Sunday, November 28, 2010
themselves and their families. Somealso came to escape the civil unrest of their homeland.
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.
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.
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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.
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 floor–but 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.’ ”
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.
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.
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“It was good forme to show them that this was what we camefrom.”
EDITH KOVACS,WHO RETURNED TOHUNGARY WITH HERCHILDREN
The John Horvath family
— (left to right) Joseph, John Sr., John Jr., Julia, who is holding Louis, and Julia.
with his grandsons — (left to right) Joe Mata, Paul Mata, Francis Myers and Jim Myers.