Concordia University MIGS

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Volume 32

Vera Kovesi

Terror and Survival: A Family History

A publication of
The Concordia University Chair in Canadian Jewish Studies
and
The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies


Abstract

Narrative opens with an account of family history, beginning with her paternal grandfather in the mid-nineteenth century. She traces the business history of the family. She details the path of her education and provides sketches of each family member. Offers insights into the life and values of a large, extended Jewish Hungarian family, tracing their history from the nineteenth century to the end of World War II. From the late 1930s begins to chronicle the growing anti-semitic and pro-fascist elements that were active in Hungarian society. Author stresses that her powerful memory derives from the fact that so many family members did not survive the holocaust and she feels herself to be a custodian of their memories. Describes the effects of the war on the Jewish population. Outlines the factors that led to the Kastner case. radio announces that the fascists have been overthrown; then almost immediately a retraction informing the populace that the fascists have regained power. Tells of the experience when she and her younger brothers are cared for by an aristocratic Hungarian family. For about a month the live in the life of luxury before being returned to their mother. Witnesses the post-war years including the hardships with housing and food supplies. description of the communist regime and its efforts at introducing radical change in Hungary. With the death of Stalin, notes the liberal changes that have reshaped Hungarian society. Meets future husband and the establishment of a tailor shop. Plan and execute leaving Hungary for Austria. Receive Canada visas and leave for Canada, arriving there in December, 1956.



Key Words

Hungary
Budapest
Safe houses
Kalocsa
Szekesfehervar, Siofok
Sarvar
Fehervar
Eisenstadt
Maschendorf
HIAS
Vienna
Montreal
Ottawa
Canada


Glossary of Hungarian Terms

Anyu, mother
Apu, father
Apuka, little father
Bacsi, uncle or older male
Ballagas, graduation parade
Csibesz, prankster
Jancsikam, my John
Nagymama, grandmother
Nagypapa, grandfather
Neni, aunt or older female
Polgary, middle school

 


TERROR AND SURVIVAL: A FAMILY HISTORY

PART ONE.

Today is August 7th l993 and I am 6l years old. I promised to my son Tomi to tell the story of my life while I am able to do so. I will spell his name in the Hungarian way, because this is the way it comes from my heart. This memoir will be addressed to Tomi, who is our life! Equally important is that you are the person who lives the life of all the people whom we loved so much and who were so brutally snapped out of our life. This memoir is also dedicated to Jancsi (my brother) and his family, Reiko, Imre and Miki. Jancsi and I were always together during 1944-45 and are most important people to each other. Our expectations of Tomi, his wife Nicolette and children Andrea, Michelle and Caroline and Jancsi’s family are phenomenal but they are fulfilling it!

I would like to introduce you to our family, starting on the Gams side (my Father's side). My grandfather's family came from Kalocsa, a small city between the Duna and the Tisza river in Hungary. His parents were innkeepers for the Catholic Archbishop of Kalocsa. As it was the tradition of the time, (the last years of the 19th century) my grandfather Janos wanted to learn a trade and was looking for the right trade and the place to acquire it. He spent some time in Bolcske. (Notice in 1999: Now Gams Andris and Marcsi are looking after the cemetery there). Like all the young men of that time, he walked the highways and questioned the tradesmen in local villages about job opportunities. When he reached Szekesfehervar, Mr. Martin's tailor shop was looking for an apprentice.

Later he married Mr. Martin's daughter Gizella. My grandfather Gams Janos and grandmother Martin Gizella were married during 1894. Grandmother’s mother was born Keller. We are related to the Canadian Keller family through her. Grandmother was 12 years old when her mother died. From then on she looked after her father, brothers and sisters, and did all the housekeeping.

After their marriage my grandfather took an exam to be a master tailor and opened a tailor shop. The address was the “Palotai Kapu” later it was renamed Szogyeny Marich Street. First he rented the place then he bought the house at the end of the last century. The Firm was established in 1894. It was customary for merchants at the time to sell goods in surrounding village markets. Ready-made suits, pants, coats were packed on a waggon and driven to the nearest market.

My grandparents had five children, two of them died in infancy, one of them in scarlet-fever, the other one in measles. Three of the boys survived. Their names were Andor born 1895 Aug. 9, Laszlo (born l898) and my father Imre, (born Sept. 7, l900.) At the time Andor and the infants were born, the family lived in Szunyog Street. Laszlo and my father were born in the present Gams’ house. The street’s name before l945 was Szogyeny Marich St, after it was changed to Liszt Ferenc St. Grandfather and family lived in the apartment where I and Jancsi were born later.

My grandparents wanted all three boys to have a good education so they all graduated from Highschool of Commerce. After graduation Andor became a soldier. The Army sent him to officer training school. The time was the First World War. He served at the front for three years. Laci graduated from Highschool during 1917. He also served in the Army. After the war, Andor rented the southern part of Nagypapa’s store. They built a dividing wall between the stores. Andor established a ready to wear store during 1919. Laci worked for their father.

My father graduated from Highschool of Commerce in l9l9 He was lucky, because he had an astigmatism he did not have to go into the Army. He took further courses in accounting and was working in a bank in Budapest. Grandfather needed him at home, so he came back. On his own will, he went through the whole training program to became a tailor: he was an apprentice, an assistant tailor and finally a master. Before he got married, he received the title of Aranykoszorus master (Master of the Golden Wreath) which was a rare and precious title. After he received all the exams to be a tailor, the family did not let him work as one. First he opened a tailor shop on Main St, but could not make a good living and came back to work for his father. He was the head of the tailor shop and did most of the cutting.

During 1933 grandfather died of pneumonia. The three sons took the dividing wall down and opened the whole shop under the name of: Gams Janos Fiai (The Sons of Janos Gams.) Andor became the manager of the ready made clothes, Laci the men’s furnishing department and Apu, (Hungarian for Dad) the tailor shop. The store had 4 salesmen and the tailor shop had 8-10 workers and beside my father, two cutters.

Andor bacsi (Uncle) got married in l920, his wife’s name was Halasz Erzsebet (we called her Bozsi neni) and they had two children, Evi born in l922 and Gyuri born in l924, Dec.16. Laci bacsi got married in l926, his wife’s name was Deutsch Ella (but everybody called her Panni) they had two daughters, Juci (Judit) born March 23, l928, and Klari was born on June 9, l932.

