position to take them, otherwise, as an answer to the problems of the modern industrialised world. You see they had shelters in Switzerland and the mountains all over the place, still, I havent seen them anywhere else, well my father, I think in Austria there are actually two and three, he was the Hungarian president or treasurer of that for many years, and was more or less a missionary for them, in the Balkans, and he travelled extensively in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia. He spoke Serbo-Croat from his childhood, where half the kids at school were Serbs, and he learnt to speak Czech, because it helped him with his work.
*CV: And so your mother, coming back to her work, was there any restrictions on her work?
GG: No. But so her work was largely private, from oh as an analyst, though she was active in child welfare and in various childrens homes, and treatment of delinquent children, and I think that was more in a teaching role than anything else, but it was certainly have an interest in child psychology and child psychoanalysis, were great interests of hers.
*CV: No, okay. So, Ive read about, and there was a congress, a psychoanalytic congress, in Paris, in which a number of analysts were trying to lobby, to get out of, to get passage to other countries, you know, is that?
GG: I remember her going to a congress in Paris, she went to Paris, regularly, because this aunt of mine, my fathers sister she has an interesting career too, she graduated, in Vienna, and worked as a pathologist, in Vienna, and she went to the the Sorbonne, for some sort of post graduates activity, liked the life in (laugh) Paris so much that shed stayed, made a living by writing PhD theses, for visiting American doctors, who were living it up, met, the well my uncle, well he became my uncle, Jeno, whos a Hungarian who had gone out to Paris, before the First World War, because the French were eating so much pate de fois gras that they couldnt grow enough goose livers, and he was bringing in goose livers, from Hungary to France, and then for widened it out as a general food import export business at the Les Halles, and my aunt, she wasnt allowed to practice medicine in France, because of her Austrian degree, but they said that if she could do a one or two year post-graduate course and become a dentist, and she could become a dentist, to the Hungarian Embassy, where she could only do Hungarian teeth (laugh), and she lived her whole life, to a very ripe age, in Paris, working as a dentist at the Embassyand my father would have visited, but Im rambling on, well what was the question?
*CV: Yes, about the Paris congress.
GG: I talked about it well oh my mother went to this congress, I knew nothing about the congress, but apparently the, oh leader of the psychoanalysts....
*CV: Oh well, all background. Coming to Australia, so how did that all happen, do you know?
GG: Well I know that they tried to go to New Zealand, and I was expecting to go to New Zealand, and I was told what a nice place it was, in the mountains and the forests and beaches and so on, and theyre very disappointed, that finally theyre knocked back, and theres a lot of talk about correspondence, theres with Australia and New Zealand, and British Psychoanalytic Society. I mean the name Ernest Jones, was familiar to me as a child, though I knew nothing really about him, and, I dont know why we were knocked back in Australia, and allowed in in New, I mean knocked back in New Zealand and allowed in in on, to Australia.
*CV: But, thats what happened.
*CV: Do you remember arriving?
GG: Oh yes, distinctly. I mean I was 10 by then, Id turned 10 on the boat, and I can remember, first seeing Australia, on my 10th birthday when we were up north of Perth somewhere, the ship had gone round somewhere on the east coast of India, and picked up some cargo, so Australia came into sight, I suppose it must have been somewhere around Geraldton or somewhere, and it was stinking hot, and there were great bushfires, and smoke everywhere, and there were sharks circling the boat, and I, we were, sort of went: Oh Christ, what have we come to?
*CV: Right, it was very frightening, I bet, yes.
GG: Yes well its, but the main thing that impression as well as the heat.
GG: We, it was the heat, yes, it just makes hotter the air, than we ever could, breathe.
*CV: Yes, I know. So did you disembark in Perth, or did you come round, to Melbourne?
GG: No, the, well the ship berthed in Fremantle for several days, we discovered the joys of malted milk, which didnt exist in Hungary, and we thought was very fine, and we discovered the joys of going to the beach, which was about all we did (laugh), and trying to keep cool, obviously, which we also thought was very fine. Excuse me, I take a diuretic, and I slept in this morning and Im a bit late with it (interview halts, and then resumes).
