5. (1943-1944) A Special Trip Home
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A SPECIAL TRIP HOME IN THE DEAD of winter, just before Hanukkah, my parents sent a letter to the institute, requesting that I return home immediately. My parents heard from the community grapevine that the Polish Jews had been sent to Auschwitz and that they may be forced to go, too. Poland wasn’t that far away. We were near the Polish border, anywhere from fifty to less than one hundred miles away. My parents must have had the feeling it might be the last time they would see me. Dr. Kanizsai came to me with a somewhat frantic look on his face, telling me to pack my belongings as quickly as possible because I was going home. I believed that this homecoming was a special treat; however, Dr. Kanizsai and the counselors refused to explain why I had to leave so abruptly. I didn’t know that this trip home would be the last one where I would see my entire family united. Sári néni knew of my parent’s request. In fact, it seemed as though Sári néni knew everything and beyond. She told me she felt anxious about my traveling alone because I would be arriving during the evening hours, and the institute had had no way during the hurried planning to notify my family of my arrival time. Sári néni anticipated that I would arrive at the train station with nobody to meet me and figured that I’d have to walk home from the station alone. She gave me a couple of packs of matches, which I placed in the left pocket of my jacket. If nobody was at the station to pick me up and I had to walk home alone, then I would need to light a match if wolves approached me, she warned. The newspaper had reported that the Carpathian region was experiencing an unusual deluge of wolves, she explained. But, she added, the wolves were afraid of fire. Sári néni made me feel prepared. I arrived at the train station but couldn’t get on the train because it was so full of people. The people were pushing and shoving to get 36 5 C H A P T E R (1943–1944) ch05_193032_Gallaudet_Dunai 5/14/02 11:09 AM Page 36 on board. While waiting to see what would happen next, I noticed to my surprise that all the people started getting off the train. I guessed that the trip had been cancelled, so I went back to the institute. One of the counselors approached me and said, “What happened?” I responded , “I couldn’t get on the train.” “This is a big problem,” said the counselor, but he added, “Don’t worry. Tomorrow we’ll get you a seat.” So, the next day, the counselor accompanied me to the train station and physically put me on a seat on the train. The trip was not cancelled this time, and I was finally on my way home. This train ride home was different. I had traveled by train only during the day and only in the fall and summer months. Now, the scenery, smell, and feelings were foreign to me. When I arrived at the station, I was excited that my father and Jolán were there waiting. I showed them the matches Sári néni had given me. My father laughed and Jolán nodded with approval, saying,“Good.” The three of us walked home that night in pitch-black darkness. Fortunately, my father had brought along my snowshoes because the snow was piled high. They were constructed out of cut-up logs and nails. The air temperature was cold—minus twenty degrees Celsius —and I felt the chill down to my bones. When we got to the house, my mother embraced me extra firmly. Tears were streaming down her face. Her emotions appeared more intense at this homecoming than for any other visit that I had made home. I was still unaware of the serious and immediate danger to my family’s wellness and survival. During my stay, I noticed that every being on the farm appeared worn out, from my family to our farm animals. Our pregnant horse had become ill from being overworked, continuously and solely hauling fertilizer back and forth from the compost heap to the fields. My mother called the veterinarian. I began to worry that our horse would die, along with her unborn colt...


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Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Hungary -- Biography.
  • Holocaust survivors -- Biography.
  • Dunai, Harry I., 1934-.
  • Jewish children in the Holocaust -- Biography.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Hungary -- Personal narratives.
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