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Geographic Origins

The Republic of Hungary is in central Europe. It is bordered by the Slovak Republic (formerly part of Czechoslovakia), Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia (formerly included in Yugoslavia) and Austria.

History of Immigration and Settlement

The first Hungarians arrived in South Australia after the failed 1848 revolution against the Hapsburg rulers of Austria.

Charles (Karoly) Schwartz briefly lived in Adelaide during the early 1850s. He was born in Pest in 1826 and served in the 1848 revolution as an ordinary soldier. He left Hungary as a refugee in 1851. For a short time he worked as a saddler in America. He then lived in Adelaide for a few years, eventually settling in Victoria.

John (Janos) Jungwirth arrived in Adelaide in 1856. He was born in Pest in 1829. Jungwirth had served as a professional officer in the 1848 revolution. It is likely that he was the same Officer Jungwirth who had signed a pledge to keep the ideals of the revolution alive during the siege of Komarom Castle. He settled in Victoria in 1857.

The next Hungarian to arrive in South Australia came as a technical expert. Samuel Pollitzer, an engineer, arrived in Adelaide in 1877. He was born in Liptoszentmiklos, now in the Slovak Republic, in 1843. Pollitzer was employed by the South Australian government to take gauging’s of the River Murray. He gave lectures on the river’s potential and published some of his preliminary findings.  Pollitzer later moved to Sydney.

A further group of Hungarians came to South Australia in the years after the First World War. A few of them were left-wing political activists who emigrated after Admiral Nicholas Horthy’s conservative government came to power in Hungary in 1919. Others left Europe after the 1920 Treaty of Trianon awarded parts of Hungary to Czechoslovakia, Romania, Austria and Yugoslavia. By 1928 over 100 Hungarian adult males lived in the Berri-Mildura district. They were from the Murakoz region, which was awarded to Yugoslavia, and from the villages of Murakeresztur and Totszerdahely. Most of them were agricultural labourers. A number of them leased their own fruit blocks.

A small number of Hungarian Jews settled in South Australia in 1938 and 1939. They were among approximately 7,500 Jewish refugees who came to Australia to escape anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany and Europe.

The largest group of Hungarians arrived in South Australia after the Second World War. They fled the Soviet-supported Hungarian communist government as Displaced Persons (DPs). Under an agreement with the Australian government and the International Refugee Organisation they had to work in unskilled occupations for two years. They worked in the fruit industry in the Riverland, on South Australian railways, at the Phillips and General Motors Holden factories and in major industrial towns such as Whyalla.

Hungarian tertiary qualifications were not recognised by the Australian authorities. When their contracts with the government expired, many Hungarian South Australians returned to study to repeat the degrees and diplomas they had obtained in Hungary. Many had to support families while they studied part-time.

A number of Hungarians came to South Australia after the 1956 anti-communist revolution was quelled by the Soviet Union. Although these arrivals were not bound to employment contracts with the Australian government, their qualifications were still not accepted. The established Hungarian community of South Australia helped these arrivals to resettle.

The most recent arrivals from Hungary have been technical experts, such as computer programmers and technicians. The vast majority speak English already upon their arrival, reflecting the high standard of language education in Hungary.

Community Activities

The first Hungarian organisation to be established in Adelaide was the Hindmarsh Budapest Soccer Club. Miklos Pongratz and Paul Csetei founded the club in 1950. In its first year the team practised in the parklands and played in the third division of the South Australian Soccer Association. By 1952 the club was playing in the first division. It won the Knight Cup and the championship on numerous occasions and in 1961 played in the Australian Cup finals. Over the years the club had mixed success and changed its name several times.  Due to falling numbers it was disbanded in March 2016.  

Hungarian South Australians belong to a number of Christian churches. For further information see Appendix 1, Religious Belief and Practice: Christianity.

Regnum Marianum, a Hungarian Catholic congregation, was established in 1951. Father Laszlo Fazekas was the first priest. Hungarian Catholic South Australians have a chapel in Torrens Street, College Park.

The Hungarian Presbyterian and Lutheran Church of South Australia was established by Reverend Lajos Vajda in 1951. For a considerable time a pastor from interstate visited the congregation on a monthly basis.  Services were held at a church in Young Street, Parkside and then in a church at the corner of Edmund Street and Unley Road.

The Federal Council of Hungarian Associations was established in Melbourne in 1955. During that year Hungarian clubs in South Australia were united under the Council of the Hungarian Associations in S.A. Inc. These organisations helped to resettle Hungarians who emigrated to Australia after the 1956 anti-communist Hungarian uprising.

The 1956 Olympic Games were held in Melbourne. In the wake of the 1956 uprising, the entire Hungarian Olympic basketball team defected. A number of the players settled in Adelaide and became involved in the Budapest Basketball Club, which was founded by John Hody, Les Hody, Alajos Ugody and Ian Walker on March 12, 1957. The club held fundraising barbecues at its president’s home in Hyde Park. For many years Hungarian men’s and women’s basketball teams played in the District and Amateur Basketball Association. The men’s team won the division one premiership three times.

In 1966 the Hungarian Club of South Australia Inc. was established. The Kanizsay Dorottya Hungarian folk dance group and Hungarian choral societies were founded at this time. These groups performed in several Festivals of Arts.

The Kalaris Dance Group is South Australia’s only working Hungarian dance group. The group offers traditional Hungarian dance to Hungarian children and adults who live in South Australia. Those without Hungarian origins are also welcome to join.

