"Who do you think you are ?" mamawinnie's Profile

Finding out who I am.

Sorry if it sounds a little abrupt to ask you 'WHO do you think you are?' but that is what led me to VT.

I am born and bred in Lancashire England and yet up to being about 22 had never left the country. My accent is typical Lancashire and I love it when people pick out my very typical broad way of speaking.

So how is is it that I have the very distinct and not very English name of Julia Csesznyak ? Oh the years I have wished to be called Jane Smith or some normal everyday English name. But if I have had the conversation once it has been a million times. Where is it from, how do you spell it, are you English....even I forget how to spell it at times !

My dad came over from Hungary in 1956 during the Revolution. As a child we knew not to be asking too much of why he came over, we knew very little of his past and only once did he tell me the name of his home town, Kiskorpad, it sunk into my memory banks like a branding iron.

So years later and after dad had died and time had passed I decided to type it into Google and the VT Site came up with Kiskorpad on it. There was an actual place called that wow, seemed to me like peeping into Pandora's forbidden box. There was one lady on it from Kiskorpad who I wrote to but got no reply so I asked the Budapest forum to help.

Now not often do you meet an actual hero but I have to tell you I did ! Robert Somlai ( VTs Robert Hun ) got in touch and offered to make a few phone calls. Dad left 50 years ago and as I told you we had very little information to go on, a real needle in a hay stack.
He tried really hard for a few months and we where just about to give up when someone got in touch.
A lady who used to go to school with my dad got in touch with Robert. She knew his family and their sad history well and had been one of the last to see him before he had to flee the country leaving behind his mother.

Imagine if you will, thinking you know about your family and then in one emotional visit to a country you have never been to before it all turns out not to be that way at all. Skeletons in cupboards by the ton and long forgotten secrets uncovered.....well that happened to me !

This is my account of what I managed to find out.

So there we where.......

So there we where sat waiting in the departure lounge of Manchester airport, me and my best friend and fellow lush Diane. Diane seemed to be acting a little off hand but had not told me at this time she was scared to death of flying, having never flown before ! She had never before experienced sitting with your Costa Coffee (Costa blooming fortune) while the armed police trundled round with their fire arms and it made her more wound up, not a good start.
Eventually after the normal hour and a half delay (well it was a cheapo flight) we boarded for Budapest. The plane must have been one of the oldest in the air, I could hear it moaning and creaking at every slight turn. By this time I didn't even look at Diane, what can you say to a terrified first time flyer on a crate of a plane ?

We landed in Budapest, god I was so excited. Here I was back to the land of my father, my never know family, my roots brr still makes me go all goose bumpy.
We boarded a taxi into Budapest, I remember the taxi driver being called Zoltan and told him of my visit to Hungary about my dad and that I too had once had a uncle called Zoltan. He just nodded and agreed but really I don't think he understood much of what I was saying, bloody tourists eh !
We had planned with Robi to meet him the following day at the Belgium Brasserie just a little way from where we where staying at the Carlton hotel on the Buda side.
We did do a bit of sight seeing and yes, yes ,yes I will some day get around to putting it in my travel pages but this is about other stuff !

The Budapest axe murderer ? No.no just Robi!

So we sat in the Belgium Brasserie waiting for Robi to meet us for the first time. I had read his VT pages and had some idea what he looked like and knew a little about him which was handy as I could well have been meeting the Budapest axe murderer for all I knew. Diane was again keeping it to herself that she was slightly worked up about meeting a man who would be driving us a couple of hundred miles through an unknown country which we truly had no idea about.
We waited and waited and I thought he would not turn up when, well yes he did.
Poor Robi, I think I might have bear hugged him a little too hard or too fast I think he may well have wondered what he had let himself into.
So we sat and chatted, and my head spun like a top. How did I manage to get myself here, right now, going to the home town tomorrow, seeing where my dad lived, meeting people who knew him as I had never known him, asking the questions I could never ask him.

