San Francisco Examiner, October 25, 1998.
Intel's Grove Backs Group That Aids the Displaced
by Matt Beer
A small paper tag. It's an unlikely prized possession for Andy Grove, chairman of Intel Corp., the behemoth Santa Clara-based microchip maker that manufactures the vast majority of the digital brains for the world's computers.
Unlike, until Grove explains its significance. The tag, affixed to his lapel by an International Rescue Committee caseworker 42 years ago, was his ticket to America. ON Thursday, he will make a payment on that ticket.
Grove, a longtime financial benefactor of IRC, will take to the stage at a find-raiser for the organization at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame to recount his refuge days and promote the IRC's mission of helping refugees from across the globe, including the former Yugoslavia, Africa and Latin America. "It's an expression of gratitude," said Grove. "One I make gladly for myself and for others like me who were helped."
Grove's IRC saga began in November 1956 when, as a 20-year-old chemistry student, he had just completed a harrowing 12-mile cross-country escape from his native Hungary. His homeland was being overrun by columns of Red Army tanks, the aftermath of the brutal crushing of that October's student-led uprising against the Soviet Union.
"There were minefields and stuff like that," Grove says matter of factly, recalling his cross-border journey.
It was the second regime Grove had eluded: During World War II, Grove and his mother lived under forged identities while Nazi-led fascist brownshirts roamed Budapest.
Grove's father, George, a Hungarian dairyman, had already been snatched away in the middle of the night to spend much of the war on a cruel work brigade.
"He was a lucky one," Grove recalled. "He eventually returned to us, but he was in terrible shape. He had lost almost half his weight- typhoid fever and such."
In Vienna, Grove then going by his birth name of Andras Grof, joined a legion of Middle European refugees fleeing the communist state.
"You have to picture the scene there," Grove said, shifting his slim frame in a chair at Intel's corporate demo room in the company's Santa Clara headquarters. "At any given time, there were about 100,000 Hungarians, mostly my age, milling around, looking for food, looking for places to stay," Grove said. "We overran Vienna almost overnight."
Grove eventually found a bed in a crowded inner-city hostel. "It was OK, relative to the alternatives," Grove said. "Some people were stuck in tents in camps on the outskirts of the city or even living out in the open."
While trying to survive on the refugee-crowded streets of Vienna, Grove heard about the IRC. The brain child of Albert Einstain, the IRC was then an ad hoc group of U.S. artists and intellectuals banded together to rescue their European colleagues endangered by the rise of Hitler's fascism.
Its first rescue mission was conducted by Varian Fry, a young editor at Vanity Fair. Fry, armed with $3,000 in cash given to him by the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, set off for Eastern Europe in 1943 to rescue 100 local artists, including renowned Russian-born surrealist painter Marc Chagall. Sixteen months later, Fry returned with 3,000 refugees.
"He (Fry) had to learn quickly about forging passports and visas and how to smuggle people over the Pyrenees Mountains to freedom," said current IRC Chairman Reynold Levy, a former AT&T executive. "But he learned, and that's why we're here today."
In Austria, Grove was interviewed at his hostel by IRC volunteers, mostly U.S. students studying overseas.
"I don't really know why," Grove said, "but I was accepted."
A train ride to the coast followed. At the dock, Grove was handed his tag, a small, stiff piece of paper dangling from a string.
"I was told to attach it to the button on my overcoat," said Grove. "And that's all there was. No passport. No other papers. Just that tag."
Grove and hundreds of his fellow refugees were then loaded onto an aging Liberty troop transport ship for a gut-wrenching, 15-day journey across a stormy winter Atlantic.
Grove recalled: "These ships were designed to carry troops in high density. You ate standing up. Almost everyone was sick.
"But," Grove said, his face crinkling into a grin, "it got us over here."
In new York, the young refugee was assigned to an IRC caseworker named Irma Kadmon.
"There were a number of Hungarian students that I as working with," recalls Kadmon, 90, who now lives in Forrest Hills, N.Y., "but he stood out. There was just something about him."
The IRC immediately sent Grove to the dentist after his arrival in the United States. "I thought, 'Why are they doing this? It must be a fraud or something.'" Grove remembered. "It was the first time in my life that I had had my teeth cleaned."
His teeth were not his only concern. A childhood bout with scarlet fever had left Grove with a 50 percent hearing loss. Kadmon told Grove to find a suitable hearing aid, and the IRC would foot the bill.
"I ended up trying out everything," Grove recalls. "I chose one that was, by far, the most expensive, around $500-$600. That was back in 1957."
"It had the best sound, but it was so expensive," said Grove, who has since had reconstructive surgury to restore his hearing. "I was very hesitant to tell my caseworker, but they just picked up the bill. They didn't say anything."
Recalled Kadmon: "I think we took him by surprise there."
Then there was grove's admission into City College of New York in 1957. "I just walked in off the street," Grove said. "I had no papers, no nothing. I spoke broken English.
"A man sat me down and worked with me to figure out what I needed. ON the basis of just what I said, I got admitted."
In 1060, Grove graduated at the head of his CCNY engineering class. After completing his Ph.D. at UC-Berkeley, Grove took a job with Fairchild Semiconductor in Santa Clara County.
"I remember driving out West," Grove said. "I saw this sign that said I was reaching the Sierra Nevada mountains. I had read about the Sierra in cowboy books, and then there it was. It really hit home with me that I was truly in America."
At Fairchild, Grove worked on using purified silicon as a platform for microscopic transistors- devices that would become known as microprocessing chips. IN 1968, he joined colleagues Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce at Integrated Electronics, a startup computer processor company that quickly shortened its name to Intel, the label now imprinted on 80 percent of all microprocessors working in computers today.
"A long journey with many steps," Grove says, sitting inside the modern headquarters of what is now a multinational, multibillion-dollar Silicon Valley giant.
But it's those first steps and the kindness of strangers that stand out for Grove. "I came from a background where nobody treated anyone well," said Grove. "Particularly if you wanted something. This agency that gave me stuff in such a warm, straightforward fashion, :" he said, his yes growing moist. "I never felt inferior or at their mercy."
Grove says he follows the current plight of the world's refugees, especially those streaming out of the former Yugoslavia.
"Like a heartbeat pumps blood," Grove said, his eyes narrowing, "The wars, civil wars and other upheavals pump out refugees."
At Thursday's dinner, Grove says he plans to hold up a prop: the original tag that was looped around his coat button, the simple passport that let him step off that Liberty ship and onto U.S. soil.
"I still have it," says Grove. "I think maybe it will help others understand what was done for me."
Email comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org