Wednesday, August 27, 2008

For Nagypapa

Yesterday, August 26, 2008, Nagypapa passed away. Just one week earlier, he celebrated his 85th birthday with the majority of his family there to commemorate the occasion. Before his birthday celebration, he was told that he had cancer in his spine, and it was later detected that he had masses on his lungs as well. On Saturday, he was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. My Dad was there by his side through it all, and I am so thankful that Nagypapa did not appear to be in any pain when he died. Although I am very sad that I won't see him again in this life, it is very comforting to know that not only is he in Heaven, but that he is now reunited with his loving wife.

Nagypapa was an amazing, strong and proud man, who sacrificed so much for the sake of his family. In 1956, he and Nagymama fled from Hungary with their four young children. My Dad was only about 14 months old at the time. He left because the country was being taken over by Communists. It's an amazing story, really, one that I am proud to tell everyone. My Uncle Lou, who was the oldest at the time, described it best in an article for his local newspaper commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution. He wrote: " So, 200,000 people- my family among them- began to make their way towards the Austrian border. My parents bundled up four children -ages 15 months to 10 years- and headed out on foot towards the border, a trip of some 200 plus miles. Where ever we could we hitched rides on trucks headed for the border, rode some buses and trains going in our direction. If no transport was available, we walked. The trip took about three days. Getting lodging for the two nights was an experience We knocked on doors to see who had room and would take in a family of six. Luckily, there were two homes that made us welcome. The head of the household which took us in the second night knew where to cross the border. He had a tractor and a flat-bed. When it came time to leave, he had us lie on the flat-bed and covered us with hay and took us...a few kilometers from Austria. On Nov. 13, 1956, we crossed the border on foot." Uncle Lou goes on to write: "The next three weeks were spent in refugee camps throughout the Austrian countryside. During our last week in Austria, we were housed in a church facility in Vienna. Mom and Dad spent most of the day in lines along with thousands of others seeking exit visas to the United States or some other western countries. On Dec. 10, nearly a month after we left Budapest, we were placed aboard a U. S. military flight headed across the Atlantic." They landed at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. There, they eventually made contact with a man of German-Hungarian ancestry, who was living in Southern California. He made a few phone calls and arranged for his church in SoCal to sponsor the Banas family to California. So on December 13, 1956, they arrived in Southern California, where it was reported they were the first Hungarian refugees to arrive in L.A. Nagypapa was even interviewed for the newspaper, radio, and was even on T.V. And the rest is pretty much history.

The Banas family in Southern California. My Dad is the baby being held by Nagymama.

My Dad, Nagypapa, and Uncle Lou, in Budapest, Hungary, October 2006 celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution

This was the last time we saw Nagypapa... Christmas 2004. Kami was only four months old.

Nagypapa holding his newest Great-Grandbaby.

Thank you so much Nagypapa, for all the sacrifices you made to protect yourself and your family. I will forever be grateful. I love you with all my heart. You will be greatly missed. Rest in peace.


JKLMNPeterson said...

Dear Makala,
Thanks for sharing this with us. It is amamzing to look back at what our grandparents did for us to enjoy the freedom and the life we have. It is wonderful to know that they wanted us to have a better life. I know to that he is in heaven.

Priemer Family said...

What a wonderful story, thank you for sharing it with us. What a great way to remember your grandparents and all they did, so good to hear they are together again.

Annie said...

What a beautiful story, Makala. He is indeed in Heaven watching over everyone he loved so dearly :)