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Helen Rodak-Izso

The Last Chance to Remember




The brick factory was built on both sides of the highway, far out in the west end of the city. We were housed in a block which was used for drying the bricks. My father put some nails into the wooden slope, so we could hang up our coats. When the wind was blowing the hanging clothes danced from its force. We were in the open, the wind or rain came in freely!

I have to confess that this part of our struggle is and was for me the darkest time, despite all my own misery that I later went through.

To see parents in such circumstances is really unbearable and felt like the last straw in our weakening strength. Whom we tried to spare from unnecessary worries, we had now to watch them to line up for coffee, or even much worse, to lie down in such a situation! This was far too much! There was nobody and nowhere we could hope to turn for some help or relief! Simply, there are no adequate words to describe the situation. First the homeless people were brought in from out-of-town. The public kitchen, which was our foundation and everybody was working in it, was in full force. The leaders for this kitchen movement were mainly Clara and her partners. They got permission to open and empty the pantries in the abandoned houses (only the pantry) and food was brought in for those homeless people. This was the main help which was needed urgently. When a wagon arrived from the city with some food for the brick factory, all these frightened, already dirty, tired mob was crying and begging for help! They were desperate and it was raining, just to add some more hardship.

Our own departure was more than sad, it was rather like a funeral procession. The people from the plant, David and Paul (Bacso) were helping us to get out to the brick factory. They presented us with a little iron stove and helped to carry our mattresses, coats, little pots and pans and other belongings which we were allowed to take with us. Looking back on those intolerable, difficult days I have to mention something that we didn't even notice at the time: That our parents never complained about the inconveniences or other problems until they looked at us and were worried sick by what we have to endure -- all of us and what can this future bring. This helpless, hopeless feeling paralyzed us because we couldn't at least soothe or ease their tragic plight. It is unforgettable how heroically they behaved in this chaos.

It was already late at night, dark, when we arrived and the place was crowded. People kindly made place for us and I still hear the call from somewhere: "A family came ... make place...," I still remember the embarrassed and horrified faces of our employees. They tried to arrange the absolutely impossible living accommodations.

In the semi-darkness or dusk one could see people walking, like ghosts; it was impossible to sleep! Or hear and listen to quiet sobbing when people couldn't control themselves anymore, or deep sighs!! Even the weather was against us.

The day time was not any easier. To "cook" on those little iron stoves, bending down was difficult enough, but it was in the open where everybody else did the same and it became more complicated when all the smoke mixed with brick dust and dirt. It needed only a little wind to make the misery unbelievable. Families with children had more problems and difficulties. Washing and cleaning went on again in the most primitive ways; of- course, the drying of diapers, children or adult clothing in similar manner. All this was accompanied with a quiet sob, with children's crying and the clutter of dishes.

Everybody wanted to help and everybody's help was needed. The most urgent task was to build up the walls around the block using bricks. Here we followed the instructions of the former leading engineers and architects of our city, Mr. Barkany. Now everybody was in the same boat. It was disheartening to watch these people. Their ladies had been the most elegant, fashionable women - not long ago. Now, when all the colour and fur had disappeared, slowly everything became shabby looking, faded, grey. It was hard to recognize them. We had to line up and the brick went from hand to hand. With experts leading, the work went fast and well. We, the young people were everywhere. I was able to help in the kitchen too, so I could bring warm water for my parents, neighbours or friends. My best friend, Klein (Dak) Piri's parents were there close to us.

One day my sister Olly surprised us. She arrived in a taxi. The gate opened for her. The German guards never dreamed who was in the car. To come in was no problem, but to get out was something else! We had lived in the false hope that my sister was safely in the hospital, where her stay was "secured;" unfortunately only until the critical day when every Jewish patient had to leave. My sister had a chance to hide and perhaps survive. Our mother's sister aunt Eta from Budapest arranged an escape- route. Her son's wife (Bela) was a gentile lady and she came for her from Budapest. This lady could freely travel and move around since she was not Jewish. I still see her trying to contact us, walking around the barbed wire. But OIly decided to stay with us. Before she returned to Budapest without Olly she sent in for us in the barrack a rucksack of food, with iced tea, in a big container. I still remember the heavenly, delightful taste.

We found out much later that she committed suicide because she couldn't stand what went on in her beloved country. This lady was a conscious real Hungarian who was proud of her country. But she couldn't agree with the unbelievable change which gave a new picture to her country.

We heard the announcement again, that the young people would work for the older generation and the older people would look after the children. We agreed, what else could we do? We had no choice. Everything sounded better than to be parted and going into the unknown. These "promises", of course, were a lie, like everything else.

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