Remembering Life Behind the Iron Curtain, The Violent Messages
21 October, 2019

The Iron Curtain, that stretched from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Adriatic in the south, effectively separated East from West for over forty years. The purported rationale for its construction was to keep all the imperialist and capitalist elements out of the communist paradise. The true purpose, obvious to everyone, was to keep the people in who would have given anything to get out. Read More »

Lost Villages

The village of Pernau, located on the other side of the border from Burgenland's Bildein, Höll and Deutsch-Schützen, received its name from a monastery that was established there in the 12th century. The word "–apáti" – "–abbey" in Pornóapáti leaves no doubt as to the name's origin. The Cistercian monks fled from the marauding Turks in 1530 and never returned; the buildings that housed the monks have disappeared long ago. However, a bell that used to summon the monks and the faithful to prayer now does its time-honored duty from the belfry of Pernau's village church that was built in 1795. That bell is now Hungary's oldest functioning bell. It was cast in 1464, twenty-eight years before Christopher Columbus arrived on the shores of America. Read More English » (pdf 31kb) | German » (pdf 46 kb)

The Hungarian Uprising of 1956

Published in Newsletter #192 of the Burgenland Bunch

On the 4th of November fifty-three years ago, a terrible tragedy was unfolding in the heart of Hungary. A popular uprising that began on October 23 was coming to a premature and bloody end. In the early hours of this day, an overwhelming force of Soviet troops and tanks attacked Budapest, and Hungary's hope for independence and freedom vanished under a hail of Russian shells and bullets. Read More » (pdf 16kb)

A Happy Reunion After 52 Years

Published in Newsletter #187 of the Burgenland Bunch

Back in the first half of the 1950's, Alexander Ban Korsos, the director of the village school of Pernau, a.k.a. Pornóapáti, started a music band, thus giving the more musically talented of his pupils an opportunity to show off and expand their musical skills. In no time, the little group of nine pupils made such fine music that its reputation traveled beyond Pernau and was invited to perform in neighboring villages and even Szombarthely, a.k.a. Steinamanger, where it won first prize in a young musicians' competition. The bands repertoire consisted of local, mostly German, folksongs and some fancier tunes from operettas. By the spring of 1956, arrangements were being made for a brief tour to Austria, an exceptionally generous concession on the part of communist Hungary of that time. The pictures for the passports and promotion were ready, visas were being processes, Die blaue Donau by Johann Strauß Jr. was being practiced weekly. Then suddenly it all came to naught. The revolution broke out in October of that year and by November 4 half of the band members, including Ban Korsos, were gone. They and their families fled across the Iron Curtain. The band ceased to exist. Read More » (pdf 109 kb)

An Anniversary Worth Remembering and Celebrating

Published in Newsletter #190 of the Burgenland Bunch

Twenty years ago, on a nice sunny August day at the border between Austria and Hungary, a gate was opened for a few hours during a cross-border picnic on the road between St. Margarethen/Margitbánya in Burgenland and Sopronköhida in Hungary. The picnic was held at Sopronpuszta; the event itself entered world history as the Pan-European Picnic of August 19, 1989. When visiting East German tourists in Hungary got wind of this event, they hurried there with their Trabis and Wartburgs, abandoned them at the roadside and fled through that open gate to Austria. Although the border guards still had orders to shoot, to their and their local commander's everlasting credit, they ignored the order and the exodus of about 600 East Germans ended without anyone getting hurt. Less than a month later, on September 11, the border between Hungary and Austria was opened for good. This bold act on the part of the Hungarian government at the time initiated a process that eventually culminated in the complete removal of the Iron Curtain from the Baltic to the Adriatic Seas, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the end of the Cold War. Read More » (pdf 18 Kb)

Good Dogs Do Stray: Memoir of an Immigrant from Hungary

Summary in German published in October 2009 in Chicago's German newspaper Eintracht

Am 4. November 1956 gerade als die Kirchenglocke von Pernau die Mittagsstunde ankündigt, überschreite ich als erster in meiner Familie den Eisernen Vorhang. Als neugebackener 14-jähriger sehe ich nur das Abenteuer in unserer Flucht in die Freiheit und habe keine Ahnung von der Not, die uns allen bevorsteht. In meinem Buch Good Dogs Do Stray: Memoir of an Immigrant from Hungary (auf deutsch etwa Auch treue Hunde streunen: Erinnerungen eines Auswanderers aus Ungarn) blicke ich nun als erfahrener Mensch auf diese Zeit zurück. Ich beschreibe die unmöglichen Zustände im kommunistischen Ungarn von damals, die uns zur Flucht gezwungen haben und wie es uns danach zuerst in Österreich dann in Amerika erging. Bevor ich aber zu dieser wichtigen Wende in unserem Leben komme, befasse ich mich in der ersten Hälfte meines Buches ganz eingehend mit der Geschichte meines deutsch-ungarischen Dorfes und des Pinkatals, in dem es liegt, und ich beschreibe aufs genaueste das Dorfleben, das meine Geschwister und mich gestaltet und beeinflußt hat. Read More » (pdf 23kb)

SVD Spirituality-Looking Back and Giving Thanks

Published in Word Wind, the Newsletter of the SVD Alumni Association in the Spring of 2007

Until just a few years ago, I had a recurring nightmare in which I was making a mad dash to the chapel at Techny, always by way of the choir loft, only to discover upon looking down to the sanctuary that the ordination ceremony had already started and I had once again missed my chance of being ordained. Forty years ago this past summer, I made a difficult decision: I left the seminary after eight very good years with the SVD because my dream of becoming a missionary priest was ambushed by the weakness of the flesh and sundry concerns, both real and imagined. My troubled dreams were periodic reminders that my subconscious still hadn't adjusted to the change and that the Society's imprint on my heart and soul was deep and lasting. Read More » (pdf 21kb)

A Final Bow

Published 2008 in Bob Boone Teacher Hangout – Your Favorite Teacher Stories

I used to feel a sense of loss, even sadness, whenever a good teacher retired. With each retiree, my school lost a very valuable source of knowledge and wisdom acquired over decades of dedicated work in the classroom. No one solicited the parting advice of these seasoned veterans. Their help was not sought to mentor beginning teachers. Then, a few years ago, it was finally my turn. For 36 years I had taught German, coached soccer, sponsored clubs, and organized trips and exchange programs to the German-speaking countries of Europe. Had I been asked, when I retired, I would have gladly shared the most salient lessons: teaching is best suited for idealists; growth and change are essential for students and teachers alike; our students are sometimes our best teachers. But no one asked. Read More » (pdf 27 kb)