Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Portrait of Kensington business man

Working Men Portrait Series

Imre Varhidy - Kensington Simca Service, Kensington Maryland

This man's story began in Hungary before the advent of World War II. Imre Varhidy came from a family where running your own business was part of life. With the Hungarian uprising in 1956 followed quickly by the Soviet invasion later that year, Imre's life was turned upside down. All businesses, homes and property that his family owned were seized by the regime and they were left to live in a house that faced a large factory that they once owned and managed.

In 1957, after the uprising had been suppressed, he took a motor bike ride to the Austrian border to see what conditions were like there. As he approached the border, an armed security guard advised him that he should 'go west' (the guard then commandeered his motor bike). Imre left his life and girlfriend behind him in Hungary and with nothing but the clothes on his back, crossed into Austria. He eventually managed to get his girlfriend, now wife, out of occupied Hungary and secured a passage for them to the United States of America. Landing in New Jersey with no English and no money, fortune came their way and they were greeted at the bottom of the airplane steps by an African American who spoke perfect Hungarian - a language he had picked during his childhood from Hungarian immigrant kids living in his neighborhood. Life turned around for the Varhidy family once in America. Through hard work and determination, Imre and his wife eventually moved from Cleveland to Washington DC with their son, Emery, in 1962. Imre initially worked for Royal Motors for a number of years before opening Kensington Simca Service in 1969.

In the image of Imre, you see hands that have worked many hard physical jobs. But you will also see a gentleness through his eyes. On a quiet October evening in 2015, I photographed him in the garage that he established in 1969. The session was a peaceful one with very little spoken between us. He was content to follow my direction and seemed to enjoy the novelty and fuss of a photo session. I am grateful for his time and patience and for sharing his life story with me.

Imre Varhidy - Founder of Kensington Simca Service
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