Life flows day by day. The most of the days are routine and similar, sometimes full of gayety, sometimes of mourning, but some are decisive and require immediate determination. These days settle one’s destiny. Through sacrificing and suffering, some vital life principles and aims may be achieved or collapsed. Every day, the majority of people continue living the life they do not like when some do take decisions. Their families, relations, career, and life order are put at stake. They blindly go forward to changes, and no one knows what the result would be like. Each case is half-drama when it is led from inside, but how feel those who are forced to these changes by circumstances and are not psychologically prepared for such challenge? Who is stronger, the one who continues suffering from the desire of better life in motherland or who possess enough determination for radical change and emigrating?
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The life of my Grandmother, Marta, exemplifies the second case. She is 75 now and calls herself an American no matter she was not born here. She had to leave her motherland when she was 18. Born in Hungary, she spoke Hungarian, finished Hungarian school, and met her husband Steven in Hungary. In 1956, she participated in the Hungarian Revolution, which lasted from 23 October till 10 November, as a freedom fighter. As the result of the nationwide revolt against the government, communism and Soviet-imposed policies over 2500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed, 200 000 Hungarians fled as refugees. She adored Budapest architecture and spirit but had no place to live and no opportunities expectation for the better life in those political circumstances. She had a strong character and distinct freedom principles, but even for her, it was not easy to leave everything she loved, liked, created, lived in, and was used to.
To escape from danger and despair, Marta and her husband Steven spent 11 months in Yugoslavia waiting for the VISA to the USA in 1957. They were not alone, 11 refugee camps had the same expectations. “The waiting was exhausting; we did not have any future predictions just wanted to try back,” she reminds. The way to the dream was long and tiring, it involved leaving the Hungary and going to Yugoslavia, flying from Belgrade to New York City, going by train to New Orleans, Louisiana. All this took more than a year; they ran out of money and lived by hope. She describes her first impressions of the USA, “I was escaping from the country without freedom and the first thing I noticed in the US was racial segregation. Black people had to sit at the back and relinquished seats for the white. I felt the culture shock”. There were no black people in Hungary, and this problem was omitted but replaced by other oppression, citizens’ dependency, exploitation, and zombieing.
The country my grandmother moved in was totally different in architecture, life habits and styles, concepts and treatments, but it gave some opportunity to survive, and she decided to use it. “The first thing we needed was money. I could not allow myself long and expensive university education and decided to become a hair stylist. I have no regret about it” explains Marta. She really was successful in her engagement. In two and half years, she had her first child Eva and moved with her family to New York. In 7 years, she opened her own beauty salon which works till now; two days a week the owner herself serves her customers. “I admire my job and won several hair competitions in Atlantic City. My business is running pretty good, but I can not refuse my practice and regular clients, which became my friends too” she continues.
Marta has achieved her American Dream. It was not easy at first, but the aim makes a person omnipotent. She changed herself, accommodated her family to the new life, studied language and found woman’s happiness. She has 2 children, 4 grand children, and 3 great grand children. “I never backed to Hungary. I appreciated it and remembered it, but I forced myself to live full life in the USA. I would not be able to achieve something here still missing country I was born in, but I still can speak Hungarian”, granny confesses.
Our family has Hungarian roots. In the future, may be, we will travel through this country to become closer, but no one except Marta and Steve can speak Hungarian. We all are American citizens, speak American English, and keep American traditions and democratic positions. The third generation of Marta’s great grandchildren has lost its native language, and their successions may not even know about their Hungarian roots in the future, but thanks to the Marta’s sufferings and sacrificing, they would build future plans orientating on their great granny’s determination. “I doubt that I would live better in Hungary. Moreover, I doubt that I would be still alive. I loved this country but had to save myself and assure my children’s future. The circumstances forced me to do this” the emigrant contemplates.
Political events of 1956 played turning point’s role in the lives of many Hungarian emigrants forcing them completely change not just their fates, but also the fates of their future generations. My granny’s story is just one sample and, thanks God, it is happy. Determination was her pivot. She did not agree to live dependently in Hungary and defended freedom. For this activity, she, as many other Hungarians, was led up at a blind alley. After this, she refused to live in constant fear and despair and moved to another country. In the USA, she experienced the segregation and cultural shock, but did not survive and used new country’s opportunities building prosperous business and harmonious family life. She constantly forced her character and strengthened her life principles aiming at free live for her family with widely open opportunities. She coped with the challenge, but someone did not. No one knows the result, but the way to the dream and the right for the ordinal life peace are the orientations of those who do not fear changes and know what they defend.
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