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Published: Thursday, 2/7/2002

Hungarian native fled 1956 revolt

Magda “Mami” Ujvagi, 81, who with her family fled Hungary after the abortive anti-Communist revolution in 1956 and set up an East Toledo machine shop with her late husband, died Tuesday in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio

Mrs. Ujvagi was the mother of Toledo City Council President Peter Ujvagi. He and Charles Ujvagi, her eldest son, said she had been in deteriorating health for several years, but the cause of death was unknown.

Mrs. Ujvagi was 36 when she, her husband Edward, and their family fled their country in 1956, about eight weeks after the Soviet Union put down the Hungarian revolt. Two attempts to cross the border had failed.

“She carried me on her back for a good portion of our escape,” Peter Ujvagi said yesterday. “My dad carried my sister. They left to go to an absolute unknown. Both my mother and father basically gave up their life in Hungary for their children.”

Charles Ujvagi said his mother's devotion to her children began long before the family's flight. Several years earlier, he recalled, she sold her wedding band so she could afford school clothes for her two oldest sons.

After six months in an Austrian refugee camp and two weeks at an immigration intake center in New York, the Ujvagis moved to Toledo in 1957.

Mr. Ujvagi, who had owned a small factory in Hungary until it was seized by the government in 1953, found work as a tool-and-die maker. In 1958, the couple bought a house on Bakewell Street and in their basement and garage started E&C Manufacturing, a small precision machining and special machinery-building business that the family continues to operate.

Mrs. Ujvagi was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1965 but remained deeply attached to her homeland. After the Hungarian government relaxed a ban on visits by those who fled the country, Mrs. Ujvagi took her two daughters on the first of many return trips.

Charles and Peter Ujvagi said their mother was particularly careful to pass along a love of Hungarian culture to her children and grandchildren.

“Music and culture were a very important part of our lives,” Peter Ujvagi said, as was the Christian faith. She and her husband raised their children as Roman Catholics despite the Soviet Bloc's repression of all forms of religion.

Mrs. Ujvagi's husband died Oct. 4, 1999. They had been married 57 years.

Surviving are her daughters, Magdalene “Baba” Ujvagi and Bernadette Ujvagi; sons, Charles, Edward J., and Peter Ujvagi; brother, Kornel Zsabenszky; 17 grandchildren, and two great-grandsons.

The body will be in the Boyer-Van Wormer-Scott Funeral Home, 5055 Secor Rd., after 2 p.m. today, with a wake service at 7 tonight. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in St. Stephen's Catholic Church, Consaul Street. The family requests tributes to the Hungarian Club of Toledo, St. Stephen's Church, or the Hospice of Northwest Ohio.



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