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Chapter 2 - My Maternal Grandparents

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I.                   My Grandparents

I know little about my mother's parents. I do know their names.  My grandfather was Peter Kerezsy (born ~ 1860 to 1867), my grandmother was Lidia B. Nagy (born 1867). They had two children, my uncle Elek and my mother Róza.


My grandfather Kerezsy came from a large family, with six girls and six boys. The six boys were Peter, Antal, János, Lajos, István, and Mihály. The six girls were Lidia, Etelka, Zsófia, Júliska, Margit and Eszter.


II.                Hungarian Royalty

In my grandparents’ time [around World War I], Hungary was governed by royalty, which included following ranks: aristocrats, nobles, priests, citizens, and serfs, which means those without any rank.


The aristocrats were the kings, princes, and other members of the royal family. The only way to become a member of that class was to be born into it.


The king could award titles like Earl and Baron, and these titles usually came with accompanying estates, which could be anything from one or two villages, or as much as a large part of the country.


Nobles were middle-class managers who received medium-sized landholdings from the King, usually enough to support about a hundred serfs.


Regardless of an estate’s size, the royal treasury imposed taxes and demanded that the nobility provide military help when it was needed, all based on the size of the estate.


The Order of Vitez rank came into existence in 1920 [soon after World War I ended], when the feudal system could no longer supported the lords and serfs. By then, society had progressed with the development of industry, the working class, and a conscripted army, where soldiers received honors and promotions to higher ranks. Soldiers who had fought exceptionally well, or with outstanding bravery, could receive the Vitez rank.[1] 


The Order of Vitez was founded by governor Miklos Horty after suppression of the bloody atrocities committed by Béla Kun's communist uprising in 1920. The international knight orders has recognized the Hungarian Vitez Order since 1962, which has almost 1,000 members in Hungary and 500 other members scattered around the world.


On September 15, 1994, 411 new knights (vitez) were initiated and taken into the Order of the Hungarian Knights. The knight's inauguration happened at the Fogadalmi Temple in the city of Szeged, where the valiant King Arpad József, the royal prince, the Grand Master of the Order of Vitez, placed the ceremonial sword on the initiates’ shoulders.


Vitez Péter Kerezsy, my grandfather, inherited a noble rank that one of his ancestors had received from some Hungarian King.[2] Naturally, along with the noble dog skin, he received a fortune as well, so his descendants were likewise wealthy. The firstborn son inherited the certificate of nobility, which was written on the dog skin, or if he died, it was inherited by the next in line by age. If there was no male heir, the noble rank ceased, but not the wealth.


Four of my maternal grandparents’ six boys became "Vitez": my grandfather Péter and his brothers Antal, János, István.


[Some paragraphs omitted]


My valiant noble grandfather Peter Kerezsy was therefore rich when he married my grandmother B. Nagy Lidia. They lived in Hajdúszoboszló and had large flocks of sheep, being the largest producers in the city. My grandfather Kerezsy was also chief of the Hajdúszoboszló police. My mother worked in a shop.


Her older brother, my uncle Elek, did not work. He just rode around their landholdings in a gentlemanly manner and oversaw the shepherds, the geese, and the temporary field laborers. In the evening, he enjoyed himself in the gentleman's casinos with other privileged young men, where they played cards, drank, danced.


III.             Hungarian Religions

Hungary at the time had two main religions, the Roman Catholics and the Reformed [Calvinists]. The Roman Catholic Church was more powerful because it controlled enormous wealth and had the largest membership of among the population. About 5% of the population was divided between other groups, such as evangelical, Greek Orthodox and Jewish religions.


My grandfather was a Roman Catholic and my grandmother was Calvinist. My parents explained that my grandfather Kerezsy had built the Roman Catholic temple in Hajduszoboszlo, which was the first church in the city.


In mixed marriages, the Catholic Church insisted that children take on the religion of the parent of the same gender. Therefore, my uncle Elek was Catholic like his father, and Rozsa (my mother) became Calvinist like her mother.


