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Helen Rodak-Izso

The Last Chance to Remember




In every city in the most frequented places were posters carrying the latest news. Names were listed of those still alive, maybe already on the way home, sometimes giving more information if it was available. A crowd waited constantly watching those announcements with anguished hearts hoping among the survivors to find the name of their loved one.

Our younger brother Leslie (Laci) had been liberated earlier and was waiting for us in our parents home. He had served with the Hungarian Forced Labour Camp in Budapest, where he had his share of the atrocities. At one time as they were marching on a bridge, they were suddenly stopped and every 10th man was shot down. He had been the 9th. This was done over the Danube, so the victims disappeared in the depths of the Danube waves.

We left Satoralja-Ujhely by a passenger train. It started very slowly as though the train knew who the passengers are. It just took its time trudging along, giving us time to collect ourselves. Then taking all things into consideration it changed its mind and took on some speed with a solemn rhythm. We were nearing our home town and from a distance we recognized the suburbs.

When we finally entered the railway station and the train pulled to a stop, there were absolutely no words to describe our mental state. The surroundings were familiar, but the city was like a ghost-town, desolate and too quiet. Not a single word was spoken, we just walked together. Many, many thoughts swarmed in our tormented heads. Like some strangers, we looked around, not believing the situation, then slowly we found our familiar way, the well known way towards our home. We found ourselves on Bocskay Rd. where our plant used to be. Suddenly it seemed as though a familiar shape started to emerge before our foggy eyes. It was our brother Leslie, who hurried toward us on the cobblestones on a broken down, shaky bicycle. He had tried to meet us earlier at the station and to greet us, but none of us could say a word. It is very difficult, perhaps even impossible to describe the next minutes and hours. We spotted each other from afar but in our impoverished state none of us could utter a word.

On our way home from the station we stopped first at a fellow häftling's home. She was very optimistic by nature, or who knows if she really hoped to find her husband and son at home or just tried to console herself. She asked us to wait for her in front of her home, while she looked through the house, which stood wide open and empty. Shortly she emerged with the news we all feared so deeply to hear. Although we had sensed what to expect, it was still frighteningly dreadful to confirm and to hear the unmistakable reality. (Lenke Sinai). By accident this all happened in front of our former plant, which belonged to us before.

From there we started out for our discovery to our home, to which our brother escorted us. As we turned in, on Bajza Str. corner, the picture of our never forgotten home emerged before us. Its heavy steel front door let us in easily and we then entered this gate. With solemn and heavy heart we started to climb the well known stairs to the second floor. Suddenly we were standing in front of our home, our dear parents’ home.

On the white door was still unchanged the little bronze name plate: Friedmann Mark which gave away the truth, who were the residents in this home. This is part of our past to show the world, that we had a home where we were hoping and waiting for a better future.

Although the door opened for us, there was nobody waiting there. The somber look of the house gave away the grave situation as we walked through the abandoned rooms. All hell broke loose. There was no strength or need to cover up anymore.

There were some pieces of furniture here and there. The dining room with its broken locks, the bare walls and the whole emptiness, was just too much to bear. The quietness loudly complained about what happened in those rooms. The grand piano was upside down and stuffed with hay. The dining room furniture was too heavy to move, but the beautiful carpets (Smyrna rugs) were taken away through the window, as we heard later.

The balcony was there with open doors waiting for us. This place was once a cosy, friendly corner with flowers all around and hanging on the walls. Facing the street, but built a little bit inside, it gave us the ultimate privacy, hidden from the outside world and noise. This was our dear mother's favorite place with all her plants and flowers, which she tended with patience and special feeling.

One day while we were still at home, we had a surprise. A bird came to visit and to our delight it stayed and built a nest among our mothers flowers. It was a special entertainment to watch her building a home, to which she brought her family. The flying in and out was such a cheerful sight! According to an old common saying a bird's nest used to bring luck. So we were waiting for the sign of "good luck" unfortunately in vain, because it didn't help, nothing and nobody could help anymore what was to come. The bronze name plate is with me.

As I mentioned before, we were deported from Hungary, then Kassa, came back one year later to Czechoslovakia, Kosice which is of course the same, because the country was liberated while we were away.

Before we had to leave we gave away our things to a few people whom we trusted, for safekeeping. It was a new discovery to see our things with strangers, who used them shamelessly. Those strangers were neighbours before, or acquaintances of some kind. We were not expected to come back, so it was an unpleasant surprise. We tried very hard to be a mensch again, it took us a long time, longer than we dared to anticipate.

We lived together in our parents home: Clara, Olly, myself, Leslie and Eva, Clara's youngest sister, who was hiding in Slovakia living with an elderly lady as a companion.

