Summer days in Pula, Croatia are sunny hot and humid. The heat is tempered by a breeze that sweeps up from the Adriatic to the surrounding mountains and rain showers several times a day. We were there last July to visit the place where my great-grandparents were married 130 years ago.
Their wedding took place in late June so it might have been a little cooler than on our visit. I imagine they appreciated the cool of the stone cathedral where the ceremony took place.
It was originally built as a Roman temple around the 4th century on a site where early Christians had met secretly to practice their faith. Later it was taken over by the Catholics and expanded and named the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. The bell tower stands separate, next to the church where it overlooks the sea below. It is dark and cool inside. Angels and geometric designs are carved into the stone columns and walls. A mosaic portrait of the Virgin laid into the floor was being restored when we were there. It was a gift paid for by a long ago young couple whose names are recorded in the mosaic.
Walking the crowded cobbled streets of the city last summer we overheard conversations in Croat, German, Italian and a little English and Hungarian. It would have been much the same in Zsigmond and Anna’s time.
In the late 19th century the Austro-Hungary Empire was in transition. After the Hungarian Revolution of 1848-1849 was squashed by the Hapsburgs, first the emperor’s men led a brutal campaign of terror executing the leaders of the revolt. Later it became obvious that in order to keep the empire together it was necessary to make some concessions to those troublesome Magyars.
In 1867 the dual monarchy was established giving Hungary some rights and autonomy. Investments in infrastructure had to be made to build the economy of the empire. Hungary was finally seeing expansion of the railroad, and they were given control of the port of Rijeka. Meanwhile Austria retained Pola, as it was then called, as a commercial port and naval center for the empire. Opportunities for better employment drew workers from all countries of the empire.
Among those drawn to Pola were my great-grandparents, Anna Terk, a single woman from Bautsch, Moravia and Zsigmond Édes, a mechanic from Vukovar.
Zsigmond’s father, Zsigmond Sr. left northern Hungary possibly to escape the wrath of the Hapsburgs after the Revolution. He traveled south along the Danube to settle in the city of Vukovar. He married Julianna Till, a young widow with an infant. They had 3 children; Zsigmond, Erzsébet and Julianna. Zsigmond Sr. died of heart disease when his son was only four. Julianna, twice widowed, was left alone with 4 young children. It must have been a hard life for the family. Zsigmond left home early and by age 17 was working as a mechanic in Pola.
Anna moved to Pola on her own at the age of 25 leaving the Moravian village that had been home to her family for at least 5 generations. Her parents had a dozen children but Anna was the only one that we know who lived to adulthood. Both her parents died before her marriage. Growing up in a family of butchers and innkeepers would have been good training for her employment as a cook in Pola.
Three couples married in the cathedral that Saturday. Petrus Schneider and Sanita Miana, both Pola natives were married first. Then Joseph Stubenvoll from Graz, Austria married Anna Fiedelsberger from Sopron, Hungary. Zsigmond signed the register as a witness for the couple. They may have been friends, or perhaps he just did the favor of standing up for a fellow Hungarian. My great-grandparent’s two witnesses, Edward Verbitz and August Ress were likely Zsigmond’s co-workers. At that time only men served as witnesses.
After the ceremony the newlyweds and their wedding party may have enjoyed a meal at one of the many outdoor cafes lining the town squares. I imagine that some of Anna’s friends from the kitchen joined them for the celebration, wishing them a happy marriage and good luck in their planned move to Hungary.
Soon after the wedding the couple packed up and moved to Budapest. 12 months later their first child, a son Zsigmond, was born. A year later the family was in eastern Hungary where Zsigmond was working for the railroad in Miskolc when their second son, Otto was born. When my grandfather Béla came along 3 years later, the family was in Kolosvar, Transylvania and Zsigmond had been promoted to telegraph supervisor.
I doubt that the young couple on their wedding day had any idea of all the moves and changes that would come into their lives in the coming years. But from that day forward their travels would be together.