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Deak, Laszlo (Les) (1928–2002)

by Attila Urmenyhazi

Laslo Deak, n.d.

Laslo Deak, n.d.

photo supplied by family

Born in 1928, László Deák (Les) was the son of a well-to-do, landholding and sawmill-owning family in Pusztakovácsi, Southwest Hungary. In 1944, at the age of 14, he was taken by force by the German occupation troops and sent to a labor camp in Czechoslovakia where he spent a year under unforgivable inhumanity. After the war he watched as his family interests and businesses were confiscated by the new communist Hungarian government. He decided to defect to Austria and became a refugee under the United Nation International Refugee Organisation’s care.

He arrived in Australia in 1949 under the Displaced Person's scheme and had to spend his first two years in obligatory work assignment wherever the authorities would send him. As he lacked a command of English and had no certificated skills he was classed as an unskilled labourer and was sent to work on the Snowy Mountains Authority’s (SMA) giant national hydro-electricity scheme.

As his English improved he trained as a hydrographer and continued to work with the SMA until 1960 when he became redundant as the national project neared completion. During his time there, he was elected a union representative.

In 1962 he took a job as hydrographer with the Tasmania Hydro-Electric Commission projects where he remained until his early retirement due to an industrial accident in 1985. He then became a part-time shopkeeper in a mixed business partnership.

For ten consecutive years energetic Deak served the small Hungarian association in Hobart as president of their association, fostering the retention and nurture of their culture and heritage. For eleven years he presented a community radio program in the Hungarian language, after fighting for its introduction amongst other community languages.

He was also a passionate birdwatcher and a keen photographer. His stunning bird photos enriched wall calendars. In recognition of his outstanding services to the community, Laszlo Deak posthumously received a Centenary of Federation Medal in January 2003.

Original publication

  • unpublished, 2011

Citation details

Attila Urmenyhazi, 'Deak, Laszlo (Les) (1928–2002)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/deak-laszlo-les-14139/text25150, accessed 24 November 2017.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2017

Laslo Deak, n.d.

Laslo Deak, n.d.

photo supplied by family