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Emile Szekely Interview Part I



JANUARY 18, 2000

ARWEN DONAHUE: …and we’re with Emilie Szekely in her home in Lexington, Kentucky. And my name is Arwen Donahue and we’re going to be conducting an interview today about….Well, we’ll see how far we get. We’re going to start with the birth and move on from there. And I just wanted to note for those who are listening to this tape, that there was an interview done with Mrs. Szekely by the Survivors of the Shoah Foundation in nineteen ninety-six and we may be repeating some things that were discussed in that interview, but there may be some things that were discussed in that interview that we won’t talk about today. So, Mrs. Szekely why don’t we start with you telling me your name at birth and your date of birth and where you were born?

EMILIE SZEKELY: I was born in Hungary, Budapest in nineteen twenty, sixteenth of February in Budapest.

DONAHUE: And your name at birth?

SZEKELY: Klugman.

DONAHUE: Klugman.

SZEKELY: Klugman.


SZEKELY: Yeah, and in Russia they are writing, my cousin is Klegman, because “u” in Russia is “e”. So he’s writing a “u”, but he’s calling himself Klegman. But it is Klugman. Klugman, you know what this means in German?


SZEKELY: Klug is “smart”, man. [LAUGHING] That’s the name. He was a smart man. I show their pictures. No? My parents pictures.

DONAHUE: Now was your father, you mentioned in the other interview that your father was Russian. Did he have…of German extraction? What was his…

SZEKELY: The name is Klugman from Russia and there are a lot of Klugman’s there. So I don’t know how it came, where it, how, but he was born in Kiev. And his family was in Kiev until the First World War, Second World War. I’m sorry. Then they had to run, because the Germans were there. Whoever was left from the family. He had two sisters and a brother there. The other brother was already on the front. And they had to run. I never knew about it. A cousin who came five years ago to America, the painter, he was telling me the whole story. Why and how they had to run. And they went past Odessa and they lived in a small village in a house, he said, what didn’t have floor. It was nothing, just dust on the floor. And they managed to escape, but they had very, very hard times. His parents were alive that time, but the father and the mother, they all died. Actually they say that it was from hunger they died, but I don’t know actually what was the reason they died, because they had very, very hard times. After that my cousin, who had his mother, no, I’m sorry. The cousin, he has a sister, who is very, very sick. She’s here too, in Boston. And him and the sister and the husband and she had a daughter the same age as George is and a son, they settled down in Odessa. So, when the doors were opening here that the Russians can come, he didn’t think about it. He was just writing me, save my daughter, who lived in Moscow and had two little children. I told you that story. No?

DONAHUE: I don’t think so.

SZEKELY: She had two little, beautiful daughters and her husband was Jewish. And she was a half-Jew, because her mother wasn’t Jewish. The mother was a practicing Russian Orthodox, so she, I think she brainwashed her. But she’s supposed to come to America, too. She was on the quota, too. In fact, they are still bothering me that where is she? I says, many times, I’ve told you that she won’t come, never. Please cross her off because she is taking somebody’s place. They lived with the husband’s mother, whose husband died, he was injured in the war. I don’t know, I think he lost his legs. He went underground with the Russians. I don’t know that whole story, but I know that they had an apartment in Moscow and the son lived with the mother. He went to school in Moscow and he is an engineer. She, he met my cousin in school, who went for engineering, too. Civil engineers. They met there and he knew that she’s half-Jew, but she promised him everything, everything what you want. If they are going to have children they are going to be brought up as Jews. And then she hated Communism, she just couldn’t stand it. I didn’t know why, but when I found out it was too late already. Because she couldn’t go to church. So they came to America. The first Hanukkah, the television came here to our house and took pictures from them, because they were here for the first Hanukkah. So they are here, they were here for six years. Now it was my husband’s, my son’s birthday, November twenty and they came six years ago.

DONAHUE: So they came to Lexington? Or…?

SZEKELY: They came to Lexington. I was fighting for them that they should come here, because I didn’t have….only parents should bring children. But the mother had a brother in Brooklyn and the brother wanted them to go to Brooklyn. And I got his name and I spoke to him and I said, look, I know that you love your sister, but the children, they would be much, much better off here in Lexington to bring up children. Finally he gave in and the Federation did it for me. They brought them here. They were waiting for them with a three bedroom apartment, because the two mothers should come after them. So, they had a three bedroom apartment. And the television was on the airport, when the first families came. It was a big deal. And Anna was out of her mind that she will have some relatives.

DONAHUE: Anna is your grand-daughter?

SZEKELY: Anna is the youngest. And there were two, young children, beautiful two children.

DONAHUE: Can you say….Before you go on, can you say how they’re related to you? And what their names are?

SZEKELY: My cousins….

DONAHUE: Uh huh.

SZEKELY: My cousin’s daughter, my first cousin, my father’s brother’s daughter.

DONAHUE: Okay. And what was her name?

SZEKELY: Galina.

DONAHUE: Galina….?

SZEKELY: Galina Bashikis. Bashikis. My son, by coincidence got him a job with the Gray Construction Company, because she had a student, he had a student in one of the schools, who was his student and then she became a teacher. And he went back with his children there. He goes always, one semester he takes his class to schools and they are….Adopt a school, that’s the name of it. And they are teaching there, but they are just students, not graduated students and he’s observing them before they make their lessons plans and they have to show it to him. And he’s running from class to class. And one day, she came to that school and she said, does anybody know somebody who has connections to a construction company? And that teacher, he says, my fiancé, one of the Gray’s son. He says my fiancé. So, from that time on they hired him and he’s a person who, he didn’t mind what kind of job they gave him. He did very hard job. And he loves the construction. He loves to see. He was in, I don’t know how many buildings he builded. He was already a big shot there. When they got their Visa to come to America. And he work day and night for an apartment in Moscow. In the middle of Moscow the apartment was ready and they would be separated from the mother-in-law. And they would have a beautiful apartment there. And the Visa was starting to expire, so my cousin said, it is not worse, what is thousands of thousands dollars that apartment. It’s nothing worse, you have to go. He was in Odessa, but he helped them. He came to Moscow, helping them to pack and they came. And she was very happy. When she got to the apartment she couldn’t believe it. You know, they lived in two small rooms there, so many people, four. I mean two children and the couple and the grandmother. And she was very happy. One day….Before she came, she sent a hundred and twenty packages to my name, because she didn’t know where to send it and they were all Russian books. And I said that woman is crazy. She needs American books. Why is she sending the Russian books? But all, you know, Dostoevsky, whatever. The children, the big one – the little one didn’t go to school yet. But the big one went to school, to the same school where my husband got the job from the teacher. It was in their neighborhood. She spoke beautiful English already and she had….when the grandmother came following a year in January. His mother came. She didn’t come, the other one. And she was helping her and she was translating and answering the telephone. And then I started to see it. I started to invite them for holidays and she came. She sat at the table five minutes and after five minutes she excused herself and went to the porch to play with the children. I didn’t think about nothing, about. I says, it’s a little strange, but okay if she wants it. When it come the second year, she said, I love you, but please don’t invite us for the holidays. Still I didn’t think it was something wrong there. Then she met a couple, I still don’t know who they are, a Christian couple, who went every week to Cincinnati. And she got very friendly with them. And she went with the two children and the reason was, because she went for his American degree, what he got, no problem. He got his American degree, but when the children are home, he cannot study. And we go there. It’s more things to do there. We take them to the zoo and blah, blah, blah. One day they come home, it was probably a year later and the father is asking them, how was the zoo. And the big one said, what kind of zoo? He says, you didn’t go to the zoo? She says no, we went to the church. So he got very upset that she does it behind his back. Very, very upset. And I don’t know whether they….He was married eleven years, but they knew each other five years already from the school. And I don’t know the situation, because the grandmother was there with them. But he was traveling a lot. The company was sending him constantly, because they mostly work outside from Lexington. They build big, big factories, not housing. And he was always sent out. One, two years after they were here, she says, I want to go home for the summer, to visit my mother. I said, isn’t it easier to bring your mother here? She says, no my mother wouldn’t like it here. She packed. And she liked me. She was working in the St. Joseph Hospital, though she was an engineer and she went for courses to, computer courses to the community college. But that job, cleaning job, she took at night, that she should be with the children during the day. What was the job? She was calling me on the phone constantly for hours. She says, I am cleaning the clean stuff, the offices. And she said it’s, in an hour I am ready. Perfect. Salary was perfect, everything was perfect. Two years, right two years after in the summer, it was August. And sometimes I was taking her, I was driving her to work. They didn’t live close here, but I picked her up. They lived in, it’s Heritage Village, near Henry Clay High School. That’s where all the Russians lived at that time. I’m sorry. I picked her up and I took her to work. And she says, I want to tell you something, because I love you. But you must swear that you won’t tell it to Mischa. Mischa, Michael is her husband. I thought, my God what it could be that I cannot tell it to him? So, I said, okay, I swear. And I am driving. I almost made an accident what I heard. She says, I’m not coming back. I took a ticket, round trip, but I’m not coming back. I don’t want my children to be brought up here. I want them to be brought up as Russians and it meant, because she never mentioned Jew. She mentioned Americans and Russians. I said, you are talking about Americans as Jews and Russians, right away I knew, as the Russian Orthodox Church. She says, no, no. I don’t mean that. I says, yes you mean it. You mean it. The husband was….I don’t know where. And he came home and it was the little one’s birthday. And she made a birthday party and I was there. And they supposed to leave the following day to New York. And the father, who lived in Boston, was visiting. We have a summer home in the country, in the Catskills and he was with my son there. And he’s supposed to go to the airport, help her to go to the airport in New York. So, I said to myself, I just couldn’t believe it. I says, why are you doing it? How can you look in your husband’s eye and pack? I don’t know, everything she took, what she could. Six packages, because they took two, two, two, everyone of them and they were little kids. She says, if he would be better to me. I says, better? He leaps for you. He’s such a father and working like unbelievable that you should have everything. And you say better? Better was that he didn’t let them go to church. That was the worst. And she told it in the hospital that if I don’t come back, because my husband is bad to me. So, what shall I do? I swore. I cannot tell it to Mischa. I called my cousin in the country. I says, look, I swore that I don’t tell it to Mischa, but I didn’t swear that I’m not telling it to you. Your daughter won’t come back. Please don’t help her to go on that plane. At least the children should be saved and taken away, because she kidnapped them. She said, that’s, it’s impossible. It’s impossible. And when she didn’t come back after a month. She went for a month. And I said, I told it to Mischa. She says, I don’t believe you. She’s the most honest woman in the world. If you would tell it to me right at that time, I wouldn’t believe you, that she is doing it to me. And she did it. She kidnapped the two kids.

