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My childhood in Marko

by Resi Wagner

It was fifty-six years ago when we had to leave Hungary. I'll tell you my story from my childhood years. I was born April 2, 1935 as the eighth of eleven children. My parents were Joseph and Elisabeth Redling. Mother was born Elisabeth Geiszt in Marko, a small village near the city of Veszprem. Marko had nice times that I can remember, like the annual Schützenfest on January 20th, with a brass band marching up to the railroad station, dressed up and parading for the children. They had dressed-up, stuffed rabbits on turning wagon wheels which were mounted on top of the wagon.

The vineyards which belonged to Veszprem were called Csatar. There the Markoers had small summer houses with small living quarters, wine cellar and hay loft. The goatbeard grew there, a fluffy stuff-like cotton candy, which was put on hats. I remember the wonderful aroma from the protected white Csatar flowers.

My mother was a good woman who sat late at night by the petroleum lamp sewing patches on pants and fixing holes in shoes. Later, she would bake bread for the next morning in a hollowed-out log called a Molder. She often baked eleven to fifteen loaves for the many hungry mouths around the kitchen table.

After milking the cows in the evening, the women would get together at a neighbor's house to do spinning wheel work and fine needle work that they were proud of. The skirts for unmarried girls were snow white with many fine pleats. The older women wore scarves from Bohemia, and the Mika, a tailored black, winter jacket, which was lined with sheep's wool for warmth. The Berliner Tüchl was a large black scarf with fringes which was worn on top of the Mika in a criss-cross fashion; the hands were kept underneath in the winter time.

On Christmas Eve, it was customary for young girls from nine to eleven years of age to be dressed up in beautiful costumes as Holy Mary, and Saint Joseph. Holy Mary would carry the Christ Child (Christkindl) doll, and Saint Joseph would take a Christmas tree into the house to be put on the kitchen table. Wealthier families had a large tree from floor to ceiling. The Christmas tree was decorated with home-made cookies, nuts, Lebkuchen (cookies) and ribbon candy. It was very festive.

On Palm Sunday and Good Friday the passion play was acted out and was sung by the choir. A very loud sound made by banging on a metal plate meant that Jesus was captured, and it scared us children. When the people went to church they rattled wooden sticks because there were no bells. On Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, wooden rattles replaced all bellringing, which is still the custom all over Europe. The church altar was draped in purple from Holy Thursday to Good Friday, and people fasted. On Holy Saturday evening, the young girls marched into church and stood up in the center aisle holding candles during the long ceremony.

On Easter Sunday morning, every house had a basket filled with ham, colored eggs, bread, horse radish, wine, raisin bread and other food, all covered with a white cloth. The women took the baskets to church, and placed them before the altar where the priest would bless them, after which they would be taken home for the meal. Every Sunday for High Mass the young girls had their hair braided. The best clothes were worn on Easter Sunday. My sister Maria and I wore silk babushkas one Easter. My mother had to save money for months to buy them. [...]

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