Concordia University MIGS

Back to Holocaust Memoirs | Back to MIGS

Helen Rodak-Izso

The Last Chance to Remember



Chapter 1. OUR HOME TOWN

Our town, Kosice-Kassa is in Czechoslovakia, in Central Europe and is situated under the mighty Carpathian Mountains. Before 1918 it belonged to the Austria - Hungarian Empire. Only after WW1 new borders were formed, which changed the face of Europe. Hungary suffered a great loss and many parts of the country fell to neighbouring nations.

North of Hungary became Czechoslovakia and Kassa became Kosice. The first president was T.G. Masaryk who was well known and respected around the world. He was highly educated and a great humanitarian, who rose to the top position from very modest circumstances. Under his leadership, which lasted into his late years and only ended due to his death in about 1936, Czechoslovakia became a democratic state. The country enjoyed a prosperous time, it became rich in uranium, china, crystal, textile as well as in nature which helped tourism to flourish. Before WWII Kosice had about 75.000 inhabitants.

Tourists came from all over the world to admire the famous "High Tatry " which was world known for its high mountains, rock climbing and, in the winter, a good area for cross-country or downhill skiing. The winter sports were popular and well-attended. Because of the enormous height of the mountains and cliffs the strong and fresh air proved to have a good curing effect on TB patients.

Many sanitariums were built and patients came from all over the world. With the help of the many dedicated doctors they received the best treatment and hopefully were eventually successfully cured.

Right in the very centre of town was the Main Street where the only street-car ran the full length of the city. It started from Csermely and reached even the main hospital and cemetery in the very south side of the city. Csermely was in the outskirts of the city, a good place for excursions and the starting point of several hiking routes.

The most important buildings were on the Main Street as it usually is in small towns. First came our theater, a distinguished looking building, which was connected with smaller parks. It was the exact replica of the Budapest National Theater, only smaller. The programs were Slovak entertainment performances. Twice a year the guest company from Budapest visited; they were always well received. The programs were announced well ahead of time, so we had a chance to look after the tickets. Prior to the "premiere" and performances the excitement was high and the entertainment was enjoyable.

Concerts were held in the nicest and largest Hotel Schalkhaz whose ballroom was the most suitable place for such occasions. It was always a big event when a well known artist honored our city. Huge posters announced the big news, theater performances or the concerts, they were always well attended.

In the middle of the city, on Main Street, stood the majestic Dom (Cathedral) which was over 600 years old. Built in gothic style and with a coloured mosaic roof it deserves special mention. Many war heroes and famous people are resting there with plaques marking their identity. Several statues, sculptures and monuments adorn this special place. In its tower is the well known church clock, which tells in every direction the right time. On one side is the Urban Steeple tower which houses the bells; on the other side is the St. Michael chapel. Over the long years the Dom suffered much damage. It survived through many years and once even was burned down in some war, so it was necessary to repair the damaged parts. According to history it had to be rebuilt four times.

Our pride was the huge Park (Liget) which was really a beautiful place with its century old trees, alleys and promenades. There was a pavilion where the band used to play at festive occasions, which created an idyllic mood, while people were walking up and down. There were several tennis courts and playgrounds for the children. Through the Park was a beautiful alley which led to the railway station, so the arriving visitors were welcomed with a beautiful sight. Benches were everywhere under the old and huge trees, and seats were prepared along the alley, which was bordered by those beautiful old trees. All this, combined with the colourful flower beds, helped to create a pleasant atmosphere. At the time walking on grass was prohibited.

In the north part of the city was the museum which was often visited. We had several libraries, public or private, connected with some bigger book stores. Classes were given in the several schools and gymnasiums (high school) in the Slovak or Hungarian language and later in German, French or other foreign languages. No universities were there at the time. Those wishing to study further, had to go to the capital city to Prague or Bratislava. We had about five synagogues: reform, conservatives, or orthodox or even more religious . Our pride was the almost new reform shule.

We had several coffee houses, where one could sit and read the several newspapers for any length of time or meet friends for a quiet talk. The place was like an oasis in the middle of a busy life. In the summers tables and chairs were placed on the sidewalk in front of the several coffee houses. Here it was really enjoyable to spend some idle time. We lived a small town life, where the rat race was unknown.

On the south side of the city where the hospitals were, was the "huge sport arena" where numerous matches took place with great excitement. Young and old came out with the help of the jingling streetcars to take part in the interesting game. Cars for private use were scarce and we didn't have a telephone in the house, only in the office. So we were walking and just dropped in to visit without any prior notice which brought people closer. It was a very natural way of life. We were used to walking; only on some occasions was a cab called.

The climate couldn't have been nicer. We really had four seasons and didn't know what humidity was. Winter was a very cold, snowy time with frost covered windows. We often had blizzards until spring made its appearance with the tiny snow drops followed by violets.

The air was crystal clear with sunshine. When the sun became always stronger we knew, it must be summer When the sun became too tired to shine, the rain came out to help. Early fall was always beautiful, for nature was so rich with flowers, trees, forests, when they all started to show off the many shades of colours. Late autumn came with a greying sky and we felt in every way that winter is not far away.

In the winter time, some people would put up iron ovens mostly on the Main Street and were selling roasted chestnuts right there in the open. They were delicious when cracked and opened up from the heat. We enjoyed them in the cold weather and their aroma was lingering throughout the area. It was not an easy job to stand for hours outside in the cold weather trying to make a little money to increase their low income. This review wouldn't be complete without mentioning another unforgettable figure from this era; our dedicated family doctors, or doctors in general. They still made house calls and made sure that their patients were looked after. When the door opened and the familiar face showed up the patient and family felt already better. It was very comforting to know and feel that we could count on them. They usually arrived by cab or horse-drown carriage.

Another unforgettable picture from the past is the apotheke or pharmacy which dealt only with prescriptions, medicines and similar health related things and nothing else.

Today there are many more people, many more buildings and even universities, but for us the place is empty and strange. In short Kosice- Kassa was a beautiful place, spotless and well liked by visitors.

Back to Key Words and Abstract

To Chapter 2

© Concordia University