RADICAL CHANGES FOR A BOY, A FAMILY, A NATION
Peter Stangl’s memoir recalls growing up in dangerous times.
Peter Stangl’s memoir, Painted Pebbles, was written as a gift to his son, Anondo, and his daughter, Indrani. Anondo had asked, for his 30th birthday, for a family history and the full story of his father’s childhood.
The story began as an account of a trip to Budapest that Mr. Stangl had taken with his children when they were young. As the author enlarged that travel tale into a book, dramatic memories returned, and from them emerged a fond anecdotal family chronicle, illustrated with photos, and a first-hand account of some of the most world-shaking events of modern European history.
The book starts with a description of the author’s family background and continues with a detailed narrative of his early childhood during WWII. The author vividly remembers enduring air raids, coming to terms with the dangers of being Jewish under Nazi occupation, being hidden by friendly nuns, experiencing his mother’s deportation, and living confined in Budapest’s ghetto until Soviet “liberation” in 1945.
After the war the horrors of the Soviet Union’s totalitarian regime follow those of the Holocaust. The 1956 October uprising against Soviet rule and the resulting political chaos bring an opportunity to escape to the West. Multiple attempts to cross the border to Austria nearly turn into disaster, but eventually end with the author’s reunion with his brother in Vienna. From there he emigrates to the United States and after a profound cultural shock during his first weeks in New York he starts a new life as a Yale undergraduate.
In addition to a hair-raising story of danger and survival, Painted Pebbles provides insight into the dynamics of growing up in a politically stifling environment and into the challenges of adjusting to a totally different culture.
Peter Stangl was born in Budapest into a non-practicing Jewish family. As a child he survived WWII, lost his mother in the Holocaust, was hidden from the Nazis, and witnessed Budapest’s invasion by the Soviets. During the 1956 Hungarian uprising he escaped to the U.S. After graduating from Yale, he earned a degree in library science and worked at the Yale Medical Library. In 1971 he became Director of Lane Library at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Now retired, he lives in Palo Alto, California.