My brother is sitting at our newly acquired, small upright piano and is going through the motions of practicing. He would have been eleven at the time, which makes me six and the year 1947.
Our family had survived the war like other Jews in Budapest whose deportation to concentration camps had been stopped by Admiral Horthy under pressure from the Allied Powers. The ghetto was liberated by the Soviet army in February 1945 and we moved to my grandmother's apartment in the city center, near the Danube. Miraculously enough, the house remained intact, even the chandelier was in place, with its apple-shaped lampshades covered in cobwebs and dust. Only the broken window panes indicated anything amiss. Much to our luck, no one had taken possession of the place, and we were free to move in.
I remember standing in the middle of a room, taking it all in—my first conscious glimpse of the apartment that I would leave only in 1980, with both of my parents dead, my brother an Australian citizen since 1957 and my wife expecting our twin daughters. I can also faintly recall the presence of my father, recently released from the forced-labor camp.
Before the war, the apartment had also housed my grandmother's interior decorating company, with my father as junior partner. It occupied just one of four rooms, with rolls of upholstery fabric on rods one above the other rather like wall bars.