IV.            Uncle Elek and the Priest

My uncle Elek, like other Catholic children, was assigned on Sundays to help the priest with his ceremonies. There were always supposed to be two boys helping the priest at the mass. One Sunday, when my uncle Elek was 10-years old [so about 1905], he was late getting to church. As a result, for a short time, the priest only had one assistant as he waited for Elek to arrive. This caused the young priest to became irate and he was not in a forgiving mood. After mass had ended, and after the congregation had left, the priest beat Elek for being late. Elek ran home crying, as he had never before been beaten, especially not for such a meaningless issue like being a few minutes late.


My grandfather was home at the time, and he became outraged when he heard the story. He immediately returned to the church with Elek, and they found the priest in his office. My grandfather questioned the priest about why he had beat Elek. The priest – who did not recognize the gravity of the situation – dismissively responded that he did it because the child had been late for mass. My grandfather demanded to know what gave him the right to punch his child for such a little nothing? The self-righteous priest responded nonchalantly that it had been his right to do so because he was the priest. Hearing, this, my grandfather immediately punched him in the face, twice, explaining that was his right, both as Elek’s father and as the chief of police.


But my grandfather did not leave it at that. He, along with this son Elek, officially left the Roman Catholic church and converted to the Calvinist religion. This became a big source of shame for the Catholic Church, mainly because my grandfather had built the church. After this, the I do not believe the young priest went on to a glorious career.


My grandfather never beat his children. He he did not believe in beatings, rage, violence, or being rough with others. [Other than occasionally punching priests?!? LOL]




V.               Following Treat of Trianon

With the shameful Treaty of Trianon, Hungary was chopped up and Transylvania was given to Romania.[3]  The Romanian army occupied the region and committed terrible robberies and destruction. The Romanians rounded up men by the thousands and dragged them away from their homes to the Romanian seashore, where they were imprisoned in detention camps, under inhumane conditions.


If someone had money, and was willing to travel through Romania with pockets stuffed full of cash, they could sometimes buy these prisoners’ freedom.


My mother’s father, and his brother, were taken to one of these prison camps.


At the time [about 1920], my mother was only 21-years old and a very beautiful girl. Despite being so young, she made this dangerous journey. On the way, she traveled for days on dirty, smelly Romanian trains. She ate plenty of raw garlic so that she would smell so repulsive that it kept away even the most enterprising criminals. Being so dirty, smelly, and gypsy-like in appearance, nobody would have guessed she carried a small fortune.


She arrived at the Oltenica detention camp on the shores of the Black Sea.[4] She was able to but freedom for her father and uncle. Afterward, they returned home to Hungary.


To their dying days, the Oltenica detention camp was a torturous, humiliating sore on their spirits, and one that had completely destroyed the Kerezsy fortune.


The Romanians stole everything. The banks loaned only as much on the buildings as was needed to pay the ransom on the men who had been taken away. In the end, from my grandparents’ fortunes, the only thing that remained to them was the family house. From small income my grandfather received as a police captain, they lived the rest of their lives in poverty, like so many others.


In 1933, when my grandfather was 73 years old,[5] he was kicked in the head by a horse that belonged to the police department, and he died from those injuries.


Before my grandfather died, both of his kids had moved away.  My uncle Elek had moved to Budapest, where he became a bus driver at the BKV (Budapest Transport Company). He was later promoted to a main supervisor. Meanwhile, my mother had left her parents’ house when she married my father in 1924.


As a child, I remember more than once we went to the bath (spa) in Hajduszoboszló, which was world-renowned for its healing hot springs. Because the Kerezsy house was only a 15-minute walk away, we always visited my Kerezsy grandmother after going there.


After my grandfather’s death, my grandmother was left alone in that house. About 1940, when my grandmother was 70, we took her in to live with our family in Debrecen and she lived with us there until 1945. When she was 75 years old, she died during war bombings.[6] 


My uncle Elek inherited the family house. My mother was denied any inheritance because she married my non-noble father. Even if that was true, my mother worked hardest in the family business, and it was to her credit that the Bank did not confiscate the family home.


