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Hungarians - Johnstown News 11-28-2010

Hungarians - Johnstown News 11-28-2010

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Published by Chuck Huckaby
Hungarians of Johnstown PA
Hungarians of Johnstown PA

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Categories:Types, Research, Genealogy
Published by: Chuck Huckaby on Dec 01, 2010
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$1.50 NEWSSTANDSUNDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2010
WEATHERLOTTERY
Partly sunny and
not as cold.High 40; low 25.
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WWW.TRIBDEM.COM
 
SPORTS
CARROLLPREVAILS
McCort turned back
three times ongoal-line stands.
B1
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OOD MORNING
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‘SANCTITYOF LIFE’
Rendell vetoes
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A4
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY KIMBERLY F. WILLIAMS
BY FRANK SOJAK
FSOJAK@TRIBDEM.COM
John Horvath’s quest for a better life was splashed withsecrecy, faith and stamina.Like many fellow country-men from Hungary and citi-zens of other eastern Euro-pean countries in the early 1900s, Horvath was impov-erished. But what he lackedin wealth, he commanded inaudacity. When Horvath couldn’tafford passage, he secretedhimself aboard an oceanliner carrying immigrants toa new life in America. As the ship approachedNew York Harbor, the stow-away leaped into the waterand swam to Ellis Island.Not every immigrant fromHungary who settled inCambria and Somersetcounties in the late 1800sand early 1900s had to be sodaring.Their reasons for coming,however, were the same:To build a better life for
Ancestorsdesiredbetterlives
While most found work in thesteel mills and coal mines, anumber were farmers.
“They came for opportunity.” 
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About this series
Month by month, we are cele-brating the many unique ethnicbackgrounds of this region.“Homelands” is a mix of historyand culture.
Today:
Hungarian heritage.Pictured above are members ofthe Horvath family: John Sr., JohnJr. and Julia, who is holding Louis.Also pictured are dancers fromSt. Emerich Roman Catholic Church.
October:
Polish heritage.
September:
German her-itage.
August:
Carpatho-Rusyn her-itage.
July:
Serbian heritage.
June:
Slovak heritage.
May:
Croatian heritage.
April:
English heritage.
March:
Irish heritage.
February:
African-American heritage.
January:
Italian heritage.
Inside:
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JSO conductor/ 
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Hungarian orphanage
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Online:
www.tribdem.com/homelands
Video:
www.tribdem.com/homelands
Next month:
Scottish her-itage and emerging pockets ofgrowth.
BY MIKE FAHER
MFAHER@TRIBDEM.COM
There’s something more than theusual parental pride in Edith Kovacs’ voice as she lists the occupations of her four grown children.They are more than job titles. ForKovacs, those words represent thefreedoms she was denied under acommunist regime in her nativeHungary. And they represent the long roadshe traveled to Johnstown, starting with a harrowing escape fromcounter-revolutionary violence in1956.“I am so glad God brought us to America, and my children couldchoose what they wanted to be,”Kovacs said.There were few choices for Hun-garians in the 1950s, as Soviet- backed communism had taken afirm hold on every aspect of publicand private life. So there was littledoubt about the ultimate outcome of a revolt against communist rule inOctober 1956.Russia responded with brute force. And that spurred crowds of Hun-garian citizens to run for their livesthe U.S. State Department esti-mates that 200,000 fled west.They were trying to escape not justthe spasm of violence that was shak-ing the country, but also the pain of  years of oppressive communist rule.For a young Edith Kovacs –whothen had the surname Buch –thatoppression became painfully clear when the government shut herCatholic high school and forced thestudents to another institution.“They wanted to close every-thing that was Roman Catholic,”she recalled. Worse still, officials decided thatnearly all of the school’s students would not be permitted to attendcollege. Since she was a little girl,
Please see
ANCESTORS
, A6
‘I am so glad God brought us to America’
“It was cold, and it was snowing, and wehad to run.”