During 1933 after Grandfather died, Grandmother moved in with Laci and his family. They were the only ones in the family, who kept kosher kitchen. Their first apartment was on Vorosmarty Square (Temes house), later they moved to Szentkorona St. 6. (The building belonged to Huszar Ilonka).I remember the Vorosmarty Street apartment, so they probably moved into that new apartment around l936-37. My parents got married on June 8th, 1930. I should introduce my immidiate family: Mother: born Pollak Magdolna Hermina March 2, 1910, my father: Gams Imre born Sept. 7, 1900, my brother: Gams Janos Peter born April 28, 1937. My full name is Gams Veronika Karolina, born May 8, 1932. We lived at Szogyen Marich St. (it was renamed Liszt Ferenc St.) Our store was downstairs. Our family and Andor bacsi’s lived above the store. We each had our own apartments, consisting of three rooms, kitchen and bathroom.

The matriarch of our family was our Grandmother whom we adored like no other person. She was always there when we needed her. When I had any serious childhood sicknesses, it was always Grandmother who stayed with me, Janos (my brother) and Mother moved to my Pollak grandparents place so Jancsi would not catch my sickness.

Our store was open from 8AM till 1PM and from 3PM till 6PM like all the stores at the time. Between 1PM and 3PM there was a lunch time siesta, when people ate and rested. Wednesday and Saturday were the market days in Fehervar. On those days all the farmers came from the surrounding villages to sell their wares. After selling their produce they went shopping. Because our store was at the edge of the market area, we were extremely busy on those days. In the tailor shop we had six tailors and 3-4 apprentices working full time. We had two cutters, one of those was Kalman Bela bacsi who was my father’s assistant, and Mr. Szasz. My father was the chief-cutter and manager. His work area consisted of three rooms. It contained the inside workshop, in front of it was the cutting and fitting room (Mr. Szasz( room) followed by the store’s street side workroom where some cutting was done by my father. Bela bacsi had a sewing machine in this room. Here, both Apu and Bela bacsi took measurements for made-to-measure suits. My picture of Father is always in that room, smiling as he served his customers and had an extra smile when he saw us, his children or nieces or nephew. He did not smoke, but loved hard candy; he always kept a bag full of candies in his pocket and all of us put our hands into that pocket to find the candy.

Our Grandmother was in the store every day, sometimes just a few hours, sometimes all day. She was so proud of her sons and they respected and adored her. My picture of her in the store: sitting close to the door and knitting, or crocheting or making a beautiful needlepoint picture.

Andor bacsi was the head of the family. He also did the books for the store. A small place in the ready-made-suits department was fenced in for his office. It had a very large desk, and it was so large it seemed like a small wall on two sides. That was his domain, when the store was not too busy, he sat there and worked on the books. He was the kindest person and loved all of the children. When any Gams kid had a high mark, on any assignment in school or did something extra well in some place else, we visited Andor bacsi and got some reward for it from l0 filler (about a dime) to 1 Pengo (1$).

Laci bacsi was not so affectionate as Apu and Andor bacsi, but he loved us just the same. His wife, Panni neni came to the store to help when it was busy. Andor bacsi's wife had claustrophobia, almost never left her apartment, and rarely came down to the store. My Mother never helped in the Gams store, she helped very often in her father's store.

The ready-made and the men’s furnishing departments had four full-time helpers plus my uncles and grandmother.

Evi was l0 years older and Gyuri was 8 years older than I. We lived in the same house, I loved them very much but there wasn't much contact with them, because they were so much older. All the six Gams grandchildren were brought up like we were brothers and sisters and this was how we felt for each other. I was much closer to Laci bacsi's children, Juci and Klari. Klari and I were brought up like twin sisters. There were l month and 1 day between our birthdays. Ever since I can remember, Klari and I were together, did things together, we were each others best friend. We meant a lot more to each other than just cousins. She was smarter, and more beautiful than I. We went from nursery school to “polgary” together. We attended the Jewish elementary school till grade four.

According the Hungarian school system at the time, the elementary school had four grades. Next you could choose four years of “polgary” or eight years of “gymnasium.” When you finished “polgary” you could choose to go to a trade school like High School of Commerce or Technical High School, or take a special exam and go to 5th grade of gymnasium. You could go to any University after graduating from gymnasium, but only to technical University after graduating from a Technical Highschool.

Jewish children could only go to gymasium if they could prove their father was an officer in the 1914 World War and was decorated in the War. Laci bacsi had the required document so Juci was already studying in the Gymnasium, when Klari and I finished the 4th grade elementary school so Klari’s admission was also secured. Apu was too young to be a soldier during the War thus he could not serve and did not have any decoration. As a result, I was not allowed to enroll in that school. Without any hesitation it was decided, Klari will also go to “polgary” so we will not part.

Our days were spent like this: I got ready to go to school (it started 8AM), Apu took me to Klari’s house to pick her up, together we went to the elementary school. From the time we got to “polgari”, I was old enough to go to school without supervision, so I just walked to Klari and Juci’s apartment. On the first floor of their building lived Mero Juci. She went to the same gymnasium as Juci. The gymnasium was across the street from the polgary, so all four of us walked to school together. Classes finished at 13:00 or 14:00 PM. We took the same route going home. I had lunch with Apu, Anyu and Jancsi, and walked back to Klari's place to do my homework. Our tutor (Wiener Bozsi) came daily, to help with our homework. She also worked with Juci and stayed until all our homework was finished. Klari took English class and I had piano lessons, the only classes we had separately. Apart from these, I always stayed with Klari to play until suppertime. By than Nagymama was home from the store and she played with us and gave us special treats. She was the best cook I ever knew. Our polgary was owned and operated by Catholic nuns. They were excellent teachers and we respected them. They never made us feel less important than the other pupils who were Catholics. The one subject I had difficulty with was needlework. The nuns took this subject very seriously and I had two left hands for it. Klari was the opposite, she was very good, but did not have much patience for it, so both of us begged Nagymama to do the required homework for us. At the end she could never say no to either of us. The nuns were always remarking, how identical our work was. Most days, at 18:00 Pm. after the store closed, Apuka came over to take me home and at the same time to have a good visit with his Mother.

Juci was four years older than we. She was extemely beautiful and smart. The Jewish teenagers had several cultural and sport clubs and were constantly together. Often they met at Juci’s place and Klari and I were jealously watching them, wishing to be older like them. Klari was small and thin, and the "big" friends of Juci called her Tinike. A few of those "older” friends are still alive, the closest of them Keller Gyuri and Gathy Laci.

