Hungary: In Search of Freedom


Peter, Michael and George Rajna

The second We Said Go Travel Writing Contest will have the theme of “Independence: A Place that Makes You Feel Free.”

When I think of freedom and bravery, the person that foremost comes to mind is my late father, Peter Rajna. Born on May 11th,we honor and remember him by commencing the contest on his birthday.

During World War II, Peter demonstrated his will for freedom as a small child when he interred himself in the attic subsisting on bread and water for months. He also hid in sympathetic neighbor’s abodes, cunningly concealing his Jewish identity from prowling Nazis in Budapest Hungary. He further showed his fight when battling Russian invaders during the 1956 revolution as he fired upon oncoming troops from the rooftops with other rebels.

He left Hungary at the age of 18 with a meager quantity of monies that his father had bequeathed him. He escaped his country of birth via country farms, fleeing to various countries in Europe including Sweden, Italy – where he raced Alfa Romeo sports cars – and lastly England, where he competed as a third string soccer player with the Chelsea football team.

Eventually, my dad and his friend boarded a ferry to Ellis Island. My father pursued employment in New York but foresaw improved occupational related opportunities in Los Angeles in the early 1960s. However, with a limited elementary education and rudimentary English language ability, it was arduous to unearth a vocation. He had one ace up his sleeve; his area of expertise was foreign car repair, an area where jobseekers typically lacked proficiency.

He eventually convinced Kramer Motors in Santa Monica to hire him. At first he was told, “We don’t need any foreign car specialists at this time.” My father’s response landed him the job on the spot: “You may not need a foreign car repairman now, but you will at some point, and by then I’ll be employed elsewhere.” He was immediately taken on as the shop lube man and after seventeen dedicated years worked his way up to vice-president of the company.

At this point, he had a falling out with his boss, Jim Kramer; my father arrived to work tardy twice because my mother was ill and he cared for her in the early morning. When Kramer demanded my father promise that his belatedness wouldn’t happen again, his valiant response was, “I am giving you my two weeks notice.” The boss flopped back down in the chair and pleaded with my father to reconsider, even offering him a gold watch. However, Kramer was unaware that my father had already considered opening up his own repair shop, figuring that clients who wholeheartedly trusted him would bring their cars to receive honest service at a fair price. He was so confident, in fact, that he took out a second mortgage on our house with the agreement of my mother who backed him completely.

Later in life, he exhibited fearlessness after surviving two heart attacks. He then lived his remaining years working less, spending more time with friends and family, and engaging in precisely what he wanted to do from the moment he woke up until he went to sleep at night. He is an inspiration to us all and I honor his name and birthday as we announce our Independence Contest.

The We Said Go Travel Independence Writing Contest has a FREE entry and $1000usd in CASH PRIZES.  Two acclaimed judges, Richard Bangs, the intrepid traveler and host of Adventure with Purpose from PBS Television and Amy Friedman, an award-winning writer and writing teacher, will select our winners!

We hope you will join in our next contest, enter from May 11-July 4, 2013. Our theme is “Independence: A Place Where You Feel FREE.”

They Said

Thank you for reading this article. Would you like to write for WeSaidGoTravel? Send us your ideas and stories to Please participate by adding your voice to our growing global community. We also invite you to comment below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We Said Go Travel