Translated (sorry, very poorly) from what I wrote in french.
We are in 1944 in Gyor, a small city in Hungary. Veronique is 18 years old. Her mother designs and makes hats and owns a small shop well in sight and Sandor (pronounced: Shahn-dor), her father, adores her like a princess. She studies well and follows German courses, second language.. With her friends she speaks about life and the Russians who are coming to invade their country.
The rumour wants that they will arrive and set out again, but Veronique and one of her friends, that I will call Ergike, do not want to see them. Their German teacher is ready to help them to move away from their hearths while waiting for the Russians to pass through their country. A small network helps several of his students. Some formalities have to be filled. Veronique's father agrees so that his daughter does not live under the foreign occupation.
One night, with minimul luggage the two girls leave. They are brought to a refugee camp in Germany.. I do not know much about this camp, only which they ate alot of potatoes in all the conceivable ways during six months and were well treated in spite of misery.
During these difficult days, several countries had supplementary programmes to help the refugees. Belgium accomodates and places in families, as nurses or maids, the girls. Veronique and her girlfriend thus find themselves in two very different families, but in the same city. Ergike works in very severe home, wearin a uniform and lives in the districts of the servants. Veronique is sort of adopted by her employers. She works for the family but takes the meals at the family table. She maintains a correspondence with her father whom she misses and makes friends among th Belgian youth.
Time passes. The girls realize that the Russians will not leave Hungaryas soon as they thought and that they might as well to accept it. There are many steps to take to be able to return home but one year after their arrival, their papers are ready and the train reservations made.
They lived through many emotions and their fairwells with their new friends are tender.
.. but the wind changes.
Two days before Veronique's departure she receives a letter. A letter from her mother who usually only added a short greeting at the bottom of the pages that she received from her father. The Russians had found a letter (some formalities) written by her father's hand, which promised not to reveal the network organized by the German teacher in exchange of the help to get his well loved daughter, Veronique out of Hungry. The Russians had decided that Sandor was " traitor to the fatherland " and sent him to a concentration camp in Siberia. At the same time her mother told her that Veronique herself was wanted by the Russians and was never to return again to the country.
Veronique was 19 years old.
My grandfather spent seven years in Siberia and the Russians only allowed him to turn to his village when he was too sick and was going to die soon...
My mother remained six years in all in Belgium,
but on the first occasion she had to move still further away from the
Russians, she took it.
She wanted to go to a country where they spoke French. It was heads or tails between Quebec and Algeria...
Back to the
They thought they'd be drinking beer, and eating some fresh bread and
butter and instead it's rootbeer and thin slices of tasteless bread with peanut butter!
A transatlantic ship filled with dreams and hopes has just accosted in the port of Halifax. Among the passengers there is Ernestine, 45 years old, travelling with her son Albert and her daughter-in-law Veronique. The three prepare to take the train which will lead them towards Montreal and towards a new life far from the Russians who occupy their country of origin, Hungary.
The crossing by boat was long and Ernestine wanted to eat something before making the trip by train. She asks the young couple to go to find something to nibble on. And so they leave for their first adventure in America. Veronique and Albert speak Hungarian, French and German and Albert also gets by in Russian, Italian and Spanish, but neither of them know English. They chose Canada, because people speak French .
(still alot to correct in the translations ahead)
They decide to buy some beer, to celebrate their arrival in the promised land, and some fresh bread with butter for the mother-in-law. The grocery is easy to find, so it should not take too much time. OK.. so initially, find butter. There is no French on packing, on the other hand; butter in English is rather close to butter in German, and they find some rather easily. But, peanut, what does that mean?? They don't know. But butter is butter no? OK, now beer. English BEER is close to German BIER, and they find some rather easily. But, root; what does that meant??? They do not know. But beer is beer , so no problem!!! Finally they discover the sliced bread Weston and they, who never saw sliced bread say.. wow!! in America it is the dream life, you don't even need to slice the bread!
They have a very big surprise when having joined Ernestine in the station, they take their first meal in Canada while listening to the charming accent of Acadia.. !!
When I was young, my family celebrated Christmas in a way very different from my friends' families. I don't know if it is a typically Hungarian tradition or if it's an adaptation of the Hungarian tradition worked out by my parents, but I know that it was a time very special...
The first sign of Christmas was
on December 6th. Indeed, we celebrated St-Nicolas! Every year, while our little friends
made more or less elaborate lists to send to Santa, us on December 6th
we received gifts!..OH! not expensive ones. Small toys to help be patient until the big day, things which we needed for school or clothing that we'd wear at Christmas. But it was very special, because St-Nicolas
only came for us.. and for those in Europe.
