At Hegedűs Gyula Street 20/b (13th district), the Krétakör (Chalk Circle) theater ensemble organized a chamber choir performance in the stairwell, and the planting of a linden tree in the garden, with a memorial plaque.
Story: Judit Friss, February 18, 2014, on the yellow-star house opposite at Hegedűs Gyula Street 15:
"My grandparents moved in the early 1910s to Sátoraljaújhely; earlier, they had been living in Munkács [now Mukacheve in Ukraine]. My grandfather Jakab (Jenő) Weiss was a shoemaker. My grandmother Hermina had ten children, of whom only eight survived to adulthood. She ran the household, with help: my mother was the eldest daughter and looked after her younger siblings. When they started to grow up, my mother Erzsébet moved up to Pest. At that point, her brothers Ödön and Miklós already had an apartment in Pest. Both of them had followed the path of their father, the shoemaker, or rather they became successful shoe traders. My mother arrived in the capital with the older little sisters, Irénke and Ilonka. The girls supported themselves by sewing. They lived on the ground floor, apartment no. 2, at Csáky (from 1956, Hegedűs Gyula) Street 15. The five siblings rented an apartment with a maid’s room, from Aunt Molnár. The apartment was furnished according to (petty) bourgeois taste. Even I remember this too, because the original items were still there when I was born, and we didn’t really buy any new furniture for ourselves until we moved in the late sixties. Even today I can still recall the nice statuettes, the painting in dark tones of a woman pulling on stockings by lamplight, and the wispy, pale yellow tablecloth on the round table with a square base. I do not know what happened to Aunt Molnár, but she too probably fell victim to the Holocaust. As a child, I didn’t ask her about this, but after the war, there was no more Aunt Molnár, and the apartment became the rented property of my mother and her siblings…
My maternal grandparents stayed at home with their youngest children (Tibi, Editke and Évike), and in the late spring of 1944, they were taken from Sátoraljaújhely to Germany, to “work in horticulture.” We learned this from a yellow postcard in my grandfather’s handwriting, which has since been lost. The rest: silence…
Of the siblings in Pest, the boys were snatched away into forced labor service, from where they returned, after the war, more or less in one piece. On December 26, 1944, the three girls were transported in cattle wagons to Bergen-Belsen. Their fate was not substantially different from that of the others: lice, cold, cattle-turnip soup. They were able to stay together in the camp until the end, although my mother did not like to talk about what they lived through. I only remember that she mentioned Russian Jewish ladies, who were very aggressive and resourceful.
After the liberation of the camp my mother, who weighed 28 kilos, attempted to come home with her younger sisters. On the way, Soviet soldiers tried to rape them, but without success. In his fury, one of the soldiers shot three bullets at the girls. Irénke was hit in the heart by the cartridge, and she died instantly. Ilonka was shot in the stomach, and my mother in the ankle, and that foot remained thinner for the rest of her life. But the two of them survived, received medial attention, and in the summer, reached Csáky/Hegedűs Gyula Street. The two boys soon returned home from forced labor service. And so the four siblings, plus Bandi, a cousin who was also a survivor, and whom everyone called Tapsi because of his protruding ears, could be together again.
Ilonka did not want to live in Hungary any more. She married a boy she’d known for six weeks, Laci Braun, and under hazardous circumstances, via Belgium and Cyprus, they reached the promised land by boat. Having been an atheist earlier, Ilona now became a deeply religious person, and lived a happy life in her new homeland with her family and son. Tapsi also left for Palestine. He became a sailor and had a family. He died relatively young in a maritime accident.
Of the two sons who remained here, Miklós lived in Budapest. The other brother, Ödön, set up a shoe business, also in Pest. He was a militant Communist, a member of the “Vándor” choir. When his company was nationalized and he was excluded from the Party, he’d had enough. Disillusioned and horrified, he left the country with his family in 1956. He settled in London and opened a shoe shop. His daughter married a German man, which appalled him so much, he cut off all relations with her.
And so the Csáky [Hegedűs Gyula] Street apartment became ours. My parents married in the Csáky Street synagogue in 1947. My mother was not religious but felt that, in memory of her parents, a religious wedding was appropriate. My father was also a convinced atheist, but was obliged to agree to the religious ceremony. We lived in the house until 1968 when, after my parents’ divorce, I moved into a smaller apartment with my mother.
I didn’t like the Hegedűs Gyula Street apartment because it was cold, and didn’t get any light whatsoever, only reflected light on occasion. But the community in the house was very cohesive, I remember lots of the old residents. To mention a few: the Szántó family, who always gave us must during grape harvest time; the Rácz family, whose children were always hungry, and when they came over to our apartment, they went straight to the bread bin. I tried to teach one of the older Rácz children how to read and count. The Tróber family also lived there, who sometimes gave me beautiful, textile-covered postcards as presents. And then the Lévai family, whose children only washed—a slight exaggeration—when my father projected filmstrips onto a stretched-out bed-sheet, because the entrance fee was clean neck and ears. The Rappaport family took me with them to the Margit Island company beach, or the Lauder family, where the adults went to wage ferocious card battles. The latter were the first in the house to have a refrigerator. Once I pilfered a melon from their fridge on the way home, and it turned out later that it wasn’t our melon. Then there was the Nádas family, whose daughter Jutka got married and for a while after, parcels from their London relatives arrived in their name; in the 1960s, parcels arrived from the West without customs duties.
A few more names from the old residents, in a list: Ibi Réti and Dezső, Uncle Falvi, Zsuzsi Kertész, Juliska Wolf, Ági Vajda, Ági Wiener, the Néderman family. János Szabó (a gentleman’s tailor), the Eszes family (the Schwarz girls), the Szőke family, the Szépe family, the Bugyi family (later Beleznai), the Oláh, Újvári, Tancsa, Bana, and Romhányi families too.
I must also mention one person separately: Laura Diamant, or Auntie Laura, who practically became my grandmother. My maternal grandparents had been killed in Auschwitz, my paternal grandmother was shot into the Danube, and although my grandfather later had a partner, I didn’t accept her as my grandmother. And so Auntie Laura became my grandmother; she was a skinny, lonely typist. By the time I met her, she was retired, and looked after children now and again. She was a spinster, and she kept a photo of a Red Army soldier, which she once showed me, blushing… She held great domino games at hers, and the first prize was always a liquor glass of raspberry syrup. You could also get “Füles,” “Ludas Matyi,” and “Film, Theatre, Music” magazines from her too. On Saturdays, we made real kosher sholet bean stew. She received the food from the Joint kitchen, but was sick to death of sholet, while I just adored it. In 1969, she went into hospital. With a bunch of flowers in hand, I was just setting off to visit here when the telephone rang: it was too late. Her parrot always sang: “I am Gyurika Diamant, I live Hegedűs Gyula…” But what happened to him, I don’t know.
After we moved, I didn’t visit the house again, but now I’m happy and excited to return. My childhood friend, Tibi, has just moved back there, into the apartment of his late parents. Together we’ll remember the old times, his grandmother standing on the corridor in her blue printed cloth, his asthmatic coughing grandfather, his mother who became a painter in her old age, and last but not least, the tremors of 1956, which were great adventures for us. When I recall my childhood memories, I always say: “when we still lived at home.” Often, people snort: “Why, don’t you live at home now?”