Swimming Across: A Memoir

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The story of Andris Gros -- later to become Andy Grove -- begins in the 1930s, on the banks of the Danube. Here, in Budapest, young Andris lives a middle-class existence with his secular Jewish parents. But he and his family are faced with a host of staggering obstacles. Fleeing the Nazis, Andris and his mother find refuge with a Christian family outside Budapest. After the nightmare of war, the family rebuilds its life only to face a succession of repressive Communist governments. In June 1956, the popular ...
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2001 Hard cover First edition. complete number line. first printing. New in new dust jacket. condition new or as new. boards sharp/ text clean+, sq., tight, solid. a nice copy. ... Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. With dust jacket. 304 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade. Read more Show Less

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Overview

The story of Andris Gros -- later to become Andy Grove -- begins in the 1930s, on the banks of the Danube. Here, in Budapest, young Andris lives a middle-class existence with his secular Jewish parents. But he and his family are faced with a host of staggering obstacles. Fleeing the Nazis, Andris and his mother find refuge with a Christian family outside Budapest. After the nightmare of war, the family rebuilds its life only to face a succession of repressive Communist governments. In June 1956, the popular Hungarian uprising is put down at gunpoint. Soviet troops randomly round up young people. Two hundred thousand Hungarians follow a tortuous route to escape to the West. Among them is the author... Within these pages, an authentic American hero reveals his origins in a very different place during a very different time. He explores the ways in which persecution and struggle, as well as kinship and courage, shaped his life. It is a story of survival -- and triumph.
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Editorial Reviews

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The Barnes & Noble Review
In need of inspiration? This gem of an autobiography, recounting the first 21 years in the life of Andris Grof, whom the world would come to know as Andy Grove, co-founder and current chairman of Intel Corporation, may be exactly what you're looking for.

This is not a book about high technology, Silicon Valley, or big business. It is a poignant story about human survival. In this particular case, it involves a very intimate account of the horrors faced by a young Hungarian-Jewish boy and his family, from the eve of World War II to their escape from Soviet tanks on the streets of Budapest in 1956.

Before he was 20, Grove tells us, he had witnessed "a Hungarian Fascist dictatorship, German military occupation, the Nazis' 'Final Solution,' the siege of Budapest by the Soviet Red Army...a variety of repressive Communist regimes, and a popular uprising that was put down at gunpoint."

Grove does not tell his amazing tale sentimentally or melodramatically. He almost underplays his experiences, using descriptions that are short, factual, articulate, and powerful. The understated hero somehow found the strength and courage to endure and persevere; a timely story in an age looking to understand how the worst of times can sometimes bring out the best in us.

Swimming Across is a wonderful book that reaffirms the strength and resilience of the human spirit in even the darkest hour. Treat yourself to this autobiography. Its calm, moving, and positive voice carries a welcome and powerful echo. (Elena Simon)

Elena Simon lives in New York City.

