We specifically chose to come to Hungary because of our ancestry. Or rather, Mike’s ancestry, although I am equally as interested. You see, Mike’s father was in born in Hungary and he immigrated to Canada when he was 25 years old. We were keen to come to Hungary to see where Mike’s father was born and to get a feel for the country he grew up in.
Now, being that Mike’s father was an only child, we did not have too much family to visit. There are a few cousins we knew we would get in touch with but none of them speak English which meant that communication was going to be difficult. Mike also had a Facebook friend named Zoltan in Hungary whom he had friended years ago but did not have much contact with. We share the same last name so we knew we were related to him but we did not know how we were related.
That is where things start to get interesting. When we announced our next stop on our European itinerary was Hungary, Zoltan asked us if we would like to get together while we were here. Of course we said yes! Zoltan and his wife took the train from where they live to Budapest and we spent the day together trying to figure out how we were related. After much searching on Zoltan’s part through old family trees and talking to relatives in Hungary, Zoltan has traced our routes back to the 1700’s when two brothers came from Poland to Hungary to the small village of Madarász where they worked to build a church. They stayed in Hungary and started families. We are the descendants. Zoltan figured out that we are actually 5th cousins!
Even before we knew for sure how we are related, in a shining example of Hungarian hospitality, Zoltan invited our family to our ancestral village of Madarász to his Grandmother’s house for an Easter lunch. The whole family was there to celebrate Easter together and we were invited into their family home with open arms and open hearts. I don’t know that I have ever felt so welcomed or so loved by strangers!
Zoltan acted as our interpreter for the day (his brother and their wives also speak English but the parents and Grandmother do not). We were shown family pictures and treated to an AMAZING Hungarian feast (seriously, I thought I might burst there was so much delicious food!)
We also were shown around the little village where we visited the local graveyard and saw Mike’s Grandmother’s gravesite (she died shortly after giving birth to Mike’s father) where we lit candles and absorbed the roots of our history. We were shown Zoltan’s family’s grave site and also noticed the numerous graves that share our last name.
We went to the church that those two original brothers worked on and imagined life back in the 1700’s in this village.
Later on in the afternoon, lovely Zoltan accompanied us to the next town of Baja to visit a cousin of Mike’s father. They did not speak English but we received the same warm welcome as before. Zoltan translated for us while we dined on fish soup (a famous delicacy of the town) and we were again able to have a glimpse of local life and connect to our Hungarian roots.
The history, the company, the honor of being welcomed into these village homes, the hugs and kisses from Granny and her excitement to share her family history with us, the friendships made with our newly found cousins, it was all magical. It was heartwarming and beautiful. So often we travel to other countries to see how other people live but we barely skim the surface. On this day we were as immersed as we have ever been.