Purgstall am der Erlauf

The hotel was called Gasthof zum Kutcherhof and was not quite a hotel, more like a rooming house. There was a restaurant and bar at ground level that had a street entrance. The rooms were on the first floor and were accessible from the back court yard. There were 10 rooms in the building. The bathroom and the toilet were shared. The dining room was in a separate building adjacent to the main building.

We were housed in a large room that had two beds and a bunk bed, an armoire, a table with four chairs. There was also sink in the room.

The owners were Hubert, a man in his thirties and his wife Renate, who looked younger.

They had two elementary school aged children. It was a family business and they all worked long hours from early morning until late at night. Hubert’s father and mother also worked there. She was the cook and he was the butcher. They also had a rooming house that housed about 10-15 families on the property next door. We all ate together in the dining room. They had three employees, two were cleaning the rooms and one worked in the kitchen. Hubert was the boss, he also worked in the restaurant/bar at night.

As soon we settled in our room, it was time for lunch. We went down to the dinning room and met the other guests/refugees. Most of the families were from Poland, two families from Czechoslovakia, one family from Bulgaria, one Romanian family and one couple from Hungary.

The Hungarian couple Vali and Laci, invited us to their table and we ate together from then on until their departure in the summer. Because we spoke the same language and were the same age group, we spent a lot of time together telling each other our life stories, our dreams for the future and we went on hikes together in the forests surrounding the town.

The town people were very kind and did not show any hate nor discrimination against us.

In Traiskirchen we noticed a different attitude toward auslanders (foreigners ) as they called us.

One week after our arrival to Purgstall it was Christmas Eve and the town people invited us all to Church to midnight mass. It was a beautiful night that left a lasting impression on us especially because the birth of Christ was not celebrated and Christmas was not an official holiday in communist counties. The church was brightly illuminated and filled with people. Some of us had to stand in the doorway. Locals and auslanders we all felt the spirit of Christmas and worshipped together. Before we headed back to the gasthous every family was given a little package as a Christmas gift. It contained Christmas cookies, sweets and chocolates so we can enjoy them in our rooms giving us a real festive feeling.

The days passed at a slow pace. Breakfast in the morning, then waiting for the mailman to deliver letters from the embassy or letters from home. At noon we ate lunch, then afternoon walks and dinner at night. The time spent there was like an extended all inclusive vacation , free of charge, at an alpine resort. Except we did not feel like we were on a vacation. We were anxious to move on. Our old life ended when we left Romania and our future was uncertain. The daily discussions were about who was granted a visa from the embassy and who was rejected. Most of the Polish families chose Australia because the waiting period was only two or three months and the chances of being given immigrant visas were better. The Romanian family and Hungarian couple applied for visas to the USA. People wanting to immigrate to the USA needed a sponsor who had to sign an affidavit of support that showed that the immigrant will have financial support once in the US and will not become a burden on the state by using benefits. The Romanian family was sponsored by a religious organization from Detroit. The Hungarian couple was sponsored by Laci’s brother who was living in NY York state. In Canada once accepted we would receive state sponsorship. We were all waiting for the good news while days, weeks and months passed.

Spring came. then summer. We had to buy summer clothes because we had only winter cloths.

When we got there we bought a hot plate to make tejbegriz (cream of wheat) for Krisztina. From home we brought with us a red and white polka dot, 1 litre pan, a small bowl and a spoon. We used those all the way to Canada to make tejbegriz and I made it almost every day for her because she didn’t like the food we were served there. We bought a stove top espresso maker and coffee to brew our own coffee in the afternoon. We bought every once in a while a bottle of whiskey and bottles of beer that we shared with Vali and Laci. Arpad was a smoker, so we bought cigarettes.

We started spending the money we had to supplement what we received from the camp. Every months we received from Traiskirchen toiletries ,personal hygiene items and the equivalent of 20 US dollars per family.

To make up for the money we spent, Arpad found work that paid him daily.

It was very hard work, digging ditches for telephone cables. He worked from morning until night every day, sometimes even Saturdays. He worked there four months when he developed a lump in his palm at the base of his thumb. He went to see the doctor in town who sent him to the hospital in Sheibbs, a neighbouring, town, to have it removed. After the surgery he could not work there anymore. He didn’t have to, because soon after, in August, we received the good news: we have been accepted by Canada and on August 11th we boarded the plane in Vienna that took us to Toronto. The final destination of our great escape.