It is very difficult to introduce my father. I miss him today as much as when nearly 50 years ago he was taken away from us. His most important people, were his family. Nothing gave him more happiness than to play with us. He was so gentle, we never heard him raise his voice. If either Jancsi or I did anything wrong, like hitting each other or arguing, he put us on his lap, each one of us on one of his knees, and explained, that to be a brother and sister is the best gift from God, and we have to appreciate that, and love each other. He was Kindness and Love himself! Our greatest pleasure was Sunday morning's playtime. When Anyu woke up (she always liked to sleep in) Apu called us in. We snuggled in-between them and first played "kutya" (dog) he was the big dog, and wanted to eat (kissed) the little dogs from top to toe. We tried to get away, but of course he caught us at the end. Then came story time, he made up the most interesting stories mostly from his childhood. On summer mornings we got on our bicycle and went for different discovery trips. When Jancsi was small, he took me and Klari, later Jancsi was also coming along. We discovered swamps with the nature life around it, museums, historical buildings, etc. Some of these things you will recognise Tomi, because we tried to imitate these when you grew up. From l940 my Pollak Nagypapa bought a house in the Szolohegy (Grape Hill) on the outskirts of Fehervar, and many times our Sunday outing ended there where Mother's sister Ili neni lived with her family.

Anyu loved us just as much, but we had an excellent nanny Gal Bozsi, and Anyu did her own things during the days. She worked at my Pollak grandfather’s shoe store as a cashier on Wednesday and Saturday, the market days. Mother and Father also belonged to different social clubs, and had many friends they grew up with. Father was an excellent chess player, and Mother always liked to play cards. Every week at least two times they met friends either in their house or ours. Mother was always loved; she was always the center of attention, she was full of life. We had an excellent theatre in our city and also good concerts. Apu was not an opera fan, but Mother was, and she had season tickets to the Budapest Opera, where she went with my Pollak grandparents in their car. Also, the "casino" was a social gathering place. Apu, Anyu and their friends attended different theatrical performances and balls in the casino, most of them Jewish. Mother also did a great deal of charity work for the poor people of the community. The ladies had handicraft afternoons or learned to bake pastry and sold them for charity. Today, the only person alive who remembers all these activities and was in our social circle is Banyai (Braun) Edit.

I will introduce you to Anyu's side of the family, the Pollaks. My grandfather Rezso was born in l886 in Szekesfehervar to very poor parents. He had four brothers and one sister. His father died when he was young and his mother raised the children by herself. His father's name was Armin and his mother's Flesch Cecilia. I try to remember his brother’s names: Artur, Joska, Aladar, Sandor and sister Margit. Sandor later changed his name to Palfy and Joska to Perczel. Margit married Dr. Albert Lengyel.

During my grandfather's childhood they lived in a small flat. It opened into an inside courtyard of the house in the middle of Fo utca (Main St.) My great-grandmother learned to be a shoemaker (probably from her husband). They lived in a small room and it was also her workshop. The children were constantly hungry and as Nagypapa used to say, they were the menace of the market stalls, because they stole things to eat. One of the stories was, that they bought a sweet-bun, ate the inside and asked the sour-cream seller to put some into the crust to test how good it was. They decided it wasn’t so good, so poured it back into the seller’s dish, but of course some of it stayed on the bun. I forgot to mention, that Nagypapa was the youngest in the family. As the children grew, they left Fehervar and tried their luck in Budapest. The only successful person was Margit, she married a veterinary doctor, moved to Siklos (south of the city of Pecs) and they were well off. The brothers stayed in shoe business, one had a factory, but later went bankrupt. One brother Joska became a dentist, he was fairly successful, he was Ibi neni’s father.

Nagypapa - as he used to tell - was determined to be somebody with money, so he will never be hungry again. He stayed in Fehervar, learned to be a shoemaker and at a very early age, about l7-l8 opened a shoe store. He worked extemely hard, open at all hours, and had a flair to buy the merchandise which sells well. By the time he was 20 years old, he wanted to get married, he was looking for a wife who was smart, a good business partner and willing to work hard to build the business he wanted to have. He was very young, had not much time to look for girls or court them. Also he did not have much education and wanted to find an educated wife so he could learn from her. Somebody recommended my grandmother, Weiler Karolina. She was born in Veszprem, in l889. She had one full brother Joska and two or three half brothers on her mother's collateral line. They all became orphans when my grandmother was a little girl. The Catholic nuns had an orphanage and took her into their care. I don't know how the others survived. The real brother emigrated to USA around l910, Anyu always wanted to find him, but she never did. The half brother's children are Baby neni in Budapest, Miki bacsi (we visited them near Vienna when we visited Hungary in l970) and also the Lengyel doctor’s family in Windsor, maybe Tomi remembers, we visited them around 1967. We did not keep in touch with them.

My grandmother was a beautiful, very talented girl, and the nuns loved her and spent extra effort to educate her. She played the piano so well, she could have been a concert pianist. She was excellent in languages, spoke German, French. She knew she was Jewish, but did not know anything about Judaism, except that she was born a Jew, and never wanted to change that. The nuns agreed with her. She lived her young life in a sheltered environment, did not know the world outside the nunnery, where she had the most refined surroundings. I don't know how somebody could recommend her to Grandfather, who was uneducated, rough, but wanted to better himself. Probably the latter was the deciding factor. The way I know it, they met and got married very soon after, Grandmother came straight from the nunnery. It is hard to imagine how Nagymama felt as a young bride in the totally new environment, but the fact was, she fitted into Nagypapa's plan perfectly. She had an equally good business sense and built the shoe-store's reputation.

Soon after they married, they bought the house which even today is called the Pollak house. It was a three-story building, at the centre of Fehervar, opposite is the City Hall, on the left side is the Bishop's Palace, at the right side is part of the Great Church, the largest Catholic church in the city. On the street level was the store (Called Pollak Rezso Cipohaza), Pollak Rezso's Shoe house. It had huge windows on two sides, one facing the City Hall the others facing Fo utca (Main St.) The third side was the wall of the office. We had warehouses in the basement, and in the attic. The attic also housed the shoe repair department. Well, I should stay in chronological order, so we are around l910. Anyu was born in that year, and at the time they already lived in that house. The family lived on the top floor of the building, and the apartment was huge: children's room, a parlour with Nagypapa's desk and the library, dining room (big enough to seat 20 people), and the bedroom. They built a beautiful bathroom. They had hot and cold running water. The water was heated by a boiler. Probably it was one of the first bathrooms in Szekesfehervar. There were a new kitchen and a "speiz" coldroom, in the renovated apartment. All this around l9l0 was not very common in Fehervar. They were also one of the first to have a telephone in the apartment and in the store. The second floor contained two apartments, a bachelor, and one of 1 bedroom with all the comforts. Both were rented, at the time I was born, to managers of the store.