I didn't sleep well that night.


We set off the next morning, Robi had offered to drive us and translate for us. We left Budapest behind and travelled for some time down the motorway before we eventually turned off and headed for Kaposvar.
Travelling through the small towns I thought I was going a little crazy. I was sure I kept seeing glances of my dad here and there. I came to realise that actually there where just a lot of old guys who just looked like my dad. Thick grey hair ( OK balding) tanned skin and a pot belly where around every bend, it was quite amusing to see these dad doubles.
We had booked to stay over night at the Kapos Hotel and go to Kiskorpad the next morning. All I can say is it was not the Ritz ! The beds where so hard I fell off and I just won't mention the beetle that Diane found in her hair which she killed, and she calls herself a vegetarian !.

After breakfast we set off from Kaposvar to Kiskorpad. It was about a half hour journey but with every minute my heart seemed to speed up like a run away train.
Before I knew it we had passed the sign for Kiskorpad and we where looking for the address Robi had been given. I thought my heart would explode, I had done it, I had returned, it instantly felt like home.

We turned left off the main road. I slipped my hand inside my bag and stroked the satin box which contained my fathers ashes. A tear rolled down my cheek and in my mind I told him he was home now, he was home.

Mary Oban.

Mary Oban had heard the phone ring in her house but she was far to busy with her live stock to rush back indoors, if it was important they would ring back.
It was a busy time of year, and at seventy years of age it was getting harder for her but it was the Obans way of life to rear their own animals and grow their own crops, they where independent and it had always been that way.
Later that evening the phone rang again and this time she answered it before it rang off. She listened intently as the speaker asked her questions and she replied in a stunned voice.
She had a flash back to a young, good looking man with corn coloured hair in his late teens who she had made a promise to. Her eyes flitted to the attic where she had kept his letters hidden all these years. She gasped slightly as the caller said the name of the young mans mother who she and her family had laid in a grave without coffin or blessing.
Fifty years had passed and now she was being told the young mans daughter was searching for his family, and she was called Julia after his mother. A tingle of excitement and anxiety crept over her like an ice cold shadow.

The Oban family.

Robi said the house we where looking for was not far. In the distance down the straight street I could see a van parked at the side of the road, it looked to be selling things from it and there was an elderly woman just finishing off her shopping. As we drove nearer she looked up and I just knew that this was Mary Oban.
The car had hardly stopped before I bundled myself out and rushed towards her, as I hugged her she seemed overwhelmed and we both let the tears flow. Mary who could not speak English and me who knew no Hungarian didn't need too, the reunion said it all.

After a hug of a life time we where ushered through Marys garden into the house. The village it's self was not what I had expected. It had long straight streets and although some houses where old there where some more up to date ones built here and there, the church was quite modern too for some reason it just didn't fit in and I couldn't work out why. I found out later my fathers house was in the woods.
The house was full of people. In the kitchen sat Marys daughter in law Maria and her friend who where busy cooking. We where gestured through to the sitting room and offered small bread rolls and other goodies, yum ! Did we have wine given then ? The reason I might not remember is because when we did it flowed freely and along with the Polinka I know somewhere along the line that point gets quite hazy ! LOL.
We where introduced to the rest of the family. Tibor, Clara Marys grown up children and the grandchildren Clara, Patricia, and little Tibus. After lots of hugs, food, wine and Polinka (note to self, don't touch that stuff again ) Mary, Diane, myself and Robi sat down to talk.

So it begins.

So this was it, this is what I had come all this way to find out, the truth or at least something like it. I got that sickly feeling you get just before you do something scary, now I was here did I have the guts to know the warts and all truth, I felt like running but I sat and managed to just about get it together, phew.