EDITH KOVACS,HUNGARIAN IMMIGRANT
DAVE LLOYD/
THE TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT
Edith Kovacs
, a native of Hungary, with hand-embroidered Hungarian table linens.
Please see
AMERICA
, A6
 
Preparation key to successfor deer hunters, experts say
BY JOE GORDEN
JGORDEN@TRIBDEM.COM
Deer hunters may find mixed success in thearea’s woodlands this season, as expectations vary widely from place to place.Local wildlife conservation officers postinggame forecasts to Pennsylvania Game Commis-sion headquarters provided differing outlooksfor this year’s general firearms season, whichopens Monday.“Populations remain low in this area of WMU2C,” WCO Shawn Harshaw said of his southernCambria County district. “Hunting will be poor inmost areas in this district. I have seen a decline inharvest for the past seven years, and I see nothingto change that this year. I see very few deer in my travels, and have had very few road kills this year.”Not far away in northern Somerset County, WCO Travis Anderson paints a more optimisticpicture.“Deer numbers are on the increase in thecounty,” he reported.
I
Luckiest Buck contest info/
B6
GREGG DOLL
 /FOR THE TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT
A buck is seen
among brush and undergrowth during a recent day inSusquehanna Township.
Please see
DEER
, A2
 
Page A6
Sunday, November 28, 2010
THE TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT
themselves and their families. Somealso came to escape the civil unrest of their homeland.
Followed others
No doubt Horvath carried thoughtsof his wife, still in Hungary.Horvath followed the path of othersfrom their hometown of Szendro innortheastern Hungary to Windber,said his grandson, Dave Kormanik of  Windber.Horvath planned to establish him-self in Windber and then bring his wife, Julia, whom he married Feb. 7,1910, to America, Kormanik said.He said his grandparents were goingto have their first child, but it is notclear if his grandfather knew thatupon leaving Hungary.He said his grandmother bore achild, Margaret, in 1911 and stayed inHungary for a couple of years to raiseMargaret before leaving Margaret with her parents to join her belovedhusband.It must have been heartbreaking forher to leave Margaret, he said.The couple planned to eventually  bring Margaret over, he said.He said his grandmother already  was an American citizen, being bornin April 1892 in Pocahontas, Va., toparents who had already immigrated.He said his great-grandparents thenreturned to Hungary, where they raised his grandmother.
Places called home
Immigrants from Hungary duringthe late 19th century and early 20thcentury settled mainly in the Windberarea of Somerset County and inJohnstown, Portage, Nanty Glo,Mundys Corner and Vintondale inCambria County. While most found work in the steelmills and coal mines, a number werefarmers. All worked hard to raise their fami-lies, support their churches and besuccessful.For many Hungarians and otherimmigrants settling in Somerset Coun-ty, their first stop was generally a boarding house in Macdonaldton, justoutside Berlin. Another Windber area family, head-ed by Andrew Molnar, also left Szen-dro around 1910 and managed the boarding house in Macdonaldton before moving to Wilbur and settlingfor good in Mine 37, located in Rich-land Township but near Windber.Barbara Horvath, who married Kor-manik’s uncle, Joseph, said her father, Andrew Molnar, was born in 1881 andher mother, Theresa, in 1883. Hermother also was from Szendro.The Windber area woman said herparents knew each other in Hungary.Her father came first with the cou-ple marrying shortly after she arrived,Horvath said.She said while in Macdonaldton, herparents had 18 boarders at a time,many of whom were Hungarians. The boarders stayed until they found jobsin the mines.