Well, Nagypapa certainly kept his promise to himself, he was a well to do man. In l9l2 Anyu's sister Ilona (called Ili) was born. Around this time Nagypapa bought a leather refinery also in Fehervar, and a small factory to make shoes. Both of these were sold during the l920s and all the concentration was built into the shoe store, which was the largest in Fejer County, and probably one of the largest in Hungary. We were selling most of the Chechoslovak Bata Shoe Factory products in Hungary, and the owner was a good friend to Nagypapa. We also had an international reputation in other European countries, specially Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and England.

My grandparent’s marriage was not based on love, but on mutual respect for one and the other abilities. They both enjoyed building the business, and I constantly heard when I was growing up, that without my grandmother, my grandfather wouldn't be able to accomplish what he did. Nagypapa also spoke German fluently and the language was important in the business world. He wanted to have education; he was hungry for knowledge, because in his early life he wasn’t able to acquire it. He found the perfect partner and teacher in Grandmother. The brothers and sister of my grandfather met regularly in Fehervar; by that time they were married and had families. Anyu and Ibi neni always told stories of the rowdy parties, and the born angel at the table was Nagymama (Linka she was called) and everybody loved her so much, they quieted down in her presence.

She was everybody’s favourite person. Very well organized, her wish was a command, but she did it in a way that earned respect and love. She had a nice word to all the customers, knew them by their name, inquired about their family. The store employees adored her, would do anything for her, so was the cook Erzsi neni, who came to work for her around l9l5 and left during l944 when she was forced to leave. She also employed a parlourmaid and of course a "Fräulein" (nanny) for the children. The latest was Ida Althans from Germany, a young teacher of German and French language, who came for a short while, and stayed until the girls got married.

Both girls became fluent in German and French. Both girls were the apples of their parents’ eye. Anyu was the exact replica of Nagypapa, in looks but specially in her nature. Bold, had an extemely strong will, always happy and smiling, the more beautiful of the sisters, she was always the centre of attention wherever she went. Ilike was the quiet one, refined like Nagymama, the good girl of the family, her look was also more like her Mother’s. Their upbringing was very strict, the only way Nagymama knew how. Since childhood they lived their life by the clock. Get up in the morning at 7AM, have breakfast, go for a walk in the park, when they were six years old, go to school, come home and take language lessons, take a piano lesson (from Nagymama or Ida), have lunch, take a nap, play with other children, study for the lessons, have supper and go to bed. Later when they went to high-school, the timetable was even more strict. The girls never had any time for idle play. For Ilike this was O.K., but Mother was always a rebel, and her partner who helped her in the different little rebellions was her Father. She could never do anything wrong in her father’s eyes. I can imagine that there must have been lots of different opinions between my grandparents.

During l9l7 Hungary was ruled by the Communists for a while. Anyu and Nagypapa told many times the story of their escape from Fehervar, because Nagypapa was a rich man by that time, and was a wanted person, for the Communists. They packed the minimum needs into a horse and wagon, dressed in rags, and taking Ida with them, tried to escape to Vienna. They did reach the city, and lived there for a while, and came home, when the Communist regime ended. Ili and grandmother were devastated during the situation, but mother and grandfather thought it was a great adventure. My Grandfather was also a soldier in Ferenc Jozsef's Army, as he always said, he and Swejk were on the same level of good soldiering. If anybody was a worse soldier than Swejk, it was Nagypapa. We have a picture of him in uniform, sitting on a horse he was very proudly showing it to anybody who was interested to see. Taking orders was not for HIM! He always said proudly, his highest position in the Army was to be a private.

During the l920s the store became more and more successful. Nagypapa bought an automobile, one of the first in Fehervar. I don't think he ever learned to drive, but we had a chauffeur. He made lots of business trips abroad, and many times Grandmother accompanied him. Both girls when they were l6 years old went to a famous girl school in Lausanne Switzerland. Anyu had the greatest time of her life there, made lots of friends and learned to speak English, (but this was the language least used in Hungary and unfortunately she was not fluent in it in 1956. but it came back.) Nagymama and Nagypapa visited her in Lausanne very often. Two years later Ili went to the same school, but she missed her mother so much, it was total misery for her. Probably Ili's bad memory of her year away was because this was the year my Grandmother became very ill.

As Mother used to say, both she and Nagymama became feverish and very sick during Christmas l928. I forget to tell you that in the Pollak house Christmas was celebrated like in any Christian house, with big tree, presents, carols, because this is how it was in the orphanage where Nagymama grow up. Nagypapa was the least religious person, and never thought much of it, and what Nagymama wanted was O.K.for him. They celebrated the Jewish holidays too, Nagymama made sure to learn about these from her friends, and was very serious, about the girls learning Judaism. So back to Christmas of l927, Anyu and Nagymama were sick in the same double bed, because Nagymama wanted to see all the time how her daughter was doing. Everybody thought Magda was more sick than her Mother, and all the fuss was over her. She had double pneumonia, and was not feeling very well, but with the care of doctor, private nurse, and family around her, in a month she was getting better, but her mother’s condition worsened. By that time she was also in pain, and they could not find out what was wrong with her. She was 39 years old, until then in perfect health. The family’s physicians sent her to the best private hospital in Budapest, where the doctor did an investigating surgery and found out, she had cancer of the uterus, by that time it spread so badly, all they could do was sew her up. For two months she was back in Fehervar, obviously in pain, but nobody ever heard any complaining from her. She was not told what was wrong with her, but as smart as she was, Anyu was sure, she knew.

Around the fall of l928 Anyu and Apu met. According to them, Anyu got so sick with pneumonia, because she was attending the casino’s Christmas ball. It was the season ending ball for the young ladies and gentlemen's dancing school. Anyu was the best dancer in the class, and Apu was the worse. The teacher asked her at every lesson, to spend some extra time with Imre, because otherwise he was a hopeless case in the dancing department. Anyu eagerly did what she was asked to do, maybe the first time in her life!

She was beautiful, rich, intelligent, and my grandmother made sure, she would marry the person, suitable for her position. She arranged different boyfriends, sons of factory owners, lawyers, etc. Anyu found something wrong with every one of them, in my opinion, because she was against any authority. Nagypapa with his ambition, agreed with Nagymama on this occasion. Both of them wanted a "good" marriage for their beloved daughter. As I was saying, the girls were brought up in a very strict way, they never left the house without an adult escort, not even when they became of marriageable age. The dancing school was a perfect place to talk to a boy, without an adult listening to every word. Anyu and Apu slowly fell in love during these lessons, but could never speak to each other away from the classes. So Apu's bad dancing abilities never improved and needed a good teacher. On that ball around Christmas, they spent a few minutes in a doorway just the two of them the first time, and according to Anyu it was worth catching pneumonia. Anyu started to speak about Imre, at home and both of her parents were absolutely against him. He had no social position, the Gamses were just tailors without an important business, his name should not be mentioned in the house. Of course Anyu always found a way to get around the rules. One I can remember, because it was told so many times; Margit neni (Nagypapa’s sister) came from Siklos to visit the sick Linka. She was asked to take the girls to see a movie. She heard, that Magda never should meet Imre Gams. They reached the cinema, and she was told there were two gentlemen to escort the young ladies. One, whom Margit neni instantly liked, was introduced as Imre so and so, and he was seated right between Margit neni and Magda. Margit neni didn't stop talking to that nice gentleman, why couldn't Magda fall in love with such a nice man as himself, why she could not stop talking about Gams Imre!

