ALL MATERIAL: COPYRIGHT CALIFORNIA EUROPEAN CULTURAL INITIATIVE/MEMORY PROJECT
Frank (Ferenc) Gáti, 1956er
Frank (Ferenc) Gáti was born on June 29, 1938 in Budapest, Hungary. His father worked for the Hungarian Railway Company MÁV. His mother was at home with Frank and his 3 brothers.
When he was just a toddler, his family moved to Gödöllő, outside of Budapest, and that is where he spent the war years. Of his three brothers (who were much older), one was taken as part of the forced labor battalion, one was a young cadet (later taken to the Soviet Union as a POW for three years) and one was in hiding. They all survived the war and then moved back to Budapest and shared a small apartment in the lean post-war years. Another brother was born in 1947. Frank recalls that because they were poor, they benefited from the new Communist regime more than others.
In 1956, Frank was 18 and had just enrolled in the University in Miskolc (eastern Hungary). He recalls not being overly politically conscious but still enthusiastic about the revolution and the events happening in Budapest. He decided to return by train to experience the events in Budapest, recalling that his train was attacked by Hungarian soldiers along the way because it was carrying revolutionaries and weapons to the capital city.
Once in Budapest, he joined the revolutionary group in Baross Square and was assigned a gun - although he did not kill anyone. The leader of his group was László Nickelsberg, who was later executed, after the revolution was crushed. This group took part in the events at Köztársaság Square, the site of the Communist Party headquarters, where a number of secret police agents were lynched. Gáti knew about these events and believes they were unfortunate moments of the revolution.
As it became obvious that the Soviet troops would return and crush the revolution, Gáti decided to flee the country; otherwise he would have been arrested. Once there in Austria, he signed up to go to the U.S.; and after a tortuous 13-day ocean voyage, he arrived to Camp Kilmer in New Jersey. He spent a few months there, eventually getting a scholarship to attend Temple University in Pennsylvania. Although he did not finish his studies there, it was a great foundation for his studies later in California. Even though he left Hungary at 18, he remained committed to Hungarian culture.
In 1975, he got his BA in Computer Systems at Cal State Los Angeles, and in 1982, his MBA in International Business at San Francisco State University.
For 36 years, he worked for the Bank of America as a Computer Programmer and System Analyst, and after that, for several other companies as an Independent Contractor (Consultant).
Frank Gáti is married and lives in San Francisco, CA. He has two children, and his wife Sally Gáti is a documentary filmmaker focusing on Hungarian issues.
Interview conducted by Reka Pigniczky and Andrea Lauer Rice in San Francisco, CA.