Escape – My Father’s Story

My father was a young physician in Budapest during WWII when standing up for your principles was dangerous. He escaped in 1948. This is the story as he told it in his curriculum vitae soon after his arrival in Canada.

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I was born on the 14th day of July, 1921, in Kispest, a city with a population of 70,000 – a suburb of the Hungarian capital Budapest. Being the only son of middle-class parents, who were merchants; I had every opportunity to pursue the career to which I felt most drawn.

At the age of six, I entered elementary school; where a four year course of studies was followed, as a preparation for middle school. In my native country, as in other Central European and most Western European countries, there prevails this middle or Intermediate school, (called “Gymnasium” ) a system assigned to give a preliminary education for University during an eight year course. I graduated from this school with the best qualifications obtainable.

Dr. Endre Édes ~ age 25

I enrolled at the Medical Faculty of the University of Budapest, and in September 1939, started my studies there in medicine. This course consisted of five years of University study, and one year of compulsory rotating internship.

During my third year as student, I was rewarded with one of the six scholarships, sponsored by the City Council of the Capital, which covered all my University expenses. In October, 1944, I graduated from the University with the qualifications, “Summa cum Laude”, among the first four of a group of 120 graduates.

drafted 3Soon after my graduation, I was drafted into the Army, but refused to enter. I chose rather the greatest of dangers and uncertainties which arose from this decision. Many of my young colleagues, felt as I did, that this war was not pursued from a patriotic cause, but was a struggle between the totalitarian and democratic ideas.

I think it unnecessary to mention, that this view point was extremely difficult, since our “liberator”, the ally of democratic powers was Russia.

Fortunately, the time spent hiding in the basements and ruins of Budapest, which already was under the fire of surrounding Russian troops, lasted no longer than two months, Even this period seemed to us an eternity. Just before the Russians marched in on January 11th, 1945; I was caught by the German security forces.

It would require further pages, to tell of the fantastic luck I had in escaping, so I shall dismiss the description of events, since this would hardly fit in a customary curriculum vitae.

The ending of the war brought up many problems. Several parts of the Capital were destroyed, and the life in it had to be reorganized. This took time and immense effort, but the optimism of the surviving population produced surprising and admirable achievements, even in the eyes of our Western “visitors”. The enthusiastic spirit for starting a new life was not fully broken by the Russians and the Communistic satellites, in the early post-war years.

The same spirit prevailed, at least for a short time in the University, I felt honoured when I was appointed to a position something like a “senior intern” to the Department of Medicine of the University Hospital in Budapest.

Until my escape from the ever increasing communistic tyranny in 1948, I participated there in a post-graduate study. This consisted of the usual ward service, and also research work.

As members of a team, we were engaged mainly with biochemical studies. The political atmosphere in the last half of 1947- grew constantly worse.

Terror

Even the silent home of Science, the University lecture rooms, echoed the Communistic slogans. Those who refused the Communist party were under constant terror. Dismissal from positions, threats to arrest and even to death were commonly employed methods.

The mask dropped, and the Communists were at their full work. Since I openly refused to join the party, like hosts of others, I was left with the only decision possible—to leave the country before too late.

On the 1st of May, 1948; I left for an excursion to Vienna with a group of 200 visitors. Forty-one fellow-citizens, besides myself, “failed” to return to Hungary, despite all precautions taken by the accompanying Communist secret police.

On December the 4th, 1948, I landed on Canadian soil ; after having spent six months in Europe.

I remember Dad telling a few more details of his story.

  • The trip to Vienna was for a soccer game. A friend gave him papers saying that he was the team physician.
  • He jumped from the train in Austria thinking it less likely he would get shot in the back there.
  • He and one or two companions hiked through the alps for some time.

Like so many young people I didn’t ask a lot of questions about my father’s life and regret that. I have so many questions now.

Five weeks after arriving in Canada he married my mother . . . but that is another story.

