The legend - part II

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Two years after the first post card, my father sent a letter to my mother from a different prison. He requested a bit of money. He had never done that before. She told us that she believed he was coming home. We were living at my grandmother’s house in Sárbogard, the small village in Hungary where I was born. For the next few days the house was turned upside down with cleaning in every nook and cranny. New rugs were purchased. Festive food was cooked and baked. There was such excitement!

Late one night, when all preparations had been completed, there came a knock at the garden gate. My mother ran to open it. She had not even asked who it was. She knew that my father had returned to her. My mother’s faith had been strong and stood her well throughout her life.

We moved to Pécs, a large city where my father could get work in the mines. He had to report at the police office every week. A few months later, he disappeared again. My mother walked everywhere, to the home of every acquaintance to ask if they knew what had happened to him. She finally heard that he had been recaptured along with hundreds of others. She decided to stay in the city continuing to work in a restaurant so that he would know where to write her.

After the short-lived Hungarian Revolution in October 1956, my father was again released. He had been in prison for six and a half years, tortured regularly and without trial. My father was convinced that once order was restored, he would again be recaptured. Remaining was not an option. That Christmas Eve, we escaped Hungary along with thousands of other Hungarians whose desire for freedom outweighed the danger and uncertainty which lay ahead. By the time my parents were 30, they had experienced more trauma than I would likely encounter in my entire lifetime. They worked hard to make a comfortable life for us in Canada.

My father never told his story. He kept it all within himself. The pain must have been too difficult to put it into words. On occasion, he would say something really heart-wrenching: “I need to be cremated, because I never again want to lie in dirt and feel that deathly chill in my bones.”

In 1989 the Iron Curtain was lifted. The cold war was over. The following October at the age of 69, my father was finally able to visit his beloved Hungary for the first time. I believe it was a journey he had to make, to accept that he had taken the right decision to escape when he did. He died four months later. My mother said it was the saddest day of her life. She said she had always believed that he would come back to her, but that this time it was too much of a miracle to ask for.

And yet, we are given life again and again; to remember, to renew and to create legends to live by. I had a wonderful dream of visiting my parents. My father threw a party outdoors on a green, rolling hillside. People were smiling and chatting, surrounded by children and picnic baskets. There he stood—tall, in a white dress-shirt rolled up at the sleeves. He was radiant and kind, laughing and talking and wandering among his guests, the perfect host. I knew then that my father’s spirit was at peace and roaming among us.

Geographic location: Hungary, Sárbogard, Canada

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