Where would she go in life? Would she find the love that her mother refused her?
She now says that in her greatest imaginings she did not foresee the destiny that would bring her to America; her lifelong love affair with the California man she would marry, Jud Scott; and her home in Blackhawk with regular vacations to Kauai, her "happy place."
Ildiko Scott has chronicled her life in postwar Hungary in her book, "Love's Orphan: My Journey of Hope and Faith," which she talked about on TV30's "Conversations" program in the fall.
"While I was writing, I realized that your faith, your God -- just when you think you have nobody -- something gets you through those hard times," she said in a recent interview. "And I wonder: What would it be like if my mother had loved me?"
Ildiko was born in 1947 to a family decimated by the Holocaust. Her father, a nationally renowned cellist, lost his arm as he escaped from Auschwitz toward the end of the war. He briefly married a much younger woman, who was more interested in good times than in being a mother after Ildiko was born.
As her mother neglected her more and more, her father placed Ildiko in a Jewish orphanage. But in 1956, during the Hungarian Revolution, when she was 9, he attempted to flee the country with her -- they were captured three miles from the Austrian border.
He later escaped on his own, and several years later, at age 16, Ildiko finally received permission to leave Hungary to join him in Carpinteria in Southern California where he taught high school music. She entered the local high school wearing her drab Hungarian school uniform and was stunned by what she saw.
"When I think back on it, I have to chuckle," Scott said. "It was 1963, the middle of Beatlemania, and I would go to school after two days living here. They all wore makeup and miniskirts -- I didn't even know what makeup was."
The book details her first visit to a supermarket, where she stared in awe at the abundance and people helping themselves to whatever they wanted. And she liked having her own bedroom and bath.
But the adjustment was not easy, as she felt torn between her new life in the suburbs and the city she had left behind. Finally her English teacher, Harry McKown, advised her, "Ildiko, the day you start liking America, she will like you back." He and his wife befriended her and for the next two years, she spent Monday evenings at their home, improving her English and learning about her new country.
She went on to study at UC Santa Barbara, where she became acquainted with Jud Scott. For many years she discouraged his attention -- the attraction was there, but after her mother's refusal to give her affection or attention, Ildiko was afraid to love.
"After having written this book, I almost feel like all the past pain is closed," she said. "I hadn't dealt with some things that were inside of me that hurt so deeply. That feeling of rejection stays with you when you grow up."
She also has struggled to reconcile her Jewish and Catholic heritage, along with being taught in schools that there is no God and the Communist Party would provide. She has raised her children without the bigotries of the last generation, she noted.
"My dad was very bitter about the Holocaust and was not happy that my husband wasn't Jewish," she said. "But I said to my father, 'Isn't this wonderful the way God plans things? You married a Catholic woman, and my children have absolutely no prejudices.' People are people -- it's our job to love them."
She also laughs that she -- the girl who showed up at high school hopelessly dowdy -- ended up with a career in fashion for many decades as a personal shopper and stylist with Nordstrom.
"Love's Orphan" was printed last year by Alive Publishing in Alamo, and Scott has begun making notes for a book she plans to write with her daughter, Erin, who lives in San Francisco with her husband Eric.
"It is the chronicle of a happy marriage, and right now the concept is going to be two points of view, mother and daughter," Scott said.
Ildiko and Jud divide their time between Danville and Austin, Texas, where they have a second home so they can be close to their son Nathan, his wife Caitlin and their grandson Caden, 18 months. Nathan is a member of the Blue Angels, and they travel to his shows whenever possible.
Scott is an active member of the Blue Star Moms, wanting not only to support her son but also to say thank you for the gift of her life here and "the blessings this nation continues to be for millions of immigrants who come here in search of a better life."
In the prologue to the book, she recalls traveling back to Budapest with her own family when her children were young.
"The first thing I wanted to do was return to the orphanage to have a picture taken at the back of the courtyard where I used to sit by the iron fence and dream of freedom," she wrote.
"Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the turns life would take, and that it would bring me so far from these humble, and often very sad, beginnings."