IMRE’S LEAP OF FAITH
by Lydia Bogar
Buda–the city on the hill–and Pest–the open flat land across the Danube–were joined by five bridges.
Imre was a soldier in the Hungarian Army, the only one of Stefan and Elizabeth’s three sons still in the country. Watching and feeling the frozen pellets of snow blowing across the river, he was thinking of his younger brothers who were now in America’s Army. Could Frigyes, age 38, and Sandor, age 33, be out there with the Allies on the eastern flank of his magnificent city? Could they be having a hot meal? Real food prepared by the soldiers in the Red Army?
Last week, the nurses in the underground told him that the Russians had conscripted dozens of Romanians who were camped under the bridges and in the derelict school on Margaret Island. Only half of the Margaret Bridge remained standing. The bombs were out there. Always out there. There were no lights on the bridge or on the island, or in the shattered city of Pest. Only smudges of fog and shadow, pearl-like puffs, drifted across his line of vision.
He thought of his sister, only a year younger than he, now a wife and mother, 40 years of age and living in a place called Massachusetts. Would he ever see this village called Worcester? Would he ever meet any of his three young nephews?
His stomach growled in contempt of the frozen strips of meat and the dirty water in his cup. There was stale bread, mostly frosted with mold, eaten in spite of warnings from the Captain. Melted snow washed down the wretched food, if you could even call it that. Wretched is the only suitable word for the strips of meat, cut from the frozen carcasses of two cavalry horses found at the bottom of Gellert Hill. Rumors swirled around the fallen timber that his comrades used as a dining table.
The fragrant memories of his mother’s kitchen did not satisfy the ache deep in his belly, nor did the visualization of his village. He was a professional photographer but nothing in his current view called for the permanence of a photograph. Perhaps when he found his paper and pens, he would draw the Vagysala dinner table with Gomba Leves (mushroom soup) Borju Porkolot (veal stew) and Dios Torta (walnut cake). Today, his village seemed a million miles away.
Communication was nearly impossible at this point in the war, but he prayed for his family daily–especially for his parents who had returned from America only a handful of years before.
I can only imagine this was my uncle’s prayer as he vanished from the face of the earth on that Christmas Eve, 1944.
Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service. She says she “hails from Woosta–educated at BOLLI.”