DONAHUE: Tell me, Mischa was the one who’s actually related to you?


DONAHUE: She’s the one who’s actually related to you.

SZEKELY: She is my cousin’s. But I am….They have no one here. He has a brother, he’s in Australia. And he is here now with his mother. He doesn’t want to hear about it, to get married, because he lives for his children. I says, Mischa, you are a smart man. You lost your children. Every week, he is calling them on the phone. And two years ago, she let them come here for a month. They came alone by plane. And she came the last two weeks, because my cousin was begging her from Boston, that maybe I see you the last time. I am in not a good condition and please come. She came. Before they came, he bought a house. They lived in an apartment. They bought the house so that the children should have separated rooms. It’s a three bedroom house near Man Of War. A new house. He makes nice money, so he could, he got the mortgage. And the children they have their rooms and they have they beds there what I bought them that time. The mattresses were brand new. And they have their….Even today, it’s they name on the door. They put they name on the door. What do they have in Moscow? They have two bedrooms. They give one to the children. And they live like princesses here. They loved it.

DONAHUE: Let me ask you a couple of questions, so I can make sure I’m understanding. She converted….Did she convert from Judaism to Russian Orthodoxy?

SZEKELY: She wasn’t.

DONAHUE: She was raised as a Russian…

SZEKELY: She was raised nothing, because it was Communism. She couldn’t be raised with religion. But when Gorbachev took over they were allowed to go to the church. And when she saw it, she already didn’t want to come to America. She was the one who broke, broke, completely broke off the family. She wanted to come. She was the one. And she was telling me that she thought she wouldn’t come anymore, but she said, that’s not the right thing to do. That’s not an honest thing to do, that I started it and I should let them go. But that was an honest thing what she did. You know? She wanted it. She wanted to come because of the church, because she couldn’t go to church there. They have here a Greek Orthodox, but that’s not good for her.

DONAHUE: Let’s rewind a little bit. We started getting onto this because you were talking about your family that was in Russia. And you didn’t know any of that family other than your father’s brother? During the war or before?

SZEKELY: No, I knew before the war about the whole family, because when my father was alive they corresponded constantly. And we, from Czechoslovakia, because I was brought up in Czechoslovakia, we sent them food. So, I knew they exist. And I remember when my grandmother died, my father’s mother, because I remember how he was crying. I was about, I don’t know, eight years old. And I remember when she died. I don’t remember when the father died. And I knew about him very well, because he speaks….No. Then my uncle was writing him constantly…

DONAHUE: Your uncle was writing who?

SZEKELY: Writing to him. My uncle was my father’s brother, to whom I wanted to come to America. He was a pharmacist. And he came with the last ship in nineteen forty to America. And then he was writing him. And after fifty years, fifty years, he went back to visit. And he was telling me about…

DONAHUE: I’m sorry, but you’re talking about….He was writing to whom? To his father? When you said your uncle was writing to him, who was he writing to?

SZEKELY: To Izzy, his name is Izzy, my cousin who is the painter. He was writing to him and then he went to visit. And he had two sisters, two sisters alive at the time and him, who was the nephew. He was alive. So, after fifty years. He went back twice, because he went alone and then he took his wife one year. And so, I knew everything about him. And I knew he was a big artist there, but he worked for the state, Communism. They always had work, but they had to do what they told them to do. So, he was a real artist and then he had a little studio separate from the house. And he painted what he wanted, because his dream….He loves Odessa and he wanted to paint Odessa as he knew it once. And he did it. They didn’t know about it, because he did the commercials for everything, for the ships and for operas and everything. His name was everywhere because he did the commercials. So, I knew about him. Now, when my uncle died in nineteen seventy-three, I took over the writing because it was no one else. And I started to write Russian, but it was very hard for me, because I never spoke Russian. But I wrote Russian and I understood Russian. So, with the dictionary, I wrote him Russian. And one day, he said, don’t struggle, I speak English. And from then on, I was sending him English letters. And then he had an exhibition in Moscow and he was narrating it in English. And he sent us the tape. And we couldn’t use the tape here. I had to take it to downtown. I don’t know what’s the name of the place. Anyway, where they re-did it. It was a beautiful….I gave it to him when he came. I gave it back to him. I says, I have you and I have your paintings and you should have that tape. I read in the Odessa paper, last month, that his paintings are still….Somebody – you know they have articles about the world, travelers and it was from Odessa and they mentioned his name, that his paintings are still there, but he’s not there anymore. So, that was my Russian family.

DONAHUE: Okay, tell me your father’s full name and…

SZEKELY: Mikhail, he was Michael, Mikhail Klugman, because we never knew Klegman. Klugman. Mikhail Klugman.

DONAHUE: And tell how he came to leave Russia.

SZEKELY: He was from First World War….It is not on the tape? No.

DONAHUE: It is, but I have more questions.

SZEKELY: In First World War there were two brothers. The older brother was already in the war in nineteen fourteen, before…..Nineteen fourteen, yeah. And he was a pharmacist, too. Both of them were pharmacists. And he was captured and they didn’t know about him, where is he. And one day, when my father was called in and he was captured in Prague and they took him behind the frontier to a pharmacy and there he meets his brother. And he met his brother and they never separated. They didn’t want to go back after the war because there were the biggest pogroms in Kiev and they didn’t want to go back there. And it was an international agreement that they can stay in the countries where they were captured. Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia was one, also Hungarian empire. So, after a while when they were there, they took them to Hungary to a chemical factory, both of them, together. I have, I think there’s a picture there, too, about the Russia uniforms. They took them to Hungary and under the war my mother was working there in the office, in that place. And that’s how they met and fell in love. And my mother’s family was very, very upset. Nothing against him, it was nothing against him, but they were very worried that he’s a Russian citizen. What’s going to be? From then on, I think it’s there. No?



DONAHUE: First actually, can you say what your father’s brother’s name was?

SZEKELY: Jacob Klugman.

DONAHUE: And so they are living nearby one another and they ended up in Czechoslovakia.

