Find out more about applying for the Rhodes Scholarship

Find out more about applying for the Rhodes Scholarship


Scholars' Library: Geza Tatrallyay on his memoirs

Scholars' Library: Geza Tatrallyay on his memoirs

28 March 2024

17:00 - 18:00 (GMT+00:00)

Online Platform


Join Geza Tatrallyay(Ontario & St Catherine's 1972) for a conversation on his memoirs

This event is free and open to the public.

For our March event, in conversation with Rhodes Trust staff member Celia Tezel, Geza Tatrallyay (Ontario & St Catherine's 1972) will focus mainly on his three memoirs, For the Children, The Expo Affair and The Fencers. All three books in this trilogy of narrative memoirs are true stories of escape attempts Geza was involved in during the Cold War. They are gripping tales of bravery and the will to survive and achieve a better life in a free country and are particularly relevant today with the brutal Russian aggression in Ukraine, and the similar plight of many Ukrainian refugee families.

The first, For the Children is the story of his escape in 1956 with his family from Stalinist Hungary and immigration to Canada. Geza’s parents, members of the intelligentsia (both his grandparents were prominent doctors), were desperate to leave already after the Second World War as the Communists consolidated their power in their homeland. This is the gripping tale of their bravery and will to survive and achieve a better life for their children in a free country, told from the viewpoint of a seven-year-old. Caught twice, shot at, and imprisoned, the family finally managed to make it across the mine-studded border to Austria, and from there to Canada.

The second book, The Expo Affair, is an exciting narrative memoir of international intrigue and romance that takes place in the exotic setting of the world’s fair, Expo’70 in Osaka – a Japan just emerging as an economic powerhouse – where Geza worked as a host at the Ontario Pavilion. At the height of the Cold War, here he was approached by three Czechoslovak girls to help them defect to Canada. Canadian notables such as former Prime Minister Pierre Eliot Trudeau, External Affairs Minister Mitchell Sharp and General George Kitching play a role, as do individuals who have since become prominent as businessmen, artists and ambassadors.

The Fencers, the story of Geza’s fencing career – including his pursuit of the sport at Harvard (All-ivy and All-American) and Oxford (Half-blue) – culminating with the Olympics in 1976 where he represented Canada. At the Games, Paul Szabó, a Romanian-Hungarian fencer, whom he had befriended, earlier on the international fencing circuit, approached him to help him defect to Canada. The story is set against the excitement of the first Olympics hosted by Canada and is a very human tale of bravery, success and ultimately tragedy. It is also quintessentially a Canadian refugee success story; Paul is now a successful psychologist in Toronto, and very grateful for the life Canada has given him.

You can learn more about Geza's publications and where to purchase them here.

Geza Tatrallyay(Ontario & St Catherine's 1972) born in Budapest, Hungary, escaped with his family in 1956 during the Hungarian Revolution, immigrating to Canada the same year. He grew up in Toronto, attending the University of Toronto Schools, where he was School Captain. He graduated from Harvard University with a BA in Human Ecology in 1972 (after taking a break in his studies to work as a host in the Ontario Pavilion at Expo’70 in Osaka, Japan). Geza was selected as a Rhodes Scholar from Ontario, attending Oxford University and graduating with a BA/MA in Human Sciences in 1974; he completed his studies with a MSc in Economics from London School of Economics and Politics in 1975. Geza represented Canada as an epée fencer in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.

Geza’s professional experience has included stints in government, international organizations, finance and environmental entrepreneurship. Since 2004, he has been semi-retired, managing a few investments mainly in the clean energy sector and devoting himself to his family and his writing. He is an author and a poet, with sixteen books published by different publishers in the USA, Canada and India (six thrillers, five poetry collections, three memoirs, a short story collection and a children’s picture story book) and another poetry volume and a murder mystery to be published in 2023/24. His poems, short stories and articles have appeared in journals, magazines and anthologies in Canada and the USA. Geza is a citizen of Canada and Hungary, and currently divides his time between Barnard, Vermont, and San Francisco. He is married to Marcia, and their daughter, Alexandra, lives in San Francisco with husband David, and two sons, Sebastian and Orlando, while their son, Nicholas, lives in Nairobi with his Hungarian wife, Fanni, and his granddaughters, Sophia and Lara.

Celia Tezel (Annual Fund Manager, The Rhodes Trust) joined the Rhodes Trust in 2018. Her work focusses on alumni engagement and building support for Scholars in Residence through the Scholars Fund. Outside of work, Celia is an avid fantasy/thriller reader and co-hosts a podcast reviewing horror films!


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Q & A:

Please feel free to submit any questions in advance to or you can use the Q&A function within Zoom to ask questions directly during the live event.

There is no cost to attend this event, and we hope that all will join us! If you would like to support The Rhodes Trust, please consider giving time through volunteering, or giving a gift to the Scholars Fund. If you are interested in our volunteering opportunities, they can be found on our website.

A LT TEXT: A light blue background within which says 'Scholars' Library series' in a bolder, darker blue. There is the Rhodes 'R' and inside of that there is a shelf of books of various colours.

Part of the Lifelong Fellowship portfolio, The Scholars’ Library is a monthly book talk series, where Rhodes alumni can come together to present, discover and debate their literary works. If you’re interested in getting involved, please reach out to Georgie Thurston at