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Mió Arató (* 1930  †︎ 2022)

One time, all of a sudden, two Russian officers came to the basement the grandmother knew from many novels, that if they were happy to meet someone, they had to be offered salt and bread. All night, the grandparents talked in French with the Russian officers in the basement

  • Mió Arató was born in Budapest on March 4th, 1930

  • Mió survived the 2nd World War in Budapest

  • Her family hid around 25 people during the war

  • Mió survived the siege of Budapest

  • After the war she became a teacher and worked her whole life as it

  • She passed away in 2022

Family, Childhood

Mió Arató was born on March 4th, 1930. She lived with her parents and sister until 1942, her parents also divorced this year. From then on, the family had narrowly four members: her mother, her grandmother, her sister, and her. The family’s friend circle included many families of Jewish descent. Until she lived with her parents she knew little about the world, she knew little about politics. This changed shortly after they had moved in with their grandparents, where they were introduced to different genres of music, as well as many interesting people. At their grandparents’, they had a very different life than with their parents.

In the fall of 1944, they had met a family of their grandparents who got into trouble, and two little girls ended up with them. This could have been after the Szálasi coup, where her and her sister were taking care of a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old girl.

They didn’t go down to the basement during the air raids so the hidden girls wouldn’t be found. They didn’t know what was happening, but they knew what was the right thing to do. News had come later that the children got into trouble in another family, Mió’s sister had gone for them and those children were also being hidden in the apartment.

The grandchildren of her grandmother‘s doctor had been with them for several months, they were called Edit and Kati. They couldn’t be denied in the house, so they were referred to as Transylvanian refugees, to avoid finding out that they were hiding Jews.

A 9-year-old girl had also come to them at the same time, however, the caretaker came around one day and said that her son-in-law knew that they were hiding Jewish children. His son-in-law was an Arrow Cross party member, so the caretaker warned the family.

Mió’s grandmother were friends with an elderly married couple, Mió and her family lived on Krisztina Boulevard, from where they took the little girl to their family friends. The little girl was crying, she didn’t want to be with strangers, she wanted to be taken to her mother.

Mió took her down that road, but then they became uncertain and turned back.

They later reached a married couple whom they were friends with, who understood exactly what was happening and welcomed the girl with the utmost kindness.

Unfortunately, there was no option for them to hide the little girl in their apartment, so she had to be taken elsewhere.

Mió’s family had taken real risks in these situations. Fake papers were also made in the apartment, which the children had to dirt down to make them look used. Many stayed in the apartment for a day or so, all of which posed a risk to the family. In total, about 25 people had turned up and stayed with the family.

Edit and Kati were permanent there, they were with the family in the basement for 7 weeks. In addition, there was also a fugitive and two more children, but unfortunately she doesn’t remember them. Kati and Edit remained in Hungary, but the whole family was persecuted during the war. After the war in 1951, the whole family had been deported and went to America after being deported. They have been in contact ever since.

Kati and Edit were welcomed relatively soon, immediately after October 15th.

During the siege they were with them and they were taken away after the liberation.

They had also gone to America and left Hungary very soon. One of the little girls died very soon at a young age in a plane crash. Unfortunately she isn’t aware of what had happened to the other girl.

Their house was in a very bad location in terms of the front line as there was very intense battles going on there. It was under the Buda Castle on Krisztina Boulevard.

The immediate front stood under siege for two weeks.

The tight family had stayed together during the war, seven people in total together with their aunts. Her grandfather died immediately after the siege as he suffered a stroke in the basement.

Mió had gone to school in a convent, then they went to live with her grandparents.

They kept going back to school until she was 14, but by then she had already decided that whatever happensshe would leave the place. She didn‘t agree with the mindset, she didn‘t  even go to church as a teenager. She didn’t go to school from 1944-45, the plan was to go to the kindergarten teacher training centre, but she postponed and went back to high school instead. She knew for sure that she wanted to work with children.

She was very happy to help her aunt in her kindergarten with everything.

Here she met aunt Erzsi, who was a fantastic person. Her name was Erzsébet Burhadt Bélavári, she had a private kindergarten and elementary school.

Both of her institutions had to be closed because there was a provision saying that Jewish children need to be expelled from these institutions, and as a result she decided to shut them down completely.

Aunt Erzsi had lived at 12 Mészáros Street before was bombed out from here and she then moved in with Mió. She was a very timid person with great knowledge, she would study the Montessori system in the Netherlands for many years and she used to teach this method in Hungary. Immediately after the siege, she had established a kindergarten teacher training centre and she had been a great influence on this training until 1949.