SZEKELY: Yes, because they had to, because it was Communism in nineteen nineteen in Hungary for a little while only and they said that no matter what, every Russian is a Communist, Jew or Non-Jew. And they put – oh I have a picture here. It’s very interesting. They made a concentration camp. They build it near Russia, near Budapest and they put all the Russians there. My mother was married in nineteen nineteen, the beginning of nineteen nineteen. And they put them there. They didn’t know what’s going to happen to them. My uncle was there. He wasn’t married. My mother had a cousin, who was a lawyer and he came there one day. It was already May, middle of nineteen nineteen, because she was pregnant with me. By the way, she got pregnant. She was pregnant with me. And he said you can go out from here only one way, if you sign that you never come back to Hungary. So, my mother, who was Hungarian, she had to sign that she never comes back to Hungary. It was easy to sign it for my father and my uncle, but they had to sign it. So, where should they go? In nineteen twenty, Czechoslovakia it was, the Czech map is Czech, Moravia, Slovakia, Carpathan. The Carpathan part, what was Hungary, after the war, the Czechs got it. My mother had a second cousin there and when she heard about it, what happened, she says come to us. They were well-to-do people. Come to us. So, they went there to Czechoslovakia. It was at that time Czechoslovakia in nineteen twenty. When it came to me to give birth, my mother got permission through that lawyer to go home and I was born in my grandmother’s house, but they didn’t have an apartment. They lived with those relatives, so they left me there with my grandmother and my mother’s sisters. She had three sisters. One of them was married, two were not married and a brother, who was never married. He was a bachelor. Because my grandmother was a widow when she was thirty-four years old, and she had five children. The son took over and he was working for the family. And that’s why he never got married, until the sisters got married and whatever. He was already fifty years old and he didn’t get married. So we lived there and twenty-two months after I was born, my mother was again – she was pregnant. She gave birth to my sister. The same thing happened. She went home with special papers and she was born there in my grandmother’s house. By that time they had already an apartment and they took me together with my little sister back to Czechoslovakia. So.

DONAHUE: Okay. What was your sister’s name?

SZEKELY: Anna. But she was two “n’s” and she didn’t want two “n”. My daughter-in-law, she didn’t want two “n”. Not because of my sister, but she had a grandmother, whom she didn’t like, and she was Anna. So, that’s why she’s with one “n”, Ana, but she’s named after my sister. And the big one, Illona. That’s a real Hungarian name. She’s named after my mother’s youngest sister, who saved my life. That’s in there, I think. So, Illona is named after her. And Jacob, the boy is named after my uncle, who was in America. But she has an uncle, too, my daughter-in-law. And she didn’t want him to be named Jacob, because she didn’t like – she doesn’t like her family. That’s the trouble here. She doesn’t like her mother. She never can get along with the mother. That’s the big trouble and that’s why she cannot get along with me because she doesn’t want to hear mother. Only she’s the mother. And that’s the problem. But we manage to give his, the name Jacob, because she liked my uncle. She knew him and she liked him.

DONAHUE: Tell me about your early childhood, your earliest memories.

SZEKELY: I remember from kindergarten on. I went right away to Czech school. Kindergarten, elementary school, gymnasium. I wanted to be a pharmacist. And they had two kind of….my father wanted one of us, at least, to be a pharmacist. And we had two kind of gymnasiums, very strict schools in Czechoslovakia. All the professors were from Prague. And there were two kinds, one where you had to learn Latin, because every prescription was Latin and if you wanted to be a doctor or pharmacist you had to go to that gymnasium. So I went to, both of us went. I don’t even know what she wanted to be, because she was unbelievable smart, much smarter than I was. She was always worried about me, my sister, because it was only twenty-two months between us. And when I went to first class, I got whooping cough for six months. So I had to repeat the first class, so we were always together. We sat together. Here they don’t let you do it. We were always together and everybody thought that we were….I don’t know. We were dressed the same and they thought that we are twins, but we weren’t because it was twenty-two months between us. But we were together always in school. But she was a worrier always about me. I remember when she woke me up in the morning and let me repeat the lesson plan, lesson, what we had to do, you know. She was always worried about me. I was a good student, but to her it came very easy. To me, I had to work for it. And it was a very, very close family. I just, I cannot, cannot tell you. When they met, my father and mother on the street is was always like, you know, they were married yesterday. Very, very close. My mother was like a friend to us. With everything you could go to my mother and ask everything what you wanted and you got the right answer. I was a very, very naïve girl, very naïve. And one girl was once telling me that if you kiss somebody you can get pregnant, that kind of a business. So I always went to my mother. I said is it true? I don’t know what grade was it. But with everything….When I went on a date and I came home, I went to their bedroom, I sat on the bed and I told them everything what happened. That kind of a close family we were. And that’s why I cannot understand today’s generation, because it was so different. When I said to my grand-daughter that I went for, for four years I had a boyfriend, a boy friend, friend, nothing happened between us. And for one year, for one year, he didn’t even kiss me, because he said he’s very afraid that if he’s going to kiss me, I’m going to leave him, because of my personality. He was an unbelievable, very, very beautiful boy and he left a very wealthy girl because of me. He loved me very much, but I was so naïve that I didn’t think that I love him. But it was a beautiful, wonderful feeling that every week he came. We met twice a week, Saturday and Sunday. Every week he came and his hands are behind his back and he brought me – because he knew I loved the….What are the little blue flowers?

DONAHUE: Forget-me-nots?

SZEKELY: Very, very little.

DONAHUE: Forget-me-nots?

SZEKELY: They are not me forget me…Anyway

DONAHUE: Violets?

SZEKELY: Violets. Winter, summer, always, always when he came, he had the violets. And it was a wonderful feeling to know that you have someone to go out with to the movies. We had five o’clock teas there. It was a very nice place where young people got together. And then he started to be called to the Army. And when he was called to the Army he was somewhere always close, so he eloped. He came home to see me on the weekends. And everybody was telling me that he’s looking at me like he loves me. And I was just laughing. I didn’t realize it. I didn’t realize it. After four years when I met my husband and he was already somewhere in Russia, somewhere in labor camp, him. He wrote me and I wrote him. And I wrote him what happened with my family and I’m going to get married, because I need to change my name. And when I wrote that letter I thought I’d die. Then I knew that I loved him. That feeling, I never, never forget. Such a naivety. Can you imagine that? Then I really…

DONAHUE: What was his name?

SZEKELY: And he died. He died in Russia. He was Nicholas. He was Nicholas, actually it was Nicolash in Hungary. So it’s Nicholas. They were a very wealthy family. His father had a pawn shop. And he had a sister, who was teaching piano. And we never spoke about marriage because he always said, he spoke already English at that time. And one day, in nineteen thirty-eight, the Hungarians took back that part of Czechoslovakia. So we were in trouble, but we children didn’t realize it that we are in trouble, only my parents. And it was terrible. And then he said to me, one day when he came home, he says, come with me to Israel. I looked at him. I says, without my parents? And it was no Israel, young people went to Palestine. Maybe he would be alive, if he would gone. He wouldn’t go without me. And I said, I cannot go without my parents. He came back from some place. And we were always discussing other girls, and who is the cute girl. Who is the nice girl. And one day, I was already married, when I heard that he engaged, a year later, he engaged a girl, whom we were discussing, that she is a nice girl. But they never got married, because he died. They took him to Russia, that transport labor camp. And he died. And he was the only one who died from his family, because he had a brother who survived in England and his parents and sisters survived there in Uzhgorod where we lived. People were hiding them. He was the only one who died from the family.

DOANHUE: What was his last name?

SZEKELY: Gosh, I cannot believe it, that I do not remember.

DONAHUE: That’s okay, that’s okay. How old were you when you started dating him?

SZEKELY: Eighteen.

DONAHUE: So, you started dating him in nineteen thirty-eight?

SZEKELY: Yes, when the Hungarians came in, yes. And nineteen forty-one, until nineteen forty-one. In nineteen forty-one, I met my husband in Budapest and he was already. I don’t know which lagish. He was in labor camps, but they took them out from that part of Czechoslovakia. They took them out to Russia. In Hungary, they kept them in Hungary in labor camp. But that was part of, you know, that was part of [INAUDIBLE] they took, like over the border and they took them to camps. And when I wrote them that what happened, that I need another name. And he wrote me back a letter and he said, if you would have told me, I would right away marry you. And his friend was alive, very good friend and I met him once. And he said, that for one day he disappeared in the woods and they thought he is committing suicide because of me. But then he came and they took him and all of them died. So, it was a terrible thing, terrible that I was so naïve, that I didn’t realize it that I am in love. Because I don’t even know. We just kissed, that’s it. And we wouldn’t, he wouldn’t dare to do nothing, because he said, you personality requiring such a – I cannot say it in English, that word. Respect. That he was afraid to kiss me for a year, because he thought that I am going to leave him if he is going to kiss me. I don’t know whether I would leave him, because I was very naïve. So it was like Plato, nobody believed us. Because they said when we went to the movies and we went like four couples together and they said, he doesn’t look at the movies, he’s just looking at you. It’s an unbelievable thing and when I am telling it to my grand-daughter, she’s laughing, Grandma, those are the nineties. You know? It took me a long, long time to realize that my grand-daughter were not seven years with her boyfriend and nothing happened between them. I couldn’t imagine that something could happen. I trusted her, because I was that way, so I thought, always I thought Illona is ours, from our family. And my husband always said to me, no matter what, you always can count on Illona. He was always telling me that. And if you leave something for the children, he said, Jacob is a boy, he will always make it. Leave more for Illona. That’s what he always said. He was mistaken, too.

