András Mattyasovszky Zsolnay

András Mattyasovszky Zsolnay
1956er

ALL MATERIAL: COPYRIGHT CALIFORNIA EUROPEAN CULTURAL INSTITUTE/MEMORY PROJECT

András Mattyasovszky Zsolnay was born on November 2, 1941 in Budapest, Hungary. He is the great-grandson of Vilmos Zsolnay, the founder of the famous Zsolnay porcelain factory. He would have been the 5th generation of Zsolnays to run the company, but after WWII it was nationalized in 1948 by the communist government. His father had been in the chief engineer at the Zsolnay plant in Budapest (the other, more well-known plant was in Pécs) and although his family was spared internal deportation, they were on Hungary's internal political blacklist and András was not accepted to any high schools in the capital. He was sent to a boarding school in Kőszeg, on the border with Austria, and that is where, at age 15, he experienced the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Nothing of note happened in Kőszeg, although school was suspended and most of the local children from peasant families walked home. András was alone in the dormitory for nearly a month before his father came from Budapest to get him, and together they attempted to escape to Austria from Kőszeg. They were caught and sent back. Later, with the aid of smugglers, they were able to escape and arrived to Austria on January 1st, 1957. By then his mother and younger brother had already been shipped to the U.S., but András and his father missed the U.S. quota and had to stay in Austria for two years before being admitted to the U.S. in 1959. They arrived to Chicago where András, now 17, set out on his own to find work and attend college. In 1961 he moved to California where he attended UCLA and graduated as a chemical engineer. He worked in the aerospace industry as a research engineer his entire life, married an American woman with whom he had two children. He is an avid artist (painter, sculptor) and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. No one from the American side of the Zsolnay family is involved in the Zsolnay factory today (which was privatized in the late 1990s).

Interview conducted by Réka Pigniczky in San Francisco, CA in 2016.

Other videos from
the Visual Archive