The Last Chance to Remember
Chapter 26. BUDAPEST
arrival at the railway station was very solemn. As we walked out our
vision was clouded by tears, so our sight was not clear yet, and we
were just trying to recognize the familiar places, streets, the city.
dressed people were hurriedly passing by, everybody was going somewhere,
only we didn't have any place to go. When the train arrived we emerged
from the platform very slowly, because this place was already near to
our home. We heard our languages all around and noticed all the familiar
buildings, bridges, theaters and coffee houses.
we walked out we sat down on the asphalt. It didn't even occur to us,
that there were benches, our place had been on the side walk for a long,
sat on the sidewalk and just watched. Shortly after the Joint Agency
(American Joint Distribution Committee) came to our rescue. They recognized
us and distributed tea and some buns; they really worked hard everywhere.
I was sitting there looking into nothing, somebody approached me and
through clouds I tried to remember and recognize him. He was from our
home town and as he welcomed me, told me some news that was hard to
believe or grasp. He was convinced that he had met Ernie in Mauthausen,
another famous Vernichtungslager. I argued with him that to my knowledge
he was sent to Russia; how was this possible? He was hurt and offended
that I didn't trust him and left. He explained to me that he knew Ernie
from their childhood, so he has to know. He left me there with mixed
feelings. I didn't know, what to think, but one thing was clear, that
he opened up old wounds and new possibilities.
few months after we had arrived home, walking on the main street in
our city, suddenly I spotted this same person. He came straight to me
and apologized, saying that what he was telling me in Budapest some
three months ago was a hoax. At the time he was recovering after a bout
of typhoid fever and when he spotted me, he immediately remembered Ernie
and somehow believed even himself what he told me. He was very sorry,
but we had to be used to such mistakes, because we were all mixed up,
to put it mildly. So, this accident didn't help me, rather to the contrary.
had another experience with another person who strongly emphasized that
he was with Ernie in Russia, hospitalized in the same room, where unfortunately
Ernie was in a very bad shape, had serious problems with his frozen
legs. His Hungarian guards took away his good ski boots, in spite of
the fact that he was a seasoned sportsman in normal circumstances, but
this was far too much to bear. To march only in rags in snow capped
iciness in constant snow drifts. He didn't receive any helpful replacement
for the confiscated boots. Their aim was to destroy and not to protect
those unfortunate pariahs who were entrusted to them and torture them
mercilessly to the last day and to the end.
were housed in the Red Cross building, which was crowded already, so
we found our place only on the cemented floor. Having settled where
we would sleep we tried to look around a little in these well known
parts of this beautiful city which is in ruins now. The Margaret Island
is about in the middle of Budapest and on the Danube entering from Margaret
Bridge. Budapest is famous for its beautiful buildings, museums with
the many monuments in front of them. The parliament is one of a kind,
really unparalleled, built on the Danube's side, which is wide enough
at certain places, mainly here. So the parliament building shows beautifully
in the background. From very near or from a distance it is a rare sight.
some aimless walking we came back to the Red Cross and tried to look
up some of our relatives. We remembered their addresses so we decided
to go there. We found the house easily on Belgrade Street and also the
apartment. After ringing the door bell a strange woman opened the door
for us. The place looked familiar with the furniture, paintings, pictures,
even the huge needlepoint (gobelin) on the wall. But for us the place
was empty. Our dear aunt Etta, my dear mother's youngest sister and
her family couldn't escape the general tragedy and unfortunately they
became victims too. They were all missing from this place which not
long ago was home to a large and close knit family.
strange woman at the door was Bela's second wife. Bela was the eldest
of the five children, and she was not interested in the least. This
was a mixed marriage as was his first one. His first wife was the lady,
who came for my sister Olly before our deportation to try to save her.
But she couldn't make up her mind and rather wanted to stay with us.
lady (the first wife) later committed suicide because she couldn't tolerate
what was going on in her beautiful and beloved country of which she
was so proud always. But before she left our city and returned to Budapest
she still tried to reach us. I still see her walking around the barbed
wire trying to catch a glimpse of us. She also tried to ease our situation
and sent in for us a rucksack of food before she departed. In it was
ice-cold tea, which tasted heavenly.
now we are on our way home visiting a close relative's home. The pantry
was half open, we tried to peep in through the narrow opening where
the shelves were filled with fresh food, milk, cheese, eggs, butter,
fresh home-made bread. This beautiful smell came out of there, but we
were not offered anything, so we didn't touch them. We decided to wait
for Bela, who was supposed to be home shortly.
was not in danger through the trying periods and was able to save himself.
We were very impatient. What would be his reactions and how would he
receive us? We watched from the balcony and soon spotted him turning
the corner, well dressed and neat as always. Naively and hopefully we
thought that he would hurry to us especially since he noticed us from
our naiveté had no limits. We thought he would be overjoyed to
see us and felt full of uneasiness and anguish about what the next few
minutes would bring for us. It maybe sounds unbelievable but the sad
truth is that he took his time to talk to someone he bumped into at
the entrance and when he did come his arrival didn't change our situation.
They let us go back to the Red Cross with no help whatsoever.
We didn't expect too much but for such a cool reception we were not prepared. The shelves of their home were full with homey delicacies; we couldn't take our eyes away. The customary warm-hearted welcome greetings from the past in this home from our dear relatives were gone forever.