DONAHUE: Tell me, let’s go back a little bit again. You mentioned that you had wanted to be a pharmacist. Did your parents support that? Were they supportive of that?

SZEKELY: Yes, but I couldn’t, in thirty-eight it was finished. I couldn’t go anymore to school.

DONAHUE: Was it unusual at the time, for a girl?

SZEKELY: No, I don’t think so. It was unusual, I knew one only, in the city, who was a pharmacist. But the Czech girls, I don’t know what for, they took Latin. We had all the Czech girls in the Gymnasium. Why would they take Latin? Only if they wanted to be doctors or pharmacists. But we didn’t get so far, that’s it. And I never knew what my sister, she still went one year to school when I was already in Budapest. So, I just really don’t know. I never, I don’t know what she wanted to be. It’s so interesting. I know she was twenty-two years younger, twenty-two months and it was very hard to me, like to go for my first ball. It was the medical students ball. And at that time he was already in the Army and one medical student, who went in Prague to school, to medical school. They didn’t have medical school there, now they have medical school there. And he was a short fellow and he knew that I am going out with that boy, but he was in the Army, so he took me. He came home for vacation and he took me to the Medical Ball. I would never forget that occasion, because it was chaperoned. My mother was there and it was winter and we went on the sled with horses, you know, that kind of it. I would never forget it. And my aunt from Budapest – every year, every summer we went to Budapest. My mother’s family and they always dressed us up, the children. I remember that she gave me, it was hers but it fit me beautifully, a light blue, long, velvet evening gown. And it was open, but it had a little [INAUDIBLE] what I could take off. I will never forget that day. And he didn’t let me dance with no one else. Other boys wanted to, no, the whole night he was dancing with me. It’s a very interesting story. He became a pediatrician in Prague. And he went, I think that he went to German college. They had two colleges, Czech and German, he went to the other one. the dermatologist went to the other. The dermatologist, I had nothing to do with, because just my friend was marrying him and I know that he went to German college. But he went, I didn’t know whether he was alive or not. And when we came to Brooklyn, because that’s where we came, to my uncle. And one day I am walking on a street and I see a millinery shop, we had it in Hungary and I see the name. And I went in, and it was, because she had one in Uzhgorod in Czechoslovakia – can I hold it for you?

DONAHUE: No, that’s okay.

SZEKELY: And she, that was his sister. And she says, my God, you are alive. He’s not married. You are married? I said, yes, I am married. And he came to visit his sister from Prague and he wasn’t married. And he called me on the phone one day and I didn’t see him. My husband was very jealous and I wouldn’t even dare to invite him. But my husband was working and I spoke about an hour on the phone with him. And he was asking me, how I am doing and what I am doing and so on and so on. And then he went back and he married a German woman. I heard that he stayed in Germany, but he got divorced, too from that. First time he got married. But he was in love with me. And I knew that, that he was in love with me, but I would never like kiss him or something. No way. If somebody knows me, they call me on my phone. Anna should be coming home. Maybe she is going to call me.

DONAHUE: We have a little more time left on the tape.


DONAHUE: So, can you tell me a little bit more about your early childhood? First of all, were you attending, was this a public school you were attending?

SZEKELY: Yes, public. We didn’t have private schools. It was very interesting under the Czechs. We had religion in the school. Every religion had their own religion. We had the rabbi coming in once or twice a week and the Christians had they priest. And the girls were sitting on his lap, the Czech girls, you know? On the priest’s lap. [LAUGHTER] Now, I know what it meant, but just unbelievable. After school we went to a German speaking religious school and we learned more about religion. But it’s funny that I know my teacher’s name and I forgot what was, gosh, what was my boyfriend’s name?

DONAHUE: You mean Nicholas?

SZEKELY: I will remember it. No. The interesting thing is it was, what we learned, like praying, prayer, it was from my mother. My mother, she was forcing us, like every Friday night we had to pray and always even if we were crying that it’s too much, too much. It was hard. Every week, one more page. And actually we learned to pray from my mother, not in school. We learned about religion from that rabbi. We learned how to write, but that wasn’t Hebrew, that was like Yiddish. But the alphabet was the same and it was a time that they had there a paper, a newspaper, Jewish paper. And I could read it without punctuation. I have no idea about nothing, that’s why I never could go up to the Torah and read the Torah, because I have no idea. I have to learn, if I would want to read something, I would break my neck to learn it. Because that is all punctuation, the Torah. But otherwise I read fluently, but I don’t know what I’m reading.

DONAHUE: What language did you speak at home?

SZEKELY: We spoke, first of all when they met, my mother didn’t speak Russian, he didn’t speak Hungarian. Both of them spoke German, so it was German. The starting was German, until my father learned Hungarian. And it was German for a long, long time, because we had two hours of gymnasium, every day two hours of German. And the Czechs hated the Hungarians. My mother never learned Czech. She just spoke German and Hungarian, because my grandmother spoke German. When she was a little girl, she came from Slovakia where the part, where German lived and she spoke German. Not the Jewish German. And when we went on the street and we were walking and we saw a professor coming from the school, because they were professors in gymnasium. It was like, what should I tell you? It was eight years gymnasium, so it’s equal like four years college. Because after eight, elementary school and then it was [INAUDIBLE] between gymnasium and a year where we were preparing to go to gymnasium. It was a year. And we saw some professor coming, so we right away started to pull my mother’s skirt. German, speak in German, that they shouldn’t know that we speak Hungarian. Because they, we spoke so well Czech, that they didn’t believe that we are not Czechs. But then when they found out that we are not Czechs, but they didn’t know that we speak Hungarian. [LAUGHING] So, we had to speak German on the streets.

DONAHUE: It must have gotten very confusing, just trying to…

SZEKELY: No, it wasn’t, when you are a child….And then when we were preparing to come to America. We were preparing after we heard what’s happening. My parents are telling us that we are in trouble. And my uncle managed to come to America, so we started to learn English, private.

DONAHUE: When was this? What year?

SZEKELY: It was in nineteen forty. We were preparing. And it was a teacher, who learned in England. He studied in England. He wasn’t a young man. And he was so proud of us, me and my sister, that we are so good. Small town, bigger than here, but it was still….It was the capital of Carpatha. It was a promenade. They builded it up beautifully, the Czechs, that time, near the border. We had a bridge dividing the city, so it was a very nice city. And it was a promenade and with sitting people. And he started to speak loud to us, English, that was, you know, his commercial. We had English Anna Karenina and everything already. We were very good. So Czech school. Czech I spoke perfect, German I spoke a time perfect, Hungarian and English.

DONAHUE: Were you citizens of any…?


DONAHUE: You became Czech citizens.

SZEKELY: We were Czech citizens. After five years or even earlier, we were Czech citizens. But when the Hungarians came in, we were no citizens, because the Czechs run away. They went to Czechoslovakia. But we couldn’t go because we weren’t born there. And non-naturalized citizens couldn’t go with them and we were stuck there. And that’s how my parents were killed. The very first, because of that. Oh, the Russians, whoever is alive, oh, they are not alive anymore, because they were like my father’s age. But they were forty-six years old when they killed them. They was the same age, my father and my mother. And my sister was nineteen. And my sister could have escaped, but she said, no way, I go where my mother goes. And I had that guilt feeling that I wanted to commit suicide because of that, too. Because we were so close. And he said, I go where my mother. And we had no idea, where she went or what happened or where she going. It was terrible, terrible. And that aunt, my mother’s youngest sister, who was very well-to-do when she got married. They were very wealthy people. And she had one son. And here are the picture that I think. His name was George. My George is named after him, because he became the child of the family who – the two brothers, my uncle, my mother’s sister’s husband, he was alive and his brother was alive. Because they were in a labor camp in Hungary. And when George was born, George got his name then……



ARWEN DONAHUE: …two, side A of an interview with Emilie Szekely. I don’t think I actually asked for your mother’s full name?

EMILIE SZEKELY: Maiden name?

DONAHUE: Uh huh.

SZEKELY: Marvina Eichler.