Domestic help
Margaret Tarsovich of Southmontsaid her mother, Margaret Lipan, was born in Homestead, located nearPittsburgh, only to move at the age of 7 months with her parents to Czecho-slovakia.She said her mother grew up inHungary and married her father, Bert, who was from Budapest, Hungary.Her mother, who thus was an Amer-ican citizen by birth, moved to New York City after being married sixmonths to start building a better lifefor themselves.Back then, the word was that peoplein New York City were doing well eco-nomically and that “money was beingswept up off the streets,” she said.She said the plan was for her motherto find a job and a place to live whilesaving enough money to bring herfather to New York City under her citi-zenship.“When my mother arrived at EllisIsland, employers were there lookingfor workers,” Tarsovich said.“My mother was interviewed by aJewish family who had immigratedfrom Hungary. The husband was alawyer and they wanted to hire domes-tic help.“They liked my mom from the startand asked her to work for them. They gave her room and board.” After six months, she saved enoughmoney to bring her husband.Tarsovich’s mother continued work-ing for the couple, with her fatherfinding a job selling fruits and vegeta- bles on the street for A&P supermar-ket, she said.“He was living with four other boarders, and in his spare timeenjoyed drawing 3-D pictures of ani-mals, she said.“One of the boarders worked at a toy factory that made stuffed animals. The boarder suggested that my fatherapply for a job designinganimals atthe toy factory.” After showing management hisdrawings, he was hired, she said. While working at the factory, herfather attended night school to learnEnglish and to get his citizenship. After five years of working at the toy factory, her father was able to open hisown toy factory in New York City.Called Gloria Toy Inc., the factory eventually employed 150 people andsold toys to Macy’s, Woolworth’s andother well-known stores.Tarsovich said her father was thefirst person to design Bambi, a stuffeddeer, and the only one in the industry  who could make the thin legs of thedeer stand up.Her father ran the business untilretiring in the 1960s and moving withhis wife to Johnstown.
Lived in a tent
Mary Lieb of Ebensburg said hergrandfather, Alex Mata, and hergrandmother, Pauline, were born inthe late 1800s in Eger, Hungary.She said her grandparents kneweach other well in Hungary, with hergrandfather arriving first in centralCambria County. Her grandmotherfollowed a short time later, in 1914, atthe age of 24 with the couple then get-ting married.She said the couple moved to Colver, where they lived in a tent before mov-ing into a house in that town. Later,they bought 10 acres of land inMundys Corner and built a farmhouse.Lieb’s grandfather worked in thecoal mines and steel mill and alsofarmed. She said her grandmother wasan amazing lady and the matriarch of the family –taking care of the houseand raising the family. The couple hadseven children, two of whom died atchildbirth.Her grandmother made rugs to sup-plement their income and, havinglearned carpentry skills from herfather in Hungary, wasn’t afraid to usethat skill around the house.Lieb said her grandfather was a wonderful man who was jovial, kindand loved his grandchildren.“They came for opportunity,” shesaid, adding that they also wanted toflee civil unrest.Lieb said her grandmother’s brother was killed around 1910 during thatcivil unrest.Many other Hungarian families inthe Mundys Corner area also camefrom Eger, she said.
Land of opportunity
Often, finding the land of opportu-nity meant losing someone they loved.The Horvaths never did get to bringMargaret to America.The couple wanted to return but World War I prevented that from hap-pening, Kormanik said. Af ter the war, they didn’t have themoney to return, plus the grandpar-ents had grown too fond of Margaretto give the girl up, he said.He said it must have been heart- breaking for both his grandparents toleave Margaret there.He said his grandfather never sawMargaret, who remained in Hungary her entire life. John Horvath died inthe 1960s.Kormanik said his grandparents, who lived in Windber their entirelives, had five more children.The oldest, Julia, died at the age of 6. The others were Stephen, Louis,Joseph and John, and anotherdaughter, whom they namedJulia in honor of their firstdaughter and whom is Kormanik’smother.In1975, a joyous reunion took place when son Stephen arranged a trip totake his mother and siblings to seeMargaret.It was the first time the siblings sawMargaret and the first time Julia Hor- vath saw Margaret since leaving for America.In 1985, son Stephen arranged tohave Margaret and members of herfamily visit Windber.Shortly afterward, Stephenarranged a family trip to Hungary for the wedding of one of Margaret’schildren.