Chicago Tribune
...a remarkable book, both for what it says and for what it does not...
Time Magazine
...an astringently unsentimental memoir that may find its place...with such works as Angela's Ashes...and This Boy's Life...
Booklist
...moving and inspiring memoir...a vivid picture of a tumultuous period in world history...
American Way
...a heck of a story...reads like a spy novel...
Biography
...Grove tells an enthralling tale...
Publishers Weekly
"Jesus Christ was killed by the Jews, and because of that, all of the Jews will be thrown into the Danube," says a playmate to four-year-old Andris Grof Grove's original name. Born to a middle-class Jewish family in 1936, Grove, chairman of Intel, grew up in Budapest during his country's most tempestuous era. Despite avoiding deportation and death, Grove's family lived in fear during Nazi occupation and lost some rights and property. Afterwards, they lived under Soviet control. Curiously, Grove's memoir charts the routinized mundanities of his teen years seeing his teacher at the opera, being afraid to meet young women at the local public pool, the success of a short story he wrote more than life in war-torn Europe. But his discussion of contemporary politics is astute and personal "I had mixed feelings about the Communists... they had saved my mother's life and my own.... On the other hand... they increasingly interfered with our daily life." Never didactic, he remains focused on his own intellectual growth. Grove continued his education in New York after the 1956 revolution failed. The intelligence, dedication and ingenuity that earned him fame and fortune (he was Time's Man of the Year in 1997) are evident early on. He deftly balances humor e.g., subversive anti-Communist jokes from Hungary with insight into overcoming endless obstacles (from hostile foreign invasions to New York's City University system). Though lacking in drama, Grove's story stands smartly amid inspirational literature by self-made Americans. B&w photos. (Nov. 12) Forecast: Warner's fanfare pre-pub bookseller luncheons, Jewish Book Fair appearances, publication events in New York and San Francisco and concertedmedia campaigns will bring this book to readers' attention despite it not being the sort of business-oriented book most would expect from Grove. Its unexpected subject matter will mean that, despite the Grove name, it won't come near to matching Welch-size sales, but still, it should thrive. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Andris Grof was born in 1936 in Hungary; years later, he changed his name to Andrew Grove and went on to help found the Intel Corporation, eventually becoming its CEO and chairman. Grove's memoir recounts his early life in Budapest from his perspective as a Jewish boy trying to make sense of a world torn apart by World War II, the Nazi persecution of the Jews, and the repression of communism. He describes his escape to New York City after the failed 1956 Hungarian Revolution and how he began to assimilate into American culture. His simple, evenhanded, almost unemotional writing style stands in stark contrast to the events around him, making them seem all the more horrific. While this memoir presents no broad political or historical insights, it is a poignant reminder of the great suffering that took place during the middle part of the last century. This excellent book is recommended for all public libraries and for academic libraries where there is interest in the effects of World War II or the American immigration experience. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/01.] Lawrence R. Maxted, Gannon Univ., Erie, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The self-portrait of a young man, now the CEO of Intel. Grove, chairman of the world's largest computer-chip company and author of several management books, reaches back to his childhood years in Budapest to produce something like a Bildungsroman in the classic tradition. Born before WWII to assimilated, middle-class Jewish parents, young Andris Grof found his life torn apart with his father's being sent to the Russian front and the Nazis taking control of Budapest. The Grofs survived the war, however, and the Communist regime that followed it, but when Russian tanks rolled into town to suppress the Hungarian revolution, Grof, then a chemistry student, took advantage of the chaos and stole across the Austrian border. From there he made it to the Bronx, talked his way into City College, and became Andy Grove, chemical engineer and American. The rest, as they say, is history. Thankfully, Grove spends little time foreshadowing his later success but instead offers a tight, simply told, extremely intimate memoir with careful attention to structure and detail: even the metaphor in the title is multifaceted, adding depth and resonance as the story moves forward. And although his family suffered during the war, Grove's tale resembles pre-war generations of immigrant success stories; laced with a sardonic, though unmistakable, faith in the American dream, it's like The Rise and Fall of David Lewinsky with a happy ending. Still, more than a few readers will find their eyes welling up when Grof's mother asks young Andris, who has zealously hidden his identity during the war, to recite a Jewish prayer to a newly arrived Russian soldier. Grove, though, maintains a steady hand and keeps thetear-jerking to a minimum. The outcome, while not earth-shattering-and possibly self-indulgent on occasion-is a polished, solid portrait of a particular time and place. .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446528597
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 11/12/2001
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.29 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew S. Grove participated in the founding of Intel and is its chairman today. He also teaches at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He was named TIME's "Man of the Year" in 1997, and his previous titles Only the Paranoid Survive and High Output Management are considered required reading in the business world.
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Read an Excerpt

My Third Birthday

THE SEARCHLIGHTS were like white lines being drawn on the cloudy evening sky. They moved back and forth, crossing, uncrossing, and crisscrossing again. People around me had their faces turned up to the sky, their eyes anxiously following the motion of the white lines. My mother said that they were practicing looking for planes.

I paid no attention to them. I was taking my new car out for its first drive.

My car was a tiny version of a real sports car. I could sit in it and drive it around by pushing up and down on foot pedals and steering with a real steering wheel. It looked exactly like my uncle Jozsi's sports car, except that his was white and mine was red. Red was a lot more fun.

Jozsi and I had taken our sports cars to a promenade on the banks of the Danube River. I drove my car up and down, weaving between the legs of the people out for a stroll. It seemed more crowded than usual. Jozsi kept encouraging me to go faster and faster, then ran after me to keep me from bumping into people. Sometimes he succeeded. Sometimes he didn't. But people didn't seem to mind. They barely paid any attention to me. They were mesmerized by those white lines in the sky.

