Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Eve in Hungary, 1944

Here we are again in our cozy homes among our beloved families and friends awaiting to celebrate Christmas. When I'm thinking back all of the Christmas Eves, a very vivid picture comes to my mind from my early childhood; not only the joyful celebration, but the brutal force of the destruction of mankind.
World War II was raging its last leg in Europe, and Hungary was the centre of the battle field. Russian troops were moving in rapidly through the Easter borders, while the German invaders were forced to retreat to the West.

I'm sitting at the table with my Mother and brother, eating our meager Christmas Eve dinner of ham and potatoes, and my Mother's "kalacs", the Hungarian bread for special holidays. Our only guest is a man, who is a teacher in the local grade school, but also the father of our little playmates. He came alone to us, because his family already had left to join their relatives in a larger city, but he had to stay and teach until Christmas vacation. He came to say "Good-bye" before he will take the journey to join them. There is a deep sadness in the air above our table that was disturbed only by the distant explosions. My brother and I are eating with huge gulps, and hardly can wait until the dinner is finished.

Our custom is that the unwrapped presents and the decorated tree are hidden behind closed doors until the dinner is finished on Christmas Eve. The living room door was locked all day while my Mother was doing "house cleaning" in there; but my brother and I know for sure that behind this door the glorious surprise is waiting for us. And when we all finish our dinner, my Mother opens the door and walks into the dark room. We just sit there waiting for the little sound of the bell to run into the room where the tree candles are glowing and the sparklers are trowing little fireworks all around us. We are joining hands for few minutes to sing the Christmas carols and to think of our loved ones. The Teacher sings with us joyfully, but his eyes are clouded with tears. It's time for him to take his journey, and after the last hugs he disappears in the cold and dark winter night.

This is a special night for us, and my brother and I are staying up for few more extra hours to explore and enjoy our presents before going to bed. But on this night that never happens, the gunshots and the explosions are getting much closer, and my Mother turns off all the lights. In the now dark house she bundles us all up and we fled on foot to a neighborhood bunker.
That was the last time we saw our Christmas tree that year, because our home got partially destroyed and we had to take shelter with friends in the next couple of months until we were able to return to our home to pick up the pieces of our lives.

I wanted to share this story with my best wishes for the Holidays to appreciate our freedom.
Peace on Earth, and Blessed Christmas to All!


Gerritnow said...

Hey, I love your photos..they are really nice...

rilera said...

Wow Jutka, your post really makes me think. I can't imagine living through what you have lived through. May God bless you with peace this Christmas.

Globeskater said...

hey jutka, what a good blog, i think it's good to write about this just to see that peace in the world is not for everyone, not back then and not now, i am going to read more of your blogs! I am sorry mine are not in English, but i am thinking to change that, but a little bit to unsecure if my english is good enough!

I wish you and your loved ones all the best for the coming christmas!

greetings from holland!

Lisa said...

Thank you, Jutka, for the glimpse into this very difficult time during your childhood. It is so good to be reminded often of what we take for granted, and to remember those that are lacking peace at this moment. Your mother must have been a strong woman to make it through that year.

A peaceful and joyful Christmas to you!


Anonymous said...

Thankyou Jutka!
I, too, remember that Christmas...
Although miles away from you, we celebrated Christmas the same, time-honoured way. A simple meal, a pine-tree decorated with home made 'szaloncukor', little candles lighting up the dark room... We sang carols and thought of all the soldiers away from their families. We had someone very dear to us missing on that night, too, as the 'teacher with tears in his eyes' in your story was my Dad...
(and now I seem to have one in mine) Love, Laszlo