Continued from A1
ANCESTORS
Kovacs had dreamed of becom-ing a physician.“It is like you are a rose grow-ing, and you are clipped,” shesaid.“You know that whatever youdreamed of, it is finished.”So when the revolution beganthe year after she completedschool, the 18-year-old wasted notime in fleeing west in a groupthat included her future husbandPaul Kovacs, a young ministershe had met in Budapest.
‘We had to go’
Fifty-four years later, thereremains a steely resolve in her voice when she says, “We had togo.”But there was no easy way toslip through the Iron Curtain.The group was stopped in the border town of Sopron, wheresoldiers declared that everyonecould continue on –except forKovacs.“They wanted to take me,”she said.“There were five or six of them, with machine guns.”The guards somehow were persuaded to releaseher.The next day, she and Paul boarded a truck arranged by Edith’s aunt. The couple had been disguised as peasantsheading for a day of work, car-rying shovels and rakes.The truck stopped near theHungary-Austria border.
Difficult journey
From there, it was a difficult journey on foot to freedom.Even after crossing the border,there remained about 3 miles of dangerous no-man’s-land.“It was cold, and it was snow-ing, and we had to run,” Kovacssaid.“The faster you got over, the better it was.”Given the nightmarish jour-ney, Kovacs’ memories of themoment she spotted an Austri-an town are dreamlike: There was sunshine, and she heardmusic.
‘It was so nice’
“The Austrians were wonder-ful,” she said.“They gave us rooms, andthere was straw on the floorbut it was so nice.”The young couple stayed in Austria for a few months, thenmoved to the Netherlands, where they were married. They had two children during theirtime in Amsterdam.But their travels had just begun: Paul Kovacs then wasinvited to perform UnitedChurch of Christ missionary  work thousands of miles away in Uruguay, South America.The growing family spent afull decade in Uruguay. Andtheir next potential relocationcame with a choice –Canada orthe United States.Kovacs said her husband“looked at me, and I said, ‘Of course, America.’ ”
First assignment
Their first assignment wasthe Hungarian ReformedChurch in Johnstown’s Cam- bria City neighborhood.It was the early 1970s, andthe congregation was thriving.“They were so good to meand to the family. They practi-cally adopted the kids,” Kovacssaid.“There was not one morningthat I opened the door anddidn’t find some present there.” An assignment in MercerCounty followed, and the family eventually settled in Ligonier.Paul Kovacs spent more thantwo decades as administrator of  what was then called BethlenHome, and Edith Kovacs worked as a dietitian.
Homecoming
 After retiring, Paul Kovacscame full circle: He was askedto again minister at Johns-town’s Hungarian ReformedChurch.“It was like going home,”Edith Kovacs said.She also recalls a homecom-ing of a different sort. Around1980, Edith Kovacs returned toHungary for the first time, withtwo children in tow.The trip made quite animpression on her son, DanKovacs, who was about 12 atthe time. He remembersguards, supported by guns anddogs, searching the family’s car.“After you experienced that,it put the fear of God in you,”he said.Edith Kovacs smiled whenshe heard that, saying she knewthe family was safe on that trip.For her, the experience wasin part an important lesson forher children.“It was good for me to showthem that this was what wecame from,” she said.The long journey ended forPaul Kovacs when he died in April 2009.But Dan Kovacs will neverforget his father’s stories aboutsurviving in Hungary.His parents’ migrations –andtheir final destination –nowseem almost inevitable.“It was all about freedom forthem,” he said.
Continued from A1
AMERICA
“It was good forme to show them that this was what we camefrom.”
EDITH KOVACS,WHO RETURNED TOHUNGARY WITH HERCHILDREN
SUBMITTED PHOTO
The John Horvath family
 — (left to right) Joseph, John Sr., John Jr., Julia, who is holding Louis, and Julia.
