Ancestral Mystery — Part Two: ‘A Foster Child, Securitate, and the ‘Star of David’.


Hotel Transylvania (2015) computer-animated monster comedy film

The article is a continuation of the Part One.

A foster child. That’s what my Australian cousin at first thought his grandfather on his father’s side was. The belief he acquired by wrongly linking the surname of his father to a similar surname in one of his 4th cousin’s Family Tree. There was a disclaimer though provided by his cousin which my Australian cousin ignored for the sake of solving the mystery.

I believed differently. My thinking was if my cousin’s grandfather was a foster child then his son would know about it, yet he did not mention such a thing to him. In addition, it was not my cousin’s grandfather but his son who escaped to Australia under mysterious circumstances.

The aura of mystery that surrounded life events of my cousin’s father and the few ‘crumbs’ of information and ‘memories’ he had shared with him led me to believe that it was the father who was the foster child and not the grandfather. And most important, the ancestral ‘secret’ we were trying to solve was tied up to this.

The epithet ‘foster’ is given to a child who is taken care of by a chosen guardian family. In severe cases, chosen by the authorities. In special cases, by the parents of the child. The later happens by a private arrangement. In both cases, however, the arrangement is done in order to protect the child. The reasons for protection can be various but most common are inadequate parents and external circumstance beyond child’s or parents’ control.

In my cousin’s father’s case, inadequacy of the parents seemed irrelevant, for if it had been true, he would have been placed with a Hungarian or Italian family (see Part One). Instead, he was put into the family in North Bosnia. The family lived in a small mountainous village and had seven children of their own. Such families don’t have the time to focus on a specific child and their needs, even their own, let alone a foster child. Rather, the attention is divided between all children and can be fragmented, even imbalanced. So, putting a foster child who supposedly had been mistreated or neglected by his/her own family into such a family would serve no purpose, since neither the child nor the foster family would benefit from this action.

This train of thought left me with the second most common option — ‘external circumstance beyond child’s or parents’ control. This theory was supported by two facts — the size and the location of the North Bosnian foster family. Both indicated that the aim for placing my cousin’s father into the foster family was to hide him. Being one of other seven children equaled to being just one of many, almost invisible. The location of the small village — up in mountains — created a certain distance, hence providing ‘out of reach’ extra protection layer.

But why my cousin’s father needed to be hidden and what were these ‘external circumstances’ that had influenced his parents in their decision?

To answer this question, I turned to history of Transylvania, the homeland of one of my cousin’s father’s parents (read Part One).

Currently, Transylvania encompasses central Romania and is considered to be part of Central and Eastern Europe. Broader definition of Transylvania includes Western and North-Western Romania regions — Crisana and Maramures. The later shows up as ethnic component in the ethnic breakdown of my cousin and accounts for 1,5%. According to ethnic inheritance patterns, this is one of his 4th great-grandparents. In addition, my cousin also has Hungary Budapest 2% or his 3rd great-grandparent; Hungary Szeged — 1% or his 4th great-grandparent; and Hungary Veszprem — 0,5% or his his 5th great-grandparent. All on his father’s side. (read Part One)

Historically and politically, starting from 1002 and until 1918 Transylvania was part of Hungary. First, part of the Kingdom of Hungary till mid 16th century. Then it became a vassal state of Ottoman Empire, followed, in 1690, by the Habsburg monarchy gaining possession of it though Hungarian crown.

It is only in the early 20th century that Transylvania became part of Kingdom of Romania, as, on 1 December 1918, the National Assembly of Romanians from Transylvania proclaimed the union of Transylvania with Romania. However, in 1940, for a short time Northern Transylvania was returned to Hungary, but after the end of the World War II became part of Romania again.

The historical period which interested me in connection to my cousin’s father’s ancestral mystery covered the years starting from February 1936, — the year of my cousin’s father’s birth, — and ending July 1957, — the point of him arriving to Australia. Politically and historically, the period of 1936–1957 encompasses several major events that effected enormously lives of Transylvanian and Hungarian people.

In 1940, just four years after my cousin’s father’s birth, Northern Transylvania after being part of Romania for two decades was returned to Hungary. A year later, in 1941, the World War II broke out, reshuffling political and cultural borders of Europe. In five years since, at the end of the WWII, Northern Transylvania became part of Romania again. In 1947, a statue IV was issued by which all noble titles in Hungary were abolished.