My parents had come along, too. We often walked along the promenade on summer evenings. It was a popular thing to do in Budapest. Summer was over, but it was a warm evening, so I wasn't surprised that we were celebrating my birthday by the Danube. I was now three. It was September 2, 1939.

My parents had moved to Budapest the year before. My father, George Grof, whom everyone called by his nickname, Gyurka, was a partner in a medium-size dairy business that he owned jointly with several friends. They bought raw milk from the farmers in the area, processed the milk into cottage cheese, yogurt, and especially butter (they were particularly proud of the quality of their butter), and sold the dairy products to stores in Budapest. My father was a pragmatic, down-to-earth businessman, energetic and quick. He knew how life worked.

My father had dropped out of school at age eleven. My mother, Maria, had finished gymnasium, the Hungarian equivalent of a college preparatory academy. It was an unusual accomplishment for a woman at that time and even more unusual for a Jewish woman. Her heart had been set on becoming a concert pianist, but because she was a Jew she was not admitted to the music academy. Instead, she went to work in her parents' small grocery store. That's how she met my father.

The dairy business was located in Bacsalmas, a small town about one hundred miles south of Budapest, near the Yugoslav border. My father often traveled to Budapest to call on customers, the butter, milk, and cottage cheese distributors.

One day, my father called on my mother's parents' store to peddle his dairy products. He introduced himself to my mother. When they were done with their business, they stood in the doorway and talked until it was time for my mother to close up shop. Then they went for a walk through the streets of Budapest and talked and talked and talked some more.

They were different, but their differences complemented each other. My mother was cultured without being snobbish. My father was smart and energetic, with a quick sense of humor. My mother tended to be shy and reserved with strangers, but somehow she was not at all like that with my father. His energy and inquisitiveness brought out the best in her. They liked each other a lot.

The fact that my father was also Jewish helped further their relationship. It gave them a common background and a common understanding. Neither of my parents was religious. They didn't attend synagogue, and although most of their friends were Jewish, they didn't consider themselves to be part of the Jewish community. Aside from the religious affiliation that identified them on official documents, there was nothing to differentiate them from other Hungarians. When they met, my mother was twenty-five and my father was twenty-seven, an age at which a man was expected to have found a way to make a living good enough to support a family. They married a year later and moved to Bacsalmas. It was 1932.

My mother hated Bacsalmas. She was a city girl, well educated, a would-be concert pianist, used to going to concerts and the theater. All of a sudden, she found herself in a small town out in the provinces. Not only was she living in a house with dirt floors and an outhouse, but she had to share the house with some of my father's relatives and partners. My mother was the newcomer and the outsider. She was a loner and very uncomfortable with communal living. She couldn't wait to get out of there, but she would not have a chance to do so for a while.

Shortly before I was born, my parents temporarily moved to Budapest so that my mother could give birth in a good hospital. My mother would have liked to stay, but she returned to Bacsalmas with my father and me.

She finally got her wish in 1938, when I was two years old. My father decided to set up a branch of the dairy in Budapest to service his growing number of city customers. We moved into an apartment on Kiraly Street, a few blocks from the dairy.

Budapest is a city of two parts, separated by the Danube. The Buda side was hilly and dotted with old churches and castles and ramparts and rich homes. Pest was the commercial side, with the apartment houses spreading out from the city center. The natural setting, with its combination of the hills and the river, was beautiful and the stylish apartment houses and wide avenues lined with trees made for a pleasant environment.

Kiraly Street was a busy thoroughfare connecting the central Ring Road on the Pest side to the big City Park farther out. A streetcar line ran down the middle, making the street even busier. It wasn't particularly noisy, but something interesting was always going on.

There was a Jewish quarter in Budapest. It was located about a mile or so from where we lived. It was a strange, foreign area, where the men wore black hats and dark coats and long side curls and smelled odd. We were Jewish, too, but they were part of a different world.

Our world was a typical middle-class neighborhood. Ours was a nice street but nothing fancy. Our apartment house, too, was like many others: a ground floor with shops facing the street, topped with two stories of apartments surrounding a central courtyard. A small one-story building in the courtyard housed a photo studio. An older couple who lived in one of the ground-floor apartments in the back of the courtyard provided basic caretaker services. The man doubled as a shoemaker as well as superintendent of the building, while his wife, a kindly old lady, picked up packages for tenants, let in tradesmen, and performed other ordinary chores.

