Hartlepool’s Hungarians risked their lives to get home

Sandor and Lotzi who made a big impression during their six-week stay in Hartlepool.
Sandor and Lotzi who made a big impression during their six-week stay in Hartlepool.
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It was the year when hundreds of Europeans made friends in Hartlepool and Teesside – but they always yearned to get back home.

And today we ask the question, does anyone know what happened to the men who bravely risked all for a journey back to their relatives?

How we reported the Hungarian story in 1957.

How we reported the Hungarian story in 1957.

The drama of the Hungarian crisis hit the North East in March 1957. Around 1,000 people settled in the Hartlepool and Middlesbrough areas after the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, which saw 200,000 people flee their homeland.

Among the refugees in Hartlepool was a 27-year-old called Lotzi and Sandor Almasi, 23. They were taken in by bus driver George Duneclift and his wife Louise, of Friar Street.

The two men found work as fitters mates at the South Durham Steel and Iron Company, where 17 other Hungarians were employed.

They were introduced to George and Louise by Mrs Duneclift’s brother, John Metcalf, an instrument fitter who worked with Lotzi.

And for a while, all seemed well. Outside of work hours, they enjoyed the simple pleasures of life.

They listened to the family’s radiogram, and watched television, but the Duneclifts would sometimes find the men sorrowfully contemplating on life.

Mrs Duneclift said at the time: “They were usually doing something, but now and then I would find the elder Hungarian gazing at his wife’s photograph.

“I think they were quite happy here but desperately wanted to get back to their families.”

Another problem was that the men were given semi-skilled work when they wanted more.

And as Hungary lingered more and more in their minds, they had a decision to make.

Did they risk going back across Europe to a new controlling force in Hungary?

They would be relying on the clemency of a regime which, as the Northern Daily Mail said at the time, had seen the fate of others end “with a firing squad for many of their compatriots”.

Or did they stay put. They would be safe but their loved ones would be thousands of miles away.

It all came to a head one morning in March 1957. The Duneclifts were told, just hours before they went, that both men were going home after six weeks in Hartlepool.

Sandor and Lotzi had saved £14 each from their wages. They left West Hartlepool on a train for London, to get home to their families.

But who knows what happened next?

Our report at the time said: “Now Mr and Mrs Duneclift are waiting for a letter with a Hungarian postmark.”

Did it ever arrive?

If anyone has the answers, contact Chris Cordner on (0191) 501 7473 or email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk