|These letters, which we now begin to publish, followed each other for several years. We also want to publish them in the same amount of time, with God’s help, each letter exactly one hundred years after it was sent.|
The girl Antonia Zajac was born in 1896 in a western Galician village, Cieklin, in the valley of the Dunajec.
Her ancestors came from a gentry noble family, who gradually lost all their wealth in revels and on cards. Her father, who found it difficult to bear that he had to work as an employee in their former estate, chose emigration to America instead of constant shame.
From their native place it seemed the easiest to leave from an Adriatic port, which was used for large scale emigration by the citizens of the Monarchy. However, arriving at Budapest, the father died, and the mother with her four children was trapped in the foreign and apparently hopeless city. But Óbuda – the half-agricultural, half-industrial northern suburb of Buda, which will join Budapest in 1873 – did not abandon the orphans, just as she took many other homeless families under her care. She also took under her protective wings the sons and daughters of Hungarian, German, Jewish, Slavic and any other ethnic groups, who were bound together by poverty and a common instinct of staying afloat.
The eldest boy, Feri, became an assistant upholsterer, while his three younger sisters, Antónia (one of the protagonists of our story) was employed in a braid workshop, and Vera and Manci got jobs in the renowned local Goldberger textile factory, the Goli, as it was commonly called.
The other protagonist of our story, Károly Timó (born Szedlák), was born in 1892 to a maiden, Katalin Szedlák, and adopted by a kind-hearted childless shoemaker of Óbuda, Ferenc Timó and his wife, née Anna Hautschild.
Károly Timó grew up in Óbuda, and after elementary school he became an apprentice, and later assistant braidmaker. The workshop of his master Bernát Reiner was in the Terézváros district, in one of the then new houses of the Kleine Johannes Gasse (later János Kis, Piroska Szalmás, now László Németh Street). The young boy had far to go to reach the workshop. The tram was cumbersome and expensive, so every morning, he crossed the Danube with the propeller, and walked three quarters of an hour through the Angyalföld and Erzsébetváros districts.
However, his short weekends were reserved for private life. Their common residence in Óbuda, and their common profession brought the young people close to each other. Clinging together, founding a family also meant a chance to cope with the difficulties of life.
This photo of the delicate, dreamy-eyed Polish girl is a document of the budding relationship, of a modest flirtation.
Her eyes are clear blue, this is still suggested by the faded features. The grease-stained and frayed lower part of the slightly worn photo shows that the owner carried with him the picture given to him for a long time.
The studio photos of the young couple already suggest a serious relationship, and a marriage planned in the near future.
But as we know, everything got examined and weighed. The machine was launched. Optimistically, with the promise of the close victory. By the time the leaves fall…
The first pink postcard
Name of the sender: Károly Timó
Address: To the honored Miss. Antónia Zajác
3rd district, Kis Korona Street 52.
on the 28th [of August 1914]
My dear son [note the typical form of address of husbands and fiancés to their women at the turn of the century!]
I write these few lines while frying bacon in Szerencs in the morning. What do you say about this surprise! I thought that even as late as on the 10th I will be in Budapest. The journey is quite pleasant, although we go very slow. I slept in Miskolc, now I go to Sátoraljaújhely, and from there to Mezőlaborc [in 2014, Medzilaborce, Slovakia]. Along the way we will get a hot meal, because they cook for us. For some 3-4 more days we will be doing well, and then we will start to play soldiers. Embracing and kissing you
My greetings to your mother and sisters, and to my parents.
[The first postcard was written along the way to the front. A nice soldier-playing is in view!]
Next postcard: 25 September 1914