GG: We were met by Paul Dane, who was very kind to us, hed already arranged accommodation, and he drove us round, both to his home in Toorak, and showed us I think what are probably the leafier parts of Melbourne, (laugh), he was very kind, and we spent quite a bit of this time, at a, at his home, overlooking looking at the Yarra, and we had a, rooms in a, on St. Kilda Road, and Fawkner Park to run around in, and I think that we felt that wed come to a pretty good place.
The War was already on, and though Hungary, and Italy werent in the War, we came out in an Italian boat, and were glad to be a long way from it.
*CV: And so your mother started work almost at once?
GG: Very little, because she had no English.
*CV: Oh okay?
GG: They did take some English lessons from my cousin, but English was very little spoken in central Europe at that time, not like now where half the waiters speak English, but, I had two cousins, who were both professional linguists, and one of them gave us English lessons, well I managed to learn nothing, because I mucked around, I knew that my cousin Marty was my cousin and not a proper teacher, as far as I was concerned, and my parents because I dont think they had much time to do much systematic study before they left, oh so well I think she had some patients who she could treat, on a Hungarian or German, I mean their German would have been quite fluent, and theyd be quite at home and of, their French wouldnt have been quite as good but was, would have been pretty good, but and, their English was almost non-existent. So her work opportunities were restricted to really to migrants, until she learnt enough English to be able to work in an English language relationship.
*CV: So that would have been, how long do you think she took, to feel comfortable?
GG: Oh I should imagine probably, a year or two.
*CV: Mm, mm, a very, very difficult. And?
GG: Mm. And at one time we had to rely on what little money we had, we didnt have much of, and some of which my father managed to lose, plus my fathers very meagre wages.
*CV: Mm, so it was very, very difficult, those first couple of years?
GG: Oh, well, we started under very humble circumstances, and at one stage, theres nothing coming in, and 30 pounds left in the bank.
*CV: Oh dear.
GG: Well 30 pounds was more than 60 dollars today, but it still wasnt a hell of a lot.
*CV: Yes; and were you ever hungry, or?
GG: Oh no, we never went hungry, and we never had, we always has a roof over our heads, yes and things werent desperate, but, yes, it was very modest.
*CV: Was you father working?
GG: Well, he just walked the streets of Melbourne, oh, to looking for work, and there was still substantial unemployment in 1940, and a job wasnt easy to get, yes.
*CV: So your mother was bringing in some income, treating migrants?
GG: Yes, she was making some income and my father was getting labourers wages at that stage, that improved fairly rapidly, he first worked on an automatic, lathe making wooden spools, for reels of cotton.
*CV: And you said he (not bad?).
GG: That wasnt a great success, Im not sure whether he left or whether he got sacked, but it didnt last very long. And then he went to be a dishwasher at the Isle of Wight Hotel on Phillip Island, from that he rose fairly rapidly to become the manager, and, then the proprietor was delighted that somebody could do the bookkeeping, having done the books previously for a multinational corporation in Europe, and also didnt put his finger in the till, and didnt drink the profits, which apparently was both a very real risks on the country hotel circuit?
*CV: And your mother was sort of really working very hard to learn enough English, to work?
GG: Yes. There were several people who were very kind, and helped her with that.
*CV: And when did she start working more in English, and when did things start to?
GG: Well I think she started working immediately, to learn English, I couldnt tell you just how long it was before she would take on patients who spoke it only, only English, oh at this stage the Melbourne Psychoanalytic Institute was 111 Collins Street, which Im sure youre familiar with, where, I think the corporate structure and finance already existed, the Union Bank building, as it was then, was just being finished, and I remember Paul Dane coming round and discussing with her, they could just specify the internal layout of the rooms, and it was already, set that they would both work there together, and how to arrange the internal rooms, oh but I couldnt give you a time or a dates, I mean I was only a 10 year old child I think she had some migrant patients, almost immediately, but I dont think that she would take on English, only English speaking patients for a quite a while. I mean i think this was her choice that, I know she agonised, you know: Can I speak enough English to treat this person? I think she had a, there was a waiting list of people who were wanting to be treated by a psychoanalyst and she was the only one, but, yes she was a conscientious person, and agonised over it: Well, can I do this job, or cant I?
