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Éva Gosztonyi | Memory Project

Éva Gosztonyi

Interview by Réka Pigniczky


Mrs. György Gosztonyi, Éva Kerpel-Fronius / Dr. Gosztonyi Györgyné, Kerpel-Fronius Éva

Éva Kerpel-Fronius was born on November 29, 1937 in Budapest. Her father was a well-known pediatrician specializing in neonatology and children's malnutrition. Earlier, her father had been a Rockefeller Fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Both sides of the family had strong German roots and Éva grew up speaking Hungarian, German, English and French. Her family moved to Pécs when she was young because her father was appointed to chair the Children's Hospital of the medical university there.

Éva's story is unique in that she escaped Hungary twice, once in 1957 and again in 1980. After witnessing the revolution in Budapest, where she was attending her first year at the Karl Marx University, she decided that her future was most secure in the West. She had relatives and family friends in the U.S., as her father had attended Harvard University, and she was confident that she would be successful there as opposed to Hungary, where personal and political freedom was strongly limited.

She left alone after November 4th, arriving to the U.S. via Austria. She found herself in the highest social circles of American life in Boston and New England, which was difficult after living in communist Hungary for so many years. She ended up returning to Europe, to Geneva to study for one year before continuing her studies in New York. But once in Switzerland, she was overcome with homesickness for her family and requested a re-entry visa from the Hungarian embassy in Bern. She returned to Hungary in the summer of 1961, just two weeks before the Berlin wall went up. While she was overjoyed to be with her family again, the government made her life miserable. She could not get work or go to the university, and she was a social outcast in the beginning.

Finally, she was admitted to the Eötvös Lorand University and majored in Hungarian literature and library sciences. She became first a librarian, later editor of life sciences and medical topics in English at the publishing house of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. She married a neurologist/psychiatrist and neuropathologist, Dr. György Gosztonyi, and together they had two boys. But life was difficult and limited in Hungary under the Kádár regime and so the Gosztonyi family decided to defect to Germany in 1980. They arrived in West Berlin, where both were lucky enough to get positions at the Freie Universität Berlin, Éva in the administration and György at the University Clinics Benjamin Franklin as professor of neuropathology. While they lost everything they owned, they do not regret leaving and allowing their children to grow up in a free society. They currently live in Berlin while spending time with family and friends in Hungary as well.

(This interview was conducted in cooperation with the Collegium Hungaricum Berlin (CHB) as part of Memory Project Germany.)

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