I was on my way to the Hobart Airport when a notification from my mum popped up on my phone; it was a link to UQmedicine’s article ‘A random life’, written about the life of Dr Bert Klug. I started reading it and could not believe my eyes when I read ‘Born in the small town of Sered in Slovakia’ – my mother’s family is from Sered and my grandmother still lives there today. Dr Klug and I also both graduated from The University of Queensland. Struck by the similarities, I contacted the magazine, who connected me to Dr Klug who kindly agreed to meet with me. It was an honour to share stories with someone who had been through such devastating events as the Holocaust and then went on to live such an incredible and successful life with his wife, Eva, in Australia.
During our meeting we spoke mainly about Sered, the small town where Dr Klug was born and where I spent a big part of my childhood. We found that he went to the same Jewish Primary School as my great-grandmother, Irena Gettvertova. Her father, Karol Gettvert, had a painting company with over 50 employees – which during the 1920s was considered a big company, especially in such a small town. Dr Klug said that he still has a vivid image of Karol’s company advertisement which stated his logo.
When I was in my early teens my grandmother showed me a class photograph from the Jewish school and told me, “Look at this, here’s your great-grandmother Irena standing in between the teachers. Six years later, Czechoslovakia was invaded by Nazi Germany and likely most of the other children and teachers were deported to concentration camps.” I remember looking at the faces of the other children, and the teachers, thinking of all the generations that could’ve been.
When I met with Dr Klug, he confirmed that he went to that very same Jewish school, but being a few years younger than my great-grandmother, he was not in that photograph. He did, however, remember the names of the teachers in the photograph. Meeting Dr Klug was truly a historic moment for me – knowing that we both have roots in Sered, that he likely crossed paths with my ancestors, and that we both graduated from The University of Queensland is simply incredible.
Image: allexxamdarx/Adobe Stock