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The Barber from Budapest: One family’s journey from Hungary to Canberra

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How much do you know about your family’s history?

This question has been on my mind since I finished reading The Barber from Budapest and other stories, local author Liz Posmyk’s first book.

I took the book with me on a recent bus trip to Sydney, along with a bookmark to save my place as I didn’t think I’d finish it during that ride. The bookmark was not needed. While my body was on that bus, my mind was on a journey from Hungary, to Austria, Yugoslavia, and finally, early Canberra (and Liz’s mother’s kitchen).


The first part of The Barber from Budapest is the fascinating story of András, Liz’s father, and how he survived (amongst other things) poverty, tuberculosis, World War II, and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, met Liz’s mother, Irén, and ended up in Australia. It provides insight into the harsh reality of people’s lives during that time, and their tenacity to survive and provide a better life for their children. Reading it in the comfort of the air-conditioned bus while I munched on a snack to tide me over til dinner made me really grateful for what I have; it also gave me an even greater appreciation and respect for those who lived through such times, and those who are living in similar circumstances today.

The other two parts of the book comprise Liz’s own reflections on her family’s origins, their life in early Canberra (as in, before Lake Burley-Griffin even existed) to the present day, and her mother’s Hungarian recipes (warning: this book will make you hungry). For those of us whose families were ‘new Australians’, the second part will give you an appreciation of how your forebears may have felt those first few years; and for those of us who are ‘new Canberrans’, you will find the descriptions and photos of early Canberra fascinating. I found Liz’s connection to The Buggy Shed on Lennox Crossing particularly interesting, as I’ve walked past that building many, many times, and had no idea about its origin or previous use.

Sharing her family’s story had long been a dream of Liz’s. Some of the content is based on her father’s own writings, as well as a video interview with him in 1997 (now much treasured, as he passed away in 2001). The structure of the book was an evolution, beginning as a Hungarian recipe book with stories, morphing into a straight memoir, and then one with a recipe at the end of each chapter, before becoming the final three-parter it is today—the best of all worlds. The book also features a number of photographs, which helped me, and I’m sure others, to really picture the people, events and surroundings being described.

The Barber of Budapest is a captivating read, and don’t be surprised if it has you reflecting on your own family history and wanting to find out more. This is something that Liz feels strongly about, and that she’s pleased her book is encouraging.

“Let curiosity get the better of you,” she says. “Ask those probing questions and gather up those old family photographs and letters. Delve into your family’s history before you lose your loved ones. Preserve their stories for generations to come.”

The Barber from Budapest and other stories by Liz Posmyk is available now for purchase from Parsley Lane Press, Liz’s website Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things, and selected stores in Canberra.

In acknowledgement of the important role of migrants, a percentage of royalties from the sales will be donated to The International Organization for Migration.

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