*CV: Yes, so she was actually very, under a great deal of pressure.
GG: she was very much under Paul Danes wing, yes. And they were very kind to us, they used to take us up to his holiday house, in the Dandenongs, oh, they were most weekends, he spent his time felling trees, and clearing bush, and carrying on, he had a couple of daughters, I think the youngest of them was still at school, had some ponies, and theyd take me out and teach me to ride.
*CV: When do you think things started to get better for the family?
GG: Oh I dont think you can draw a line, I think they just gradually improved, oh, after a year or two, and like I said Im not sure how long it was at, at Phillip Island, my father decided hed better go in the Army, and things werent going too well in the War, oh, after a few months in the boarding house in St. Kilda we managed to get a decent place at Armadale, where we stayed for about eight years, or seven years.
*CV: Well, where did you go to school?
GG: Well my first school was the South Yarra State School on Punt Road, where I could walk to from St. Kilda Road, just across the park, which was a bit of a shock, because I was, went to a private school in Budapest, which was very middleclass, and while South Yarra wasnt a slum by any means, theres quite a big working class section, and I think the more salubrious, kids from the more salubrious homes tended to go to Wesley or Merton Hall, oh, theres quite a bit working class element which, Id had just no contact with at all previously. I went there for about a year, and by this stage I well my mother, and my parents got to know the (Neilds?), and I was shown, (Koornong?) in Warrandyte, where which was the school they had, I dont know if youre familiar with that?
*CV: Yes I am.
GG: And I took to that, greatly, and oh then I had a couple of years at (Koornong?)
*CV: This was a new Education Fellowship School?
GG: Yes, it was Clive and Janet Mill owned it, til it went broke.
*CV: When was that?
GG: Oh about a year before it closed, theyre warning their senior pupils that theyd better make arrangements, that the school wasnt going to survive, and from (Koornong?) I went to Geelong Grammar.
*CV: And that was boarding school?
GG: Yes. I boarded at (Koornong?) too, I mean, you couldnt travel.
GG: You couldnt travel daily to Warrandyte, especially in those days. Transport was much more difficult. There a week, in Warrandyte, I was a week, (til wed?) Id, come home Friday night, and go back Monday morning, have, and Id be with the family all the weekends, in Geelong we werent allowed much at all.
*CV: Yes, did you miss your parents?
*CV: You missed them?
GG: Well in Warrandyte, no, I was happy with, both the freedom, which was far greater than I had before, and the bush surroundings, Warrandyte was much more bush and much less suburb than it is now, in 1941, oh, and I was still, I wouldnt have seen my parents much at home anyway, oh, my mother was working long hours, my father was away in Phillip Island first, and then away with the Army, and Geelong, I think partly I missed my parents and partly I was fed up, and Geelong was a fairly regimented sort of school. I boarded both in Geelong and in Warrandyte, I, my first year uni was in Mildura, then I was home for a couple of years, I did my residencies in West Australia and I practised in West Australia, for a few years, and then I came to Castlemaine, so I wasnt around that much.
CV: I read that your mother was very committed to establishing a clinic for children, when she was, came to Australia? Was that something that you remember?
**GG: **Oh, I know there was talk about childrens clinics, and I know she started visiting the Childrens Hospital, fairly early, and had a longstanding and close association with Vincent Rickards.She certainly had a long association with the Childrens Hospital, always spoke very warmly and admiringly of the way the place was run, as it should have been, it was one of the best childrens hospitals in the world I think at the time, I think it probably still is.
CV:What do you think your mother was most proud of, what do you think was her greatest, what does she regard as her great achievement?
GG: I think the establishment of the Institute of Psychoanalysis, in Australia, that she sort of thought herself more or less as a St. Patrick, bringing the faith to the world (laugh).
CV: Yes, and do you know much about her thinking about psychoanalysis, was she more Freudian, or?
