From Hungary with Love – Flashback Friday

Hungary is in my blood as my grandfather (photo of him as a child below) was Hungarian and this week I am very happy to host my Aunt Klari and her daughter Andi, who is my age, as they drove over to spend a week with the family and to take back some of the beautiful Hungarian oil paintings that my grandfather’s parents  took with them on their travels to New Zealand and then on to the UK.

Cornel DonnerLet me explain, my great grandmother Irma Anna Maria Kovats de Dalnok, (photo above) after whom I am named, was a princess. Yes, a real live true princess. She lived in the Austrian Hungarian empire and her father was a high ranking army surgeon descended from the most ancient Szelkely nobility, her mother was also descended from an aristocratic family and was a well known hostess. Irma’s name was on everyone’s lips, she was beautiful, sweet and intelligent and she was nicknamed ‘hothouse flower’. Her fame stretched far and wide and my great grandfather, in his memoirs, tells that on their wedding day…

‘It was the most spectacular wedding that had ever taken place in Brasso; a procession of 24 carriages, mostly led by the Szelkey family, all decorated with white flowers and the coachmen dressed in Hungarian national costume. The bridal coach was adorned with garlands of orange blossom and drawn by fine black horses. Hundreds of people lined the streets and said afterwards they had never seen such a beautiful wedding.’

Mum did tell me as a kid that we were descended from a princess and I think I may have tried to play that card at school – not that anyone took any notice of me of course, just thought I was making it up again!

I have my great grandfather’s memoirs written up and one day I may be allowed to publish them on here as his tale crosses two world wars, hardships that no woman, netalone a princess, should have to bare and an incredible sadness as these mighty people had to sit back and watch as their beloved country was slowly picked to pieces and reduced to 30% of it’s origins. In actual fact the house where they lived and where my grandfather was born is no longer part of Hungary as such but is now enclosed in the borders of Romania.

But today is for rejoicing, I first met Klari neni (aunt) and Andi when I was 13 and they invited me over to spend a month of my summer holiday with them, a holiday I remember very much to this day, swimming in Lake Balaton, meeting Pista Baci and Klara Neni, (Klari’s parents and my grandfathers sister and brother in law) in Budapest. Klara being the ‘princesses’ daughter was the sweetest silver haired lady with forget-me-not blue eyes, she couldn’t speak English but her smiles spoke volumes to me. Pista’s hair was as white as Father Christmas’s, again no English was spoken but I sensed immediately he was a lovely, lovely man.

I remember being shown a statue of Stalin on that holiday, I didn’t know who he was and loudly excitedly asked who he was, only to be shussed and moved on. In 1979 no one spoke outright and the buildings in the centre of Budapest carried plenty of bullet marks on the facades enough for my young 13 year old mind to understand the tragedy that had become this wonderful country.

I last saw Klari my aunt, at Andi’s first wedding in ’89 or thereabouts and I last saw Andi at my mum’s second wedding in 2003 so as you can imagine our days and evenings are filled with conversation, as we catch up on the whole family and the years we have lost in-between.

I must add that my uncle Giula is very poorly and I add this for a reason. Giula was a nuclear scientist but living in Hungary under the Russian regime, he worked for the state and never made any financial gain as he would have done had he been in the States or the UK. He was sent to work in conditions with no health and safety in place and consequently lost his eyesight. He invented a detector for eye cataracts that would have changed all opticians life way before its time but never managed to get a patent or the backing required in order to propose it to the market. An exceptional man whose enormous achievements are lost forever.

It makes me angry to think of this kind and gentle population being used and abused and getting nothing in return, it makes me feel grateful to have been born in a land that allows me to make the most of myself.

To finish my post I leave you with a photo taken yesterday at my grandmother’s house, note to the left of the photo a white bust on a pedestal, that is Irma, my great grandmother to whom we are all connected and the painting behind us was one of her favourites.

Hungarian relatives 2011

Mum, my grandmother, me, Klari neni and Andi plus the twins in front

I’m linking up with Karin at Cafe Bebe for her Flashback Friday head over and see who else has a story to tell. Or use my search box to find other Flashbacks of mine – happy weekend to all


  1. Frankie Parker
    August 12, 2011 / 2:30 PM

    That is one beatuiful photo of a beautiful lady and what an amazing family history you have.. You should if able, publish some of his memoirs or even turn it into a book..

    • Mari
      August 17, 2011 / 7:01 AM

      Yes, that’s what I’d like to do, it really is a story of riches to rags thanks to wars and ruthless people, it’s really quite sad apart form their love that always shines through.

  2. Alessandra
    August 12, 2011 / 2:06 PM

    What a wonderful read:
    thank you Marianne, most fascinating! xx

    • Mari
      August 17, 2011 / 7:01 AM

      Thank you Alessandra xx

  3. Jenny Paulin
    August 12, 2011 / 9:11 PM

    Wow Mari – or should I say your highness? *bows head* :)
    What an interesting family tree you have – the photo of your great grandmother – I love her dress it so beautiful. How amazing if you were able to publish those memoirs of your great grandfather – fingers crossed x

    • Mari
      August 17, 2011 / 6:57 AM

      LOL (HRH) :D I think one thing that fascinates me about this story is the fact how life can change your circumstances in the bat of an eyelid. One minute you’re a princess and by the end of the memoirs they are refugees in the UK stripped of their wealth, their dignity but not their love for one another. It is a fascinating tale and I should get my finger out and do something with it

  4. Funky Wellies
    August 14, 2011 / 5:53 AM

    What a riveting read! Amazing what your family has achieved and what they lived through. I hope that you will publish these memoirs. xx

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