Concordia University MIGS

Back to Holocaust Memoirs | Back to MIGS

Helen Rodak-Izso

The Last Chance to Remember



Chapter 26. BUDAPEST

This is Clara's birthplace, but it is a city familiar to all of us, a beautiful world known metropolis built on both parts of the Danube: Buda and Pest. We had family there and visited them in good times. We found all kinds of opportunities and reasons to travel to Budapest, connected with some kind of exhibitions or other events. Now bombed out and torn down buildings received us, even the famous bridges had not been spared. The famous chain-bridge, which connects the two cities, was in bad shape too. In front of this bridge are the famous lions, which were made by a well known sculptor at the time. But as the old tales tell us, when the sculpture was ready a terrible disappointment hit the sculptor artist, when he discovered that the tongues were missing from the lion's mouths. According to the tales the sculptor killed himself.

The 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.

Shabbily 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.

As 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, long time.

We 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.

As 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.

A 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.

I 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.

We 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.

After 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.

The 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.

This 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.

But 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.

He 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 the street.

But 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.

Back to Key Words and Abstract

To Chapter 27

© Concordia University