Dancing with my Ancestors

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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.

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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. 

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Greatⁿ-Grandma Katalin, Hajdú Warrior

kato egri copyKerekes Katalin is hands down my favorite ancestor. Our lineage gets a little fuzzy in the 17th century so I’m not sure how many ‘greats’ apply. In the early 1600s Katalin was fighting by the side of her warrior husband, Édes Gergely, and his brothers. She received nobility in her own name because of her valor. This was no small accomplishment at a time when women were considered less than human. She was “a big strong armed woman who fought like an animal’ according to the patent of nobility. Her husband’s family was from Székelyföld. No word about her dad, but Katalin’s mother was a hajdú.

The hajdúk (plural for hajdú) had been peasant cattle drovers on the puszta, the eastern plains of Hungary. Driving herds of the big grey long-horned ‘Magyar szürkemarha to market, they had to become fierce fighters to defend themselves on the vast treeless plains.

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Kerekes Katalin and the Warrior Women of Hungary

Bertalan Székely - Az Egri Nők

Bertalan Székely – Az Egri Nők

International Women’s Day seems like a good day to write about the courage of warrior women of Hungary. This painting by Bertalan Székely is titled The Women of Eger.  It commemorates the 1552 Siege of Eger during the Ottoman Wars in Europe. The citizens of Eger, outnumbered by about 35,000 to 2,200, fought to defend the Castle of Eger from the Turks. The women joined the battle pouring down cauldrons of boiling water and tar on the oncoming enemy. Together they managed to claim victory that day. The story is well known by every Hungarian student. Unfortunately, later the Turks returned and occupied Hungary for 150 years. Continue reading