In our building, most of the apartments faced inward, their doors and windows opening onto the courtyard. A narrow balcony, maybe three or four feet wide with a wrought-iron railing, ran around the courtyard to connect the apartments on each floor. There was a communal toilet near the back of the balcony on each floor. This was for the inside apartments, which did not have their own toilets. A stairway connected the floors at each end of the balcony. In front, the stairway was wide and respectable. The back stairway was narrow and dark.

The apartments that faced the street were the better apartments. They were bigger and had their own bathrooms. Our apartment was one story up from the ground floor. Two rooms faced the street, the Big Room and the Little Room. Both were equally deep, but the Big Room had two windows while the Little Room had just one. The windows were tall and narrow and opened in the center, like doors; the sill was waist-high, so you wouldn't fall out. During the summer, the windows were always open. You could look out at the apartment buildings across the street and watch the traffic and the streetcars and the people coming and going on Kiraly Street. Even when the windows were closed during the winter, the rooms were bright and airy.

My mother's parents lived in the Little Room, and my parents and I lived in the Big Room. It served as my parents' bedroom, my bedroom, and our living room. There was a sofa bed in one corner, where my parents slept, with my crib nearby. There was also a polished wood dining table and chairs and some other furniture. The hardwood floor was covered with Persian carpets and area rugs.

A door opened from the Big Room to the hallway, a long, dark passage that led to the staircase. You could get to our bathroom from this hallway and also from the Little Room. The bathroom had a sink, a bathtub with a wood-burning stove used to heat the water for baths, and a toilet. Just before you got to the stairs, the hallway opened on one side into the kitchen and on the other side to a very small room, where our maid, a heavyset woman named Gizi, lived. Gizi cooked, cleaned the house, did the shopping, and looked after me. She eventually married a man who went only by his surname, Sinko. After they got married, Gizi and Sinko both squeezed into that little room. Sinko worked elsewhere, but when he was home, he would carve wood sticks for me and take me to the park. In her spare time, Gizi would sit down and read me the crime stories in the newspaper. I was completely fascinated.

We had frequent visitors to the apartment. Almost no one had a telephone, so instead of people calling up, they would drop in. People would come by, unannounced, and sit and talk for hours. As they were saying good-bye, they would stand in the doorway and talk for what seemed like hours more. My mother's younger brother, my uncle Jozsi, was around a lot. He was strong, muscular, and balding, and he was a lot of fun. I have no idea what he did, although judging from comments that the rest of the family sometimes made, it couldn't have been very much. But that didn't seem to matter. There was always a warm and joyful feeling about Jozsi.

That wasn't the case with my mother's second brother, Miklos. Miklos and Jozsi were twins but were very different in appearance and personality. While Jozsi was friendly and fun, Miklos was surly and seemed to carry a dark cloud around him. People didn't like him; their voices changed tone when they talked about him. Miklos didn't get along with anyone in the family, including my grandmother, his own mother. Once he was so nasty to her that my father intervened and the two of them started shouting at each other. I was afraid that they would come to blows. I had never seen my father that way before. After that, we didn't see much of Miklos.

My father was a sociable guy, and many of our visitors were his friends and business associates. Jani was one of my father's best friends and a partner in the dairy. He was from Bacsalmas, and his parents still lived there. He had his own apartment in Budapest, but he camped out in our apartment all the time.

Jani had been an officer in the Hungarian army, which impressed me. Tall and ramrod straight, he was a snappy dresser and something of a dandy, which also impressed me. He had a loud voice and a loud laugh and exuded self-confidence and energy. Jani was different in another way. He wasn't Jewish.

Another friend of both my father and Jani went by his last name only: Romacz. Romacz was as skinny as a stick, and his face was all wrinkled, like a raisin. I liked him a lot because he always talked to me as if we were equals. He, too, was from Bacsalmas and was involved in the dairy business; he managed the Budapest branch. He wasn't Jewish, either.

