Obituaries Australia

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: use double quotes to search for a phrase
  • Tip: lists of awards, schools, organisations etc

Browse Lists:

Radvansky, Baron John George (1924–2007)

by Attila Urmenyhazi

John Radvansky, n.d.

John Radvansky, n.d.

photo supplied by family

Hungarian hereditary baron, John George Radvansky (Báro Radvánszky János), was born in Radván (Radvaň, Slovakia, since WWI, post-collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). He was the only child of Baron Antal Radvánszky and his second wife Wanda Gleiman. He had a privileged childhood. The family property consisted of vast estates and the lifestyle allowed for a retinue of servants: cook, butler, maids, gardeners and coachman. Following the Treaty of Trianon, 1920, and the birth of Czechoslovakia and subsequent confiscation of the bulk of their property, the family endured serious financial difficulties but managed to keep control of an apartment block in Budapest which came in handy when, later in life, John Radvansky was pursuing his university studies.

He was nine years old when his father died at the age of 51. This absence left a deep hole in his life. He never went to primary school but instead had a private teacher, and an English and German speaking governess, which gave him an excellent grounding in those languages. He started his formal schooling at fifth form level, attending the English College at Sárospatak, Hungary.

The period of his senior school years was during WWII and the difficult times under the Nazi occupation of Hungary. He then went on to study at the University of Budapest. During his student days he worked for an underground anti-Nazi resistance paper. He also briefly worked with Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish Ambassador who used his diplomatic immunity and privilege to get Swedish passports for Hungarian Jews facing deportation and the holocaust. Radvansky used his perfect German to enter the forced labour camps and say that a number of workers were needed outside the compound. He would take them into town and tell them to scram in different directions. The role he played was included in the documentary about the legendary saviour Raoul Wallenberg’s life. 

Radvansky had every reason to fear for his life as those who had been taken before him had been shot. He was eventually caught but saved just hours before his scheduled execution when the Soviet Army "liberated" Hungary from the Nazis. Towards the end of the war he met his future wife, Susan, who was studying medicine. They decided that it would be wise to leave the country.  In 1949, carrying their treasured possessions and in great fear, they crossed the border to Austria.

Radvansky's Australian friend, Rhodes Fairbridge, who, as a young geologist, had stayed with John’s parents at Radvaň, had remembered the family very fondly and secured them a sponsorship/landing permit in Australia. This meant that John and Susan were migrants and not refugees who had to work on government assigned jobs for two years. They arrived in Perth and both enrolled at the University of Western Australia where they studied philosophy and psychology. After their graduation, Susan went on to study librarianship and got a job at Melbourne University. John obtained his teaching qualification at Mercer House Teacher Training College, Melbourne, and started teaching at Lauriston Girls School. He also undertook a Masters Degree at the University of Melbourne and launched himself into an academic career. He was a much respected and loved lecturer. After a few years, he transferred to the newly created Monash University where his wife worked as a librarian.

Following marital estrangement, John moved to Tasmania to take up the position of head of the inaugural "History of Ideas" course at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education (TCAE). He soon proved to be a most inspirational and lively teacher. In about 1979 he was appointed Director of that college. Problems in Hobart with competition between the TCAE and the University for a small pool of students and overlapping courses, especially in teacher training, meant that, despite controversy and protests, in 1981 the University absorbed some Hobart courses. After restructuring, the TCAE was incorporated into the University of Tasmania and Radvansky was appointed Reader in Education in the Faculty of Education. Following his retirement in 1989 he taught courses for the University of the Third Age.

John Radvansky was a wonderful educator in the old fashioned sense, deeply interested in his students' education. He could brilliantly explain abstract concepts and made learning entertaining.

Original publication

  • unpublished, 2011

Additional Resources

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Attila Urmenyhazi, 'Radvansky, Baron John George (1924–2007)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/radvansky-baron-john-george-14138/text25149, accessed 19 September 2017.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2017