But my uncle ultimately got his just reward for ousting his only sibling from an inheritance. He became sick and blind, and his wife left him. And that’s how he died: old, sick, and alone. That’s what I know about grandfather, grandmother and my uncle.


VI.            My Mother

My mother was born in 1899, during the same happy, cheerful, peaceful era of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as my Father. As I have explained, her parents were quite rich. They had large fields and a produce shop, where my mother worked from the time she was a little girl. Throughout her life, she often relied on her entrepreneurial spirit to keep her family alive.


The most shocking experience of her young life happened when she was 21 years old, when she travelled through Romania to the detention camps at Oltenica to rescue her father and his brother.


Another life-jarring event happened a couple of years later, in 1924, when she married my father. At the time, he was a police deputy, and not from a suitably noble family.  As a result, her family disowned her from any inheritance. This was such a ridiculously stupid, meaningless, and unfair social view, especially considering that Hungary was a crippled, barely-surviving, barely-breathing, economically devastated country. My father, that non-noble person who the Kerezsy family rejected as a matter of pride, later took care of my Kerezsy grandmother for years, and for several months he even took care of his brother-in-law Elek – who had insisted on keeping the entire Kerezsy inheritance for himself.


It was a tragedy that my mother had lost her inheritance because after my father left the police, it was difficult for him to find a new position, leaving my parents in poverty. When he finally got a job in an iron factory, it paid so little that my parents suffered greatly as a result. My mother told me there were times in my life that the family had only one egg per day. She would cook the egg and place it on a large slice of bread that had been spread with bacon lard. She sent this with my father for his lunch because he had such a grueling job. The only food that remained for her was bread and bacon lard. The people of Hungary suffered tremendous misery.


After Hungary lost the war [World War I], the evil [Trianon] treaty took away [67%] of the land mass and divided it among the surrounding countries that had been enemies for centuries, including those who had wanted to destroy the Hungarians: the Romanians, Czechs, Serbs, Italians and Austrians. Except for the Austrians, the other nations almost immediately started a process of killing, displacing, and disenfranchising the Hungarian populations  living in the occupied territories. This process continues even today, 75 years later. Never in the history of mankind there has been such a barbaric dismembering of a country, especially not of a 1,000-year-old Christian nation that defended the European population for 1,000 years against the heathen, barbarian hordes from the east. The enormous loss suffered by the Hungarians to protect Europe is clearly visible in the fact that in the 1100s the British and Hungarian populations were both 4 million. After 800 years the British population numbered 50 million, while the Hungarian population was only 15 million. The missing 35 million people were lost in defense of Europe.[7]


The Hungarians have not only won their worldly honor and recognition with their virtue. Hungarians have made enormous contributions in all fields of science, art, and sports. Later, I will give a brief description of the successes of the Hungarian world achieved in this field. But now I'm returning to my mother's life story, who was blessed in truly uncommon ways.


My mother gave birth to five children, but only the Rózsi and I survived. My sister Rozsi is 4 years older than I am. My mother cooked and baked very well. She had a very entrepreneurial mind, and she was courageous, adventurous, pleasant and enjoyed helping others. She had great sympathy and tolerance for sick people, especially with the treatment of wounds, which made her an excellent nurse, which eventually became her vocation.


VII.         Bread-baking and pastries.

I remember her during pre-war times, when I was still a little kid and she did not work. Like most wives, she raised her children and managed the household. Every three or four weeks, she baked bread. At dawn, she and the neighbor lady were kneading bread, into which they mixed potatoes so it would not dry out quickly. And when the dough had risen, they could make 4-5 loaves, and a few small loaves for the kids.  Then, with a wagon they towed it to a nearby bakery where the baker baked it for them. The breads we buy today in the stores do not come close to my mother’s breads, which remained fresh and edible for 4-5 weeks, and they stayed soft from the fresh potatoes that had been mixed in and prevented it from going moldy. The breads we buy in the stores today start to go moldy after only 8-10 days and they need to be thrown away.


Those bread-baking days remain very memorable for me. After the bread had been baked, we went to get it with the wagon and we took the bread home and had a great feast. The small loaves had been baked to a perfect crispness, and we cut them in half and spread pork lard into them. This immediately melted into the warm bread and we ate this crunchy, greasy bread with green pepper, or red radishes, green onions, or sauerkraut, depending on this season.