Aunt Erzsi lived for almost 90 years and passed away in 1989.

Mió and the school, Erzsi’s Story.

Mió had taught in the upper grades of elementary school, graduated from teacher training college, and had a girlfriend whom she met after the siege.

This girlfriend had been to Auschwitz, got there with her family of five, but only she  managed to escape. On her way home she went to Eger to find out if anyone from her family was still alive and then she went up to Budapest.

This girlfriend became a member of Mió‘s family in a matter of moments.

This girlfriend told the story in extraordinary detail, the cattle wagons, the arrival, Mengele, the life in the death camp and more.

She escaped when the family were walking in front of Mengele and Mengele sent everyone to the gas chamber, but Erzsi turned around because she hadn‘t seen such a  beautiful person before and wanted to look at him again and then Mengele gestured her to the other side. That‘s how she escaped. She was freed by the Americans.

She was lying among the dead, but an American soldier saw Erzsi blinking an he grabbed her and then she was being cared for in a hospital for a long time until she was able to restart her life again.

Mió talked about this story with her students during her work, she always told Erzsi’s story, and often times Erzsi would go into the school to talk about these stories.

Erzsi left Hungary in 1956. She died in sad circumstances, suffered from Altzheimer‘s disease, and was cared for in a Swiss institution, but by this time she had forgotten Hungarian. When she saw Mió again, she said, „Here you are, Mum.“


The Siege

People came and went in the apartment, her grandmother cooked on an iron stove and always divided the food into as many portions as the amount of people. For Mió, hunger is not so bad a memory because everyone used to starve, so it didn’t really occur to her.

A lot of snow had fallen that winter, a brave man would always go up from the basement for snow so they could drink liquid snow. If horse meat could be obtained, they would feast on that sufficiently.

One time, all of a sudden, two Russian officers came to the basement the grandmother knew from many novels, that if they were happy to meet someone, they had to be offered salt and bread. All night, the grandparents talked in French with the Russian officers in the basement. The next day the officers said that the girls should be hidden because those who will arrive next wouldn’t be like them, the officers. Hinting at how women would be regularly raped by the incoming Russian army. Her mother and one of her aunts were unfortunately raped by Russian soldiers.

The Russian soldiers wanted to pull Mió out too, however, she had come up with an acting ability and pretended to be mentally ill; growling, making faces, and the officer threw her back to her place. Nevertheless, they experienced the end of the siege as liberation.

There was complete darkness in the city, no public lighting. At times, the soldiers would give 1 to 1 and a half kg of bread, as well as yellow peas, which were used to make vegetable stew. Eventually public lighting had slowly come back, water, this and that.

After The Siege

Mió had later graduated from high school and teacher training. She couldn’t go where she wanted to teach, the institution was designated to her. She moved to a small village in Bakony, where there was a partly divided school, two classes studying together.

Mió decided to take the class out on a field trip from the small village to Budapest, in a way that it wouldn’t cost a penny to the class. She gave a complex and great experience to the class. Politically, these were already terrible times then, we are in 1951.

This was less noticeable in the village, but she didn’t dare to go into the village church anymore, because the party secretary could have seen it and it would have caused trouble.

After that, Mió had moved to Budapest and taught in a kindergarten at first, and then in a school. She was in a school for 17 years and then after its cessation she was in another school for another 17 years. She hadretired at the age of 55 and then looked for a school where she could teach school children who were school dropouts but were still liable for education. She had a great time here, but it was a very different experience.

She also became deputy director of child protection here, and she loved doing so.

Subsequent School Stories

A boy had arrived to this school in seventh grade and started stealing food from his classmates. The teachers didn’t have an issue with him, he played football very well.

Once the class got outraged by the thefts, so Mió went out for a family visit.

The boy’s room was full of litter, and in the other room his mother would always lay drunk. Mió had reported this and soon the boy was taken into state care.

However, it turned out that there is a grandmother in a village somewhere who would take care of the boy’s upbringing, so he eventually ended up there.

Mió discussed with the kids what had happened and that the boy was going to leave the class. Not an excuse for what he did, but an explanation.

The class had arranged a farewell afternoon and they bought him a soccer ball.

The farewell went very well and they managed to resolve this situation.

A couple of years ago, Mió’s mother received a Yad Vashem award organized by those who had lived at Mió’s during the war.

© Všechna práva vycházejí z práv projektu: Príbehy 20. storočia

  • Příbeh pamětníka v rámci projektu Príbehy 20. storočia (Gergő Borbás)