One Hundred Years Was Not That Long Ago

As we approach the on 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, I think to myself how recent it was, but just how different life was; or was it?

My great-Grandmom was born in 1912, one month after the sinking and she only passed away two years ago.  Her little sister is still kickin’ at ninety-eight and there are several people alive today that are well over one hundred now.  Think about the transitions they’ve made in life.  We laugh about teased hair from the 80’s and disco music at Studio 54 but this older generation changed fashion, music and pretty much everything life had to offer, repeatedly.

It wasn’t that long ago that women wore corsets, couldn’t vote and got picked up for a date in a Model T.  Most people who served in WWII were born about ten years after the Titanic sank, and just like that generation, soon they will be gone as well.  We only just lost the last WWI soldier in the last year.

It put it in perspective for me when our little town newspaper mentioned that a Titanic survivor lived a couple little towns over.  He was the head barber for the White Star Line, who operated the Titanic.  The man journeyed over seven hundred times on transatlantic ships and nearly perished that night in the cold waters of the Atlantic.  The article touts him a hero, who assisted the crew as they tried to get as many as they could to safety in the few lifeboats available.  He was eventually swept off the ships edge when it split in two and after clinging to dining chairs in the water, Continue reading

I’m Hungarian & Not for Wienerschnitzel

I recently discovered that Hungary is more than just a country east of Germany; it is part of my heritage.  I mean this in the least offensive way possible, but the country was always a joke to me.  Not because of the country itself, just its name.  Ever since I discovered the country of Hungary in my elementary school history lessons, one of my favorite things to tell my parents was, “I’m Hungarian” when I wanted food.  Ok, so I still say it.

Though I have strong ties to my primarily Irish roots, I was also raised with undertones of German ancestry.  My Great-Grandma emigrated from a Germany port in her mother’s womb.  With her, she brought what we thought to be traditional German customs and recipes.  Guess what?  They weren’t German.  After spending years trying to track down her family in German records, I recently joined forces with a distant cousin who had documents to prove that my stomach is not just Hungarian; the rest of me is too.  At least the part that I thought was German is.

Because the borders were altered by a bloody game of tug of war, I find the genealogy hunt increasing in intrigue and possibilities.  Their region, which may have once been German territory, had also been Austria-Hungary, Yugoslavia and now Slovakia.  Never did I imagine that the strong stock came from Eastern European hardships as opposed to Hamburg bratwursts.  I realize these clichés are not realistic and likely inappropriate, but they simply provide an altering mental image of what I had imagined as a little girl and what is now more realistic.

I’ll never be able to ask those ancestors what life was actually like.  I’ll never get to ask if they yearned for their homeland and its customs.  Instead, I know that they came to America for safety amongst the turmoil in pre-World War I Europe.  They learned English and adapted to American ways, but privately maintained the nuances of their heritage.  They were bakers, potters and laborers.  We still are, even if laboring is the only one that pays the bills these days.  I never guessed that my little joke that got a giggle out of my Mom, had truth in it.