BIRTHDAY PRESENT IN THE GHETTO: THE PAINTED WOODEN BOX / László Geréb
The scene: the ghetto in Budapest, 8 or 9 Nagydiófa Street. Six families crammed into one flat of 50 square meters. The safest place, under the piano, the single piece of furniture in the apartment, was elected to be reserved for my mother, because her leg had been in plaster bandage for five years. She had been diagnosed with arthritis but could not be operated under the war circumstances, so she had to rest her leg. She finally wore the cast for six years. Another mattress was occupied by my grandmother, who was bedbound, due to a gastric haemorrhage caused by ulcer. This was what saved their lives. In case of air-raid alarms, they only made it to the shelter in the cellar if someone had the time to take them down. If no one came, they had to stay in the flat on the third floor. My mother thus slept over the entire air-raid in course of which the part above the shelter of their U-shaped house was fully hit by a bomb. Nobody returned from the collapsed cellar…
The twenty-four-year-old girl suffered a lot from being confined to bed. To keep her company, somebody brought her a kitten, but, unfortunately, it had fleas, which were fond of the warmth under the cast. The best tool to fight itching proved to be a knitting needle, but it left traces on my mother’s leg for all her life, recalling this period. She could never bend her atrophied knee again, yet she ran so fast, though limping, that, as a child, I had difficulties to keep up with her.
My grandfather was forced to participate in the infamous grand march, so he was walking towards the border in the terrible cold. When he noticed which way they were going, he knew he was rescued; for having been born in that region, Moson, he knew his homeland. When the march reached the Jewish cemetery, he stepped out of line and ran to his mother’s tomb. The cemetery guard found him there, frozen half to death. The refugee was taken to the local pharmacist, who fed him and sent him back to Budapest in the company of a soldier. When they got to my grandfather’s place and rang the bell, my mother first told the soldier that she did not know the person at the door. She recognized her father only by his voice, when he started to speak.
After the liberation of the ghetto, they set on their way to their nearby home in Izabella street. My grandfather had to be led because he had lost his sight due to the glass splinters of a window broken during an air-raid. At Almássy square, near the present cultural centre, he collapsed and died. After the mass of onlookers dispersed, a soldier stepped to my mother, asked her name, and then informed her that her fiancé had been shot to death at Komárom while doing his labour service.
There is a date written in pencil on the bottom of the little box on display. On that day, 16 December 1944, my grandfather went on a mission all over the house with a potato or two in his hands. He succeeded and returned with this painted wooden box exchanged for the potatoes: a birthday present for his 25-year-old daughter, my mother.
Köszönet a tárgykölcsönzőknek és történetmesélőknek:
FISCHER ÁGOTA ÉVA
FÜLÖPNÉ WELTZ MÁRIA
HÁTSZEGI GÁBORNÉ, JULIKA
HELLER MÁRIA (RÓZSA PÁL)
HELLER SÁNDORNÉ, MÜLLER ANIKÓ
KÁNAI GYULÁNÉ PEREDY GIZELLA
LEÁNYFALVINÉ GORDÁN ILDIKÓ
TERÉNYI ISTVÁNNÉ SULLAI VINCENCIA
TÓTHNÉ RUDI MARGIT
Köszönet a kiállítás létrejöttéhez nyújtott segítségért
TÓTH GERGELY MÁTÉ
ELEVEN EMLÉKMŰ CSOPORT
HERITAGE CONTACT ZONE
HUMÁN PLATFORM EGYESÜLET
OPEN SOCIETY ARCHIVES
Castrum Peregrini, Amszterdam
Asociatia Timişoara Capitala Cultural Europeana, Temesvár
Eleven Emlékmű / Humán Platform, Budapest
Etz Hayyim, Hanía, Kréta
European University Institute, Firenze
Culture Action Europe, Brüsszel