Along with the bread, my mother also regularly baked lard pogacsa (biscuits). These were not the little round kind, but instead square and the size of her palm, which in our slang we called dubbencs (pronounced DO-bench). Well now, those were truly delicious! My mother could also bake extraordinary puff pastries (like turnovers). As she rolled out the dough, it hung over the side of the table down to the floor and it was as thin as cigarette paper. She filled these with homemade jellies, poppy seeds, walnuts, cabbage, cherries, sour cherries, apples, peaches, gooseberries, and other things; those are what I remember. When we had some sort of celeb  ration and neighbors came together, we could choose from at least 6 to 8 different kinds of pastries. These kind of friendly gatherings happened regularly, every month at a different house, where everyone went and took food, baked goods, and the most extraordinary pastries and fruit syrup, which was mixed with soda water. There was a great deal of eating, drinking, and talking. There was plenty to talk about because Europe was preparing for war, the seeds of which had been planted with the 1920 Treaty of trianon.


VIII.       Pig Killings.

The only thing more interesting than these friendly gatherings where the pig killings. At this time in history, working men could not go to the butcher, or to a grocery store, but they instead raised animals for their own meat requirements. Chicken, ducks, geese, rabbit, sheep, and pork where the most popular meats. Geese, rabbit, and sheep were not available everywhere. But hens, chicken, ducks, and pork was more or less available for everyone.


People would buy a small pigs and raise them to become fattened hogs. As a result, there was a pig-killing, at least once or sometimes twice per year, when good friends would get together for a day of work and a big feast at night. In a circle of friends, there was always somebody who understood the finer details of slaughtering and preparing a hog, including how to kill it, burn it, scrape it, cut it up, and to make sausages, cheeses, and how to smoke the meat. Typically, four to five families would come together for the slaughter. While the men processed the animal, the women dealt with the internal organs.


On days when pigs were slaughtered, we children woke up to the loud squealing of the pigs, and of trying to catch them so they could be slaughtered. This often required a great deal of work because we had to catch a pig that was running everywhere.  We then had to pin it down until the butcher came and stabbed it in the heart.


We collected the blood in a large bowls. This blood would be used later to make blood sausage.


The pig was then burned and cleaned off. The scorched, cleaned pig was then laid on a table and the men started to cut it up. After the abdominal cavity was cleaned, the women were given the insides, the intestine, stomach, bladder, and similar items. They placed this in boiling water and cleaned it out for later use in making sausages and cheeses.


Meanwhile the men sliced off the fatty portions for bacon, ham, and various other cuts of meat, including the parts needed to make making pork rinds. The head, knuckles, and other parts that were sorted out. Within a few hours the entire hog had been cut up into pieces.


When lunchtime arrived, the women grilled delicious treats from the fresh pork meat and served it with fresh pickled vegetables and delicious soft bread. That was more of a snack compared to the big pork feast prepared in the evening, after most of the first day's work had been completed.


A pig killing provided plenty of work for the family for weeks to come, including plenty to clean, bake, cook, and smoke. There was an enormous amount to clean. But when this was over, we did not have to worry about eating for the next year.


At the end of the day, the work that required many hands and specialized knowledge was finished. By 7:00 or 8:00 PM, the women were ready with the celebration dinner. Soup, grilled pork, blood sausage, roasted sausage, along with garnishments, pickled goods, whiskey, wine and baked goods finished off the many delicious foods and drinks. Whoever ate and drank during these celebrations had little desire to eat in the following days.


Dinner ended around midnight and then the  friends went home. Everyone took little samples home with them. The custom was that after a pig slaughter, the relatives, neighbors, and good friends who were not present at the slaughter were given samples to taste, both of raw and cooked meat, raw sausage, blood sausage, pork rinds, and bacon. From a 120-kilogram hog, at least 15 kilograms were given away as tasting samples. But then when others slaughtered a hog, we received tasting samples from them. During the winter months, almost every week a tasting sample came from somewhere. This way, everybody shared in the joy when anyone else slaughtered a hog.


