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Red Cross helps reunite brother and sister after 58 years

Wednesday August 31, 2005

After 58 years apart, brother and sister Istvan (Stefan) and Katalin Kurbel will once again embrace. They have not seen each other since 1947, when like so many others their lives were forever altered by the savage uncertainty of post World War II Europe.

After escaping from a forced Labour Camp in 1947, 17 year old Istvan fled to Italy, before boarding a ship and travelling half way around the world to a new life in Sydney.

Without any idea of what had happened, Katalin, who remained in Europe, vowed to track down her older brother. Over the years she wrote letter after letter, and spoke to countless officials in dozens of countries. But the response was always the same: no one could tell her where her brother had gone, or if he was even alive.

Then, in March of 2002 she sent a tracing request through the Hungarian Red Cross to the Australian Red Cross in Sydney. After months of searching, Red Cross tracing case-worker Jan Murphy finally managed to locate Stefan who was living in the inner-city suburb of Newtown.

Over the past few years, Stefan and Katalin have exchanged regular letters and phone calls, working as hard as possible to catch up on almost 60 years of family history.

But Istvan and Katalin are finally being reunited in person. They will attend a reception and press conference this Thursday 1 September 2005, at 1:00 PM at the Hungarian Consulate in Sydney. The function will also be attended by the Hungarian Ambassador to Australia, Mr Fodor Lajos, Counsellor General, Mr Joszeph Papp, and the Red Cross case worker who brought them together.

  • Time of Press Conference:1:00 PM, Thursday 1 September 2005
  • Location of Press Conference: Sydney Hungarian Consulate, Suite 405, Edgecliff Centre 2003-233 New South head Road, Edgecliff, NSW
For many people, the Red Cross tracing program is their last hope of ever restoring a family link severed through war or disaster. The unique global Red Cross tracing service spans more than 180 countries, getting messages to people in areas where no formal postal service exists or could exist.

Last year alone Australian Red Cross handled 1,249 cases for people desperate to restore family links. This included 760 new inquiries sent to Australia from partner national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world. During this period 675 cases were closed, with 397 (58.8 per cent) successfully resolved.

In the same period, Australian Red Cross received and sent 839 Red Cross Messages - unsealed letters containing family news in areas where the postal service is not operational, or where family members are detained because of a conflict and have no other means of communication.