I was born in Budapest in 1945. I grew up in a Hungary that was under Soviet Communist oppression, with the help of Hungarian Communists who were no better. Life was lived in fear of the secret police. I was politicised by a family whose members were on the watch list of the regime.
My mother’s father had been the head of anti-espionage before the war; my father’s father owned a small, quality nylon stocking manufacturing company. We were clearly a family with anti Communist histories. There was no sense of safety; our own Government would rather jail us than protect us.
In 1947 my father, George R. Urban, made his way to London – shortly before such a trip became virtually impossible with the ‘iron curtain’ coming down across Eastern Europe.
In 1956, students marched with demands for more personal freedoms. They were machine gunned and the revolution was triggered. It was brutally put down by Russian tanks sent in from the Ukraine. My mother and I escaped (in a small group) across the border to Austria, where the Red Cross helped us contact my father. The Austrian villagers were warm, friendly and generous.
Transferred to London, my new life began; my father arranged a scholarship for me to study through The Financial Times. It was rather wasted, I’m sorry to say, as my interest was not engaged in subjects other than English.
I began to take an interest in my father’s work, notably while spending summers with him and his second wife, Pat, during his stints at Radio Free Europe in Munich. I even met some of the intellectuals with whom he conducted his interviews, notably Arthur Koestler (in an alpine weekend holiday hut) and disenchanted-communist Robert Conquest.
I knew I wanted to write and applied for a job as a reporter on a London menswear trade weekly, The Outfitter, as soon as I finished very basic schooling. A year later I migrated to Australia and continued to work as a journalist in various areas.