Monthly Archives: March 2015

Ivan Visontay – saved by an act of courage.

1304867359807Written by Ruth Howard – founder of The Joy Story

One of the things that matters most in life is that we help others. Those we know. Those we don’t know. We might be shy, yet we strike up a conversation with the new neighbour who has moved next door and doesn’t know anyone. We are late for the movies, nevertheless we run to help a stranger who has tripped and fallen over in the street. We just do it. We hardly think about it, so spontaneous is our response. It is a kindness that swells up in our beings to answer the call of our connectedness, our oneness. And I think this is life affirming and beautiful.

The face smiling at you from the photo above belongs to Ivan Visontay (1929-2011). Today is the fourth anniversary of his death. I read about Ivan in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2011 and was so touched by the story about him that unfolded in his obituary that I kept the cutting from the paper with a view to writing about him one day. Today is that day.

Ivan’s story begins in 1944 and the scene is Auschwitz concentration camp. Dr Mengele is on the lookout for prisoners who are strong and robust – he needs labourers. He finds one in the 14 year old Ivan, the healthy looking son of a delicatessen owner. He suits Mengele’s purposes well and is soon put to work.

However before too long Ivan succumbs to scurvy and is dying. A fellow prisoner, a non-Jewish Czech doctor, makes a courageous decision and decides to help Ivan and does whatever he can to keep him alive. He does this at great risk to his own life. Ivan survives and is liberated, along with 7,000 other prisoners, on January 27, 1945.

That event happened to Ivan when he was very young. Ivan came to Australia in 1952 and he was in his seventies when he started to talk about what happened to him all those years ago. He told his story to school children, telling them about the difference a single act of courage could make to someone. Telling them specifically about the difference a single act of courage by someone who was not Jewish made to someone who was.

Telling them that what matters is helping others.
Telling them about kindness.
Telling them about love.

Ivan Visontay was named an officer of the Order of Australia in 2010 and died March 24, 2011.
Photo and material reproduced from the obituary by Michael Visontay, first published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday April 28, 2011 p.20. Used with kind permission of Michael Visontay.

About The Joy Story

Scan 1The Joy Story to Self Discovery has changed to –  The Joy Story.

New name. New graphics. New focus. It used to be the Joy Story to Self Discovery. Now it has changed into simply – The Joy Story.

Its focus is to bring you stories where love has intervened to change the direction of someone’s life.

Stories that touch something deep in us, that expand us, that make us feel good and feel joy.