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Second book published by Port Maitland psychotherapist

Ilonka Venier Alexander holds a copy of her new book: Love and Survival in Budapest: The Memoir of Artur Renyi.
Ilonka Venier Alexander holds a copy of her new book: Love and Survival in Budapest: The Memoir of Artur Renyi.

PORT MAITLAND - A Hungarian memoir/diary is the basis for Port Maitland author Ilonka Venier Alexander’s second book.

The chronicle was written in the late 1940s by her great-uncle Artur Renyi, a linguist and engineer, as a memoir and gift to his only child, Dr. Alfred Renyi, noted Hungarian mathematician and the father of probability theory.

Venier Alexander is a clinical social worker and psychotherapist with thirty years' experience in the field of mental health.

During her research for her first book: The Life and Times of Franz Alexander - from Budapest to California, her cousin Nauszika Mathe-Arvay consulted Artur Renyi’s diary to confirm some of the facts Venier Alexander required for the story of Franz Alexander’s (her grandfather’s) life.

Renyi was married to Venier Alexander’s grandfather’s younger sister, Borbala Alexander.

Every day, Mathe-Arvay sent Venier Alexander pages from the diary.

“At one point I said to her this is compelling, because it ends up being the story of this part of the family who retained their Jewishness and remained in Budapest, the only part of the family that did,” said Venier Alexander.

When Hitler invaded Budapest, Renyi’s family ended up living in a ghetto. They lost everything and many of their friends were shot on the banks of the Danube or … just disappear.

“It’s really a story of survival and how their only child who is in a labour camp and is unable to go to university because he’s a Jew, steals an army officer’s uniform and then goes into the ghetto and rescues his parents who were bound for a train to go to a concentration camp,” said Venier Alexander.

“When I was hearing this stuff I was mesmerized by it. I just knew this story needed to be told,” said Venier Alexander.

The cover of Love and Survival in Budapest - The memoir of Artur Renyi.

When her publisher at Karnac Books learned about the diary, he agreed.

Love and Survival in Budapest: The Memoir of Artur Renyi was born.

Venier Alexander’s first book is a biography she wrote of her grandfather, who founded the Chicago Institute for psychoanalysis, and his relationship with her.

The publisher has now listed her third book, with a working title of Growing up Alexander.

For her fourth book, she has been asked by representatives of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society in Boston, to examine its archives and write a history of the institute.

“I have to go there for maybe two months because there are 60 boxes of documents. While they could scan it all, I’m a tactile person. I want to go through the pages and open the telegrams, look at the photographs myself,” she said.

History is a passion of hers. She’s been to Budapest three times in the past five years.

“To walk on the streets where my great-grandfather had walked or to know that I’m seeing essentially the same thing… is a really sort of empowering and connecting feeling to the past,” she said.

Where to buy

Love and Survival in Budapest: The Memoir of Artur Renyi can be bought through Amazon and from Karnacbooks.com for about $25. The memoir is part of the Karnac Library

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