On the afternoon of the 24th my paternal
grandmother who lived with us, brought
us outside to play or occupied us in the
kitchen. It was
absolutely out of the question to go into the living room, even my parents didn't go, for no-one wanted to disturb the angels in case they came by earlier than usual. But they
never came early. We always had the
time to have supper before
we heard the tinkling of the small bell in the livingroom, which announced that they had come.
We didn't see any of the other preparations but we knew that the 24th was comming ...
That day our parents were always very busy. Everything had to be clean and spotless for the arrival of the angels...
YES it was the angels who brought us our gifts!! and in fact the angels even brought us the Christmas tree!
But let's return a little to the supper. It was always Viennese Veal with potatoes and salad. For dessert we had Bejgli, a walnut roll that my mother prepared on every special occasion. Generally towards the end of the meal, at the time when the adults take the coffee or get up to go to get a cigarette.. we finally heard the tinkling of the little bell on the Christmas tree. Which infact was one of the Christmas decorations, in the shape of a bell, which made the noise when the angels touched it, while putting the presents under the tree. At this time my father took the camera and we went to the livingroom slowly, solomly, but with all the excitation of waiting for the miracle....
On the afternoon of the 24th my paternal grandmother who lived with us, brought us outside to play or occupied us in the kitchen. It was absolutely out of the question to go into the living room, even my parents didn't go, for no-one wanted to disturb the angels in case they came by earlier than usual. But they never came early. We always had the time to have supper before we heard the tinkling of the small bell in the livingroom, which announced that they had come.
What we saw while entering the room was an absolutely
splendid Christmas tree which had appeared in a corner of the livingroom from
nowhere! On the top, an angel, shining from inside !.. and in
addition to traditional decorations and of the icicles in quantity there was on the
lower part of
the tree, angel's hair!! Indeed, the angels while coming to put the gifts under
the tree had passed with thier long hair very close to the branches of the fir tree with
which had decided to keep some of their white strands. Under the tree,
there were the gifts. Not packed
boxes, but of the toys: games, a rocking horse or train électrique. All open to
see. .without any packaging or name tags. but as we were right 2 children, my brother of 1
1/2 years older than me and myself, we knew very well which toy was intended for which
BUT there was no question of throwing ourselves at the toys. No!, we took our places standing around the tree in a semi-circle holding hands and we started by singing a hungarian christmas song whose words are translated into little like this.:
from the heavens, the angel
came down to see you,
so that in Bethlehem
while going there quickly
you see, you see
the son of God
who was born
in a crib, in a crib
he will be for you
in truth, in truth.
then still holding hand and by mezmerized by the tree and the gifts we sang the Hungarian national anthem (this I am quite sure was only a family tradition, but my father held very dearly to it and always shed a tear or two, which made us very solemn even at 5 years! Finaly we said the Lord's Prayer in hungarian of course..
I still remember the emotions I felt during these long magic moments where my brother and I were able to remain besides each other without any fighting or hair pulling. We wanted to go to touch with the toys, and we were in a hurry to say our réactions.. but we still had to wait....
Finally after " Amen ".. we hugged and kissed each other and wished merry Christmas to each member of our small family. and our parents gave us the permission to go see the toys that the angles had left for us.. And what I also remember, it is that wehn we approached the toys is was really slowly because we often did not know by where to start... we were a rather poor family but my parents always put the maximum so that at Christmas we never felt it..
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I must have been 4 years old and it was a few days before Christmas and we knew that the angels were not going to bring the Christmas tree before the evening of the 24th. We were very excited and we ran everywhere in the small 4 room apartment where we lived, my parents, grandmother, brother and I. We did not have permission to go on the back porch because there were too often rats in this poor district of Montreal. But we were children, my brother was 5 years old and I had to hide or to run away from him, I don't remember more.
Whatever the reason, we ended up on the back porch and SURPRISE!
there is a Christmas tree as we had never seen leaning there on the shed. We had never seen
a cut Christmas tree not decorated!! The angels always brought the trees
completely decorated right the living room on the 24 th of décembre..mais several
days ahead???? NEVER! and not decorated? What had happened?
We ran inside to see our mother who, after listening to our story of how and what we found.. in complete silence, and taking turns in looking surprised, and solemn, and finally merrily exclaimd "??? splendid!!! already?? so the angels believe already that you are old enough and tall enough to contribute to the decoration of the Christmas tree!!!! waow!!! OH and I who thought that it wouldn't be before several more years" and finally "but they are the ones who know best! "
and it was from that year on, that my brother and I decorated the Christmas tree, with a little assistance our parents..*lol *.. but the evening of the 24th when the angels passed..they still got their hair caught on the lower branches of the tree, with the result that when we enterd the living room to the tinkling of the bell... the magic was complete...
NOTE : It was actually when my own son was about 5 that I realized that I had never even wondered how come the angles had left the tree on the back porch.. and the decorations in my parents bedroom wardrobe!
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