The Story of Kecskemét

The Story of Kecskemét

This week I want to share with you my stop in Kecskemét, the eighth largest city in Hungary, situated almost dead-center in the country and surrounded by a great plain. My father’s military base was located here in the early 1950s, before he was posted elsewhere. Here in Kecskemét, he trained, and passed his exams. I believe that in this photo he is a first lieutenant, he eventually reached the rank of colonel. Somewhere in a drawer I have a sepia photograph of him in the fields during a drill. Unfortunately, I’ve misplaced it, but I recall living here as a child. Though I’ve misplaced some of those memories, too, I remember being uprooted and moved to Budaörs, to a newer house.

On my recent visit to Hungary, my cousin was kind enough to take a day from his work at the airport and drive me to Kecskemét—he was always a generous chauffeur, and I appreciated his big-heartedness. I wanted to pay for the gas, as gas in Hungary is exorbitant, but as usual he declined. I insisted on treating him in the restaurants, and to that he had no choice but to agree.

After two hours, we arrived at Kecskemét, a name stemming from the root word for goat. The city used to be a market town, between the Danube and Tisza rivers. I found the city square surrounded by colorful buildings. It had snowed the night before, making these Renaissance and neo-Baroque structures even more alluring. It was a captivating sight, quaint, steeped in history.

The tires of our car squeaked on the compact snow at the entrance to the military base. I was immediately disappointed. Rust covered the gray, dingy paint of the iron gates, which spanned an archway high above me. The gates were locked and there was no one around. The place seemed deserted, hardly what I would call a military base.

My cousin turned off the car, and I rolled down the window, breathing the cold air as if it would transport me back in time. I shut my eyes, thinking, So this is it. This is where Father spent his years, studied, passed on his knowledge to others, clicked his heels to the anthem of a small nation. If only he were alive, he would tell me his story. I am old enough now to understand, to know his secrets, old enough to write about the life that broke his spirit. His country—and mine. Who was this man, really? Who was the father who lived and worked here? My intuition told me he had sent me here, but why? I can only surmise, and hope to write his story—and mine—accurately.

About Sheila Bali

Sheila Bali, historical fiction writer, is soon to complete her novel, Swans and Cranes, based on a family’s escape from the iron grip of post–WW II Russia during the turbulent 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The book focuses on a young girl’s experiences as her family’s world is uprooted, forcing them to flee their home and country to save their lives. Sheila holds a Fine Arts Degree from Concordia University, plus two graduate degrees from McGill University in art education and special education. She now lives in San Francisco Bay Area of California and paints with colorful words. Sheila is a member of CWC Tri-Valley Branch.
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19 Responses to The Story of Kecskemét

  1. Ish Amiotj Kaur says:

    It takes a lot to “Revisit”, we all believe in moving one. It indeed is a tedious process to revisit our past and fossilize it. Wish you the best with it. Your past has a magnificent History entwined to it. Thanks for working hard on it and living it for generations to come.

  2. SheilaBali says:

    My posts would speak volumes of silence, if people wouldn’t read my words. Thank you for sharing your comments, Ish.

    • Theresa Cavender says:

      It warms my heart to read about your effort to visit your father’s past. I, too, have spent the past 5 years tracing my ancestors. What a wonderful experience just to learn more about them, and I feel compelled to write about them because so little is know. It’s a fascinating journey. I’ve just begun my 3rd novel, and in it I am visiting the past. Such fun. So meaningful.

      My best to you. By the way, I went to Hungary several years ago on a river trip. So beautiful. Even had the chance to visit with a family. Lots of stories there. Again, keep writing and sharing those stories. Theresa

      • SheilaBali says:

        Teresa, I hope you enjoyed the river cruise and returned with reams of stories. Best of luck with your third novel.

  3. Sheila, this is an amazing story. I understand how heart-wrenching it can be to revisit the past. Not an easy thing to do sometimes. I hope your WIP is coming along. You’re a fantastic writer. Best wishes to you, MG ❤

  4. Christie says:

    Sheila, I really enjoyed this. It’s intriguing and captivating. I look forward to more! I’m so glad we found each other on Twitter! Ceeeveeedeee

  5. Barbara Warman says:

    My father’s history is also blurred by silence – I get this. I wrote an essay about it.


    I loved him – I worshipped him. He was tall and handsome, the perfect man. I loved how he pinched the end off his hand rolled smoke and tucked it into the breast pocket of his blue shirt. He was my hero; he was my dad.

  6. Sam gregory says:

    Hi Sheila, I read your story. Very engaging piece. I hope you get the chance to write the full story about your father. Good luck:)

  7. Francine Howarth says:

    Hi Sheila,

    I’m so glad you followed me on Twitter, and thanks for inviting me over to your blog!

    I expect as you explore existing memories, the trip to Kecskemét will open doors to other memories and gradually every thing will fall into place. Good luck with revisiting the past and putting it all into words! 😉


  8. Elizabeth says:

    My best wishes on your journey to write about your father, and thank you for sharing it.

  9. Margaret Skea says:

    Really interesting, Sheila, loved another’s comment ‘history blurred by silence’ I do wish you well with this, I’ll be keeping my eye out.

    • SheilaBali says:

      Margaret, I wish great success with your book as well. Thanks for the kind words of encouragement.

  10. Micki Peluso says:

    Sheila, this is going to make a wonderful book. I envy you as I’ve never been able to find my father. He was also in the war and I carry his name on my birth certificate but he doesn’t believe he was /is my father. I often miss him and the family I’ll never know. Good luck with this. I wrote a memoir too and found it to be a wonderful way to visit the past and store the memories that cannot be forgotten by time because all I have to do is . . .open my book.

  11. Anthony John Lourens says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. The part where you rolled down the window to breathe in the air and closed your eyes trying to imagine how your father’s life was there, touched my heart and I held back tears in my eyes.
    A daughter going out her way seeking her father’s life and history.
    Well written.

    • SheilaBali says:

      Anthony, at the time I’m not sure what I was feeling. I had a mixed bag of emotions, and many of my questions were spinning cyclones in my mind. There were numerous ‘what-if’s’and ‘countless maybe’s. It was months later that I managed to unravel all the information, and then I had to re-sew the pieces back together in orderly thoughts. The sole purpose of my trip was dedicated for reseach, and this is what I blog about. My family were refugees during the 1956 Revolution in Hungary, and its vital that I understand the events that led up to it. Retracing the past will give flesh and blood to my upcoming novel. Thanks for reading, and I’m glad it touched your heart.

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