Ernő Vilcsek was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1907 to Israel Samu Vilcsek and Berta Weisz; he had one sister and three brothers. Around 1933, Ernő married Irén Hirsch, born February 27, 1913, in Budapest, Hungary to Karolin Fischer and Jacob Hirsch. The couple had two children: Eva Veronika Kero (née Vilcsek) (b. 1934, Budapest, d. December 2018, Vancouver) and Erika Ester Fleischer (née Vilcsek) (b. September 28, 1937, Budapest, d. January 30, 2005, Vancouver). Prior to the Second World War, the family lived at 55 Futó Street, in District Eight in Budapest; they ran a business selling auto parts with members of their extended family.
In 1941, Ernő Vilcsek was taken to a labour camp. Irén went to work at the auto parts business with her mother-in-law, and Irén’s mother moved in to help care for their daughters. Early on, Ernő received leave to visit his wife and daughters in Budapest, by 1942 he was permitted only to send correspondence. Eva and Erika recall being woken in the middle of the night in 1942 to drive to a train station to say goodbye to their father, who was being sent to the Russian front in a cattle wagon. In March, 1943, the Vilcseks received notice that Ernő had disappeared in the area of Osztrogoszk. The family heard he had died from typhus and starvation.
Ernő’s eldest brother was married to a gentile woman and the auto parts business was able to operate during the war under her family name. That brother helped to arrange Wallenberg Schutzpasses for Irén and her daughters to move into an apartment protected by the Swedish government with their grandmothers.
In the Swedish safe house food was very scare. Eva and Erika remember Irén going out to find food, being caught by members of the Arrow Cross and taken to a brick factory. She returned two days later. From then on, Eva was sent out for food, without her yellow star. When the Russians surrounded Budapest, the Germans decided to enter the safe houses and evacuate the residents; the Vilcseks were told to get in a large lineup, where the rumour was that they would be ghettoized and that the ghetto would be liquidated. Eva removed Erika from the line where she stood with her grandmothers, and Irén and the girls snuck back into the safe house, where a caretaker at the apartment hid them under a large eiderdown coverlet. A German soldier found them, but the caretaker convinced him that they were family, not Jewish. After this, the Vilcseks managed to get to the apartment of their gentile aunt, who risked her and her family’s life in order to shelter them during the last few days of the war. They survived in part by trading car parts to Russian soldiers in exchange for food.
After the war, the Vilcseks moved back to their apartment; Erika and Eva’s grandmothers survived their time in the ghetto. In 1946, Irén married a survivor who lost his wife and child in Auschwitz. Irén and Erika moved to his town; Eva remained in Budapest with her grandmothers and went to school. She graduated in June, 1956. Irén’s second husband died of a stroke in 1956. The Vilcseks fled to Austria at the time of the Hungarian Revolution.
Erika came to Canada in late 1956 or 1957, where she first stayed with a great aunt (Maria née Fischer) and uncle. Irén spent two years in Israel with her mother before immigrating to Canada in 1959; she brought the documents and photographs in this fonds with her.
Eva first moved to São Paulo, Brazil, and then settled in Vancouver, where she went to university and worked as a public school teacher and artist. Her first husband’s last name was Beck. Eva married Melvin (Mel) Kero (b. 1925, d. 1998), artist and teacher of English literature and film at Langara College in Vancouver, in 1972. Eva and Mel visited Hungary together in 1973.
Erika had a child, Ernie, in 1957; in 1961 she married Hungarian survivor Zoltán Fleischer (b. 1927, Sajóvámos, Hungary); they had a daughter, Susie Kierszenblat, in 1967. The Fleischer family operated Scott Road Trading Ltd. in Surrey, buying and selling scrap metals.
Erika died in 2005 of pulmonary disease. Eva died in 2018.