The bacon could be preserved in many ways; salted, peppered, smoked, cooked. The sausage was smoked to dry on rods. Mincemeats were stored in large pieces in tubs of lard, from where they could easily be removed by scooping out lard, and the meat was obtained by melting the fat away from it. The lard was available for cooking all year round, and the meat, sausages and bacon could be used in many ways for meals.


We had a large garden full of fruit trees and  a vegetable garden full of vegetables. We did not buy anything from the market. All our food came from our garden. My mother preserved an enormous amount of food, 500-600 jars of preserves, jam, tomato juice, pickles, syrups. The pantry overflowed from the preserved foods.


When we moved into the city in 1939, we did not have one-tenth of the food that we had when we lived on the outskirts of town, in a garden house.


When we lived at the outskirts of the city, there were times my mother bought an entire cart of watermelons from a peasant at the Debrecen market. She brought it home and put aside 4-5 melons for my family. The rest she sold to the neighbors at a small markup to fully recover what she had paid at the market. This way, we not only got 4-5 free melons, but she also made a little money.


IX.             Women's Society of Debrecen Railway

My mother was a great organizer. She organized a woman’s group for railway workers, and she became its president. The group organized dance nights, outings, summer camps, and nice shows on holidays. For Easter, St. Nicholas Day, and Christmas, every child of a railway worker received something. Not a single child went home empty-handed.


In 1939 and 1940, when the Hungarian Highlands and Transylvania were returned to Hungary, the women's Society of the Debrecen Railway brought a beautiful Hungarian flag to the villages of Ungvár and Királyház. They were dressed in traditional Hungarian costumes and were escorted by a large group, which included me. I watched the ceremonial transfer of the flag and enjoyed the evening dinners, balls, dances, performances that went with it. The Women's Society of Debrecen Railway was famous throughout the country.


X.                Nursing

But the war hung in the air. In 1940, my mother completed the Volunteer Red Cross nursing school and became a nurse. She worked in the surgical ward of the local military hospital. While almost everyone else got sick when they saw terrible wounds, it did not affect her, and that’s where she felt best. The doctors were very fond of her because she never got sick during operations or in the hospital wards.


At the end of 1941, my mother served as a nurse on the Russian front lines. My sister was 16 years old and I was 12, when one day the hospital staff was taken away by train and she went with them, leaving us behind. My father, as a train engineer, worked day and night, so we two kids were left to look after ourselves and the household.


 Not much news came from the front, but at that time the German troops were advancing everywhere, deeper into Russia. The camp hospitals closely followed them.


The terrible cold Russian winter was a more dangerous enemy than the Russian military. One Russian attack after another, the wounded were bandaged up. Then suddenly an icy cold wave spilled over the wounded soldiers and nurses. The 50-below temperatures froze everything. Many froze to death right there. Many were half-dead when they were saved and delivered to a nearby warm hospital.


My mom was among those rescued and taken to warmth in the nick of time. She was found barely alive. With a high fever, they transported her half-dead body back to Hungary. She had a pus-filled inflammation on her face and forehead. They treated her for months in the military hospital where she had worked before being sent to the front. At first, her condition was severe, but it improved following lengthy treatments. My mother healed up, but they no longer allowed her to serve at the front lines, which made us happy.


The trains transported many wounded from Russia. Until the summer of 1944, my mother led the office that received wounded soldiers at the Debrecen Railway Station.


XI.             After 1943

From September 1943, I attended the Flight School Academy in Székesfehérvár and I only know from conversations what happened to my parents after I left.


On June 2, 1944, Debrecen suffered the first daytime bombing by the American bombers. The air raid was intended for the railway station, but the bombs dropped from a 10,000-meter-high altitude missed their targets by a few hundred meters. Not a single bomb fell on the station. But the three roads surrounding it were wiped from the face of the earth. My house took four bombs, one in the yard and three on the house.


My mother was at home at the time. She had to be removed from the rubble. But one person died in both the first and third units of the building.