Meanwhile Nagymama's condition worsened, she had a private nurse with her all the time and her daughters could only spend a few minutes with her daily. Anyu loved her so much and did not want to deceive her and repeatedly asked please let her marry the man she loved, but even the day she died she said “absolutely not.” Anyu felt very bad about that all her life. Nagymama died on May 28, l928, Anyu was l8 and Ili l6 years old. Nobody in the family could imagine life without her! Nagypapa was also devastated, and nobody could replace her in his business and in his personal life. For the girls Ida stayed in Fehervar, she was a big help. People spoke about Nagymama's funeral years later. Fo utca (Main Street) was clogged with people, it was almost like a state funeral, so many people came and walked to the Jewish Cemetery to bury her. There were family, friends, business acquaintances, and customers, hundreds of them. She was such an extraordinary person, smart, kind, loving, respected, people told me anybody who met her once, could not forget her. Her death at such an early age was a real tragedy.

But life did not stop, After the mourning period Anyu could not forget Gams Imre. She repeatedly asked Nagypapa to reconsider his decision, because the man she loves is one whom he could be proud to call a son-in-law. He agreed during the fall of l929. The young couple had a large engagement party during December, and got married on June 8, l930. At that time the Gams store was flowering, and Pollak Nagypapa loved Apu very much. Just before the wedding, Apu got sick with pneumonia, and had high fever during the ceremony. Later, when he was teasing Anyu, he always said, he did not know what he promised during the ceremony, because he was unconscious. My parents wedding was a fairy tale romance. All their friends and relatives knew how they fought for each other. They knew she was a special daughter to Nagypapa, and expected a beautiful wedding. Nobody was disappointed. The Synagogue was full, the young couple arrived in a new, white Mercedes convertible. The car was a compliment for the occasion from an uncle on Nagymama's side. He had an auto-selling dealership in Budapest. The Synagogue had flower decorations everywhere. A big reception followed the ceremony at the largest hotel in Fehervar, the Magyar Kiraly (Hungarian King) hotel. They had to wait for the honeymoon until Apu could recover and stand on his feet, before they left to Venice.

It was decided, that the new couple will share a beautiful new apartment in Jokai U. 6, with Apu's parents. (This address will be important during l944). Anyu was the daughter of a very liberal minded man, to whom she was also the apple of his eyes and could never say "no" to. Gams Nagypapa was stubborn, old-fashioned family man, who was the head of the family and what he said was so, no argument about it. Gams Nagymama was an angel, who loved Anyu because her son loved her so much, and tried to be the in-between person between Anyu and Gams Nagypapa with not much success. The way I know, most problems started, when Gams Nagypapa insisted to have a kosher kitchen. I don't think Anyu or even Pollak Nagypapa ever heard of such a thing. Anyu agreed, they had a cook anyway so she could not care less how the cooking was done. Pollak Nagypapa and their cook Erzsi neni sent all her favourite food over. When Gams Nagypapa accidentally found this out, there was a big scene, and it was decided, the two couples will move to separate places. Anyu and Apu moved into one of the apartments in the Gams house and Gams Nagypapa and Nagymama moved to another place close by on Megyehaz St. The two families only lived together for six months, and Anyu took an oath that she will never interfere in any of her future children’s marriage and will never move into their house. She kept that promise.

After the two Gams families’ living quarters were separated, Anyu and Nagypapa became friends, but he never ate at our apartment. Pollak and Gams Nagypapa never became close friends, but there was peace between them for the sake of the children. Gams Nagypapa as I said before, died in l933. Gams Nagymama and the Pollak family were always polite and friendly, but somehow the two never mixed, I can't remember any occasion when we had the two families together.

Anyu and the two sisters-in-law were also polite and friendly to each other, but they never became friends. Apu and his two brothers were very close. We the six Gams grandchildren were also close. For the Jewish holidays, like Seder night, we went to Laci bacsi's place to celebrate. Our seat in the Synagogue was also together for all the Gam’s wives, but the regular visitors were Nagymama, Anyu and Panni neni, Bozsi neni never left her home. We girls also sat with our family. Apu and his two brothers sat in the men’s section. The Synagogue had three rows of seats on the main floor (men’s section). The two side rows had space for three persons to sit side by side and the middle rows had spaces for ten. The Gams brothers had the first row three seats, on the right side. We attended services every Friday night and Saturday morning. The men came on Friday night and also came for a short period on Saturday, but the store was open, and they could not be away for long. Pollak Nagypapa had a seat in the middle of the first row, but he only came to services on Yom Kipur. He always sent his donations, but don't ask him to go and pray.

Pollak Nagypapa mourned his wife, but he needed somebody to help him in the business and to raise his daughter Ili. Ida had to go home to Germany and Ili was lost without her Mother and Ida. Nagypapa was introduced to a widow from Budapest, and her name was Engel Margit. She was a good business lady, nice looking, very kind, and in my opinion happy to marry an important man with money. They married a year before I was born, so she was the only Pollak Nagymama I know, and I loved her very much and the feeling was mutual. She did not disappoint Nagypapa, she was a true partner in the store, a business woman who enjoyed working there, and a good stepmother and grandmother.

Nagypapa was very fond of playing cards for high stakes. He only did that when he already could afford to lose money not only to win it. Linka Nagymama knew that and never questioned him, but Margit Nagymama was jealous of the “other woman” and wanted to see all his money in a safer place than the gambling table. I guess there were more harsh words in that marriage than the one before. It did not make much difference in Nagypapa's life. He was always a happy, lucky, bohemian man. That is the way he was, and if anybody doesn't like it too bad. He gave such a good life to Margit Nagymama, travelling all around Europa in their own car, she could buy the most expensive clothes, spend lots of time at Lake Balaton and always stayed in the best hotels. She did not complain too much. She also helped financially her sisters in Budapest, they were not poor, but not so well off as she was. Nagypapa also helped his own brothers all the time, he was a very generous man and never forgot where he came from. During the l930s he was a "virilis" man in the city of Fehervar, which was a big honour, and meant he was one of the highest tax paying citizens of the city.