Through Robi translating Mary told me that my father Janos Csesznyak had lived half a mile from her parents house in the woods. They had gone to school together, and Mary had known the family well.
His mother Julianna Hozzsu had been a local woman and had lived with his father when they where both in their forties. Janos my father had been born in 1937.
I was told that Csesznyak was not my real name.What? just hang on a moment, I'm not a Csesznyak ? All these years I have struggled with that name and now.... Thats right, Mary explained your name was changed to Csesznyak (which I have since found out means garlic in Slovinian) as your grandfather was a Russian who came over to Hungary when he was 14 as a soviet soldier and his name was Ivan Zuba.

OK right so far I am not a Csesznyak a name I have had for 40 odd years and I am part Russian,well that's a good start.

Mary explained that grandad Zuba was a vineyard keeper in Kiskorpad and he had died when my father was young, it was through some infectious disease and his mother had also caught it but had been treated but it had left her half blind.
After his father had died Janos my father had to earn a living for his family. His mother Julianna and his aunt Anna........"No, no" I said "I think you have that wrong, he had a sister called Ava he never mentioned an aunt Anna, my own sister Ava was called after his sister, he used to talk about her fondly". Mary again said nobody called Ava, just Anna". She looked at Robi and said something in Hungarian, Robi seemed to flush slightly, he was calculating how to say the next sentence. Anna, Robi explained, was handicapped, she had Downs syndrome.
My throat closed shut, oh god how must he have felt leaving his family, his mother half blind and a handicapped aunt and he the only wage earner, what ever happened for him to leave Hungary and never return must have been dramatic. What guilt must this man have carried on his shoulders for all those years......oh dad I wished you could have told us.

The night that changed his life.

Julianna sat down to rest by the small fire she had lit in the fire place for the evening. It would warm the small room quickly enough and would hopefully last until her son Janos returned from work.
It was late autumn and starting to feel colder. She and her handicapped sister Anna had eaten their supper and what remained was keeping warm by the fire for Janos.
Anna had been put to bed and Julianne dozed in her chair and waited. She was awoken by noises outside the small cottage, it would probably be Janos and he was later than usual and probably famished from his day at work in the textile factory in Kaposvar.

BANG, bang, bang....the door shuddered, Julianna's heart jumped and Anna let out a scream. Before they knew it the door had been kicked in and several men had guns directed towards them. One stepped forward and grabbed Julianna by her shawl dragging her to her feet. "Where is he ? " He snarled in the old woman's face. Julianna could only answer the truth, she did not know where her only son was, she expected him back soon, what did they want with him she asked.
The small cottage was torn to bits. The hay that stuffed the makeshift mattresses covered the floor, the few belongings they had thrown everywhere, the old woman shivered in the cold night air.
These men where the AVO, the Hungarian secret police and they where intent on finding Janos Csesznyak.

Julianna stumbled outside. Half blind and in the dark she walked towards the men's voices. She asked why they wanted her son, what had he done ? One took a step towards her, his breath close to her face "say good bye to your son when you see him next, he will not be returning." Julianna knew what this meant. The AVO where cruel men who would execute people on the spot. They would torture their captives without mercy and send the women, children and elderly to work camps in Siberia.

In the darkness Janos watched, he had strained his ears to hear what was said, he would not ever have the chance of that final goodbye. He knew the figure in the distant dark night was the last he would remember of his mother his anya. His throat tightened with this thought.

He stumbled as fast as he could over the harvested fields towards the Obans house, tripping over the muddy rut's left by the carts and horses.
He knew the AVO would eventually find their way there.
Gasping for breath he approached the house. He waited for a moment to make sure it was safe before he made his mind up to enter the house.

He explained to the stunned family he had to leave, he had to go right now. He asked them to promise to look after his mother and his aunt and they said they would, and for their part of it that's what they did.

In muffled voice Janos explained why he had to leave and the danger they where now all in for knowing him.
He had been working in a textile factory in Kaposvar it was November 1956. Feelings for the workers had been high, a demonstration had taken place in Budapest and the government had fallen, at long last there was talk of freedom from the communist rule. However by the 4th November the soviet tanks had invaded Budapest and opened fire indiscriminately on the masses that demonstrated. 2,500 had died and as the news spread young men like Janos got caught up in the violence of it all.

