My great-grandmother Rozsa Dobokay was born on September 4, 1857 in the city of Brassó (now Brasov, Romania) the only child of Zoltan Tamás and his wife Heidi. Rozsa was baptized in the Hungarian Reformed Church.
At that time Brassó was on the eastern border of the Kingdom of Hungary with the Kingdom of Romania. Zoltan worked there as a customs agent. Heidi was the daughter of a professor of German. At a time when most of the population was engaged in farming, the Dobokay family was more educated than most.
Rozsa was fluent in French and German and made her living as a governess. The family story is that she taught the children of a Transylvanian baron. Perhaps it was on the baron’s estate that she met György Orbán, a widower with a 2 year-old daughter, Ilona.
It seems like an unlikely match. She was protestant. He was Catholic. She came from an educated family. He worked as a groundskeeper and shoemaker. Perhaps Rozsa liked little Ilona and was ready to leave her position and start her own family. She was older than the usual marriageable age and given the sentiment of the times other marriage offers were perhaps not likely.
Most likely they were married in 1892 but we don’t know where the wedding took place. Rozsa was 35 and György was 32. Their only child together was my grandfather Balázs who was born on June 9, 1893 in Etéd. She and Gyorgy would have been very proud to have a son.
Gyorgy died in 1916 at the age of 55. Rozsa lived another decade as a widow in Etéd.
In 1923 Balázs married Erzsébet Nagy. According to family stories, Rozsa was a bit of a snob and refused to meet Balázs’ wife Erzsébet Nagy whom she considered to be a peasant. We don’t know if she ever met her granddaughters.
Balázs and Erzsébet had their first daughter, Elizabeth in November 1923. Their second child, another girl, Ibolya (Violet) was born 2 years later. When the baby was only 6 months old Balázs left for Canada in August 1926. Rozsa died of pneumonia a month later. She was 69 years old.
We have no photograph of Rozsa but this painting by a Hungarian artist of the time evokes the dress and the setting of her life as a governess.