DONAHUE: How do you spell her last name?

SZEKELY: E I C H L E R, that was her name, maiden name.

DONAHUE: And her family was from the Budapest area? Or what was their history?

SZEKELY: The whole family, my grandmother’s children, they were born all there, but my grandmother was actually from a place, Zam Plain, it’s called, from Slovakia. I told you that there were Germans there. My Grandmother, but all the childrens are born there. And all my grandmother’s sisters, who were living there too, when she was a child, all their children were all born in Budapest. Everybody was, you know, the cousins and everybody was born in Budapest. And there were plenty of them. All of them, at least, had three children, my grandmother’s sisters, and more. And she had, herself, she had five sisters and a brother, but they were all born in Hungary, in Budapest, as far as I know. I don’t know no one who was born outside of Budapest. Except for my husband. He was…They were farmers, big farmers. I can’t even describe you where is it, outside, not in Budapest, of course. It was close to Eger, Eger is a big city. But they lived on a farm when he was a young boy and they were very wealthy people. And the first, I don’t know what year was it, when the Romanians came in and they took away the farm. Second time the Russians took away the farm and the Germans, they took away. Three times, everything was taken away and then their lives were taken away from them, too.

DONAHUE: When you, when your mother, after your mother and father got married and you were living in Uzhgorod.

SZEKELY: Uzhgorod.

DONAHUE: Uzhgorod. Uzhgorod is another name for it, right?

SZEKELY: Uzhgorod is ungbar in Hungarian and the Czech. And that was Uzhgorod. U Z and then accent over the Z and then Harrot. Uzhgorod is, it was in the Carpathian Mountains. It was in a very nice place and a very beautiful city. And to me, every city what is divided with a river, the city itself, it’s a beautiful city. [PHONE RINGS] That was divided.

DONAHUE: Did your mother work, continue to work after she got married?

SZEKELY: No, she never worked. She was just a Haus Frau, house mother, but we were struggling. My father, they were struggling until they, something happened with them. My mother, I remember she made our clothes, everything, she sewed alone by hand. We didn’t have even a machine, a sewing machine. But she tried the best and she tried to brought us up that we were really, everybody who spoke about us….And there are only two people in Brooklyn, who knew my parents from my childhood, only two people, two friends I have, who knew them and how they are talking about them. It’s terrible. One lived in Prague, she got married and then they came to America and her husband was a dermatologist and then he got Alzheimer’s disease. Anyway. So, she, we became, we are still friends, but not telephone friends. We are talking. And she has two very successful children, unbelievable. He’s a dentist. Middle of New York, he has an office. But they came after, after the Czech revolution that was in the sixties. They came with everything, with furniture, with Steinway piano. They brought everything with them. Oriental carpets. Not as we came, because they didn’t let us take nothing with us when we came. But only two people. And it’s so sad that only two people knew my parents. You know? It’s unbelievable. Of course, - no, my cousin, he doesn’t…..In Canada, he doesn’t remember. My cousin in Budapest, she remembers my parents. She was younger than my sister. She’s younger than my sister was, but she is remembering my parents. But otherwise, no one remembers my parents. It’s very sad. And I don’t know about my grandchildren. I wrote down everything. They have it on tape and still they are very mixed up when I speak about an aunt, you see, we have somebody by the name of Eilau, what was a sister-in-law of my aunt, but they have the same name. Because that was a second marriage to my uncle’s brother. And the name was the same Eilau and Illean. But the other one, the older one, she is not mixing it up. She knows the difference, who was Illika to us and who is Illou, she knows. Illou she knows, she was here too. She’s alive. That was my uncle’s sister-in-law by second marriage, because the first wife died with the four year old little boy. And he always wanted children, so he married a younger woman than him and she couldn’t have any children. But she has a big family in Israel. She has a brother and she has a sister-in-law in Montreal, because her brother died when they came to Canada. When we came here, they went to Canada. And he was a [INAUDIBLE] engineer. He wasn’t used to Canadian winter, slippery. And he made a car accident and he got a stroke from it. And he didn’t die, but he got a second stroke and he died. And he was a young man. He was forty-two, something like that and he left his wife and his young [INAUDIBLE] son in Canada. And the wife had a German nana. She was a real German, wonderful, wonderful person, from her childhood. Because she had very, very wealthy parents. She had a sister and she died, too. And her parents died, but that woman, she stayed with her all through her life. And she was bringing up her son, too. And she died in Canada. She never went back. She was from Vienna. Very nice person. I remember her so well. I met her many times when we went to Canada. First they lived in Montreal and they moved to Toronto when the French started that you had to speak French. He’s an engineer, too, my cousin.

DONAHUE: Can you say something more, talk more about your childhood? Did you have any non-Jewish friends who you played with?

SZEKELY: I had Czech friends, non-Jewish, Czech friends, yes. They were very good friends. They had, they were entirely different – their thinking was different from ours. First of all they were very loose, the Czech girls, it was a wonder they were….There were many, many, even in my class, there were three twins. Can you imagine? There were many twins, girls. But they were good friends. And then we had Hungarian friends, Jewish girl friends. We had. We had quite a lot. And we got together, before I went out with the boy. We got together always, every week at somebody’s house. During the week it was strictly studying. We went to movies and as I said – then we belonged to a Jewish organization, Cadima, that’s actually, they have it in Israel now, too, Cadima.

DONAHUE: Is that a Zionist organization?

SZEKELY: It is a Zionist organization, yes and it was a youth organization. And in the summer we made excursions, but only for one day, in the mountains together. It was a very nice life in Czechoslovakia. The Czech people are wonderful people and that was the real democracy. What I lived under [INAUDIBLE] that was a real democracy. And I am laughing when I am talking here about democracy. I says, do those people know what’s democracy. There are castes here and everywhere. And even in the hospital….I worked twenty-seven years in Brooklyn Jewish Hospital. They were very few people who were really, as you say, Mensch, people. Like it was an old doctor, he was the head of the Pediatrics. He was the only one who went there in the morning and he shook hands with the elevator guy and something like that. You know? It was entirely different. They speak here about democracy, but they don’t know what it is. I remember that once before, my husband, my father had many jobs before they had, they bought – I don’t know what year was it. They bought together a drugstore. But drugstore, it means, because they didn’t have their diploma or certificate. And I have my own diploma, Russian diploma. So when he came to America, he worked in New York in a pharmacy, in a German pharmacy, and he was the head of the Herbs department. They sell many, many. But he couldn’t do a prescription. And that was the situation with my father, too. When they went to Czechoslovakia. So they bought a drugstore, but they had everything but prescription drugs. But they didn’t have luncheonettes like here. There was no such a thing. But the trouble was, then they separated and a pharmacist died. It was a beautiful new pharmacy. And his wife wanted my father to work for her. Okay. She took over and he was substituting outside. He knew pharmacists and when they were for vacation, he was substituting in the pharmacy. He knows, he did everything. Then when he took over that pharmacy and my uncle had the drugstore. And it was a big place and a small place, because everybody knew everybody. So if somebody went to my uncle, they were, they felt bad that they don’t go to my father. That kind of a situation. It was very bad. So on the end, he had to leave that pharmacy and he went back with my uncle, together, because, you know, there were lot of Russian people. They were non-Jews, lots. And they knew all each other. And one all, especially one, who let me go to the office. He had a very big position and he let me go to the office and learn the Russian typewriter. That’s how I knew how to type Russian. But it came very, very good after the war, when I worked for the dictionaries. I was the only one who typed Russian in Hungary. So they were all friends, non-Jews and Jews, the Russians. Of course, they were all educated people. I’m not saying that the others were because probably they were anti-Semitic, like , you know. Like it always was anti-Semitism in Russia. But they were very good friends. I never forget it, that one Christmas night, he said, you must come to our church. It’s very interesting, the Russian Orthodox church. There it was very interesting. No, I don’t want to hear about it, what’s happening there. And it’s different, I see it on the television. That it is entirely different in Moscow what it was there. It was a church where you didn’t have seats, you know? You were all standing and he was like the leader there or whatever. And everybody who came in got three kisses, you know. Three times you kiss. Very friendly, very, very friendly. They were very, very nice people. And then I remember it was a photographer, Counter was his name. I don’t know how he survived, because he was Jewish. And he survived, I don’t know how. They sent him back with the non-Jews. And then my friends from Brooklyn, who knew them too, and they were in California and they met him. He was alive for a long time and he met their sons. So that kind of friends we had there, in Uzhgorod.

DONAHUE: How did that, how did that begin to change after the Hungarian takeover of Uzhgorod in nineteen thirty-eight?

