A Hungarian Memoir, Before The War

(Many things took place before the war.  In this Chapter my father details some of them)

In my country before W.W.II every young male was involved in a youth organization.  When a boy was fourteen years old he called to the “organization,” where he suppose to show up every Saturday afternoon for four hours of military exercises, until the age of twenty-one.  The hand guns we used during the drill were not real, they were just wooden imitations.  The so-called drill sergeants were young men who had already served in the military.  The officers were also prior duty or army reserves.  They took their jobs very seriously and we took our exercises seriously too.  For most of us these military exercises weren’t anything more than bothersome.  Nevertheless we had to be there every weekend come rain or shine.  We were still expected to show up at church the next morning or bear the consequences; which was manual labor equal to the days you missed of exercises and church.

I had continuous problems with the youth organization.  I remember my first year and I had just passed my fourteenth birthday.  One of the drill sergeants did not like me very much.  He was always yelling at me for one reason or another.  Our exercise area was at the end of town in a cow pasture  One day he called my name and told me to start running, toward the church in the far off distance.  So I started to run in that direction.  I don’t remember how far I ran and I didn’t care because I knew it was the last time I took orders from him.  About half way to the church I heard his faint voice ordering me to come back, I just ignored him.  From that point on I would run when I wanted too.  Needless to say this little afternoon run put an end to my military exercises forever.

The minute I got home I told my parents what happened and I started to pack.  I thought I would move to Budapest to live with my sister and brother-in-law, as I had planned to do later that year.  My situation had obviously changed that afternoon.  I was on a train bound for Budapest.  I found out later in a letter my mother wrote, the police were at my house that evening to pick me up.  My parents claimed they did not know where I was.

It was September 1940, I wondered many times how my life would have turned out if it wasn’t for my little marathon run.  Would I really have stayed in my hometown?  Would I have ever become a prisoner of war?  I believe deeply now my life would have been entirely different.  Many, many things happened to me in my life, some of which was good and some of which was bad.  Many events just faded away and I guess were not significant enough to remember.  On the other hand there are certain things I will always recall, images so vivid as if they took place yesterday instead of many years ago.  I call them milestones or turning points; the things that influenced my life than and still do today.

During those years before the war nobody carried identification cards like they do today, only a piece of official paper required by law.  This piece of paper gave a persons address (permanent or temporary), his name, birth year and his or her occupation.  With this single piece of paper I was able to avoid the military until July of 1944.  In the meanwhile, I kept myself out of trouble, no smoking, drinking, doing nothing else on my free time except reading, writing and an occasional love affair.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself.  I finally returned to my home in 1943.  By then my old drill sergeant and most of the others had gone off to the real war, with real guns on the Russian front line.  Not many of them ever returned and the few that did had different views of “war games.”  While at home no one ever stopped me or asked me if I was doing my military exercises and if they did I was prepared with an answer.  I would just tell them I was doing it in Budapest.  I could never prove it but they could not disprove it either.  Anyway, no one carried any proof cards.  I spent the summer at home in peace.  It would be my last peaceful summer for many, many years to come.

(This chapter concludes the memoirs for the week.  Next week begins the chapter called “Budapest.” ~Kati)


About magyarok27

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