Those who had been bombed out were given homes of Jewish people who had been rounded up and transported away. My parents were given the nicely-furnished home of a Jewish lawyer, located in one of the better quarters in the city. But my parents refused to move in because my mother said, “What is taken from someone by violence is not blessing and is cursed.” Indeed, just a couple of weeks later, during at one of the night-time bombing raids, that house got hit by a bomb and the entire building burned to the ground.


After the bombing, my parents moved to a small village about 10 km from Debrecen, called Józsa. They rented half of a house and furnished it with whatever they could save from the ruins of their bombed out home, including furniture, recliner, stove, sewing machine, pans, bedding, blankets and such.


That’s where I visited on my summer break from the flight academy because my old neighborhood had been leveled to the ground. But it was good that we no longer lived in Debrecen, because there were bombings almost every night. They survived those bombings in bunkers that had been dug into the ground, but also 10 km away.


I had been in Józsa for only about three weeks of my vacation when they sent a telegram to return immediately to school. The Romanians had switched their allegiance to the Russians, and as a result the Russian troops had arrived in Transylvania by September 4, 1944. From the eastern parts of Hungary, all official offices were transferred to western Hungary within days. Since my flying school was in Western Hungary, it was understandable that my summer break was interrupted, and all cadets were ordered to return.


XII.          Leaving Debrecen

As I later learned, my parents left just a few days later. As I quickly left Józsa to return to my barracks, they left soon after for the city of Szombathely, near the western border of Hungary.


In Szombathely, my mother also worked in the military hospital until their last day in the city, when the train left to rescue orphan children in Kaposvar, and from there my entire family fled to Germany.


In the town of Ering, Germany, my mother went to work as a cook right after their arrival. With this, not only could she earn a lot of money for our family, but the Hungarians from the train also ate at the restaurant, as they had no way to cook. The restaurant was also rejuvenated when it became known that a Hungarian chef was cooking delicious Hungarian dishes. This not only interested the German residents, but was also loved by American soldiers at nearby camps.


One day, an American military car stopped in front of the restaurant. Four officers walked in and asked for lunch. After seeing the menu, one of them asked if there was any Hungarian food was available and if it was cooked by a real Hungarian, or if it was only called Hungarian. The owner explained they served genuine Hungarian meals, prepared by a real Hungarian chef. With great joy the officer asked if he could speak with the Hungarian chef. My mother was brought out from the kitchen. The American Colonel introduced himself in Hungarian, and he told my mother that she was the first Hungarian he had ever seen in his life. He explained his parents had emigrated from Hungary to America before World War One. He had been born in America, but he had heard much about Hungarians. And this was the first time he had met with a Hungarian in Europe.


He introduced the other officers he was traveling with. They were going to Budapest for elections that would be happening soon. In the summer of 1945, after the war had ended, ten different parties participated in elections to decide the political makeup of the new government. At the time, the Hungarian – along with the rest of Eastern Europe – did not know their destiny had already been decided by Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin at the Yalta Conference in 1944. At that conference, Stalin had been promised that after the war he would have control over the Eastern European nations in exchange for helping to beat the Germans. This agreement came to pass, and as a result, 150 million Christians were sacrificed to the murderous communist band, which occupied several smaller nations, backed by the full weight of the Soviet military.


The American Colonel asked my mother if she could host him and his companions with very good Hungarian food. She answered that only the day before she had prepared a large pot of very delicious stuffed cabbage for the family, which was at her home near the railroad track, and that she would go home to get it.  The Colonel immediately call his chauffeur, to take my mother to the railroad station and to bring back the stuffed cabbage. Meanwhile he explained to his companions what the Hungarian food was that they were about to eat. And truly the Hungarian stuffed cabbage was very delicious and everybody enjoyed it.


