Congratulations are due for local community leader John Hajdu, who was awarded an MBE in the 2020 New Years Honours List.
John, who has been Chairman of the Muswell Hill & Fortis Green Association for almost 20 years, was recognised for services to Holocaust Education and Commemoration. He is a regular visitor to schools around the country, where he recounts the tales of his remarkable escape from persecution by both the German and Soviet occupations of Hungary.
John’s early years were spent in the Budapest ghetto during the Nazi occupation, while his parents were sent away to labour camps. He survived this turbulent time – thanks to a quick-thinking aunt who hid him in a non-Jewish neighbour’s flat – only to end up as a teenager in the middle of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, which was brutally crushed by the USSR. Luckily his job working on the railways gave him access to free train tickets, which he and his mother used to flee to the border with Austria, along with a teddy bear that he still keeps today, to show to children when he talks in schools.
When John and his mother neared the Austrian border, they had to find their way through a minefield which had a watchtower at one end, marking the point where a crossing into Austria would be possible. Luckily that night the watchtower wasn’t manned, which meant the pair were able to escape Hungary at last. The Red Cross helped them and another Hungarian refugee transfer to England, and by March 1957 John was settled in North London.
John has made numerous contributions to the community since the day he arrived in London. Aside from his unparalleled chairmanship of the MHFGA, he has served as a local magistrate, an advisor to Haringey Borough’s Police Commander and Vice Chairman of the North London branch of the University of the Third Age.