SUBMITTED PHOTO
Alex Mata
with his grandsons — (left to right) Joe Mata, Paul Mata, Francis Myers and Jim Myers.
 
Τ
he orphans are long gone, as is the oldhotel they called home.Bethlen Communities now is a moderncare center for the elderly, and it has branchedout beyond its hilltop headquarters overlookingLigonier Borough.But one thing has remained constantthroughout the facility’s nearly 90-year history:People of Hungarian ancestry founded thisplace and continue to operate it. And they are not about to let their proud his-tory disappear, with plans to soon open amuseum and archive that will have nationwidesignificance.“This is the way we can pass on the history,the lessons, the dedication and the sacrificesthat were made over so many decades,” said theRev. Imre Bertalan, Bethlen Communitiesexecutive director.Bethlen traces its roots to the other side of  Westmoreland County, where 239 miners losttheir lives in the Darr Mine disaster of Decem- ber 1907. Most of those who died were Hun-garian immigrants, and it remains the worstmine disaster in Pennsylvania history.For children left behind by the Darr explo-sion, an orphanage was created at the FirstHungarian Reformed Church in Pittsburgh.“At that point, the orphanage began to opento people of other ethnic backgrounds,” Berta-lan said.“The common denominator was industrialaccidents.”That led to a need for more space, and theorphanage moved a few times in Pittsburgh,Bertalan said.But things changed when the owner of thePark Hotel in Ligonier, who was looking toleave his business, heard of the orphans’ plight.The Hungarian Reformed Federation of Amer-ica bought the hotel and surrounding land, andon July 4, 1921, the building was rededicated as
LIVING
E
THE TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Hungarian Beef Goulash
3 tablespoons oil 1 1/2 pounds beef cubes1 large onion, finely chopped 1 green pepper, cored, seeded and cut into four  pieces3 large carrots, peeled and sliced 3 stalks celery, sliced 1 medium-sized ripe tomato, seeded and cut into 4 pieces1/4 teaspoon paprika1 tablespoon salt 5 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and diced 
Use a 3-quart saucepan or Dutch oven. Runhot water over meat in a strainer; let drain.Sauté onions in oil; add paprika and stir well. Add meat, salt, tomato and 1 cup of water orenough to cover ingredients. Cook slowly for1 hour. Then add all washed and sliced vegeta- bles, except potatoes. Add another cup of waterand cook slowly for 1/2 hour, then add pota-toes. Continue cooking for 15 minutes. Add1 quart of cold water; let it come to a boil andcook for 10 minutes. Serve as a main dish withdumplings in a heated soup tureen. (Can also be served without dumplings.)
Dumplings
3 eggs, beaten1 teaspoon salt 3 cups flour 1/4 cup water 
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and beat withspoon. Drop by teaspoonfuls into boiling water.Cook until dumplings rise to top. Drain andrinse in cold water.
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Creamed String Bean Soup
1 pound fresh string beans or canned 1/2 pint sour creamVinegar to taste1 tablespoon salt 3tablespoons flour 2 quarts water 
Cook beans in water until soft. Add remainingingredients; simmer for a few minutes.
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Hungarian Style Spinach
1 pound spinach1 cup water 3 tablespoons bacon drippings2 1/2 tablespoons flour 1/2 cup milk
Please see
RECIPES
, E7
INSIDE: BY THE NUMBERS • CHURCHES • DESCENDANTS REMINISCE • RECIPES
‘I was blessed’
JSO conductor recounts steps in race for his life
Ι
stvan Jaray is a Johnstown institution,having conducted the local symphony orchestra for more than a quartercentury.However, if not for a a few miraculously narrow escapes in the cold, gray Novemberof 1956, Jaray never would have set foot onU.S. soil, never would have picked up a con-ductor’s baton and never would have seenhis 26th birthday.In the span of one month, Jaray wentfrom dodging bullets that had cut down somany of his Hungarian countrymen to rest-ing comfortably in London.“Some helping hand was with me all the way, guided me through an incredible jour-ney,” Jaray said.“I was blessed, really.”Music was an everyday fixture in Jaray’ssmall-town Hungarian household: He firstpicked up a violin 74 years ago, at the ageof 5.
