A truly remarkable tale – Kurt Schuster (1929 – 2020)

Ivanhoe Grammar School past staff and students would be sad to hear of the passing of former French teacher Kurt Schuster. An esteemed member of our academic staff for 25 years until his retirement in 1987, Kurt was a fine teacher, strict in the classroom and a formidable sight in full flight, despite his short stature.

The story of how Kurt came to Australia, and ultimately to Ivanhoe, is worthy of retelling. At the end of a gruelling world tour with the Vienna Boys Choir, Kurt was scheduled to sail from Fremantle to Europe on 4 September 1939 when, overnight, the British Government declared war on Germany. All shipping was halted, adults of German descent were interred, and Kurt and his fellow choirboys became stranded in Perth.

At the invitation of Archbishop Mannix, Kurt and the other choirboys travelled to Victoria where they attended Parade College in East Melbourne and were billeted with host families in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. Throughout his schooling, Kurt lived with Mrs Rae and her 3 daughters in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. Subsequently, Kurt married Madeleine, the second of the three daughters. Following studies at Melbourne University and an initial teaching appointment at Burke Hall (Xavier Preparatory Campus), Kurt commenced his 25-year association with Ivanhoe in 1964, serving as a Sports Master and Year 8 Level Master, as well as teaching French. In 1979, 40 years after setting out on the world tour, Kurt finally had the opportunity to make an emotional return to Austria, where he was reunited with his mother Poldi and sister Trudi. The family reunion almost didn’t happen though, as Kurt arrived several weeks earlier than planned and Poldi had the habit of refusing to open her door unless she knew who was on the other side.

Fortunately, Kurt was persistent and still fit enough to twice climb the one hundred stairs up to his mother’s apartment. After Kurt’s second ascent to the apartment, followed by repeated knocking, Poldi eventually opened the door to see that her long-lost son had finally returned. A truly remarkable tale.


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