A Wedding in Pola – Zsigmond Édes and Anna Terk, June 20, 1885

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.

Great-grandchildren and 2xgreat-grandchildren of Zsigmond Édes and Anna Terk (and spouses)  July 2014

Great-grandchildren (and spouses) and 2xgreat-grandchildren of Zsigmond Édes and Anna Terk July 2014

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. Continue reading

The German Letter, Budapest 1939

I have had Grandfather’s box of papers for a couple of years now. I’m still trying to understand what they all mean.

Along with a priceless collection of birth/death and marriage certificates for his family line, there are fragments of stories, transcriptions of historical documents, handwritten drafts, and carbon copies of typed letters. They often lack addresses or return addresses or dates so I’m not always sure if they were letters he was sending or receiving or someone else’s correspondence entirely. Most of these documents are written in Hungarian or Latin. But there is one German letter.Edes Bela German letter 1939.pct75

I can tell that it is a request for a copy of the marriage certificate of his parents in Pula, Austria (now Pola, Croatia) in 1885. But I didn’t know what the rest of the letter said.

I tried transcribing the document and feeding it to Google Translate. Unfortunately, Google gagged on the letter and returned digital barf.

Fortunately, there are Angels waiting on the Facebook Genealogy Translations Group. I posted the letter and minutes letter got a response. Continue reading

Hey it’s my Birthday!

2nd bdayHere’s some birthday music to listen to while I tell you about it.

It’s not really MY birthday, but the second  birthday of this blog. My first post was on 4JAN2012. Since then I have learned a lot more about the family history, about blogging, and genealogy research and all that. I hope you can tell.

The most popular posts have been the two I wrote about my Greatⁿ-Grandma Katalin, the Hajdú Warrior. I think she was pretty amazing. Last summer we got to visit Hajdúhadhaz, the town where she was born in eastern Hungary. 4 centuries later, we didn’t expect to find any trace of the Kerekes family in the graveyard, and we didn’t, but I had to check. There was nothing. We also visited the nearby Hajdú museum and danced with the 7 warrior guys.

collage 300 px anotated 300px

The 3rd ranking post is the Family Tree. Perhaps someday a distant relative may find me through that.

4th and 5th are Genealogy in Romania, and A Wolf in the Family (about my maternal 2nd Great-grandmother).

I plan to write more later about Genealogy in Romania, and my other Ancestor Countries. For that I started a new blog to talk about the research process.

I have lots more stories in the works for this blog, so please come back again.

Thanks for stopping by to help me celebrate!

 

Note: The birthday balloons are from BackinSkinnyJeans

Then and Now: The Killer Lake

The Killer Lake, Gyilkostó in Hungarian, is high in the Hargita Mountains in the Székely region of eastern Transylvania. The name in Romanian is Lacul Roșu, or Red Lake. The ‘red’ color comes from the sediment of the Red Creek that feeds the lake, although it really is more of a murky brown. Of course the ‘bloody’ color is also the origin of the more creative Hungarian name.Gyillkos To Szekelyfold  about 1985-300px

A massive landslide in the 19th century caused the entire mountain side of trees land in the lake upside down. The tree stumps are easier to see in this picture of my parents in 1983. 31 years later the stumps are disappearing. I’m glad we got there before they were all gone.

This is one of my favorite pictures of my parents. They looked very happy. Dad was very hip in those flared leg pants and sideburns. It was Dad’s first time back to Hungary since he escaped in 1948, and Mom’s first time visiting her parents’ homeland.

A&D Gyillkosto 300pxWe were happy too. We spent the day driving the crazy mountain roads with my dear cousin and her amusing husband. And this picture is one of my favorites from the trip.

Dancing with my Ancestors

dancers 300

The Seven Dancing Hajdú in the town square of Hajdúbosormény, with a couple of extras.