Maybe he was not the best husband, but he was the best father to his daughters. Their well-being was important to him. He was also the best grandfather, enjoyed our company, very much. I am ahead again with my story. Lets go back and describe the store. Nagypapa employed six salesladies, three salesmen, and a lady in the office. Her name was Mutt Zsofi, who did the bookkeeping. One of his salesmen was a man related to the family many times removed. Ili fell in love with him, and it was a marriage made in heaven. There was no argument from Nagypapa this time, he really acquired a son he never had and a right-hand man in the business. He knew everything it was possible to know about Pollak Rezso Cipohaza, and Nagypapa and the new Nagymama could do all the travelling they wanted to do, Lubeck Bandi took care of the store. I loved him very much and he and Apu also got along very well. Ili was a different type of girl than Anyu. Her happiness was to be together with her husband, and later with their little boy Miklos (Miki) who was born on April 4, l936. They did not go out as much as Anyu and Apu. They lived their lives quietly, only needing each other. They both loved me very much, and I spent much time with them specially during school vacation in the summer. A year later Jancsi my brother was born (Apr. 28/37) and the two boys grow up together, they were as close as Klari and me.

Around that time, war talks were common, we heard the terrible things from Germany, but in Hungary, life was good, these things could not affect us, could they? Anyu was afraid of future bombing of the city, so to make her happy, Nagypapa bought a beautiful house in the outskirts of the city, in the Szolohegy (Grape hills). He thought Anyu and us will move there, so she will feel safe if we have bomb attacks. The house had a large wine cellar and it was converted into a safe air-raid shelter. Well, right now there is no war, Anyu certainly won't move out to the suburbs, what will happen to her social life!? So Ili and Bandi happily moved into that house, and from that time on, the Szolohegy became our whole family’s private playground. Ili neni did not occupy the largest room in the house. It was left for the rest of the family to use. We stayed there so often, almost every weekend.

There are so many memories from the Szolohegy. The address was Fiskalis St. 9. The "Villa" as we called it was one of the most beautiful houses on the Hills. It had two towers and a roof garden among the towers. The front had an open "veranda" (porch) with a table, wicker chairs, lounges, it was the grown-ups’ favourite place. A door would take you to the living-room, there were three doors from there, one to the Lubeck's bedroom, even Miki slept there with his parents. Ili neni did not want to let him go to another room, so she could hear during the night his even breaths. The bathroom was from the bedroom. The other door from the living-room was the largest room of the house, but it belonged to the family, either to Nagypapa and Nagymama or to us Gamses. The third door opened to their maid's room and from there another door opened to the kitchen and the coldroom. It was not a large building, just very cosy. At the front of the building we had a huge garden. It was attended by gardeners and I don't think I can describe the garden’s beauty. It had rock gardens, rose arbours, a few fruit trees, yellow crushed stone paths, grass and flowers, always in bloom during the summer. It was Ili neni's pride and joy. It was big enough for us to bicycle around the paths. It also had a modern well, which could be used the old-fashioned way (pumping it with a handle) and also had a motor which pumped water into the bathroom and the kitchen. It tasted so good, I can still feel it’s cold, clean taste. Behind the house was the huge sandbox and swings for us. Behind that divided by a chicken wire fence was the barnyard, with chickens, geese, ducks, and pigs. On the side from our playground was a path to go to the vineyard and fruit-trees. I don't know how large was the area of the property, but I know, that it was the largest on Fiskalis Road. We had three large cherry trees. They were planted so when the first tree had no more ripe cherries, the second tree was ripened. We had cherries from May to July. We had delicious large apricots, peaches, pears, plums, and sour cherries. Beside and around all the trees were rows and rows of grapes, red and green. A small part was also used to grow vegetables, we did not need to buy many things from the market, we had everything we needed for the kitchen at our fingertips. There were people to take care of the garden and the vegetables and fruits.

The Szolohegy was Jancsi's and my paradise. We spent lots of time there during summers. The only exception was when we were on the Balaton. Apu, Gal Bozsi, Klari, Jancsi and I bicycled to the Szolohegy from our house. Anyu and Nagypapa came by car (while we still had it). During 1940 our car was requested by the Hungarian Army with its driver (Kakas Janos). The car was blown up with the driver at the Russian front. After our car was gone Pollak nagypapa, nagymama and Anyu took a horse drawn carriage to come to Szolohegy. Fiskalis Road was many kilometres long, and at the time not very busy, both Jancsi and I, later Miki learned to bicycle there. Miki and Jancsi were also like twins. Ili neni was never too tired to enjoy Miki and Jancsi’s playing. Miki was such a good boy and also so smart, Jancsi was the "csibesz" of the two. Interestingly the situation was the same as it was between Anyu and Ili neni. We also had relative kids from Budapest visiting us every summer. One was Jancsi’s age, called Lubeck Jancsi. He was doubly related to Miki, because his father was Bandi's brother, and his mother was Nagypapa's brother Artur's daughter. Her name was Aliz and she killed herself because of a love affair when her son was about one year old. Ili neni was a second mother to the little boy. The other boy was Vili Mocsary, who was one year younger then Jancsi, he was Nagypapa's brother, Aladar's grandson. (Both Lubeck Jancsi and Vili are alive, because they lived in Budapest. Our Jancsi found Janos in Norway, and Vili is in San Antonio, Texas.) Szantho Ali was Vili’s older half-brother. I don't remember if he was visiting us in Fehervar before the war. We only met him and his family in Budapest. I remember visiting his mother and grandmother on Telepes St in Zuglo with my grandfather. Aladar bacsi, Ali’s grandfather died during the 1930s, he had liver cancer. Interestingly Ali died of the same sickness during 1988 in Oakland, California.

Our family also sponsored a "poor" child from Budapest every year for a week or more. We wanted to give him or her some good fresh country air and food. We were never bored when we stayed at the Szolohegy.

Fall time was of course the best time! When the grapes were ripe, we had the wine-harvest. All the girls from the Pollak store and their friends came on a Sunday to pick the grapes. We had an old-fashioned grape-press, the grape was poured into the middle, and some girls were dancing on them and the grape juice poured out from a spout into a pail. How much fun it was to see all that, and of course we were allowed to help to pick the fruit, and best of all drink the juice! Erzsi neni, Nagypapa's cook cooked in huge containers some special food for everybody.

