Vera’s Story

Artefacts in our collection speak to remarkable stories of hiding and survival. Explore the experiences and heritage of a Hungarian child survivor through her objects and memories.

Silent games Monkey and the box (1944)Sydney Jewish Museum

Life in hiding often meant separation from family

Many children who were sequestered away – compelled to keep still and quiet, often in small and dark places – grew up in isolation at the expense of their physical and emotional development. Their survival came at a cost. For Vera Seder (nee Gardos), that cost was great.    

Fallible protection Vera with her mother and father (1934)Sydney Jewish Museum

Vera Gardos was born in Budapest on November 7, 1934

Her father Laszlo was a timber specialist who managed his own timber yard, while her mother Ilona worked in fashion. Together they provided their daughter Vera with a degree of comfort and stability. 

Being reasonably well-off, they each travelled extensively before Vera was born. Laszlo continued to travel for business, acquiring timber throughout Europe. Vera remembers that he was often away.

A charming bracelet (1930)Sydney Jewish Museum

Ilona’s bracelet

Ilona added charms to her bracelet, icons that represented important events or holidays, symbolised her interests, or appealed to superstitions. For Vera, the bracelet is a tangible reminder of her mother's values and the little details of her life.

A charming bracelet (1930)Sydney Jewish Museum

The suitcase charm was engraved with “Rome” and may have been one of the first charms Ilona purchased along with the bracelet from Gioielleria Rutili jewellery store on a holiday in Italy. The miniature keys below symbolise the first unit Ilona and Laszlo purchased.

The Hungarian passport charm, which opens to reveal a photo, is indicative of Vera’s extensive travel. The ladders attached with a heart is symbolic of a Hungarian saying “to climb up to my heart.”

The clover leaf charm is inscribed with the date of Vera’s birth and was added on the occasion of her first birthday. The “Budapest” flask beside it reminds Vera that there was always a bottle of cognac in their house. 

Vera has continued to add to the bracelet throughout her own life. Wearing it brings her closer to her mother. “Every time I wore it, it was as if she was here. I have a piece of her.”

Fallible protection The Erdös Textil Shop (1942)Sydney Jewish Museum

The Erdös Textile Shop

Ilona’s parents, Matild (far right) and Izak Erdös (third from the left), owned a retail and wholesale textile store in Budapest; “the best in the mid-city”. Ilona had a very close relationship with her parents and often assisted in the shop. 

Fallible protection Vera with her mother and grandmother (1935)Sydney Jewish Museum

Vera also had a close relationship with her grandparents. She is pictured here being held by her grandmother Matild.

Fallible protection Laszlo's last postcard (1944-10-14)Sydney Jewish Museum

In 1944 life for the Gardos family was upended

A few months before Vera’s tenth birthday, Laszlo was arrested and sent to Taksony, Hungary, an assembly point for those then deported to Koszeg labour camp. On October 14, 1944, he managed to send Vera this card. 

Fallible protection Laszlo's last postcard (1944-10-14)Sydney Jewish Museum

The postcard greets his "darling little angel" and sends well wishes for her birthday in a couple of weeks. Laszlo reports that he is fine but indicates that a return letter could not be sent to him because he was soon to be transported.

The postcard is the last contact Vera had with her father. 
He was murdered in Koszeg.

Fallible protection Schutzbrief: Swedish Red Cross protection pass (1944)Sydney Jewish Museum

Schutzbrief: Swedish Red Cross protection pass

This Schutz pass was issued in 1944 to “Mr and Mrs Lorant Kiss” and daughter Vera. Ilona paid an exorbitant price for this protection pass, asking her cousin Lorant to "stand in" as the father figure in order for the family to secure the papers. 

The pass allowed Ilona and Vera to move into a crowded Swedish Red Cross safe-house with a number of other Jewish families. However, the protection was not infallible and in mid-November 1944 they were evicted and incarcerated in the Budapest ghetto.

Silent games Climbing monkey (1944)Sydney Jewish Museum

“Just get your monkey man and play with it”

In the ghetto, Vera and Ilona tried to stay out of sight and quiet, often hiding in a bunker. Vera said of that time, “I was 10 years old. You can’t make any noise. I played with the climbing monkey and counted how many times it took him to get to the top… 

You can’t pull the string too hard, you don’t want to break it. November and December 1944, I played with it constantly for two months. My mother used to say, ‘just get your monkey man and play with it’. It kept me quiet. I invented games with it.”

Fallible protection Vera and her mother (1942)Sydney Jewish Museum

On 21 December 1944, Ilona was arrested while trying to visit her parents. She was taken to the banks of the river Danube and shot. 

With the help of her nanny Maria, Vera managed to find her way to her grandmother and her cousin Lorant, with whom she lived through to the end of the war and afterwards.

On 27 May 1956, Vera married Laszlo Szederjesy. They left together following the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, travelling via the Hungarian Refugee Assisted Scheme. Arriving in Sydney, they changed their name to Seder.

When Vera left Hungary, she escaped with nothing. Her grandmother kept all of her family memorabilia for her in safekeeping. When Vera was able to return to Hungary to visit her in 1964, she recovered these precious objects.

Discover more stories from child survivors in our collection!

What would you take with you?, 1934, From the collection of: Sydney Jewish Museum
Labour of Love, ;, 1941/1942, From the collection of: Sydney Jewish Museum
Meet me at the station, From the collection of: Sydney Jewish Museum
Forced apart, From the collection of: Sydney Jewish Museum
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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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