GG: Oh, very much so, she was a close friend of Anna Freuds, they, going I think to the 1920s, when she was a frequent visitor to Freuds home, as Annas guest, while Anna was attending seminars, and things, she kept in touch, by correspondence, I think sometimes by telephone, and with Anna Freud in England, and visited her in London, regularly, and, there was and in the various disputes on Russians, that developed later was very much on the side of Anna Freuds.
*CV: Because of her friendship, or?
*CV: Because of her friendship, or?
GG: Oh I think both on an ideological grounds she, dont ask me to explain that, its all a bit byzantine to me, but, well she and certainly regarded herself as a follower of Anna Freud or in the same camp as.
*CV: So did she ever speak about Melanie Klein, or?
GG: Only in a slightly dismissive to hostile way, I think in whatever the differences were between Melanie Klein and Anna Freud, she was very much on Anna Freuds side, and both Melanie Klein and Jung she spoke of only in quite a dismissive way, Jung she said and, Im not sure what the differences were with Melanie Klein, its not something Ill go into, the Jung she regarded as a religious mystic muddlehead.
*CV: And Lacan?
GG: No, I saw that in your letter, and its not a name thats familiar to me, so Anne brought it up on the computer and I read it, and Im non, none the wiser.
CV: Asks about her teaching..
Oh I think she did a lot of teaching, she had associations at various times at the Royal Melbourne, the Childrens, the Alfred, and Prince Henrys, I think about, oh, St. Vs is the only teaching hospital she wasnt involved in.
*CV: Was there any reason for that?
**GG: Well I suspect firstly she wouldnt have been asked, and that I think the way the Church was in those days, they wouldnt have been that keen on a psychoanalyst! (laugh), and I doubt if she would have been a, oh and I dont think she minded not being asked! Though as she **was very amused, oh Im not sure if, no, amused is not quite the right word, intrigued, she was out on a (hos?) already, she was approached by the head of a monastery, as one of his monks was talking to God, and that God had appeared to him and was talking to him, and he thought he need psychoanalysis, and my mother saw the man, and said that he wasnt suitable for analysis, and some other sort of more psychiatry was more appropriate, but she was intrigued that the abbot regarded this not as a miracle, but as grounds for psychoanalysis, how things have changed. (laugh).
*CV: Yes; and just moving on, you know, shes worked very hard, in the time, that you got married, you met Anne, and got married, and had children, what sort of a grandmother was she?
GG: Oh, very affectionate, she was very happy that I married Anne, that, they were very fond of each other. She was delighted that I got a suitable girl? Which, delights she didnt extend to all my previous girlfriends, sometimes for good reason. Oh, she and was enormously excited by the birth of our children, and was quite besotted by them.
*CV: Mm, how many children do you have?
GG: Two. And I think Im, they were probably the greatest source of happiness to her, because she was very much a grandmother. She spoiled them outrageously.
Yes. She was, completely normal, and very involved grandmother.
*CV: And your father, where was he, and, what was he doing all these years?
GG: Well when he came out of the Army, he worked in a textile factory, I think for and, run by a Hungarian, first as just oh, on the floor, and then took over the office, and that lasted a couple of years, and then he went, as a cost-accountant, to a machine-tool factory in, off Flemington Road, (Bower?) and Company, where he could more or less work his hours, and fit in the Mothers hours, I mean he, sometimes hed turn up in the middle of the day and work til late at night and that sort of thing. He was more or less a father-figure to the people there, they nearly all were Europeans, and hed do their paperwork and their immigration applicants, and tax returns, and God knows what, for everybody, he got difficult and grumpy, and the marriage with my mother deteriorated over the years, but they stuck it out together.
*CV: When you say deteriorated, what do you mean?
