Second Interview Insert Key
Introduction of Interviewers
Can you tell us about some of your earliest memories?
My earliest memories were in my birthplace, Czechoslovakia. I remember just having fun in life, going to school and helping my parents with some duties since we had a farm. The men folk, my brothers and my dad, attended the animals. I would collect the eggs from the chicken baskets and walk into the house with a basket full of eggs. That was my favorite occupation outside of school. And getting together with my friends and relatives. We had a big family. Birthday celebrations, weddings, the normal activities under normal - if there is such a thing as normal - life.
Who were the people in your family?
My dad, and my mother, grandma lived with us until two years before we were taken away to the Holocaust. I had four older brothers: József, whom we called Józsi, Michael, whom we called Miksa, Sándor and Viktor. Viktor was three years older than I was. I was the fifth child and nearly two years later my sister was born, Annuska. That was the immediate family.
Can you tell us about your family dynamics, how did you get along with the other people in your family?
How did we get along? Well, we really - it's amazing how the positive things stand out mostly. We enjoyed singing a lot, all of us except for Viktor who didn't have a voice. And couldn't carry a tune. But my brothers, they worked in the city, they went to school in the city, only 8 kilometers away, the length of our bay bridge, approximately. They would come home with new songs, which, new songs that appeared and this happened often they would come and teach my sister and me these new songs. I remember one image that sort of stands out in my mind. My mother was kneading the dough so it must have been on a Thursday evening and my brothers would come home and they would compete. Each wanted to teach us a different song that came to their mind. I remember them putting their arms around us on either side, and as mother was kneading the dough they would teach us the songs, well one at a time of course. So we were pretty much up to date with these songs. In fact, this type of activity with my brothers was embedded in my mind so much that after the Holocaust I just had the need to write them down. And I wrote it down in a little blue book that we used in college you know to write our essays and what not. And I have them recorded; of course, not the music for it, but much of it sounds very much like the Béla Bartók type of music from the farm-the sounds of birds and animals, and their importance in our society. And they're very melodious types of songs.
In addition to this, I remember my mother would sit down with me. We didn't have electric light until I was seven years old, and we were the first ones in the city to have electricity in my house because my oldest brother Józsi, was an electrical engineer. He wired our entire house, so outside the city hall and the school in our town, we were the only ones who had electricity at that particular point. He even wired our barn, and the people from the town came and lined up to see this magic, this electricity. And it was totally different than what we have here; there was always-the wires would run along the edges of the rooms and in the center there was a cord that you pulled to turn it on or off-so this sort of thing was quite a thing. So after that mother would sit down with me and help me with my homework to help to understand. This was much in the elementary years yet.
Because it was a little troublesome for the younger children, my sister and me, because we became a part of Hungary when I was eight years old, and there was a lot of pressure on my parents to put us into Hungarian schools. Until then we were in Czech schools; even though I was seven, I started school at five, and so I needed help with the Czech language, but it came eventually-when you're young, you're like a sponge and you absorb the new language very easily. Before that, we had to use, in every room there were lights with, I don't know what that fluid is called in English that we used to light the wick, so it didn't yield much light.
Can you tell us about your friends?
My friends were mainly my cousins. And there were a couple of other friends from school. I've known them since elementary school. Several of them were non Jews and we lived among them. There was no ghetto in our area; there was no Jewish section or any other section that was specifically for a particular group. Jews and everyone lived, intermingled with all other residents in our town of Nagy Bereg. And so, my cousins would come over and help me celebrate-mother would say, "You may invite two or three of your friends." Mother would make my very special foods for that day, and it's usually not cakes either, but my very favorite foods. That was every child's prerogative to request a favorite food on his or her birthday.
We also were very close to our first cousins and some of them lived across the street from us. Particularly when my uncle by marriage was taken away into the military service. He never came back and so my dad was very concerned about her [his] sister—my cousin's mother, Sarolta neni was her name. He did everything to help them during this crucial period. Little did we know how much worse it will get in the future, a few years down the road.