Klein Piri, -Piroska- was one of my really close and good friends, from the early school days and "happy" girlhood. This so called happiness was not real anymore. We just tried to imitate and steal and save something from our youth, which was stolen from us. She married an exceptional man: Moshe Daks, who lived in Slovakia. According to the new rules, if Piri wanted to live there, she had to cross the border, until they decided to make a move.

They had a dream, to go to Israel and prepared themselves for this life, to live and work for this saintly goal. They had to wait for the right time and opportunity and then to make a quick decision. They had to go to Budapest because the chance to leave was given from there. To travel to Budapest from Slovakia at the time was not simple and not without risk. Unfortunately they didn't have any choice. So when their train arrived from Slovakia to our station, everybody had to leave, because here was the end of line. (We were close to the border.) The Budapest train let out a strong steam from the engine, which helped them to cross the numerous rails and in this fog to find their train and place.

Nobody knew, not even the parents about this risky adventure. Their strong will helped them. Budapest was also a "low key" life for them. One of their friends gave over his apartment for the crucial time, when finally they could leave. They settled down in Jerusalem, in their dream world, where they found themselves at home and became worthy citizens.

When I visited Israel the first time or any other occasion with my son Avi we admired the wonderful sights and valuable wonders. We listened to Moshe with genuine interest, because his guiding trips were very enjoyable. We followed him with passion all around in the Old City or anywhere else.

Their love for Israel and especially for Jerusalem was and is honest and devoted. When I visited Israel later I was their guest and we liked to remember and talk about old times, always.

My other trustful, good girl friend was Ella Young. Our friendship dated back to the time when we had to live through hard times in the terrible war back home. She met in Prague Dr. Kolman Dezso, who came there to finish his studies from Budapest, and shortly got married. They settled down in Natanya, Israel, where she was a noted pediatrician, they remained childless, were also very gentle and honest, good friends. It is unfortunate that she had to depart so young and leave a nice relationship with her husband, and many friends. I really miss her, especially when I visit Israel because I was their guest frequently and I remember those pleasant pastimes together, or in their home.

In later years it is very hard to make such meaningful friendships, it is an entirely different world and we became quieter and tired from the many experiences, what life and our fate shared out to us.

Among other distant relatives I like to remember our second cousins: uncle Klein Lajos (Ludwig) and his wife aunt Terez we kept a close relationship with them. They had two sons: Sandor (Alexander) was a well known engineer and sportsman whose life ended in Russia under inhuman conditions. His brother, Dr. Klein Tibor was a noted devoted physician, who excelled in sport and was a fencing champion. Unfortunately he perished in Auschwitz at the age of 44. Aunt Gleich Margit, from Nagymihaly, (Michalovce) Slovakia tried to find shelter with our aunt Ella in Abauj-Kér (Hungary) but to our greatest sorrow they were both brought in together to our town. Aunt Gleich Margit was a very far-seeing person and for years, way before all the troubles started, she worked already tirelessly on the idea to emigrate to Palestine. It was simply not conceivable yet for us to follow her plans.

She was a forerunner on the field of Zionism and worked hard and with honest belief in the cause and hopefully for the future Israel! Her whole family made aliyah (emigrated) to Palestine way before, and lived always in Israel - happily.

We moved into our parents home with Clara, Olly, Leslie, myself and later Eva joined us; she is Clara's youngest sister. She saved herself with false papers through the whole time. She lived in Slovakia with an elderly lady as her companion. Her husband Bela Fuchs was lost on the Russian front. Their mother, aunt Marischka, another sister Agnes, her husband, never returned..

Their brother Charles and his wife Frieda were Canadian citizens already (Fejer), so Clara and Eva were among the very first ones who received their official invitation papers to Canada. They built up a prosperous business in costume jewellery and tried to be helpful to newcomers. At our arrival to Toronto they were waiting for us at the railway station and treated us with a welcome supper in their beautiful home. With this greeting, they tried to make a new start easier.

We tried to live, exist, start a new life, we needed the strength of mind, we cannot find ourselves, just try very hard to blend in, to mingle with the crowd, with the majority. We try to look like everybody else and behave like any other human being. But we are not able to forget! I needed such a long time, 43 years, to bring myself to touch this delicate and very sensitive, unforgivable tragedy, which I am afraid is history already.

Our family unfortunately decreased through the tragic years. Our father lost his father as a very young child, so he must have had a difficult childhood, because he lived with relatives. Then he went to Vienna where he felt very much at home. Unfortunately we know very little or don't remember his formative years. He repeatedly asked me to learn and master the German language, because at the time it was Weltsprache (World-language). He didn't dream, my dear father, what is in store for us, that such a cultured, high class nation with its precious past brought only disaster for many, many.

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