‘The Statute IV (Hungarian:1947. évi IV. törvény egyes címek és rangok megszüntetéséről), is a law still in force in the Republic of Hungary. It declares the abolition of hereditary noble ranks and related styles and titles, also putting a ban on their use. To this day, it is still prohibited to use noble titles in Hungary.’ — Wikipedia

In 1949, the Hungarian People’s Republic was established, and the same year, on the night of 2 to 3 March all Transylvanian aristocrats — the majority of them Hungarian — had been deported by the Romanian regular and secret police — the Securitate.

The Securitate was the popular term for the Departamentul Securității Statului (Department of State Security), the secret police agency of the Socialist Republic of Romania. It was founded on 30 August 1948, with help and direction from the Soviet MGB, the Ministry of the State Security.

That night of 2 to 3 March 1949, all of the Transylvanian nobility lost their homes, lands, and possessions.

Although not much is known of my cousin’s father’s life between 1936 and 1949, it is very probable that the event of March 1949 affected my cousin’s father’s family, and friends.

The overnight loss of all the possessions, homes, property, and land made the Transylvanian nobility as close to Franciscan monks as it can be. Their founder Francis followed a life of apostolic poverty out of his own choice. Yet Transylvanian nobility endured poverty and hardship due to unfortunate life circumstances. It is no surprise then that without telling his Australian relatives my cousin’s father pre-arranged a Franciscan monk for his own funeral service. It held a deep meaning for him, which his Australian relatives would never understand or share.

At the time of the unfortunate events of March 1949, my cousin’s father was just 13 y.o. The age at which, it’s most likely, he became a foster child. By this time, the noble titles had been already abolished and properties and land belonging to nobles expropriated. As a consequence, many noble families became homeless. What is more, being associated with nobles and noble titles had become dangerous. The safest place for a noble offspring became a peasant’s foster family.

For good or for worse, the next seven years of my cousin’s father’s ‘peasant’ life were uneventful. Then, in 1956, at the age of 20 y.o. he left the village in North Bosnia, changing the cause of his life once again. This time out of his own will and choice. He first ended up in Hungary, then Austria, and finally Australia.

To understand what might have influenced my cousin’s father’s choices in 1956, I once again turned to history.

In Hungary, 1956 was a significant year, as it went into history as the year of Hungarian Uprising, — a ‘popular uprising in Hungary, following a speech by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in which he attacked the period of Joseph Stalins rule. Encouraged by the new freedom of debate and criticism, a rising tide of unrest and discontent in Hungary broke out into active fighting in October 1956. Rebels won the first phase of the revolution, and Imre Nagy became premier, agreeing to establish a multiparty system. On November 1, 1956, he declared Hungarian neutrality and appealed to the United Nations for support, but Western powers were reluctant to risk a global confrontation. On November 4 the Soviet Union invaded Hungary to stop the revolution, and Nagy was executed for treason in 1958.’ — Britannica

Being of Hungarian noble descent, young, and willing, my cousin’s father naturally fell into the group of the participants and supporters of Hungarian Uprising. But the crushing of the Uprising also meant that as a quarter-million of other Hungarians he had to flee the country. For, not only his political orientation and believes but also his background would be of interest to Hungarian and Romanian secret police. In this regard, his own remark in connection to his immigration to Australia becomes relevant: ‘They found out who my family was…’

‘They’ were the secret police, and the ‘family’ was his own of the noble Transylvanian-Hungarian origin. The very link that also explains him being multilingual and educated at home. His memory of living in a castle with his aunt and uncle also makes sense, as Transylvania is full of small and big castles once belonging to the numerous nobility.

Assuming his fleeing Hungary after the crush of the Hungarian Uprising was the reason for his ending up in Austria, some of his other few memories also start making sense. One of such memories includes being interned in Ebelsberg, Linz, Austria, the Hungarian speaking camp for displaced people. Ebelsberg ‘The Star of David’ was based in requisition houses and flats and was a fairly comfortable camp, initially know as ‘rich camp’ where overcrowding was kept under control. The population of the camp consisted of 2,000 displaced people.

Having spent some time in Ebelsberg, my cousin’s father was issued a new passport in Salzburg, Austria, with which in July 1957 he immigrated to Australia. Interestingly enough, his newly issued passport contained an altered birth date and month. Instead of February 1936, the record in the passport showed July 1936. This could be accounted for extra security and protection, so the secret police would not easily trace my cousin’s father. But no only. The change of the date and month of birth could have had some other reason too, but this mystery will be saved for another time.

Part One

Seraphima Bogomolova