After the large feast, the Colonel asked my mother if she would like to go to America as a chef. He had a 24H in Chicago, with a large restaurant on the ground floor and he wanted to put her up there, saw that he could introduce delicious Hungarian food too the people of Chicago. My mother told him that she was not alone, that she had a family, a husband who was a train engineer, a big girl who also had a train engineer husband. But the Colonel said that was not a barrier, because he had good connections with the Chicago railway owners, where the husbands could get jobs as engineers, and this way everybody could work in their profession. Everything about this idea was very appealing to the Colonel, to whom it sounded very good too scoop up a Hungarian family, a Hungarian woman's delicious food, baked goods, the guests just out of pure curiosity would try that delicious Hungarian foods, which would have certainly developed more traffic.


He explained that as a calvinist family they easily assimilated into American culture, and it looked as if this plan could be solvable, when my mother mentioned that she also had a 16 year old boy and the last news from him was that he was either home and hungry, or that he was out West as a prisoner. As this was her only son, she could not go anywhere in the world without him. The Colonel dictated a letter in which he wrote an order that anyone who saw the letter should use any means to help find the 16 year old boy who might be held as a prisoner in some camp. He also promised, that while he was in Hungary he would search around on the radio which is what he did.


The problem was that at that exact moment I was working around dubreton villages as a electrician, and in these villages there had never been electricity, and therefore nobody owned the radio. So the Hungarian radio news did not reach me. Meanwhile my mother, with the help of the Colonel 's letter, was escorted by American military police 2 is it every soldier prisoner camp, and of course she did not find me. One week later the Colonel returned from Hungary and again stopped at the little German village, but he did not have good news for my mother. And this way, nothing came of the Chicago idea. My mother thought that I had stayed in Hungary, and without me the world's most glamorous job did not interest her. Who knows, how destiny would have played out had I emerged and head ended up in America in 1945.


In November 1945, my parents returned home from Western military detention. Inflation was raging with its enormous destructive power. The value of the money changed by hour. When even billions represented a small amount, any the additional numbers became too complicated and incomprehensible from simple people to understand. For many, only the color of the bills gave any hint of what it might be worth. People no longer paid for things with paper money, but instead with gold, silver or whatever else anyone had, like towels, bed sheets, clothing, shoes and the like.


One day, my mother took the decagram scales, a few pots, small canvas bags, and went to the dairy market where the farmers brought milk, butter, cottage cheese, sour cream, honey, salad, greens, sausages, ham, flour, cooking oil, eggs, cheese, and the like. But they did not know what these items were worth, neither in money nor in the items that people had to trade for them. My mother, who grew up at her parents house using such a bartering system, had developed a natural talent with such trading. Because she understood country folk, they trusted her to handle such business matters.


At the same time, numerous people in Debrecen knew her, including railroad workers, and returned soldiers and prisoners of war that she had nursed. My mother sat down in the middle of the Milk Market. On one side were the farmers who wanted to sell their milk, and on the other side were the townspeople who wanted to buy it. Whoever sell anything, his fee was 10%, which he first paid. My mother acted as the exchange agent, the exchange value she determined was accepted by both the farmer and the buyer. With this method, everyone was happy, because they could trust my mother’s practical experience and impartiality.


The result of this unusual business was that in exchange for working 6-8 hours per day, my mother earned many kilograms of food for which others would pay gold, silver, and all kind of other items. For months she went to the milk market, and she earned a fortune with this great idea.


When the new money came out, she gave up this work. She returned to the military hospital, where she continued worked until 1951, when MÁV transferred my father to Budapest. There she managed the medical office of a machine tool factory. She retired from this position at age 65.


She started to get weak with heart problems. She rested often and could no longer do engage in any community work. My father protected her from physical labor and he proved to be an excellent nurse. October and November are very dangerous months for those with heart trouble because the autumn weather brings many storms, heavy winds, and changing air pressure, which causes great suffering for those with heart trouble.


Once or twice my mother was taken to the hospital where the machines helped stabilize her blood pressure, and after a few days later she was taken home. This is how the years passed until 1975, when she was 75 years old. I left Hungary in 1956 and until 1964 I was not able to visit her. But from that time on, I regularly visited Hungary to visit my relatives, and in addition I found my second wife, who was also a Debrecen girl who was still a medical student when we got married, but the fifth and final year and after that she followed me to Canada.


