Koralek, Paul (1 of 15). National Life Story Collection: Architects' Lives
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2014-02-22, 2014-02-23, 2014-03-01, 2014-03-02
Interviewee's home, London
Koralek, Paul (speaker, male)
Franklin, Geraint (speaker, male)
Part 1: [Session one: 22 February 2014] Full name Paul George Koralek; comments on name. Born April 1933 in Vienna. Father [Ernst Koralek] [EK] Austrian; mother [Alice Müller] [AM] Hungarian. Parents came to England in 1938, after Germany annexed Austria. AM’s friend was already in London and told family to come. Father had textile export business. Parents able to bring furniture, glasses etc but not money or jewellery. Move traumatic to PK and lack of memory of life in Austria. Story of border checkpoint. [00:06:46] AM spoke nine languages; PK’s maternal grandfather a brewer; family moved between Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Slovenia and Poland. Mother’s family killed in Nazi concentration camps. PK’s lack of understanding of these events as child. EK’s family based in Vienna, family killed there during war. Parents embraced opportunity to make new life for themselves; their wish not to be known as refugees. PK brought up as English child. Parents’ fear of invasion of England. [00:14:03] PK’s sense of identity as Austrian, as Jew. First language German. [00:15:56] Indirect nature of memories; recollection of family holidays in the Alps. PK’s life-long love of mountains shared with his wife. Mentions family apartment in Vienna. [00:20:16] PK learn about his Austro-Hungarian background from others. [00:21:08] Parents lived in Arkwright Road in Hampstead in flat rented from Austrian friends of parents. Hampstead a ‘Viennese colony’; village feel. [00:21:08] PK’s paternal uncle, a circus impresario, moved to London at same time. Relationship between brothers and their spouses. PK’s paternal aunt survived war in France; moved to America after war. PK maintained contact with her daughter (his paternal cousin) who lives in New York State. Mentions parents’ friends Erwin [ED] and Friedl Deutsch [FD], lived in South of France during War and later Paris. FD a painter and sculptor. [00:28:50] Character of parents. AM warm and emotional; PK’s occasional discomfort at her affection. Father quiet. ‘Hungarian’ nature of AM’s character. Parents not religious Jews, unlike their own parents. Remarks on diversity of Jewish religious beliefs. [00:33:09] PK describes how the persecution of his parents affected their values and outlook. AM’s remark at English border control. PK’s admiration of father and his re-establishment of family business from nothing. Parent’s decision not to have more children; PK only child. [00:38:00] Description of house in Arkwright Road and novelty of garden to him. Close friendship with Natasha, daughter of family friends. [Cough at 00:42:18] Move of family to ‘Greenhill’, block of flats in Hampstead High Street. [00:44:01] Impressions of war-time air raids in London. Family’s move to south coast at start of War. PK’s awareness of fear of parents. Internment of father in detention camp on Isle of Man as ‘enemy alien’; presence of European artists and intellectuals there. PK’d desire to be English as child. [00:50:22] Remarks on father’s business as textile merchant; development of finely-woven fabric used in parachutes. Presence of fabric samples around house. [00:53:30] Daily routine of mother. Upper-middle class status of family in Vienna. PK mentions family described in ‘The Hare With Amber Eyes’ [by Edmund de Waal]. Parents’ adjustment to life in England; gratitude and respect for English. PK’s lack of curiosity as child about family background; childrens’ lack of perspective. [00:59:58] Sent to St Mary’s School in Hampstead, later know as Town and Country School Established by a German émigré couple [Elisabeth and Henry Paul]. ‘Progressive’ nature of school. Evacuation of school to [Beesands at] Devon, and later to [Yarkhill Court] in Herefordshire. Around twenty pupils. Teachers mainly women; some male teachers who were conscientious objectors. School’s emphasis on art; ‘free’ atmosphere. Reaction of pupils to seasonal hop pickers. Mentions trying smoking. Half-term excursions to Welsh mountains. Remarks on contrast between Alps and Welsh mountains. PK’s attraction to mountains and instinct to reach summit. [01:13:23] Art classes with Miss Gardner and Mrs Eves who became Mrs Wates. School a place of encouragement. Pupils could choose whether or not to attend lessons. Contrasting characters of Mr and Mrs Paul. ‘Unstructured learning’, through living in the countryside and working on the farm. Description of growing and picking hops. Smell of burning sulphur and appearance of oast house used to dry hops. Description of seasonal workers at farm. Friendships, with Natasha (who also attended school), John Eaves and [Jane] Grigson. Return to London during school holidays. Enjoyment of Hampstead village and Hampstead Heath. Air raids, and their atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. Appearance of bombed buildings. Reliance of a child on adults; PK’s ‘smell of fear’ of adults. Mentions moments of fear later in life. Atmosphere of waiting for bombs to fall. [01:35:42] PK’s unawareness of unconventional nature of schooling as child. Remarks on teachers who were conscientious objectors. Story of making hollowed-out hay stack.
Life story interview with Paul Koralek (1933-2017), architect.