Beginnings Part 1, are stories of my father’s life & history before his time as a P.O.W. in WWII, and what it was like growing up in Hungary as a youth. These posts include two separate accounts of that period, written many years apart. At certain points, details vary, while at other times are repeated throughout his memoirs/manuscripts. Considering he wrote this many years later; memories and recollections fade over time. I also spoke with my mother this morning to clarify a few items in hopes of being able to better tell his stories.-Kat
I was born in a small agricultural town in Hungary. My parents had nine children; I was the seventh in the family, of four boys and five girls. Our town in the north-eastern part of Hungary where the fertile lowlands “Puszta” bordered the Tokaj Eperjes Mountain chain. By the foot of the mountains the second largest river of Hungary the Tisza and the Bodrog join together. Between the mountains and the rivers is the small city of Tokaj. This wine growing region produces one of the best wines in the world, named “Aszu.” According to the wine museum, as early as the 16th century Greek settlers had already started to produce wine in this region. Later on in history the Italians followed and the nearby towns named “Olaszliszka” and “Bodrogolaszi.” Olasz in Hungarian means Italian. Tokaj in an easterly direction, is my birth town of Rakamaz. Most where of German origin. Their ancestors settled here from Alsace-Lorraine, during the reign of Queen Maria Theresa. No one really knows how the town of Rakamaz got its name because there is no such word in the Hungarian Language. According to legend, some time back in history a Hungarian nobleman was traveling through the town when he came across a German settler building a house. The nobleman asked “what are you doing” and the settler answered in broken Hungarian, Rakomhaz. “Rakom” in Hungarian means putting things on top of one another; “haz” means house. Some how the words got twisted in rakom-haz and in the end changed to Rakamaz. No one knows if the story is true, but that is what the legend says.
The townspeople kept their German language until later in the 18th century. By then the Roman Catholic religion became a major influence. The Hungarian speaking monsignor forbid the towns people to speak German in the only Catholic School and slowly the German language died out. Only the names proved the origins. After the German settlers, Hungarian and Slavic people started to settle in the town. My grandfather from my mother’s side had a Hungarian name and my grandfather from my mother’s side had a Slavic name. My father was an outsider born in Erdély, which was a part of Hungary until after WWI when it was given to Romania with about 2.5 million Hungarians and is now called Transylvania. The home of Dracula never existed; the name was born in Hollywood.
My father came to Rakamaz before WWI and married my mother. My father’s marriage to my mother was “religious mixed”. My father was a protestant, and my mother was Roman Catholic. By custom the male children where to follow my fathers religion and the women my mother’s religion. My mother decided there will be no two religions between the children, so all of us became Roman Catholic. Beside about 92% of the town population was Roman Catholic and there was no other churches in town except the two Catholic and one Jewish synagogue.
My mother told me from the day I was born until age six I was often sick. The town’s Jewish doctor often told my mother I would not grow old enough to wear underwear. The doctor also had a son with the same first name and age as me. He died in a German concentration camp of Tuberculosis. I too was infected with Tuberculosis, but in the Russian POW camp while in the Hungarian Army. I did not find out until three years after I returned home when I was given a TB test. The test injection activated my infection and I almost died. I was born a survivor and spent six months in a sanatorium in 1950. So the doctor was wrong and I did grow old enough to wear underwear and become 6’1″ tall.