Horst’s collection passion

  • Grand storyteller: Horst Augustinovic with his sixth book, Censorship and Bermuda’s Role in Winning the Second World War, which is on sale now at the Bookmart at Brown & Co (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
  • His Majesty’s Secret Service: a censored envelope in Horst Augustinovic’s collection

You name it and Horst Augustinovic collects it — walking sticks, books, stationery from hotels long gone.

“This is what you do when you don’t have children,” the 80-year-old joked.

But by far, his favourite is his collection of postcards, stamps, envelopes and mail censored during wartime.

A double closet in his office is filled, floor to ceiling, with binders containing items gathered over the past five decades.

A few years ago, he was in an antique shop in Germany when he came across a letter from the Second World War written by a woman in Warsaw, Poland, to her husband in New York.

It was obvious that the letter had been seized and detained by British censorship officials in Bermuda.

“It was written in Polish so I couldn’t read it, but I bought it because of the censorship marks,” said Mr Augustinovic, who eventually had a friend of a friend translate the contents for him. “It’s a very personal letter. In it, the wife says over and over how she misses her husband.”

Particularly sad was that the woman’s husband never received it.

After the war the letter was released and sent on to New York, but never collected. Eventually, it was sent back to Poland.

The letter features in Censorship and Bermuda’s Role in Winning the Second World War.

Mr Augustinovic’s sixth book, it published in October.

His first, The Golden Age of Bermuda Postcards, was released in 2011.

His other books have all focused on Bermuda trivia.

“This one was more serious,” he said of his latest tome. “The postcard book was more fun.”

Censorship and Bermuda’s Role in Winning the Second World War started out as an article for Bermuda Post, the Bermuda Collectors Society’s quarterly journal.

To complete it, Mr Augustinovic reached out to Vivienne Gardner knowing she had a photograph from her father William Gilmore’s days as a censor here. It turned out that she not only had a photograph, but a treasure trove of rare documents.

Mr Augustinovic felt compelled to write a book, ultimately drawing on Mr Gilmore’s collection, his own and that of another censor, Lawrence Gurrin, Bermuda’s first archivist.

Mr Augustinovic was born a month after the Second World War erupted.

His parents, Stephanie and Roman, lived in an industrial part of Austria and evacuated him to the country to live with his grandmother, thinking he’d be safer from air raids. Ironically, one of his earliest memories is of watching two American B17 bombers being blown up in the skies over her home in Metnitz.

“I was four,” he recalled. “One of them was in flames and disappeared into the next valley and the other came straight for us and crashed behind the house in a wooded area.”

The sole pilot that survived was taken prisoner; seven others died. “I remember seeing dead bodies lying there, burnt,” he said. “That’s an image that never leaves you.”

His father was in an elite Austrian mountaineering division during the war. When the conflict was over, his mother started working for the British Government.

When Mr Augustinovic was eight, he moved to London, England with his mother who had split from his father.

He had a rough time there and was frequently bullied.

“The headmaster of the school I went to in London had lost a leg in Dunkirk,” he said. “I wasn’t exactly his favourite kid.”

He liked boxing and was often paired against a child much bigger than him at school. He’d return home bruised, with his clothes in tatters.

His consolation was stamp collecting.

“In those days every child had a stamp book,” he said. “I liked the colourful ones, or the ones with animals from Africa.”

After two years, he was sent to boarding school back in Vienna.

“I got whooping cough from the smog in London,” he said. “Sometimes it was so thick you couldn’t see another person on the street.”

As a teenager he was interested in science, so he was sent to a graphic arts school with a strong focus on chemistry.

It was there that he learnt his trade, printing.

In 1961, he was living in Quebec, Canada when he spotted an advertisement for a job in Bermuda.

Not liking Montreal all that much, he applied for it and got it.

He arrived here that September and joined the Bermuda Press on the commercial printing side. He loved the island, but was shocked by how old fashioned a lot of the equipment at the company was.

In Vienna, he’d met his future wife Heidi, who came to Bermuda a month after he did.

The couple married on December 9 at the Registry General’s office.

“She was 19, underage,” he said. “You had to be 21. I had to write to her parents to get their permission for us to get married. By December, she had permission.

“We had one friend we took along. The registrar said you need two witnesses. He said, ‘I’ll get my secretary.’ That is how we got married.”

In 1964, he left the Bermuda Press for the Island Press and helped to start the Bermuda Sun newspaper. He worked there for 15 years.

Today. Mr Augustinovic loves cruising the internet for treasures for himself and his wife, who collects silver souvenir spoons and miniature portraits.

He also enjoys auctions, poking through antique shops and spending time at the Bermuda Archives learning about different aspects of the island’s history.

Censorship and Bermuda’s Role in Winning the Second World War is on sale now at the Bookmart at Brown & Co.

Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them