My father's friends knew my mother from when they all lived in Bacsalmas. If my father wasn't home, they would hang around anyway. She would serve them something to drink, smoke with them, and talk. None of the men was married, so they would recount stories of their latest romances, confide in her, and ask her advice. She was a kind of sister to them. They were like uncles to me. Religious identity played no part in my world then. Some of our visitors were Jews, others were not. Those who were not Jewish seemed no different from us. While many Jewish people had German names, like Fleischer, Schwartz, or Klein, our name was no different from non-Jewish names. The word grof is Hungarian for "count." Family legend has it that an ancestor was the estate manager for a Hungarian count and somehow people started to refer to him by association as "the Count." In more recent times, some Jews changed their names to Hungarian-sounding surnames. Our family already had one.

I was born Andras Grof, but everyone called me by the more familiar form, Andris.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1
1 My Third Birthday 7
2 Scarlet Fever 21
3 The War Arrives 35
4 Life Gets Strange 53
5 Christmas in Kobanya 79
6 After the War 101
7 Gymnasium 143
8 Dob Street School 175
9 Madach Gymnasium 211
10 Fourth Year 265
11 University--First Year 305
12 Revolution 343
13 Crossing the Border 367
14 Aboard Ship 405
15 New York City 425
Epilogue 471
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2001

    Powerful Scenes from a Remarkable Life!

    Regardless of what you think about this book, everyone will agree that Dr. Grove has accomplished a great deal in his life. He is clearly a five-star person! Although I knew that Dr. Grove had been one of the most successful CEOs ever (having studied his work for many years) and that he was a Hungarian refugee, I knew little else. Apparently, that was a purposeful decision that Dr. Grove began to reverse in 1997 when he was interviewed for Time¿s Man of the Year award. The book is not the sort of autobiography that most of us are used to reading. Swimming Across is mainly different in that it builds around a series of anecdotes and scenes, which provide an indelible flavor without showing the whole story. Many of the scenes are not particularly important, but all combine to provide a piece of the puzzle of who Dr. Grove was and how he became who he is today. The material is almost totally focused on the first 20 years of his life, from the time he was born in Hungary through the first few months of his arrival in the United States. The book is above all very inspiring. This occurs at several levels as you consider the obstacles that he had to overcome. Dr. Grove had physical disabilities to overcome (the loss of 50 percent of his hearing at four and a weak heart from Scarlet Fever at the same age). In Hungarian society, his family¿s Jewish background led to severe challenges (his father being sent off with a labor battalion in World War II in which only 10 percent survived after maltreatment by both Hungarians and then by the Soviet military forces, many relatives being sent to Auschwitz and killed there, and anti-Semitism in day-to-day life and official actions) which had to be surmounted. Due to the disruptions of World War II, Soviet hegemony, and repression of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, his education was often disrupted. He escaped Hungary with very little money, and not enough knowledge of technical English to do university-level work, at a time when tens of thousands were seeking a way into the United States. I came away feeling very grateful that Dr. Grove chose to come to the United States, and that so many people helped him to get here and prosper. The book¿s title is well developed in the book. Because of operations on his ears at four, Dr. Grove avoided the water as a youngster. He eventually decided to learn to swim, and got good ear plugs to help keep his ears clear of potential infections. In these days, it was very easy to develop polio from swimming, so there was a double danger. Self-taught as a swimmer, he came to enjoy it very much. To his surprise, while in the college preparatory program of the Gymnasium in Hungary, one of his teachers, Mr. Volenski, identified Dr. Grove as the student who was most likely to swim across the big lake of life. The book ends with the observation, ¿I still like swimming.¿ Prior to this book, Dr. Grove¿s most famous work was Only the Paranoid Survive. I can now see how his first twenty years of life in Hungary prepared him to develop and become effective in living that philosophy. Many readers will also be impressed by the book¿s candor. With an active imagination and a lively sense of fun, Dr. Grove usually got into mischief and the book describes many escapades. Many well-known people would not have been willing to share these stories that make him seem very human, but far less than perfect. Ultimately, I was impressed by the importance of persistence. Despite having no reason to expect that her husband was still alive, Dr. Grove¿s mother kept looking for him and prepared their home again after World War II. All the spare time she had was spent asking people if anyone knew where he was, and visiting the train station. After being on the brink of being rejected from the university in Budapest because of Communist social classifications, Dr. Grove¿s father kept looking for connections until he found someone who coul

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2009

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    Posted August 12, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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