In the late 1960s the Hungarian Club bought a house in Osmond Terrace, Norwood. Members of the Hungarian community donated money and labour to build a large community hall, which was completed in the early 1970s. The Hungarian Club of South Australia immediately became the focus of Hungarian cultural life in Adelaide. The Hungarian Veterans Association and the Hungarian Community Radio operate from this site.

The Hungarian Caritas Information and Welfare Centre based at Osmond Terrace, Norwood, is a charity and support group for predominantly Hungarian members of the community. Established in 1980 and staffed only by volunteers, over the years the organisation has grown. Services include information and coordination with other relevant services organisations, Governmental instrumentalities, migrant settlement programs, welfare, women and child matters, cultural and educational matters, emergency funding etc.

The Hungarian Community School, based on Port Road, Woodville, teaches Hungarian culture and language from reception level to Year 12. In 2003 a language course for adult learners started.

The four most significant days celebrated by Hungarian South Australians are March 15; Heroes Day; Saint Stephen’s Day; and the Anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian uprising.

On March 15, 1848, intellectuals such as Sandor Petofi, the famous Hungarian poet, led their compatriots in revolt against the rule of the Austrian Hapsburgs. As a result the Hapsburgs permitted the creation of an Hungarian parliament. However, Hungarians wanted complete independence from Austria and struggled valiantly to achieve this end. Hungary’s quest for freedom was temporarily quelled by Austria and Russia in August 1849. Each year on March 15 Hungarian South Australians gather for an anniversary concert to commemorate the events of 1848 and 1849.

Heroes Day is in June. It is a memorial day for all the individuals who have fought and died for Hungary. It is commemorated with memorial services and speeches.

Saint Stephen’s Day is celebrated on August 20. This is both a secular and religious day because Saint Stephen founded the Kingdom of Hungary and established Catholicism as the state religion. Special religious services and cultural performances mark the occasion.

October 23, 1956, was the beginning of the Hungarian uprising against the Soviet-supported communist government. The uprising was crushed by the Soviet Union on November 4, 1956. On the twentieth anniversary of the uprising an Hungarian South Australian recounted the events witnessed in Hungary at this time on Radio 5UV: peaceful demonstrations, ecstatic strangers embracing on the streets, followed by waking to the sound of cannon fire. Today October 23 has an added meaning, for Hungarians deliberately chose this date to declare their sovereign independence from the Soviet Union in 1989. Hungarian South Australians celebrate October 23 with cultural performances and a community meal.

Hungarian South Australians have staged many exhibitions over the years. From December 1987 until February 1988 the Council of Hungarian Associations in South Australia held an exhibition, ‘Hungarians in South Australia’, in The Forum, the Migration Museum’s community access gallery. This display of Hungarian cultural artefacts and history coincided with the Seventh Hungarian Cultural Convention, which was hosted by Hungarian South Australians in Adelaide.

In the late 1960s a Hungarian South Australian woman had an inspiring idea. Her concern for her children’s cultural inheritance led her to realise that the cultural life of Hungarian Australians would be enriched by gatherings of communities from all over the country. Conventions every few years would enable Hungarian Australians to reassess their cultural heritage, strengthen its meaning among the young, facilitate the exchange of ideas, and assist Hungarian Australians to review the contribution they were making to Australian life. The first Hungarian Cultural Convention was held in Melbourne in 1969. Since then conventions have been held in other capital cities including Adelaide in 1975, 1987, 1996, 2002 and 2013. Hungarian Cultural Conventions bring together singers, musicians, dancers, actors, academics and Hungarian Australians from other walks of life to celebrate their past and future.

Organisations and Media

  • Association of the Hungarian Aged and Invalid Persons in S.A. Inc.: publishes Magunk Kozott, a monthly newsletter
  • Budapest Soccer Club
  • Campbelltown Soccer Club
  • Council of the Hungarian Associations in S.A. Inc.
  • Hungarian Club of S.A. Inc.: publishes Adelaidei Magyar ‘Ertesito’, a monthly newsletter
  • Hungarian Fraternity for Care of Elderly ‑ Salisbury and Northern Area Inc.
  • Hungarian Vizsla Club of S.A. Inc.
  • Hungarian Welfare Society for Elderly Persons in S.A. Inc.
  • Hungarian Presbyterian and Lutheran Church of S.A.: publishes Egyhazi ‘Ertesito’, a monthly newsletter
  • Magyar Elet, Hungarian Life, a weekly national newspaper
  • Norwood Nursing Home
  • Regnum Marianum, an Hungarian Catholic parish
  • 5EBI Radio programs

Statistics

The 1981 census recorded 2,479 Hungarian-born South Australians.

The 1986 census recorded 2,411, and 4,447 people stated they were of Hungarian descent. Many Hungarian South Australians were born in areas of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania that had been included in Hungary before the first world war.

According to the 1991 census there were 2,386 Hungarian South Australians. 3,489 people said that their mothers were born in Hungary, and 4,444 that their fathers were.

According to the 1996 census recent arrivals were very limited. The second generation which was enumerated as being 2,257, outnumbering the first generation of 2,171.

The 2001 census recorded 1,895 Hungarian-born South Australians, while 5,247 people said that they were of Hungarian descent.

The 2006 census recorded 1,572 Hungarian-born South Australians, while 5,432 people said that they were of Hungarian descent.

The 2011 census recorded 1,364 Hungarian-born South Australians, while 5,479 people said that they were of Hungarian descent.

The 2016 census recorded 1,276 Hungarian-born South Australians, while 5,616 people said that they were of Hungarian descent.

By Migration Museum

This article is part of the From Many Places project documenting the diverse cultural groups in South Australia. It is a project started by the Migration Museum in 1992 and continued in partnership today. 

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