Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Hello, Heritage, & Hungarians

Hello, is it me you're looking for?
~Lionel Richie, Hello

I've been enjoying watching NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? on Friday night. The premise of the show is that, through the help of, various celebrities discover their ancestors and what might have happened in the lives of their ancestors. Having so many unknowns in my own heritage, and yet appreciating what I do know and the amazing people that I come from, I love seeing others discover that side of themselves. Plus, "real" history always gets me excited.

A couple of weeks ago I watched as Lionel Richie traced his lineage. It was touching to see him discover the threads that lead to who he was to become, to who he is.

I am standing on the shoulders of these people who will not take defeat.
~Lionel Richie, on TV's Who Do You Think You Are?

I could very much relate to his statement.

Half of my heritage is Hungarian. While I don't know much about my ancestry beyond my mother's parents, I do know that my grandparents were strong people. They were people who took against-the-odds kinds of risks.

Grandma came to this country when she was in her early 20's. What she came with can be counted on 6 fingers. She had an enameled steel mug, a knife, a fork, my Great Grandmother's blue velvet babushka, and a change of clothes, and ten dollars. She had, at best, a third grade education and no knowledge of the English language. But she had a dream and a belief in something better, so she walked away from the life she knew in order to follow that. And let's face it, even if it's a lousy life it can have a profound sense of security and comfort. We humans tend to stick with what we know.

Grandpa came to this country somewhere around the same time for completely different reasons. He was running. He wanted communism in Hungary at a time when there was huge opposition to it. I don't know much of his story, but he must have been fairly high up in the movement because there was a price on his head. So, he fled, leaving behind a four year old son (my mother's half brother, Rudi) and a wife (who died not long after). He never saw his son again. He took on a new identity - there is some lore that he stole the identity from a dead soldier - made his way into Austria, then Canada, then to the States. From all accounts, he never really embraced the USA, probably because he resented the fact that he was stuck here or had to be here at all.

My grandparent's marriage wasn't a match made in heaven. They had little in common save their mother country. As loving and warm as my Grandmother was, my Grandfather was the cold, austere antithesis of her. Still, they came together, and because of that, here I am.

I am standing on the shoulders of greatness, of people who took big chances, of people who weren't willing to settle without question for what someone told them, of people who did whatever it took to find better.

I owe them not only my life, but what I do with my life. I owe it to them to make big moves. I owe it to them to live my own dreams...

... because I am their dream made manifest.


  1. CRAP! Lionel Richie has been stuck in my head all day and I was gonna purge him via the Alphabetical blog Hello. Now I have to think of something else AND dude is firmly ensconced in my brain.

  2. What an inspiring post. A follower... H is for Hands RuthieTootieWishes

  3. Nice to meet you through the A-Z challenge! Hope to see you around!

  4. Discovering where you came from is fascinating. And these days you need so little as a starting point to trace your lineage.

  5. Thanks, Everyone... and welcome to the "new" people!

  6. Beautiful post. I agree with you about "real" history, and I love Richie :) Great song.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  7. Beautiful post. Love your sentiments about genealogy and your part in it. I look forward to checking out your other A-Z posts.

  8. I've been enjoying that show too. I watch it with my 8-year-old. It's refreshing to find a show that is appropriate for her too. We talk about our own heritage when we watch it.

  9. Thanks, Sarah, Jeanne and Suzanne... and welcome!


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