In Eastern Hungary close to the great plains, in the town square of Hajdúbosormény, the 7 Hajdú warriors are dancing. There is one for each of the original 7 villages built on the land donated by Bocskay István in the 1600s. The dancers are rugged and fierce and carry their weapons of war. They all wear big bushy very Hungarian looking moustaches.

These are the people of my oldest named grandmother, Kerekes Katalin who was born in nearby Hajdúhadhaz.

The beautiful baroque buildings on the square contrast with the shabbier businesses and homes elsewhere in town. Around the corner, the building that houses the Hajdúsag museum is in need of a paint job. It looked so sad we were surprised that it was really open. But, we were in luck.  We had the place to ourselves and were amazed at the quality of the exhibits in such an out of the way place.

Bronze age couple 300

Artist’s conception of bronze age couple with tools and adornments found in archeological dig in Hajdú region.

A special exhibit told of excavations of the Bronze-age treasures being discovered in nearby ancient burial grounds. An animated video in Hungarian told the story of those ancient people.

There were many exhibits of life in the Hajdú towns.

Illustration of men's uniforms. The fur coat on display had a pest strip tucked inside for protection.

Illustration of men’s uniforms.

Beautifully embroidered ladies’ capes and men’s heavy fur coats helped keep them warm in winter. The massive fur coat on display had a pest strip tucked inside for protection.

Hajdú lady's embroidered fur cape. "kisbunda"

Hajdú lady’s embroidered fur cape. “kisbunda”

An exhibit of an old style hut and household equipment gave an idea of what life in the area would have been like.

Village life. Corn grinder and bee hives.

Village life. Corn grinder and bee hives.

I estimate my hajdú heritage to be about  0.1%. I’m proud of that little bit of these brave proud people.

Growing up in a Hungarian community we would go to parties where the grownups danced the csardás, dancing and stomping their feet as the gypsy fiddler played faster and faster. I can imagine the hajdú dancing to the music and keeping up just fine.

Note: The museum website had pictures of some of their exhibits but at the time of this post the site was infected with malware. 

Gérgely Édes and Éva György – November 26, 1724

1724 M Edes Gergely&Eva x gold-300290 years ago 25 year old Gérgely Édes and his bride, Éva György were married in her hometown, the port city of Komárom, on the Danube River.

Soon after they married they moved to the nearby town of Komáromszentpéter (now Svätý Peter, Slovakia). Continue reading

Then and Now: Székelykerestúr

My great-grandparents Tivadar Nagy and Borbala Both shown in front of their home in Székelykerestúr sometime in the 1960s. The woman standing is Tivadar’s niece.

Kerestur old tivador copy

This page from my parents photo album from 1983 showed that the place was showing its age.

Hungary 1983036

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Csíkkarcfalva, great-grandmother’s hometown

There are many little Hungarian villages tucked away in the Hargita Mountains in the Székely region of Transylvania. My mother’s family is from there. Relatives still live there, including some that Mother never talked about. Perhaps she didn’t know them either. My great-grandmother Borbála Both was born in 1883 in the village of Csíkkarcfalva ( Cârța in Romanian).  A century later my parents travelled there for the first time. This summer my husband and I visited the village with my cousin and her husband as tour guides.

Church 1983

Csíkkarcfalva Church 1983For centuries the village market took place at the foot of the hill in the center of town below the fortified church.

The 15th century fortified church occupies the top of the hill in the center of town. For centuries the town market took place in the main street below.

In my parent’s photo from 1983 a soviet style flat-bed truck raises dust clouds as it rumbles through town. Now the roads are paved. My cousin told me about a local politician who was able to direct infrastructure improvement funds to the village for that purpose. Continue reading

Crying Place

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Sírhely/Gravesite/Crying Place

Sírhely  the Hungarian word for gravesite was new to me. Sír (sheer), I knew, means cry and hely (hay) is place. On a day trip from southern Hungary we visited two crying places, scenes of heartbreaking death and destruction that took place over 4 centuries apart.

Grave Posts

Grave Posts

Continue reading