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A Friend of Hungarians (In Memory of 1956)


October 9th 2010


John Miska


Out of Hungary is the title of Carol Wootton’s book to have reached the market last year. A selection of the Victoria-based author’s book contains short stories, essays and memoirs, published by Towner Publishers. The attractive collection, its cover pages representing the red-white-green Hungarian national tricolor, complete with an 18th century American postal stamp in memory of Louis Kossuth, “Champion of Liberty”, also includes excerpts from other guest authors, including Stephan Sisa (The Spirit of Hungary), Adrienne Watt (“The Sopron Factor”), Bernie Lucht (“Albert Szent-Györgyi”), Maureen McTeer (“In My Own Name”), and Anna Porter (The Storyteller).


One of the volume’s memorable pieces is Dr. Wootton’s memoir relating to György Ciffra’s unforgettable piano concert in Vienna that contributed to her (a young student of music at the time) becoming a friend of Hungarians. Carol, an aspiring pianist, had studied music in London and Vienna. She was stationed at the latter when Hungarian refugees poured into neighbouring Austria. She was so moved by the sight of the helpless people that she decided to give up her studies at the Academy of Music and to work as a volunteer in the refugee camps.


Most touching in the collection is her story “Wien 1956” when Helen, the author’s prototype, changes careers in favour of humanitarian work. The volume contains a clipping from the local Times newspaper, informing that Carol’s parents had initiated a campaign, in honour of Carol, to support Hungarian refugees. Today, Victoria has a sizeable community of Hungarians. The short story in itself is a literary master piece, the original story placed within a frame that brings it up-to-date. It was originally published in Ms. Wootton’s The Page Turner and other Stories. Her essay about Géza Anda comes from Carol’s book, Singing Masters of My Soul. The next story, “Herr H.” was published in her Preening Clefs. It is about Countess Márta, a 1956 refugee, who became a lasting friend of the author’s.


Carol informed me that the program on Géza Anda was prepared for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and presented on May 9, 1961 as part of the Masters of the Keyboard series. It also appeared in Singing-Masters of My Soul (published by Towner / Trafford in 1999).

Carol Wootton was born and raised in Victoria. This is where she has retired and is living with her sister in lovely Oak Bay. After parting with her ardent desire of becoming a concert pianist, Carol has taught English literature and creative writing at UVIC and at American universities. Talking to her over the telephone, she informed me that Hungarian musicians and refugees helped her become a friend of Hungarians.


P.S. In the meantime, the Hungarian community of Victoria has had their commemoration of the 1956 Revolution. The beautiful auditorium was filled to capacity. I had the honour to be the guest speaker. The occasion gave me an opportunity to introduce Out of Hungary. At the end of the touching program, several people came up, showing interest in the collection. I myself have published a series of essays entitled “Friends of Hungarians”, writing about such honourable people as the late Hon. Jack Pickersgill and Dr. Watson Kirkconnell. It is satisfying that I have been able to add Carol Wootton to my representative list.



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