I don't know what actually happened and for certain neither did Mary but she told me that a communist factory leader had been attacked and my father had been part of it. I asked her if it had been fatal and she said it probably had been but they did not know for sure. So there I guess I have it. He had to leave because he was probably involved in the death of another. So call it what you will murder, man slaughter I don't make light of it or make excuses, it happened and the clock cannot be turned back.

Front row far right.

As expected the Obans visit from the AVO Hungarian Secret Police was brutal. They knew Janos might have seen them and interrogated the family. They lined them up against the house wall and threatened to shoot them all. When no information was given one AVO picked up baby Klara who was six months old and threatened to shoot her if they did not tell them where Janos was. For years after they would have visits from the AVO and their house would be torn apart looking for information which would link them with Janos. It was never found.

It was thought that Janos and his friends stole a plane from Tazar airfield and flew it over to Austria and this could be probable as he had briefly been in the Hungarian air corp, he was also very good with electrics and made a living from being an electrician in England, so it is possible he might have hot wired the plane.

My father arrived in England in January the following year.

Mary Oban and her family found my grandmother Julianna dead in her cottage Anna was still alive and they took her and cared for her while they could. Julianna had died in the depth of a winter snow storm of malnutrition, it was three weeks before they could remove her body. She was buried in the old Kiskorpad church yard without coffin, catholic service or grave marker. The Oban's still remembered where the grave was and had placed flowers on it from time to time.
I asked the priest to bless her and my father when he was returned. Half his ashes I put on his mothers grave (I like to think they are now together) and the remainder is now in the new Kiskorpad graveyard.

Anna was sent to a mental institution, we don't know her fate.

There is so much more to this story I just cannot write on these pages but this is the short version of it.

I still feel the raw emotions I felt the first time when I found out this account of what happened. Some of it is for real but some I have put into my own words to understand for myself what may have happened.

The photograph was given to me by Mary. It is the youngest picture of my dad I have, he is front row far right. Mary is sat fourth from the left.

  • Intro Updated Dec 6, 2008
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Comments (109)

  • mustertal's Profile Photo
    Dec 31, 2012 at 6:22 AM

    Many happy returns of the day Joolz xx

  • doodybee's Profile Photo
    Dec 31, 2012 at 3:50 AM

    happy birthday loo;z - hope its a good one

  • tushark's Profile Photo
    Dec 31, 2012 at 12:23 AM

    Happy birthday to you Julia

  • jekins's Profile Photo
    Apr 30, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    hi julia,i like ur trips,

  • planxty's Profile Photo
    Jan 11, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    Julia, I have just read your homepage in it's entirety and rarely, if ever, have I seen such a moving piece of prose. You write beautifully. You seriously want to consider turning bthis into a book if it would not be too painful. Thank you so much for sharing it. I have visited Hungary and loved it. Well done on your courage in sharing this with us, fergy.

  • ranger49's Profile Photo
    Jan 11, 2012 at 6:59 AM

    Good to see you on VT again. I hope 2012 will bring good health and joy to you and yours.

  • ChristinaNest's Profile Photo
    Jan 2, 2012 at 2:16 AM

    Happy birthday and a Happy New Year! Best wishes from Bulgaria:)

  • SONG's Profile Photo
    Jan 1, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    Julia, once again a happy birthday to you. YOu are one of my favorite VTers! Love to read your story and cry each time. What a wonderful tale and to think that another VTer helped you. When is the novel coming out???? Kathy in Florida

  • connectingrod's Profile Photo
    Dec 31, 2011 at 12:59 AM


  • Waalewiener's Profile Photo
    Dec 30, 2011 at 9:50 PM

    Hi Julia Happy Birthday as well as a Happy New Year . Have a great 2012

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