SZEKELY: It was terrible. Nineteen thirty-eight. It was terrible because – I don’t know whether I say somewhere that my cousin came and wanted to adopt us? Okay. My cousin, who was in Siberia for many years. He lived in Budapest, and one day he came to Uzhgorod and he knew about the situation, that they were worried about what is going to happen, because they were thrown out from Hungary. He came and he said, I am going to adopt the children. Under eighteen he could have done it. And just the name will change. They can stay with you. Just got to be something happens that the children should be safe. And I remember the day that they called us and they called us in the bedroom, my father and my mother and him. And they explained it to us and we started to cry. We thought that we are going to be taken away from them. And we couldn’t understand it. Why? Why? Why? Though I was eighteen years old in nineteen thirty-eight. But I just, we just – to take another name. They didn’t explain it to us, that what can happen. You know? Though we knew the story. We knew the story, but we didn’t think about it, that my father was never let back to Hungary. Only my mother and us, every summer. He never was let back to Hungary to go back. And suddenly he’s traveling to Hungary, because Hungary is, we are Hungary. And so after big, big discussions, we decided that we won’t do it. We children didn’t want to do it. And that cost us my sister’s life. But my sister could be saved, but he didn’t want because….Originally when they went to that cousin, she wanted to take my sister away, right away when she saw what’s going to happen what’s happening. I didn’t know. I wasn’t there before the war. And my sister didn’t want to go. She could have been saved. And then she came, and she came….It was actually my grandmother’s side. Somebody I don’t know how they were cousins. I don’t know. Up to today I don’t know. But she wanted, she told me that she wanted to take her, but she is dead, too. She went to the camps, too. So probably my sister, if she would take my sister, she wouldn’t be alive anyway. But she says no, whatever is going to happen, it’s going to happen. But nobody knew, nobody believe it that some thing is going to happen. So, that’s it.

DONAHUE: You were in Uzhgorod in nineteen thirty-eight and then it became…

SZEKELY: In nineteen forty-one….

DONAHUE: Did you stay there until nineteen forty-one?

SZEKELY: My parents, yeah, I went in nineteen forty-one, the first time, alone, in May to….No. In nineteen forty, Christmastime, I went with my sister, alone, Christmas vacation to my grandmother. And one day, the boy with whom I went out and his friend, they came by car in Hungarian uniforms to see us. And I just, I couldn’t believe it. It was very far away. And he was begging me that I should go home. He felt something. I didn’t. I didn’t know nothing that time, because I didn’t know my husband. But he says, come home and come home, and go home. I says, okay, we are going to go home. But we had a good time. They took us, I don’t know where we went. Don’t remember. They said that in two days they had to go back because they were in the army. And we went back…

DOANHUE: To Uzhgorod?

SZEKELY: In nineteen forty to Uzhgorod. We went back home. And in nineteen forty-one, in nineteen forty-one, yes, in January, about in January, I had trouble with my rheumatic fever, because I had rheumatic fever when I was young, very bad. I almost died from it. Six months I was in bed, high fever. That’s why I have heart trouble. And I went back and my mother said that your sister is still in school. Go alone. You are now twenty-one years old, nineteen forty-one. You can travel alone, because it was about a day by train from Uzhgorod to Budapest. And take the cure. I had a doctor there, who every year prescribed me a cure, what I had to take in a bath. And he said that was a precaution. It shouldn’t be trouble. And take your cure. Three weeks it took. And by the time you finished, we come after you. Your sister will be finished. And that was in May and I went. And I went and I met my husband, who we met Christmas together when we were with my sister. We went. We saw him once. He was introduced to us once. His aunt and my aunt were very good friends. But he didn’t live in Budapest. He didn’t live in Budapest.

DONAHUE: Where did he live?

SZEKELY: My husband? Outside in Eger. It’s a smaller town. His sister lived there. He came to his aunt. And I went there with my aunt. They played cards together. And suddenly somebody’s opened the gates and it was him. He had a cousin, who was older than him. And I was expecting that he is going to open the door, but my husband, he opened the door. And I just looked at him. Who is he? I never heard from him. And they introduced us to him, so my sister knew him, only my sister. And he was talking to me. And he was a very good looking guy. And he was seven years older than I was. And he, the next few days we supposed to go back home to Budapest, to Uzhgorod. And his aunt, in the morning comes to my grandma’s house, I was in bed still. And he says, Emily, my nickname was Millie. The whole family knows me, Millie. My name is Emily, officially. And I didn’t know that Millie is an America name and I just continue being Emily like in school, when I went to school. But my friends and my family, everybody called me Millie. He says, Millie. She had a big voice, she says, Frank fell in love with you and he wants to marry you. I say, oh please, don’t say me this nonsense, somebody sees somebody and right away they want to marry? I was not a bad looking girl, that’s true, I must tell you. [LAUGHING] But still it was very funny to me. And he said, I know that you are going, you are going out with somebody, but how is it? Is it serious? I said, I don’t know. We never spoke about marriage. We spoke about marriage, but he always told me that he cannot get married until he is not on his own. He is in his father’s business and until then, he cannot get married. He spoke a few languages. He spoke already then very well English. We never spoke about marriage, never. I says, we never spoke about marriage. I don’t know how I stand and whatever. We are friends, we are very good friends. So he says, no, he’s serious. I says, okay. Next day we went back to Uzhgorod. And I didn’t hear from him. Only my aunt, that was my middle sister of my mother and she was a widow at that time.

DONAHUE: What was her name?

SZEKELY: Serena. And she said, I met Frank, I met him and he’s constantly asking me when are you coming back, when are you coming back? So, one day I wrote to her, to my aunt, that I’m coming back to the bath. Next day he was there, because that time he already lived in Budapest. He had a business in Budapest.

DONAHUE: What did he do?

SZEKELY: He was actually, he will finish business college. He had a business, here they don’t have those businesses, because that time was everything, the transportation with horse and carriage. And he was in business, I am always saying we are eating his horse food, because, oat, oat. That’s in Hungary horse food. So, he had a business with oat. It was a big business because he was connected to, I’m sorry, to, what is it? Wall Street business.

DONAHUE: Wall Street?

SZEKELY: It wasn’t Wall Street there, but every business, big businesses were….So it was a big business and he made a lot of money. And he lived there. But I knew about him. They told me, he did tell me that time, that he just left his girlfriend, who he went out for four years, because….His mother was against it because the girlfriend wasn’t Jewish. And his sister already was married to a Catholic. So she said, it’s enough, one person. She was converted, she was married in a Christian church with popes, papers that she can get married. Her daughter was born already as Christian. He loved his parents and he loved his mother and after four years he left the girl. The girl wanted to commit suicide. It was a country girl. They had a restaurant there. Because when he was living there with the same business in smaller….It was small town and he had his little farm alone and horse and everything. And he lived alone there. And then he wanted to get rid of her because of his mother and he came to Budapest. And once he came, she came after him, but I never met her. But he was telling me that she came after him because she was so in love with him. So anyway, so that was the story that he fell in love with me. You know? Then I found out the story I says, oh, how do I trust him, if that’s the story. Because he left one, then he wants to marry me. Well, anyway. We went out and it was already, I finished my cure and it was already war. My uncle was already in America with the last ship and in forty-one it was already bad. We went out for a dinner and he brought his friend with him, who was in the same business. We went to a restaurant and people are looking in the papers for the news. It was no television, radios were, but no television. And he took a paper and he’s looking in a paper and I am asking him something and he didn’t hear me. And this way I did with my hand and I turned to his friend. That he saw, that I waved and he took me home that night and I didn’t see him for three weeks. He thought that I did it, that I don’t care about him. He was so sensitive, but I didn’t know that. For three weeks I didn’t see him. The third week, I said I’m going home. I said to his aunt, because we were very close, even we lived very close. And I said it to his cousin that I’m going home. And he says, why, what happened? I says, I don’t know what happened. I didn’t hear from him and that’s it. He went home to his mother, then his mother was telling me….I met his mother, very nice lady, she was very nice. I met his parents. I went to Eger. He took me once. And she was telling me that he came home next morning and he was crying. He was seven years older than me, that she finally found somebody whom he loves, and she doesn’t want me. You know, it was a misunderstanding, the whole thing, but I didn’t know that he is such a sensitive guy, that he thinks….So it was a misunderstanding. But he find out that I am going home. Next day came a big rose, you know, flowers and please don’t go….



