Poems, Personal Stories, and Observations

Posts tagged ‘Hungary’

Refugees

Last Saturday at our church, we had an event that was part of a series on Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. That particular night was about Goodness, specifically how even through difficult circumstances, there is a lot of good to be found. That night a family of five (most especially the mother) presented their story of fleeing Ukraine as refugees of the current war. I was intrigued to hear about their experience, especially since my parents were refugees from Hungary around 1946.

While the mom was speaking, I found myself on the verge of tears several times. Throughout the talk, she cited Bible verses that had given her encouragement. She talked about their decision to leave Ukraine, which included leaving her parents behind. It took them five days to reach the border, with hundreds or thousands of cars creeping along the roads. Many people along the way offered them food and clothing. Gas stations gave out a limited supply of fuel. When they did reach the border, others helped them with paperwork, etc., and they entered into Poland.

Soon after, they were offered beds and showers at a convent. It was their first safe place where they could rest and get cleaned up. That was another highlight of the goodness of others. In five more days, they were able to come to the United States. They received a lot of help, during the total of these ten days, from the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, of which the father is a member. Eventually the mother’s parents also came to the United States, in an even shorter time frame.

After the talk, I approached the mother to thank her for coming, and mentioned that my parents had been Hungarian refugees. Then I started crying and had to quickly escape. After so many years, and the fact that my PARENTS, not me, were refugees, I didn’t understand why I was reacting so strongly, and perhaps I never will. I was amazed that after the Ukrainian family’s ordeal, the mother was able to stand in front of an audience and not break down.

I won’t go into it much here, but I thought of many reasons why my parents situation was a bit different and possibly more traumatic, but not necessarily. For one, it was a much longer process for them; they were refugees for perhaps five years, not ten days. Their travel to the United States was much longer; perhaps about two months by boat and train; no jets for them! But there could be other reasons: emotional, family background, financial, and other factors.

In the end, I’m very grateful that the United States accepted them and that I’m here today.

The Curious Case of Grandma’s Ashes

When my grandmother died in 1986, she was cremated and the ashes brought to my parents home. For some unknown reason, my parents did not have her ashes buried, and they sat in a box, sometimes not even in the house but in their garage, for nearly 26 years. This is how she was finally laid to rest:

In 2008, my sister Mary’s younger son, Brian, through his college, had a semester abroad in Hungary, specifically the city of Budapest. Hungary happens to be our place of ancestry, as our parents, and my grandmother, were born there. My parents came to the U.S., along with my older brother, in about 1949 and Grandma Anna came in about 1951. So Mary and her husband decided to visit Brian that April, and to combine that trip with a visit to our relatives there.

Mary had never been to Hungary and it was a thrill for her to meet many family members and to visit places of family history. One relative she met was my Aunt Rozsi (the “zs” is pronounced like the “s” in the English word closure), later to play a part in this story.

On their return, my husband Tom and I were infected with Mary’s excitement about her visit to Hungary. We decided that we would also go, along with our children. It sounded like a good time to introduce the children (not to mention Tom) to my background, while they were both still at home. So we made our plans to visit that very same year.

Meanwhile, Mary had the brilliant idea that we should take Grandma’s ashes to Hungary and perhaps we’d be able to have her buried in the land of her birth. I researched the laws online regarding carrying human ashes on an airplane, but the question of legality was a bit unclear. It did not seem, however, that any serious trouble would occur. We did have the official paper stating that the box contained human remains. Still, I was unsure and decided to keep the ashes in my checked-in luggage so that during carry-on inspection, it would not become an issue.

Well, we did get through without any incident, and arrived in Hungary with the ashes still in my suitcase. We had let the relatives in Budapest know ahead of time that we might bring Grandma’s ashes. When we got to Budapest and met my Aunt Rozsi, we told her about the ashes. She enthusiastically agreed to see what she could do about arranging a burial.

My Aunt Rozsi is an incredible woman. In her late sixties or early seventies, she was still full of energy and did not hesitate to be out at night in the city of Budapest, moving about easily on public transportation. She is a short little woman who takes copious pictures of people, sometimes to their annoyance, but she is totally lovable.

So, while we were out touring the city one day, Aunt Rozsi spent the entire day arranging for a pre-ceremony, for the burial, and for a church service to follow. This involved a lot of bureaucracy, because my Grandma’s ex-husband, next to whom she would be buried, had a special cemetery plot, apparently protected by the writer’s union to which he had belonged. Not only that, but to coordinate the many people involved, official and unofficial, was a momentous task.

Well, she pulled it off! If I recall correctly, it was the next day or two days later that the funeral was scheduled! At least 10 or 15 relatives came, one from perhaps 50 miles away. It was a beautiful time, followed by a luncheon attended by everyone in Hungary who could participate.

We owe a great debt to Aunt Rozsi. Grandma was finally laid to rest, after 26 years. Rest in peace, Grandma.

The California Primary Election

Just voted in the California primary.
 
Okay, the candidate choices aren’t great, but there are issues to vote on as well.
 
The first few times I voted I cried with gratitude, and many times thereafter, even if it was an election for water district or some other obscure thing.
 
My parents left Hungary near the end of WWII, partly because the Russian communists were invading. For the next 40 years or so, Hungarians (including the relatives I had who did not leave) had to endure communism, not the least problem of which is there is only one political party!
 
When I first visited there in 1980, before the Berlin wall came down and countries became freer, people were still afraid of the occupying Russians. People of faith could not get good jobs, and many people worked two or three jobs to make ends meet. My relatives even told me that to talk politics or religion, you would not, for example, do that while rowing a boat on the water, because sound carries over the water. They were that paranoid.
 
Many people have fought for the right to vote. I try never to miss an election, even if it’s for the water district.

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