GG: Oh, there was a lot of shouting, and quarrelling, and, he got difficult and cranky, and his behaviour got a bit unpredictable, Id say thats the second half of their lives it wasnt a happy marriage, he sometimes was his old self, especially if he had a day in the country?, itd do him a lot of good, just walking around in the bush. But he was a man, who started off life in very difficult circumstances, and made a great success of it, and more or less dropped away from things later in life, and anyway he reached retiring age and the factory transferred out to Bayswater or somewhere and he gave up the job after many years, and opened his own travel bureau, which he didnt run particularly successfully, for an intelligent man with a lot of qualifications and abilities, he wasnt a good businessman, and he didnt want to be, its, he, its never what he wanted, I think its a tragedy that he didnt become a sailor, I think itd have sited him ideally and all his ambitions and hed have been extremely conscientious, extremely capable, if necessary hed have gone down with the sinking ship, he was that sort of bloke! (laugh) Yes.
*CV: Yes, so thats really, oh its quite a sad, that he seems to have been, he was thwarted, at every turn.
GG: Oh yes, he well, he was frustrated by his circumstances, but then in many ways he was, you make our own circumstances and, therere other migrants, and other people, who simply find another niche, and succeed, he wasnt one of them.
*CV: And migration for your mother, was that something she was able, you know, she came to terms with, or did she miss Hungary, and?
GG: Oh, very much, she was intensely homesick, for many years, I mean to the, oh to the extent that youd find her weeping in the corner, or going and youd ask what and you say: Oh, well about this time of the year, the lilacs would be blooming, and the light was different, and the fields were different, the forests were different, and well, and more-so than my father who sort of took to the Australian bush, he joined the Field Naturalists, he therefore joined the bird observers, hed go on weekend trips and things, I think it took a took a lot longer for my mother to accept Australia as a place, as distinct from a place to work in and survive in, than it took him, or perhaps he was just less demonstrative half the time, you wouldnt know what he was thinking and he, at home to his family often wouldnt talk much either.
*CV: So they didnt talk? About, when, I didnt quite follow you, at home they didnt talk much, about, these things, or?
GG: My father? No he didnt wear his heart on his sleeves, he was a very dour sort of a character, that in the company of Hungarian cronies, whereas where he felt he was appreciated, not, not (mind?) talking peculiar English, oh, he could relax and brighten up, but as the years passed, less and less so, and on his last years, as of 10 years, Im not sure, he had chronic leukaemia, and a lot of complications with being immunosuppressed, in his leukaemia treatment. And now, and in fact he was living up here with us by then, and of my mothers, life, and his physician didnt handle him very well, psychologically, he said: Well, you might as well look after him, theres nothing more that we can do except prescribe the tablets, which was quite a reasonable thing to say, but, psychologically he took it as: Theyd written me of, and they told me to go ahead and die oh somewhere else!(laugh).
*CV: Oh, yes, poor thing.
GG: And, I didnt quite how to handle that, and in fact in the end he committed suicide, in the sense that he just said: Well, I dont want any more treatment, Ive been here long enough and, discontinuing all treatment, he died fairly quickly.
*CV: When was that?
GG: Oh I think it was about, 90.
*CV: Oh. About a year
GG: But hed (in debt?) a fair while, he spent the last few years here, living in a cottage we put that up for him, we deliberately got a big house so that we could look after the older people, Annas a mother still alive, and I had both my parents, and we put him in that sort of room, just opposite this one, there was no bathroom, and where and the, and he said: Oh, I dont think I like this house as it is, enclose all the verandas in glass, and oh I said: Oh, I dont think we want to do that, Dad, and he said: Oh well, Ill go back to the family house in East Malvern, and he was certainly not in a condition to live on his own, and so we compromised by putting the granny flat at, then but he complained about that bitterly, it had a little thin tin walls, there was two air-conditioners? (laugh).
*CV: Well, so how did he take your mothers death, was that hard on him?
GG: He was fairly undemonstrative about it, I think theyd reached the stage where they were more sparring partners than a couple. Its un, they never talked about divorce, certainly they didnt have much in common between them and my mother set up a family trust, because she didnt feel that he was in a suitable frame of mind to handle affairs.
*CV: He wasnt good with money?