EMILIE SZEKELY: …they made a certificate and then I don’t know. I can’t remember what happened. Probably….I don’t know. Because I remember that my father wrote that he’s giving his crown of his life to him and he should take care of her, that kind of a style, you know. And we agreed that my engagement will be third of July in my grandmother’s house. Because we thought that my uncle anymore there and that those relatives were not so close relatives that we should make an engagement. Our family was always, my family, my mother’s family was always the family. It was arranged everything, it was a Sunday and the whole family was together, the sisters and everything. I remember a beautiful table was made and my parents, my sister should come up for the engagement and they never came. That story that they were called to the police and I got a telegram from our friends that they called them to the police and they never let them out and you disappear. Go in hiding.

DONAHUE: Who told you to go in hiding?

SZEKELY: My friends who lived near us in Uzhgorod, they were our friends and they lived near us. And they saw when they, they knew that they went to the police and they never came out. And they said, probably they are looking for you, because they knew everything, everything who was not a citizen. Because we weren’t Hungarian citizens. The papers were at the police. That was the police. And they knew that you were four people and they got only three people, so you better go to hiding. So, I couldn’t get married, because he was already in labor camp, too, from nineteen forty-one on. But that time he was home still. In the Hungarian uniform, he was so gorgeous. He was an officer. And we couldn’t get married, because in Hungary we couldn’t get married. Only when we were twenty-four years old without the father’s consent, at that time. Can you imagine? Today you can get married if you are ten years old, I think. So, he went, short while right after, they stripped him of his uniform and he went to labor camp. And I stayed there with my grandmother and every night, I slept somewhere else. Some other relatives and by his friends, because everything happened during the night, that they were looking for people.

DONAHUE: Before we go on, you said something in the other tape I wanted to see if you could tell us more detail about, which was that your father came, was released from jail to come and see you. Can you describe that?

SZEKELY: Yes, yes. We didn’t know what happened to them or where they are. And my, the youngest sister of my mother, Illie, Illona, they found out that they brought up, a lot of, a transport from Uzhgorod to Budapest and they put them like in a jail. They were there for two weeks, and they went to visit them. They talked to them and they went to visit them. And my mother told them that I shouldn’t come there, because I look like her and it is no sense that I should be there, because they are going to get out from there. And one day they let out my father with a police man for money to my cousin’s house, who was in Siberia. He lived very close to that place and he wasn’t home already, just his wife. And nobody was in the apartment and the police brought my father there and he left, the police. And he says I come back this and that time. I don’t know, it was an hour and a half. And I met my father. And first we just couldn’t talk, we were just crying and crying and we didn’t know what to say to each other. And he was just constantly questioning me. Are you sure that’s whom you want to marry? Because he knew about that I went out with that boy for four years. And he said, are you sure, are you sure? And worried about me. I says, I am not sure of nothing, but I hope it will be all right. I said, look, my aunt knows his aunt and they know the family, so I hope it will be all right. And he called up from Uzhgorod, he called Uzhgorod and he called up the senators. They were all Russians. There were many Russians, they were non-Jews in Uzhgorod. And he knew everybody. And they told him, don’t worry, tomorrow you’ll be out. And we parted and he says, I hope we see each other tomorrow. And tomorrow came and my aunt and even my husband, he wasn’t my husband at that time, my aunt and her husband, they all went to the train station, because they said the people are going to go home by train to Uzhgorod. Everybody went back, who was non-Jew. The Jews went in separate cars to Commorade Spodofsky, where they killed them. And my husband, he had a very, very tough time. I came and he couldn’t even, he couldn’t see the scene. Though they went with regular cars, looked like cattle cars, but with police or whatever, soldiers, Hungarian soldiers. He run away. He couldn’t see it. He just saw them from a distance. And I think my sister recognized him. I don’t know. That was that. And then a few weeks, about two weeks later, I got a card from my sister, in my sister’s handwriting, that we are in Communist Sporofsky. We don’t know what are we going to do here. We don’t know if we are going to have where to stay, but we are here. And it was a Hungarian stamp on it, so it means that a Hungarian soldier brought it back. And what I know from the museum, that’s why I went [INAUDIBLE] I told you that. To find out the truth. Because she went first, my daughter-in-law, and asked about it and met there somebody in the library, who was very nice. And she, he showed her the book and he took out a few pages from the book and he made copies for me. And he sent it to me. He even spoke to me over the phone when my sister, when my daughter-in-law was there. And he said, it was at that time that they killed them. I always thought that they killed them when they left in July. When I was there, I looked at the book, but I couldn’t buy it. It’s such a big book. It was not only about them – because, he said, they said, and it’s here and it’s terrible, that thirty-eight thousand people were killed in one day, because they didn’t know what to do with them. Because they took them to Poland and the Polish people were already in ghettos at that time. So they couldn’t help them. Nobody could help them. And the Germans didn’t know what to do with them, so they let them make their own grave, naked, like us in Auschwitz. They took the clothes away, they put them in one line and on the orders. They made a big, big grave and they had to make the grave. And from the other side, the German soldiers were shooting them in the graves and right away, the tanks were running over them. So I wanted that book, but it was no sense, because it was from….I had the pages what I needed. And I see the pictures how they sit there on the end of the, the forest. And the people….And I saw the, I told you about the series what was on television. The Winds of War. You never heard about The Winds of War? Mitchum played in it. It started in only four cities. It was a beautiful movie. It was a French-Jewish writer, who was in France and his niece was with him. You don’t know that story? It’s Winds of War, is the name. It’s in the public library. After that they made a twelve series, twelve two hours, twelve times, the whole summer and I saw all of it. It was a Hungarian, originally he was Hungarian, an actor. And his father was amongst those people who were taken and that was his idea to make that movie. You see original pictures what the Germans took. It starts out like a current movie and suddenly it’s black and white pictures. And you see the trains what we went in and I couldn’t look. I said I see myself somewhere there. But when I saw, I saw the whole thing, how they killed them. And then I really couldn’t look, because I said, my God, I am going to recognize either my sister or somebody I’m going recognize. I couldn’t look at it. Everything is in it, from the beginning to the end, with Auschwitz, everything. Twelve series and it is in the public library, everybody can borrow it.

DONAHUE: Going back to that time, to nineteen forty-one. What did you, did you have any idea of what they were doing?

SZEKELY: Absolutely no idea. No idea what they were doing, what is going to happen. We heard from Slovakia, what was near us, Slovakia, they are taking young girls somewhere, only young girls. From where they are taking them and what they are doing with them, we didn’t know. And they were taking them to Auschwitz, because I recognized one of them. Four years later, I recognized one of them. They were taking them there. They were building Auschwitz actually. And many of them they made their lovers, the Germans, because they were all pretty girls they took. And then I knew, that they took them to Auschwitz. And it was starting to happen, already it started near the, where Eli Weisel is from….near Romania it started. They started to take people. And they were always saying it cannot happen in Budapest, it cannot happen. And when I said that it can happen, they always said you are a pessimist. It cannot happen in Budapest, that was the story.

DONAHUE: So at the time, you are a young girl, you’re twenty-one years old. Did you have any sense of the danger?

SZEKELY: I wanted to commit suicide, I wanted to commit suicide, first of all, because I didn’t know whether he will stay with me, my fiancé. He was away. I didn’t know what I am waiting for. I knew my parents are somewhere. I don’t know where. It cannot be….I even went, it’s unbelievable, I even went to a fortune teller. And I let him, show my palm and tell me about my parents. And they said, that they are very far away, don’t wait for them. That’s what she was telling me. They are in big danger. I just couldn’t understand it. But I had a feeling, that it something terrible happening, but I never had any idea. No, never. And when we are going to Auschwitz, I didn’t know where we are going, but I said, ach, maybe we go somewhere, where I can see or meet my parents. I didn’t know where we are going. Nobody knew where we are going. It was just unbelievable. So when I wanted to commit suicide, my aunt saved me, my mother’s younger sister, Illie, Illona. And she had a thirteen year old boy. And three years, I was, it was terrible. Every night I slept somewhere else. And the third year, that before the Nazis came, she says, you are not going nowhere. Up to now they did look for you, you are our child, you stay with us. And I stayed with them. I was like their child, they said. They had a doctor who was, you know, house doctor, and he treated me like they child, and I was with them.

DONAHUE: So, you went into hiding in nineteen forty-one. Who was helping you?

