Finally after almost eighteen months of waiting, the State Library of Victoria has completed its extensive renovations. It is ready to receive Clara Lazar Geroe’s archive together with those of her husband, Vilmos Geroe. I had custody of these boxes of material while waiting, and of course, researching. But it was also a worry, particularly as the bushfire season hit. The boxes were safely stored in fire resistant storage units but… what if….? One lot of 18 boxes, as much as could be carried in the vehicle, was taken away ten days ago. The remaining 12 boxes were collected yesterday. I slept well each night following. Looking after such an important collection is a responsibility.
We know that Clara Geroe, Australia’s first training analyst, qualified in Hungary in 1931. She kept her membership paper, a study of the analysis of a young girl with anxiety neurosis, articles she wrote while studying neurology in Budapest, publications made later when she was working as a child psychoanalyst. She had to leave her library behind when she came to Australia but brought a few precious items including a copy of Alice Balint’s original ‘Psychoanalysis of the Nursery’. Copies of Imago, articles and papers written by Hungarian colleagues, were stored alongside her drafts of papers and drafts of drafts. And of course there were letters, fliers, circulars, and all the bits and bobs of her world. How interesting it was to find the original program for the 1936 Olympics, for example. Was it a quick dash over to Berlin for the event? Most probably. And a diary of a journey through Austria in 1929. There is, of course, material about psychoanalysis in Australia, the original reason for my interest. But the condiments to this, that make up a life, are irrevocably threaded through the boxes.
Willi’s work as a travel agent complements his wife’s work. He acted for members of the Hungarian community from Melbourne, on their trips home after the war. He focussed on Africa as a destination, and kept ever so detailed notes of everything he did.
We must pay Homage to Willi Geroe and his and Clara’s son George for the preservation of this archive. Alongside Clara’s basic sorting, Willi gathered things together, sorted and bundled everything together. He was something of a hoarder it seems, or was he a meticulous if not obsessional collector of information. Tax returns from 1940 onwards were all bundled together,,, and conveyed to the library..
This is a gathering of interest to scholars of immigration, culture and psychoanalysis across the world.