Around Christmas time we killed a pig, specially fattened during the year for that purpose. It was also a happy occasion, the girls came from the store to help, but I did not like that occasion so much. I always felt sorry for the pig and did not like the smell. We cured our ham, smoked the sausages, Nagypapa's favourite was lemon sausage (it was not spiced). I never heard anybody else who made it.

Since I was born (till the war years of l941, when my Father had to go to the army) our family spent part of the summers on the Lake Balaton. We never bought property there, but rented a villa, most of the time the same one in Siofok's Tisztviselotelep. (Today it belongs to the city of Siofok). A few years we shared the villa (cottage) with Ili neni, other times with Anyu's best friends family, the Sebestyens. Aliz neni was Banyai Edit's aunt. We always had our nanny (from Jancsi's birth, Gal Bozsi) and a cook with us, and Apu came to see us by train, with all the other husbands, on Saturday afternoons. Nagypapa and Nagymama came to visit us frequently during the week. Many times only Nagypapa came, we were the best excuse to come to Siofok and spend lots of time at the casino, and gamble. Of course he also had time for us and regardless if he won or not, we the children or Anyu always got some special gifts.

During the summer of 1941, a Sunday afternoon, Ili neni and Miki visited us in Szogyen Marich St. Bandi bacsi, who was younger than Apuka, was already Munkaszolgalatos (a slave labourer), the year was l94l. Between our apartment and Andor bacsi's we had a kind of balcony or "kisudvar" little garden, as we called it. There was a glass door between the balcony and our corridor, and also a glass door from the corridor to our apartment. Jancsi, Miki and a visitor little boy were playing on the balcony, Anyu and Ili neni were inside the apartment, I was at Klari's place, Apu and the rest of the family members were at the casino. Gal Bozsi had her day off. As I heard many times, all of a sudden there was the noise of broken glass, and a scream. All the adult members ran to see what happened; they found Jancsi in a pool of blood on the middle of the glass door. The children were playing tag, and Miki closed the door in front of the running Jancsi, so he could not catch him. Of course Jancsi ran into the glass door. Anyu fainted, but Ili neni and Bozsi neni were smart enough to wrap a towel around Jancsi's arm and called the ambulance and Apu in the casino. When the ambulance arrived, Apu and his two brothers were turning into our street because they were running home. Apu could accompany Jancsi to the hospital. He got a few stiches. The worst place was on his upper arm, and also on his forehead. He still has the mark on his arm. After he recovered, he rather enjoyed himself with all the attention he got, and specially with all the beautiful presents. From Gams Gyuri he got the first remote-controlled car which came to the market. He also had a custom-built auto, big enough for him to sit in and push the pedals to go. It was specially made for him and was ordered by Apu. Later a bicycle was made for him by the same machine shop in Fehervar.

Well, I am mixing up the chronological time table, but I should talk about my and Jancsi's birth. When Anyu became pregnant with me, she was 22 years old, and Anyu and Apu were married for about one year. Apu was very happy to have a child, and told everybody, he will have a son. He cannot have any other, and the name of the baby will be Tomi. So, when I appeared on the scene and the nurse came out from the birth room to the fathers’ waiting-room to tell Apu, he has a daughter, he said it is impossible, and please go back and take another look. The poor nurse would look as much as she could, I was still a girl. As I was told, he became so upset, he went home without seeing me or Anyu. When he came back and looked at me (I was a beautiful baby with long dark hair) I stuck my tongue out at him. But that was only the first reaction, because I don't think later he would change me for any other, and he was my best friend and my father! I wanted to tell that story, because this is the reason Tomi was named Tomi, and will stay all his life for me - not Tom.

I was four years old when Anyu became pregnant again. Without knowing my father's wish, I wanted a little brother, and I don't have to tell anyone, I became my father's best pal. We went to the Budapest Zoo, and I got a perec (pretzel) which was my most favourite food, and threw it to the storks, asking them to bring me a little brother. Well I got my wish, and I was in love with him from the first minute. I also got a brother, who was biting, kicking, screaming. To put it mildly, he was not a faultless baby in my opinion, but he was angelic looking, and with his looks he could get away with murder. It was a very difficult task to make our father mad, specially at the boy he finally had and was so proud of, but I remember one occasion when that happened. We had a guest couple for dinner. A travelling salesman for an important company, and his wife. Apu invited them to our house for our mid-day dinner. During dinner the guest lady started to scream, "Why didn't you tell me, you have a dog in the house?” We don't, was the answer. At the same time Apu lifted up the tablecloth and under the table, was his beloved son. Why did you do it? Because she had a nice calf, was his answer, and I felt like doing it (he was about 2 1/2 years old). Jancsi still remembers the answer he got!! My reaction to that? We ordered him in the Zoo so why are we upset because he bites and kicks?

Pollak Nagypapa loved all his three grandchildren, but I think I was the favourite, for the simple reason, I was the first. He was very young when I was born, 42 years old. He and Margit Nagymama were newly wed at the time, and I accepted her right away, the rest of the family needed more time to adjust to her. I was special for her too. They had Erzsi neni as a cook, and her daughter Keller Bozsi became my first babysitter, she came to live in our house when Anyu got married. She and Anyu were about the same age. Erzsi neni was hired by Linka Nagymama, and she was Erzsi neni’s favourite person. She always said, that I resemble my Linka Nagymama very much, in looks and also by my nature. For that reason, I was special for her too. I stayed in the Pollak apartment very often, slept there, and ate there, because at home I had to eat food which was good for me, but Nagypapa's place was filled with chocolate, and imported bananad, and cookies and ice-cream (home made!) I was older than the boys, so they took me to special places like Balaton, or Budapest, where I had the best time with them. We stayed at the best hotels, ate in restaurants (Hangli was my favourite place in Budapest) and shopped for clothes and toys. They planned to take me to travel all over Europe when the war ended, and our car would come home to us. I would go to study in Lausanne just like Anyu did, and stay there from grade none till grade 12. During l941 Nagypapa bought a condominium at Szechenyi hegy (mountain) which was (and still is) one of the most beautiful parts of the Buda Mountain range. The family spent so much time in Budapest. It was a wise investment not to pay for hotels all the time. The apartment was in a brand-new building, and had one bedroom. The next apartment on the same floor belonged to the owner of the Szekely Department house, which was famous in Budapest. Mr. Szekely and Nagypapa were best friends and had a plan for the future: his son Otto should marry me, when we will grow up. (He was a teenager at the time). I was so mad about this idea, always peeked into the corridor to make sure no Szekely were there, before I opened the door and left the apartment.

