Documents from a Battered Folder
Documents from a Battered Folder
I usually took out the grey folder from a drawer two-three times a year. One of these days was always the same: Christmas Eve. After the children got tired of playing and went to bed, I leafed through the bunch of old, yellowed documents. My mother kept the original and photocopied documents, wrinkled letters, and photographs, then – after her death – I took the folder over. I tried to arrange and process its material according to some principle several times. It is said that everyone has their own novel: their own life. Of course, very few people write this novel only. I could do it. But if I am not gifted enough, I could at least shape my novel into an article. That is what I tried to do several times, but whenever I started reading the last letters of my father that he wrote in hospital I felt the work would not be done again...
“Budapest, 19th 5/64
My Dear Wife and Children,
I am happy to read in your letter that you are all fine and I am really happy about that. But I see and read that you have a lot to do. Dear, I know that everything must be done but I am afraid for you and beg you to take some more rest until it is too late and you also get ill. If your health fails it will be very hard to recover. (...)
Dear, the part of your letter about our little Zoli made me weep, but these were the tears of joy. I am completely happy. Sonny, your Dad is very happy that you have such great achievements and earn such appraisals. I would like you to be like this all the time you go to school. My dear son, you would deserve a present for this. Unfortunately your dad can’t buy you anything but I guess Mom will reward you because you deserve it. But if I can go home, I will also remember this. Now I can only send you a lot of kisses.”
My father never returned from hospital. On 19th September 1964 the VW Beetle of Father Gyula Csontos the Paloznak Priest stopped in front of our house. With my mother they returned from Budapest. By the time they arrived at the Ráth György Street hospital the bedclothes on my father’s bed had already been changed and another patient was laying in it. I was ten years old that time.
“I, Sergeant Károly Kiss, was born in the village of Szentbékkálla on 1st May 1912. I am married with two sons and one daughter (I was born much later, in 1954 – Z.K.). My religion is Roman Catholic, my father is Kálmán, my mother is Julianna Körmendi. My father was a farmer and had a farm with some 10 acres of land. Until 1933 I worked with my father in the family farm then in 1933 I went to the Kecskemét Royal Hungarian School of Agriculture, which I graduated from with qualification “Very good” in 1935... “ (Autobiography)
In the folder I also found the typewriter text of an opening speech which my father delivered at the annual meeting of the youth farmers at the school in 1935.
“In the currently hard economic situation we equally need knowledge and cohesion. Cohesion is built on peace and love, which is also the fundament of secure subsistence. Knowledge is the greatest treasure which nobody can take away from us. One without proper knowledge will lose the competition with those smarter than him. (...) The future belongs to those bright people who progress faster than time passes by and prepare for life, get equipped with knowledge as if life lasted forever...” (Opening speech)
After graduation from school my father joined the 1st Battalion of the 1st Honvéd Hussar Regiment, that is in its cavalry squadron, in Budapest for active military service. He completed his basic military training on 31st January 1936 then he was appointed squadron Staff NCO of the same unit. From April 1936 he served as a paymaster.
My father demobilised in 1938 and was employed as a steward on the 350-hectare estate of Örkény landowner Emil Újhelyi. In the following two years he was frequently – some five times – called up for military service therefore in 1940 as a volunteer he joined the 1/1 Hussar Battalion, where he was assigned to the reserve command as a Staff NCO. On 1st October 1942 he was transferred to the Royal Hungarian 2nd Sekler Honvéd Mountain Hussar Company in Szilágysomlyó, where he served as an independent personnel officer until 27th September 1944.
In late September 1944 his unit was redeployed to Kisfalud, then to Rajka in Western Hungary. Meanwhile my mother and my two elder brothers returned home in Csopak. On 30th December 1944 my father came for them and took the family to his unit in Rajka.
“Although my parents disagreed with us I took our two children and went with him to Rajka so that the family could be together. No matter if we survive or die, we won’t leave the country. All the 25 NCO families of the unit shared this stand. But that did not happen because in late March the unit was ordered to leave the country. We were marching for two weeks and on 1st May we arrived at the border of Germany.” (Excerpt from the memoirs of my mother.)
My father was taken prisoner by the Americans (on his birthday) and my mother with the two children (then three because on 12th August my sister was born near Linz, Austria, on the way back) returned to Csopak after a lot of ordeals safe and sound ”with God’s help”.
My father was released from captivity on 17th January 1946. In the autumn of the same year he received a letter from the Minister of Defence, informing him that he was posted “the final resolution of the Committee established pursuant to Para /2/ Art. 4. Decree 5000/1946 aimed at regaining the balance of the national economy. In accordance with the final resolution You were involved in severance payment procedure – not affecting your right to request further support – and relieved from service.”
Meanwhile the so called “B-listing” was also launched. “I, the undersigned, aware of my criminal responsibility, declare that I have known Sergeant Károly Kiss since 1939 as a man of the country and as a comrade with democratic mentality. The mentioned person has never been a member of any political parties and has been a direct enemy of fascism.” (The statement of Sergeant László Varga, witness.) Through its resolution 333 the Screening Committee of the 2nd Pécs Honvéd District Command qualifies my father as screened.
Another letter from the minister is dated 28th August 1947 on the severance payment to my father by the Defence Group of the Hungarian Central Pay Office on the basis of his nine-year-long active service. The sum was HUF 374.40, that is Three Hundred and Seventy Four Forints and Forty Fillers, which were paid at once and instantaneously.
In 1948 another screening process followed in order to identify and confirm my father’s professional service and military rank. As it turns out from the disposition of the 6th Honvéd Recruitment Command (Veszprém) “if the Comrade does not comply with the notice in an appropriate fashion by 15th April 1948, he will lose both his rank and professional status and will be registered as a reserve private.” My father submitted all the requested documents and his career and rank – Sergeant – were officially recognised.
My father took steps for his re-activation in the army. For 15th October 1948 he was summoned for a test service in the Petőfi Military Academy but there is no trace of any continuation among the documents.
He returned to his original profession and worked as a shoemaker, then as a factory worker. In his free time he grew grapes, did beekeeping, and he was also member of the representative body of the Csopak Parish.
The final moment of the military career of Károly Kiss arrived on 1st February 1963, when the commander of the County Recruitment Office awarded with a Certificate of Honour and thanked my father for his readiness to defend the country as a Reserve Sergeant of the Hungarian People’s Army until he turned 50 years old.
After that event he lived for another 18 months. Last September saw the 50th anniversary of his death. I was two years old, when he passed away in September 1964. Had he been alive, he would certainly be proud of the fact that I am with that branch in which he served and would have been ready to serve on.
Lt Col (Ret) Zoltán Kiss