SZEKELY: Until nineteen forty-four. Nobody was helping you, that was all family. I went to my grandmother’s, sisters, daughters, cousins. And my husband had friends, they knew about it. I slept every night somewhere else. During the day I stayed with my grandmother. And when I stayed with my grandmother and I stayed there overnight, we were always in the basement, because they were bombing us. Terrible bombing, the Americans. They were going after the Germans, so they were bombing us. The morning we got up and we didn’t see nothing. It’s very interesting that in that neighborhood it was nothing bombed, but my grandmother’s sister’s house. Only one house was completely bombed and that’s….And everybody is gone from that family. Only there is the girl, who is in Hungary. That grandmother, her grandmother. Only that house was bombed, to the ground, nothing else. And she was the only one surviving from the whole family. And she was holding onto me, me, me, me. She wasn’t married. And she survived, because her parents, when they saw what’s happening, they put her in a factory like GE. They made electric, but they worked for the army and people who worked for the army, they didn’t take them to the camps. They kept them in the factory until they finished the work. In six months they were finished, then they throw them out on the streets. So then she standing there, nobody, no parents and nobody, so what is she going to do. So she met her aunt’s maid. She was a very nice person and she knew somebody, a lady, whose husband was in….She was not Jewish and her husband was Jewish and he was in labor camp. He died, he never came back. And that lady lived in a separate home. She had a house and she took in a few Jewish people who didn’t have where to go, who came out from the factory. And it was a [INAUDIBLE] amongst them. And my niece, my cousin was amongst them, whom she took in. And she was hiding them. And then the neighbors went and told on her, that she is buying too much food and she’s alone, was there something going on there? And that was found, that she pulled away the beds and all of them who were there, about eight people, they made a big, big hole in the ground and they slept every night, under the bed, in the ground. And that’s how they were saved.

DONAHUE: Do you remember her name?

SZEKELY: No, I never knew her. I never even knew her, no.

DONAHUE: What was your, what was your daily life like, during that time? The years that you were in hiding.

SZEKELY: Hiding? It was terrible, because when we were hiding – all the Germans were in there. Only in nineteen forty-four….It was terrible. It was frightening, because I never knew that somebody can grab me. And I was afraid to go during the day through the streets. It was a terrible life, terrible. And I was very, very depressed. And they worked on me very hard, I shouldn’t commit suicide, because it was terrible. Then he didn’t write to me, I don’t know for how long. My fiancé. So I didn’t know what was going to happen. His parents were alive still and they lived in Eger, because they took away already the farm. So they lived with the daughter. She had a very big house. A part of the house belonged to my husband, because that was an inherited house. She inherited it. She went, can you imagine she went to a convent to school, because that was the best school there. And she was the only Jewish girl. At that time she was Jewish. And when she was eighteen years old and she came out, she met that guy. She had a lot of Jewish doctors, who wanted to marry her. She met that guy, who was a gorgeous guy and he had three [INAUDIBLE] and he had a big, big job with the states. And he fell in love with her. And they were the biggest anti-Semites. His father….I told you that? His father left a will, though his grand-daughter was born already Christian, that his grand-daughter cannot come to his funeral. That kind of a man she married. And she was going to the Catholic Church and everything. And they lived together there. The parents had a separate part of the house and they lived together. But when everything was happening, he didn’t save the parents. He saved his wife and the daughter, but he didn’t save the parents, because he, himself, was an anti-Semite. I know. I know, because he made once a remark, that I couldn’t believe it. They had my stuff, because I left it by Christian friends. A lot of personal things. When my husband was transferred to Budapest, I told him where the stuff is and he took it away and sent it to the sister. So whatever is saved, first they saved it, our friends, but then my sister-in-law saved it. So she had everything what was my dowry, my jewelry and everything. So, he didn’t want it, it was his. He didn’t want to give it back to me. And they said they don’t have it. And one day they weren’t home and I go to the closet and I pulled out everything what was mine. That was the story. So it was terrible, terrible, really terrible. And I know that he made anti-Semitic remarks in front of me. And I know that he was an anti-Semite.

DONAHUE: What did he say?

SZEKELY: He made remarks about my aunt, who was the loveliest, the best, best person in the world, my aunt. And he said, that Jewish woman, this way, about my aunt. I don’t know what he said. Said this and that. This way to me, he is saying it about my aunt. And I always had a feeling, because he was mad that my husband married me and not a Christian. He was, you know? He met me, it took him I don’t know how long, when I was once there for a week….he took me a week. He took a chance, because he met my train and at that time already they were looking for, not passports, but identifications. And he took a chance and he took me to meet his parents. Him I met, I don’t know. He lived in the same house. And it was a Sunday and we went and they came home from church, both of them. He just, he came to the window I remember. And he said hello, through the window, you know? I know that he was mad that he wants to marry me.

DONAHUE: When you were in hiding, what did you, how did you occupy your time? Did you read books? What did you do?

SZEKELY: I don’t remember. I went to my aunt many times, who had the thirteen year old boy, during the day. Because they lived in the autob[INAUDIBLE] home. You passed and it was [INAUDIBLE]. And I walked. I remember I walked. I was afraid to go by the street cars and they ask for identification or something. And I walked. I walked a lot. And I walked to her house and I tried to spend with my cousin….He was a lovely, lovely boy. And I really don’t know what I did the whole day. I know when I was away my grandmother was very, very upset because she loved me and they were bombing during the day. And once I wasn’t there during the bombing and I had to run to a pharmacy to, that was our friends. The woman was my friend and the husband was a gynecologist. And I ran to the pharmacy and I got to their basement. When it was over I went home and my grandmother was out of her mind. She was so upset. She wanted always to hold my hands, always. And she almost died in my hands, because she lost her mind in the wagon, that’s for sure. Because to say something like that, that would you please comb my hair? She didn’t know what’s happening. I didn’t know what’s happening, but I was very glad that she doesn’t know what’s happening. Such a smart woman what she was. She didn’t even wear glasses and was reading the paper every day. She knew about everything what was going on in the world.

DONAHUE: Were you following what was going on with the war at that time?

SZEKELY: Whatever they printed in Hungarian papers, but nothing else. And we knew. We didn’t have correspondence with America. It stopped, so I couldn’t even write to my uncle. Nothing. I didn’t know nothing about him. How is he doing? What is he…? We knew in the beginning. We got a few letters from America. And he said, I’m trying to get you every day, what you should be able to come. And I even have those letters. And we knew that he find a job in a pharmacy, a German pharmacy. And they lived in the Bronx. I know that. And his address was already in my head at that time, too. All the time. I wrote it in the dirt in Auschwitz, his address, that I shouldn’t forget it. In case, sometimes I can write to him. Because it was, it was an unbelievable thing in Auschwitz, that you knew that you cannot get out from here, never. And still something was dictating to you, don’t forget that address. It was such a mixture, you know? You knew that you are in a prison. That you cannot get out from here. And never, never see the end, never saw the end of it, that we can get out from there. And that woman, that Romania woman, maybe she was a gypsy, I don’t know. She was dark complexion, who was reading there, too. They were reading palms. And I says, okay, read my palms. It was before that, it was a private person that I went to. But that one I went and says do it. And she says, you are going to get out from here and you are going to get out from here. You will go for a very long trip overseas. Your husband is alive, but he is in a hospital now. He’s sick. And it was everything true what she was telling me. And she said, it was just unbelievable. And she said you will have three children. And it was everything true. And you shouldn’t believe those things. And it was everything true, because I asked him, where you in the hospital? And he said yes, with terrible tonsillitis. In near uh, now it was already Hungary at that time, in Romania, it was Hungary and there he was near Bucharest. They took it over, too. And he was in the hospital from the labor camp, because he had very high fever and they put him in the hospital. So it was true.

DONAHUE: You described earlier on how you had been dating this other young man and then you just met you husband and that it was very quick. And that you realized you were in love with the other young man. Did you at some point, realize that you were in love with this man that you were engaged to? And when did that happen?

SZEKELY: No. I did, I, well I saw him, I liked him, because he was very good looking and very lovable. But I was, until he threw it up, I was keeping the other guy’s picture always in my pocketbook. That was an interesting thing. Then when I found out he was gone. But still I had it. And once he found it and he was very jealous. And I said, don’t be jealous, he’s not alive anymore. But I don’t know. You see, when I came back and I met him, and I knew that he knew that I am alive. Because they knew I am alive. I told them. They send to everywhere names from Bergen-Belsen. Eisenhower, the United States. So, he knew that I am alive. I didn’t know he was alive. And it was a very, to me it was like a very strange thing, that I have a husband, you know? I have to get to know him. I was two weeks with him. He got two weeks furlough and he had to go back when we got married in nineteen forty-four. February, when I was twenty-four years old. We got married and after two weeks. Everybody said to him, you are absolutely out of your mind to get married in those times. But he didn’t want to tell that whole story, that I need another name. So he came from Romania and we got married, but the day when I was…