 In addition, during the later years, we even returned home with out children. In the end, from 1964 until 1975, during 12 visits home I had opportunities to spent many happy months with my parents. My 1975 trip was a particularly noteworthy event. Since I had been told that my mother’s conditions was deteriorating more quickly than normal, I decided to return home for Christmas. But in the middle of October, some very strange feelings started to disturb me, as if whispering to me the idea that I should instead return home as soon as possible, and to not wait until Christmas. My wife, and her parents who just a few days earlier had arrived for months-long visit to America, did everything they could to talk me out of travelling earlier. But I could not reconcile my feelings, so I immediately ordered the plane ticket I travelled home at the beginning of November.


 When I arrived, my mother had already already been hospitalized for days, but two days later they released her, and gave her strict orders to rest. The atmosphere at home was very good and healing, and her health improved. I did not stay with my parents because space was so limited, but I visited them every morning and afternoon, and I spent many hours with them. On November 12, around 7 pm, a few friends came to visit and they had a great time, telling jokes, having many laughs, and during a big laugh, my mother died. Could it be more beautiful death? To die while laughing? It’s a known thing, that people do not fear that they must die some day, but instead, that they don’t know how they’ll die.


 I was not there at the precise moment, it was only the next day morning. The feelings I had before my trip became immediately understandable to me. Our generous and good Heavenly Father gave us three happy and unforgettable days for us to enjoy each other's love, and allowed that I could be there for the journey end. I felt this was a special reward for her for the many selfless sacrifices, help and consolations that she had given throughout her life to those around her.


After her death I stayed at home for another 2 weeks and helped with arranging her final affairs and with her burial. During this time, I lived with my son Gabor, the child from my first marriage who lived in Hungary. He behaved in such an undisciplined and rude manner on the morning of her burial that he started to blast his beloved, screaming, worthless rock music, not caring that it was the day of his grandmother’s burial. During his younger years, she would watch over him for months, while his mother lived her life with her male friends. The was the result of a real communist upbringing, that rough, education was that rough, undignified behavior.


Many people appeared at the funeral, which was a testimony to how many people loved her. Her death has left a huge emptiness in the family, which is common for a mother who passes away. A very beautiful and true epitath comes to mind, “Why does life give treasures and palaces, but doesn’t give a mother twice?



[1] As described in the Wikipedia article for the Order of Vitez: “Following the peace Treaty of Trianon, which banished the ruling House of Habsburg from Hungary, a constitutional assembly decided to return to the monarchical form of government and replace the incumbent Habsburg regent, Archduke Joseph August of Austria, with Vice-Admiral Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya. It was mainly his idea to help re-build the shattered country by giving land to soldiers who had proven themselves on the battlefield. This way, the poverty brought on by World War I could begin to be alleviated and soldiers could be rewarded.”

[2] The “Vitez” rank only came into existence in 1920, and by then his Kerezsy grandfather was more than 50 years old, so his ancestors did not get this rank. If he inherited some form of nobility that had been awarded to an ancestor, it must have been something other than Vitez.

[3] World War I is often believed to have ended on November 11, 1918, but the war formally continued in places for several more years.  In Hungary, it formally ended in June 2020 with the Treaty of Trianon, with enormously harsh terms imposed on Hungary.  Through the treaty, Hungary was chopped up  and large sections were transferred to present day Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Slovakia, and the Check Republic.  Hungary lost 60% of its population, 30% of it Hungarian speaking population, 67% of its territory, 89% of its woodlands, 83% of its iron, 100% of its salt mines, 65% of its coal production, etc. To this day Hungarians consider it a defining example of injustice and it plays an important part of the Hungarian psyche.

[4] I am unable to find a reference to this camp. There is a city called Oltenița on the Danube River, but its about 100 miles from the Black Sea.

[5] He died in 1933.  Some sources suggest he was only 67 at the time.

[6] Her death certificate states she died on February 2, 1945. This might have been “during” the bombings, but not from bombings, because her cause of death indicates “old age related causes.”

[7] I don’t think that’s how demographic math works, but his point is that Hungary suffered through numerous wars which buffered the Christian world from invading hordes from the East.

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