Hungarian Foresters Came to UBC

Posted by Daniel on Dec 15, 2009 - 5 comments

Vancouver historian Chuck Davis writes:

One of the great stories in BC's history began almost fifty-three years ago—January 24, 1957 to be precise—when 214 Hungarian refugees (200 students and 14 faculty members) arrived at the Matsqui train station. They were from the Hungarian Forestry School in Sopron, Hungary. Two months earlier Sopron, and other Hungarian cities, had been invaded by Soviet troops.

“Attempts to resist the approaching Soviet tanks were futile,” Professor Antal Kozak wrote. "About 450 students and 50 professors and their families left Sopron fleeing across the open borders to Austria. Of these, about 250 were from the forestry school. This was not a planned departure . . . The Faculty of Forestry at UBC offered to 'adopt' the Sopron University of Forestry and guaranteed its maintenance for five years until the current students graduated.”

By May 1961 the last Sopron class graduated. (They had started their classes in Hungarian, upping the English content as they progressed.) Most of the 140 graduates decided to stay and work in Canada. The photograph above, taken at UBC on December 3, 2001 by George Draskoy, was taken during the forestry faculty's 50th anniversary. The people shown are singing the Hungarian Foresters' Hymn. “The Hymn,” says Professor Kozak, obscured in the back row, “describes briefly the wonderful life of the young foresters in the Hungarian forests.”


You can read more of the Sopron story at