Kópháza
Kópháza, Hungary
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In the lurch

Available in: English | Magyar

Katalin Mester and her mother Éva Nádasy woke up in the dirty hole that the smuggler had dug in the outskirts of Kópháza in the night of November 26, 1956. They decided after the 1956 revolution to leave Hungary and to try to go to the United States where Katalin’s father was living. Gyula Nádasy, a former cavalry officer, had fled his motherland in 1948. The two women were ready to leave in a matter of minutes. Their guide told them "to keep an eye on him because there were watch towers all around - we could see them - and he had to check whether there were soldiers in them,” she recalled. It was sleeting. They walked on the frozen stubble in the dark. They stumbled on the uneven ground with their bags but followed their guide as they could. They arrived at a forest: "There were a lot of fallen leaves there; when we walked on them we were as noisy as wild boars. The smuggler shuddered at every noise. It was obvious he was afraid. On the other side of the forest he made my mother stand by a tree. I didn’t hear what they spoke about but at the end he said he wouldn’t go on because he had a child and a wife at home.” They had not other choice but to accept his decision. They didn’t even arrive to the border line of barbed wires. Éva Nádasy paid for his service: "My mother, I was told later, had a lot of jewels hidden in her coat under the lining. She had money, too, I don’t know how much, but she paid as much as she could. Thank God she wasn't knocked down, and me neither. He might have done it and gotten his money that way, too.” Finally the smuggler showed them where to go ’that tower is a church tower. It is illuminated every night for the refugees, to orientate them, to show them it is Austria.’ The two of them remained alone in the dark, unprotected. They could have made a mistake; if they had lost sight of the light, or turned slightly left or right, they would have remained in Hungary. They couldn’t even return to Kapuvár or Balf from the unknown land.

Katalin Mester

Katalin Mester

Katalin Mester was born as Katalin Nádasy on January 28, 1944 in Budapest. She was born to a family of well-to-do businessmen in her mother’s line, in her father’s branch there were landowners and state functionaries. Her father Gyula Nádasy served as cavalry officer. During WWII he was on the Eastern front in the Soviet Union. Her mother escaped with her newborn baby to the West before the siege of the Hungarian capital in the winter of 1945. Her father withdrew with his soldiers to Austria where he became a prisoner of war. At the end of WWII her mother returned with her child to the family house in Kőbánya. Her father returned to Hungary, too, after being released. He couldn’t continue his life as an officer, so he directed the family’s Vince Benes’ Chemical Factory. In 1948 the communist state security forces contacted him as an ex-officer and they tried to recruit him to be an informer. Instead, he chose to leave Hungary. He managed to escape across Lake Neusiedl. At first he settled in Frankfurt am Main at his sister’s, then he moved to the United States. After the nationalization both of the family factory and other family properties the family lost its means of subsistence. Her mother was forced to sell their house. They moved to the flat of the paternal grandparents which was transformed to co-tenancy in the communist regime. Her mother learned to be a secretary, then she worked as a draftsman, but as an emigrant’s and officer’s wife she lost her jobs one after the other. Finally she was engaged at VIFOGY as a blue-collar worker. Katalin Mester spent her childhood with her paternal grandfather Dezső Nádasy and she attended a primary school in György Dózsa street where children of communist cadres learned. After his grandfather’s death her mother divorced, then she married the solicitor Béla Spett. The family moved to a new flat in Buda, and Katalin Mester could continue her studies in a primary school with children of middle-class families. Her family lived the 1956 Hungarian revolution in their flat which was near to the Southern Railway Station on the road where the Soviet troops came into Budapest. A few friends of her mother emigrated after the revolution and also her mother decided to leave Hungary. Katalin Mester and her mother went to Kapuvár by train, where acquaintances of the family helped them to find a guide. They took a train with their guide, but they had to jump off it because of a raid in the outskirts of Balf. They were lying on the ground until the train got in motion again with those who were arrested by the soldiers. They could relax a bit in the miserable house of the smuggler, then they left for the border across the stubble. The man who led them, returned home and left in the lurch the two women. They continued alone. The mother was caught by the barbed wire which had been toren. Katalin freed her and they went on the nobody’s land. They knew that they had to go in the direction of an illuminated church tower, but since there were a lot of hills around, from time to time they lost sight of their aim. Also a brook hindered them. They crossed it with their bags. It was dawn when they felt some dung. They understood that they arrived to Deutschkreutz. They contacted Katalin Mester’s father from Wien who invited them to the United States. The Nádasy family was re-joined at Christmas 1956 in Buffalo New Jersey. Also Katalin Mester and her mother settled down there. Katalin Mester finished her schools in Buffalo. She had a daughter from her first marriage. She lives in California with her second husband, the chemist professor Zoltán Mester, son of the former state secretary Miklós Mester.

Kópháza

Available in: English | Magyar

Kópháza is a small Hungarian village of 2,000 inhabitants south of Lake Neusiedl and 6 kilometers south-east of Sopron, the most important town of the region. After the Turkish rule Croatian people settled down in Kópház which had been mostly German until the end of the 17th century. Their descendants fought on the side of the Hungarians in the 1848 war for independence. At the referendum of 1921 these Catholic Croatians voted for Hungary, instead of Austria, led then by the Social Democrats. The inhabitants of the municipality declared themselves Hungarian at the national census and thus they avoided the resettlement after WWII. In the Communist era the smallholders of the village were forced to join the local cooperative, they lived of the cultivation of corn and of livestock-breeding, but they've continued the traditional wine-growing similarly to other Hungarian and Austrian villages in the nearby territory. Up until the middle of the 70s, Kópháza belonged to the border zone, it could be reached by a special permission. However since the railroad Győr-Sopron-Ebenfurth is one and a half kilometers away and it has a station in Balf. The village is connected by the road to Sopron, a few refugees tried here to cross the frontier to Austria in the years when the Iron Curtain was installed. The road and the checkpoint between Deutschkreuz and Kópháza was built in 1989. The later functioned until 2007 when the Republic of Hungary joined the Schengen Agreement.

Kópháza

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In the lurch

In the lurch

Katalin Mester
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