‘Music chose me’
“I always say that I didn’t choose music,”he said. “Music chose me.”It was music that later led Jaray to theFranz Liszt Academy in Budapest to study the violin.In a country ruled with an iron fist by a brutal communist regime, a free education was one of the few perks. It was importantfor Jaray, who had grown up in a blue-collarfamily and had lost his father at age 17.But everything changed in October 1956.“I had another year to complete to havemy full performing degree,” Jaray said.“But then, of course, the tragedy hit on Oct. 23.”That tragedy began as a peaceful studentgathering protesting the Soviet-communistgovernment and expressing solidarity with aPolish movement against Russia. Jaray waspart of that parade, and he recalls a crowdswelling to the thousands.“It was such an incredible, enthusiastic, joyful march,” he said.“Everybody’s hoping that maybe through apeaceful march, the solution can be that theRussians eventually will just pull out of thecountry.”The march ended violently, though, as sol-diers fired on students. And while the subse-quent uprising appeared for a short time tohold promise for a free Hungary, the Sovietsquickly cracked down in early November.Jaray remembers “absolutely senseless, brutal cruelty”: Machine guns turned on aline of people waiting for bread, or soldierstold to shoot on sight anyone who was wear-ing boots.
‘Their system’
“The government started a systematicsearch for any of those who were part of thestart of this whole revolution,” Jaray said.Students were a target. And one nightaround 11 p.m., three tanks appearedoutside the dorm where Jaray lived. After a search, soldiers decidedmistakenly that these students were enemy combatants. Theclassmates, who had been herded into a largeassembly hall, now were ordered onto a wait-ing truck.“That meant we knew that we’re going to be shot. Period. There were no ifs and buts,”Jaray said.“That was their system.”Their lives were spared when, by chance, aRussian officer came by the truck, was told what had happened and allowed the stu-dents to go free.The ordeal had lasted until about 3 a.m.,and Jaray did not wait around to see whatmight happen next. He called a friend at5 a.m., and an hour later, they were on atrain headed toward the western border.“All I had was my clothes, a coat, and that was it. And that’s where I decided that obvi-ously our future is so dark, so hopeless, that Ihave to leave,” Jaray said.
‘Didn’t call anybody’
“I absolutely didn’t call anybody –not my mother, my sisters, and for weeks actually they didn’t even know whether I (was alive)or whether I was dead.”Jaray and his friend knew what they faced:The Hungarian border, he said, was “iron-clad. A mouse couldn’t get out.”Still, they would try, with their hopes buoyed by the fact that the border had been breached during the revolution.The duo disembarked before reaching the border, spooked by a secret police search of the train. Reaching a village on foot, they heard that a man –for a certain sum –wouldlead them to the border. A group of about 20 set off. But asudden encounter with bright lights
By Mike Faher/ 
mfaher@tribdem.com
By Mike Faher/ 
mfaher@tribdem.com
“All I had was my clothes,a coat, and that was it.” 
ISTVAN JARAY,JSO CONDUCTOR
Please see
JSO
, E7
 
Ligonier facility once served as Hungarian orphanage
Please see
FACILITY
, E7
DAVE LLOYD/
THE TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT
Hungarian-born
Istvan Jaray is conductor of theJohnstown Symphony Orchestra.
TODD BERKEY/
THE TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT
The Rev. Imre Bertalan
is executive director of Bethlen Communities in Ligonier.
 Hours by appointment. Evening hours now available.
 OVER 26 YEARS EXPERIENCE
 AMERICAN SOCIETY OF PLASTIC SURGEONS
            BoardCertified    
 415 Napoleon Place, Johnstown
 (814) 536-9000

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