There is an episode about Anyu, and I want Tomi to know. Maybe it explains some of the things about her later behaviour. During l939, she was 29 years old, one morning she woke up and half of her face was paralysed. (Today we know, that it was Bell’s Palsy). It was horrible to see and the doctors could not figure out what happened to her. Nagypapa put her in the best neurological private hospital in Budapest, but no treatment helped. She was very agitated and impatient and frightened. Finally a doctor decided to operate and open her scull. There were consultations, but that was the best solution. It was scheduled for the next day. Meanwhile Anyu thought her face improved a little. Her best friend and cousin were Ibi neni (Joska bacsi's daughter) she was also a "csibesz" partner helping in Anyu’s frequent mischief. Ibi neni came to visit her, and they decided, Anyu's head should not be opened, specially when she starts to look better. Ibi brought in some clothes, and the two of them walked out of the hospital like they were visitors. Next day was interesting for the hospital and the family, until Ibi called Apu to tell, they were hiding in a hotel. Anyu always did what she thought was best for her and never accepted outsider’s advise. She was lucky, her palsy cleared up by itself, and the doctors told her and the family, that she should be very cautious about any excitement, because it could come back. If any of them had known, all the "excitement" that came in her life later!...

In l938, when there was more and more talk about the war and the things that happened to Jews in Germany, Apu received a very interesting proposition from the Australian Embassy. They were looking for some tradesmen, among them tailors, to emigrate to Australia. We could go any time if Apu would apply. Even I remember all the heated discussions, because Apu thought this would be the perfect solution to get away from a war which would surely come, and after the war, we could come back. Anyu did not want to hear about it, because she could not live without her father and sister and the rest of the family. Nagypapa would not leave a store, which was booming at the time. Anyu was not willing to discuss Australia with my father.

What I will tell you now, came three years later, when the war was in its third year, and the different laws regarding Jews became a reality. Nagypapa was a good friend and neighbour to the bishop of Fehervar, Schwoy Lajos. The bishop told Nagypapa, he should change the religion of the family. If we became Catholics, he could help us to survive. Nagypapa thought that was an excellent idea, and discussed with Ili neni and us. Bandi bacsi thought the world of Nagypapa and whatever he wanted, he was game, but Apu was unwilling even to discuss that. He was not willing to change his forefather(s religion for anything. So the Lubecks became Catholics in l940, and bishop Schwoy promised, he will save them from any harm. Well, history proved him wrong. Ili neni was very unhappy about the religion change, and Nagypapa did not let her go to the Synagogue during the High Holidays, but she said all the prayers at home, and fasted on Yom Kipur. Bandi bacsi did not go to the Synagogue or to a Church, but Miki went to a private Catholic school from grade One. The school belonged to the nuns. He never knew he was Jewish, and was very upset when he learned about it during 1944.

Before I start to write about the war years, try to think about family stories. One is Apuka's eating habit. He did not touch any chicken, goose or duck meat, or pork. He was the happiest if the meal did not include any meat, but eggs. There are not many egg dishes in the Hungarian cooking. Erzsi neni was a very special cook, I don't know where did she learn; maybe from Linka Nagymama, but today she could be an excellent chef in an expensive restaurant. Ili neni’s and our family stayed in the Pollak house quite frequently for meals. We also had family meals in the Szolohegy. On really special occasions we had meals in the Pollak dining-room. Such occasions were for wedding anniversaries, or birthdays or Jewish holidays. The table was set with the best dishes, and the main course (for an example, roast goose) looked like the animal was still alive, and when it was cut, it just melted under the knife, but it was still put on your plate in one piece. Vegetables were decorated. Salads or fruit compotes were master pieces. Cakes, pastries, could have come from a bakery, and we only ate home-made bread. When Anyu and Apu got engaged, it certainly was a big occasion, and the cooking was according to the occasion. When Apu saw all the goodies on the table, he asked Erzsi neni to come and see him. Very politely he asked her, could he please have scrambled eggs instead of the meat? Anyu and Apu always laughed when they described Erzsi neni's face for that request. Since than, every time Apu was present for any meal, in my grandfather’s house, Apu automatically got his scrambled eggs.

A beautiful picture came to my mind. Many nights before our bedtime Apu asked Anyu to play the piano. Apu's favourite piece was Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Kalman or Lehar operettas were also favourites, but there was a song called "Lessz maga juszt is az enyem" (You will be mine whatever anybody says) was their special song, and it was easy to understand why...

When Tomi asked me to write this memoir, I had no idea what pleasure I will feel to do so. For a few irresistible moments I lived in the past with all the people who were closest to me. I never forgot Gal Bozsi's daughter Klari's words when she visited us in l983, here in Ottawa. "How is it possible that you remember so many things from your childhood? If anybody would ask me to say half as many occurrences from my childhood, I simply would not be able to do so, because I don't remember and I am much younger than you are". My answer was: you were born, and you lived a natural life with natural ups and downs, and you don't know how lucky you are. My life has three beginnings, the first when I was born, the second in l945 when the war ended and the third in l956 in Canada. All these occurrences changed my life radically and I simply cannot forget all the former important happenings. The worst year was probably l945 when we (Anyu and Jancsi) realized that the past had ended, and we will never see our loved ones again. It is difficult to lose anybody who is close to you. I experienced that also with Anyu, but you could come to terms with these losses, it is natural loss. Nothing compares to the knowledge, which occurs when EVERYBODY you loved is gone and under the most horrible circumstances. People asked: didn't we feel sorry to lose all the comfort and material richness of our former life?. I miss those things naturally but not because my life would be easier with them, but because some of those things belonged to the loved ones and reminded me of THEM.

All the small possessions left for us are very important for that reason. These things are the few pieces of Herendi china, which was bought for Mother by Nagypapa when Jancsi was born. The painting, Apu's present to Anyu when they became engaged. The family photographs were found in the garbage, during the spring of l945. We left Hungary in l956 with a small briefcase, mostly full of pictures. We left in Fehervar all the furniture we found during 1945, Nagypapa’s dining room chests, Ili neni’s vitrin, kitchen set, and dining-room table with plush chairs. These pieces were extemely important to us and were not easy to leave them behind. We took all the pictures we found among the garbage in the store under our apartment. We found Nagypapa's gold Omega watch and Anyu never put it down. In l957 when she and Jancsi were in Omaha, Nebraska and she worked in a macaroni factory, accidentally that watch fell from her wrist and broke into small pieces. She was more sad to lose that watch than she was when the Communist tooke away the store. After the Holocaust, material things didn't mean anything, only our memories of all the people we loved. We always do remember! I always said to Tomi, as long as we remember THEM they are here with us! I wanted to say these thoughts before I start the second part of my memoirs, the one which will hurt as long as I live.

 

 

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