5 Replies to “Purgstall am der Erlauf”

  1. We arrived to Purgstall in the beginning of September 1981, myself and my wife and 3 years old daughter.
    It was many Polish families as our waiting for migration to various countries. We decided to go to Australia, some went to USA and Canada. And even some decided to go to South Africa, when they were offered jobs and accommodation by large companies.
    We still remember those days, waiting for approval of our papers by Australian authorities.
    Several trips to Traiskirchen – registration, interview and finally at end of April 1982 we left Vienna and arrived on 1 of May to Melbourne.
    Here, Australian government was running for years migrant hostel, providing accommodation, orientation courses, English courses and weekly Social Security benefits.
    Till today from time to time we are talking about our time in Purgstall.
    For years we were corresponding with local doctor. In 1983 he informed us about fire in Hubert’s gasthoff. Some refugee families were injured by fire. Later, Hubert was blaming refugees for causing fire. As you maybe remember, Hubert was first class bastard, stealing from refugees their supply of many things provided by government agencies. And as well he was cheating on food, providing small meals to save money. And even charging us for washing.
    However, in his fire story something was not OK. Meantime local building company was rebuilding and renovating gasthoff. Finally, insurance company refused to pay him, they after long investigation claiming that Hubert himself set up fire!
    And then building company took over gastfoff, because Hubert was unable to pay back to builder. And Hubert left Purgstall for good.
    In Australia we met some of people living at the time in Purgstall – one Polish family in Melbourne, another one in Adelaide and Czech one in Sydney, where we moved in 1986.
    And from time to time, thanks to internet we are in touch with our friends in South Africa.

    Thanks for memories. Believe or not, for many years we were writing letters to family and friends. Since 1987 they were in ‘computer format’. Finally, I spent some time and Collected Works version of 40 letters was issued! About 800 pages.
    And now, both of us trying to recall those hard days and years since 1981 and record them for posterity.

    PS. Some days before our departure to Australia, my wife gave to one Romanian family some clothes and toys for their small kid.

    Thanks for memories again

    Jola and Wiesiek

    1. Thank you for reading my stories. I wrote them so my daughter has some history about our family’s escape from Romania and of her life in Purgstall.
      She is the one who built this site for me and we made it public thinking that there might be people interested in reading it. I was surprised to find out that my stories reached Australia. The miracle of modern technology! Thank you for sharing your memories with us and for giving us updates about our temporary home in Purgstall.

  2. Hi Ibi,

    Back again with more information about Purgstall.

    Unfortunately, two years ago, our ‘Purgstall informer’ Dr Steinwender passed away – leukemia.
    His daughter Renate visited us in Sydney in 1987, she was flight attendant with Lufthansa at the time.

    Recently I was able to reconnect via Skype with several people, who lived in Purgstall during our time there. One of them is living in South Africa. He is preparing his ‘confession’ about time in Purgstall.

    I was researching migration period of 1980-82, when lot of Poles left country, and most of them came to Austria, because no entry visa was required.

    Unfortunately, there are almost nothing about this period written by Poles, only small comments about their time spent in Traiskirchen.

    In December 1982, at the time when martial law was introduced by Polish government, about 80 thousand Polish refugees were reported staying in Austria.
    In January 1982 Austrian government and UNHCR recognized us as political refugees.

    You probably should remember young Polish woman, Marzena, who gave birth to twins in 1981. She was living in the large corner room. They emigrated to Canada in 1983, just before fire destroyed gasthoff.

    On several of your photos we recognized – small Polish boy Damian and Romanek, Czech teenager, who was living at Auer gasthoff.



    1. Hello Wiesiek,
      Thank you for the updates.
      We met Dr. Steinwender, may he rest in peace, when my husband Arpad needed medical attention because of a severe tendinitis.
      He recommended surgery and sent Arpad to the hospital in Sheibbs. It was a very wise decision.
      After we left Purgstall, we kept in touch with the Hungarianm couple who left before us to USA.
      Unfortunately we lost touch over time. There were many Polish families with us at the gasthouse but because of the language barrier,
      our daily communication was restricted to: “list” to find out if we received any letters and ” nema viza”, about the progress of our claims.
      My daughter Krisztina played a lot with little Damian and they understood each other without knowing each others language.
      When we left in August 1981, they were still waiting to receive entry to the USA. Unfortunately I don’t remember names but I remember a polish
      young woman who was pregnant at the time, I think her husbands name was JANUSZ.
      I researched Traiskirchen Refugee Camp in 1980-es and found this site:
      https://www.pbase.com/tgriffen/traiskirchen I found the comments interesting and very familiar.
      Thank you for your remarks. It is nice to reminisce.
      Best regards,

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