ALL MATERIAL: COPYRIGHT CALIFORNIA EUROPEAN CULTURAL INSTITUTE/MEMORY PROJECT
Tamás Jackovics was born on August 12, 1938 in Užhorod (Ungvár), which at the time belonged to Czechoslovakia. For at least three centuries, the men in the Jackovics family were traditionally Greek-Catholic priests, and all members of the family were from the minority Greek-Catholic religion. In a first for his family, Tamás’s father chose to become a forestry engineer (erdőmérnök). Tamás’s maternal grandfather was a (közjegyző) government clerk in Subcarpathia (Kárpátalja). His family moved in 1942 to Szombathely where Tamás spent his early years. He attended high school in Mosonmagyaróvár, by the border with Austria, and while in high school, he was a gymnast.
After graduation, he had only been at the university for one month when the revolution broke out in Budapest. Back in Mosonmagyaróvár, he took an active role in securing weapons for the demonstrators from the communist secret police who were taking refuge in the city’s post office. After disarming the secret police, he stayed at the post office during the entire revolution, monitoring incoming calls from Budapest about the developments in the revolution and the movement of Soviet troops back into Hungary. He stayed there until November 11th. Later, because of his involvement on the side of the revolution in Mosonmagyaróvár, his father urged him to flee to the West, which he did on December 4th.
At first, he wanted to go to the U.S., where he had relatives in Minneapolis, but the German government made a very generous offer to sponsor Hungarian university students -giving them scholarships to complete their studies in Germany. Tamás stayed and graduated with an electrical engineering degree from the University of Stuttgart. After getting his degree, he left for the U.S. in 1964 on the Czech quota (as he was still technically a Czechoslovak citizen).
Tamás first settled in Minneapolis, but when an assignment took him to California, he met Judit Szabó (whose family emigrated after WWII) and they were married in 4 days. They lived and worked at first in Minneapolis and then in the San Francisco Bay Area (his wife, Judit (Szabó) Jackovics is also interviewed in this archive), eventually settling in Oakland, CA. After working for twenty years as an engineer, Tamás decided to expand his work in real estate development and management, including the opening of a chain of fitness gyms in the Bay Area (SF Fitness). Judit and Tamás have four children and 10 grandchildren, most of whom speak Hungarian and are active in San Francisco’s vibrant Hungarian community. They have also been active in their philanthropy and support of Hungarian organizations and causes in California and the U.S.