Family meets in Hungary
As I mentioned in part one of the travel stories, Czechs love to travel in the era after communism. So, do my parents who started the entire family immigration saga in 1968.
However, after my father Vaclav Konecny’s second escape from the communist homeland in 1976, I wasn’t allowed to travel to the countries in the West. Dad could not get visa to visit Czechoslovakia in spite of his very sick mother.
So, we set up a secret rendezvous in the border town of Gyor in Hungary not far from Slovakia exactly 10 years after he defected. Both dad and I could travel to other eastern countries, but the officials feared that he would spread dissident ideas and western propaganda inside his own country.
We headed out to Gyor across southern Moravia and Slovakia in the late fall of 1986. There were five of us travelling in a small Skoda car. I remember my late uncle Franta asking my grandma to buy him some hot Hungarian paprika, so it fires up his brain power.
We packed some kolache for the road. Gyor was much like many medieval towns in Czechoslovakia. It had the same colorful facades and squares with statues of saints.
When I got out of the car, I was surprised how much dad had aged in those 10 years. He always had a receding hairline, a great smile and gentle grayish blue eyes, that looked sad this time.
Dad spent last few days with his mother in the hotel.
“This is the last time I see her,” he said.
We had farewell dinner at a restaurant with a band that played cszardas, a classical Hungarian spirited dance. We ordered goulash, a traditional Hungarian dish of stewed beef in lots of onion and paprika.
Going to the restroom was a definite challenge. I stood helplessly in front of two doors with two long words, no pictures. And nobody was coming out. I plunged ahead, only to find myself in men’s bathroom.
The language in Hungary, which has a lot in common with Finnish remains a mystery to me, even though I consider myself a good linguist. I remember writing a letter to my mother behind the hotel room desk. I was pregnant with our son Jake, and I could barely wait to be reunited with my parents in USA.
Dad said goodbye to the rest of the family and we boarded a train to Budapest, the capital of Hungary. I love Budapest. The architecture is very similar to Vienna and Prague, since all three capitals were part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until the end of World War I in 1918.
In Budapest, we ate the awesome world-famous Hungarian salamis and czabajkas. We visited the posh shopping street where I bought a white leather suit. The suit later travelled with me to the USA.
We walked to the monument on Heroe’s Square in the November chill. We had a lot to talk about. In those 10 years that I haven’t seen my father, many relatives had died. My dad couldn’t come to my wedding, graduation or to the christening of my daughter. He was hard through and through.
“You know Emma, you have to follow your dreams and be prepared for them,” he said. “But there will be hard times no matter how prepared you are.”
We continued our talk next day over a delicious Hungarian coffee and dessert at a restaurant pitched high atop the left bank overlooking the magnificent Danube River.
During the time dad was gone from home, his older brother Tony and his father had died. He could not come to any of the funerals. That’s the price of expatriation.
In a recent interview in Venice, Florida dad had no regrets over leaving his native land, but did admit to being sometimes homesick.
“All I have left now are memories,” he said.
Copyright (c) story by Emma Palova, photos Internet