GG: Look, he was knowledgeable, about economics and business, I mean he was quite, I mean he was a Doctor of Law, he was a senior executive in an international, large firm of (Magnusson?) Corporation, but he couldnt handle his own things, and they put their savings at one stage into buying an old mansion that needed some doing up in Toorak, which they got at a good price, and it was a good decision, but he nearly had a nervous breakdown on that, and then went back to the buyers, and paid them a substantial sum, to go back on the sale. Yes he just couldnt handle it emotionally, yes. Yes he got increasingly eccentric with age, I mean he was 86 when he died, which seemed very ancient then, Im nearly that now myself, but I hope Im in better mental condition than he was.
*CV: How was that for your mother, when hed rescinded on the deal, of the house?
GG: She just threw her hands up, and but she wasnt strong enough to stop him doing it. Yes and that was all that he had, laid that sort of large sum of money but they had it, and he couldnt stand the tension of it, but I mean it wasnt an important thing, but it was a thing that indicated his state of mind.
*CV: So, is there anything else youd like to tell me about your mother, I mean theres so much in her life, really.
GG: Oh well? She was a very loving mother, to me, she was, certainly wasnt, I wasnt the only thing in her life, but I was certainly important and, she was a good mother, she wasnt always an easy mother, she was passionate about her work, she was passionate about her duty, to the world and society and humanity, she did what she thought was right and what was important, she was a warm person, she was certainly shrewd, and with people, she was a good judge of character and people, she read widely, and it was important for her to keep up, and to be modern, and things, much more so than I am and I think our lack of ambition and what she used to call, and what Id called trendiness (laugh) slightly upset her, but she accepted it, but she was fairly shocked when I, 50th birthday I think, I asked what I wanted a new Von Karajan recording of all of Brahms, and I said: Oh, can I have a new Brahms folio?, apparently when she was a student, in Austria, there was a great, oh tension between musical conservatives, who backed Brahms who was then more or less contemporary I think, well probably had been dead a little while, and the progressives who liked Wagner and the fact that shed brought up this conservative (laugh) bloke who liked Brahms, rather shocked her.
*CV: Okay, yes, so, mm.
*CV: Well I just had another question, just going back to the familys departure from Europe, what happened, did any of the relatives, get, left behind, get caught up in the holocaust?
GG: Oh yes, oh, I had one cousin, who was an artillery officer, oh I mean he was doing his compulsory military service and when the Nazis were, took over, he was put in a labour battalion, which was more or less given over the minefields, and killed that way. I had one uncle by marriage who was taken away to a concentration camp, a chauffeur offered to smuggle him away out of the group that was marching and he said; No, it was a citizens duty to obey the police, went in, and was never seen again. His two sisters survived the war in Budapest, as did a couple of cousins, oh one of them died, of cancer during the War, the other one was ruined by the, there was a big uprising by the communists and came out here and lived with us for many years, and looked after the home, while my mother worked. And my fathers two sisters what he, oh what, one of them who I was telling you about, who lived in Paris, my, their mother joined them and she lived with them in Paris, and survived the War, without capture, and died of cancer, after the War, at a ripe age. His other sister theyre very fortunate I, she married a Hungarian whose family had a little tannery in the Slovak Mountains in the south where his, in a little place called (Atosky Svadinickolas?) and theyd bought a tannery in (Halle?), and he was shuttling back and forwards, between Czechoslovakia and England, sort of looking after the tanneries, and yes he, they had small twins, and his wife said they were sick of being left behind, Ill come with you on this trip, and that was when the Nazis marched in, so they just stayed in (Halle?). Oh, my, one of my cousins, her husband was taken away by the Nazis and perished in the concentration camp, by and large they got through fairly well, but we, weve lost some that (were?)?
*CV: There was some loss? Yes. Well theres some, I mean Id like to really say thank you, I mean youve really!
GG: Oh I hope its some help or, I cant tell you much on the professional side, because its not something that we talked about, a lot, and a lot of it she also would have regarded as confidential.
GG: And I probably didnt take too much interest in it, as a, I should have on a medical basis.
*CV: No thats quite all right. So thank you very much. Lets finish it there.
GG: I hope its been of some
END OF INTERVIEW.