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ESCAPE TO FREEDOM

The Story of IBOLYA (IBI) RETI and ANDY RETI

UNLIKE THE OTHER stories, this is a story of letters. The beauty of the author's prose and the sincerity of her meanings needed no editing. Her grammar was not important, nor the composition of the words, only the heart and passion of what she wrote, the way she expressed her feelings, her pain and her love. This is a story of love - a romance that equals any of the legends and in it, reveals a truth - of sacrifice, of longings and desire and a love of husband, of child, and of freedom.

 

January 1987

To my son:

I would like to tell you a little bit about your father, whom you don't remember. You were just a baby when he was taken to a labour camp by the Nazi's. So listen my son as I relate to you a true story with happiness and sadness mixed together.

I was fifteen when I joined a Zionist group. I very much enjoyed being in that group, going on excursions to our wonderful mountains, being near nature; the marvellous pine trees, wild flowers, little creeks with their crystal clear water and listening to the songs of different birds, but everything comes to an end. On the last night we were together, we sat around a fire, sang, laughed and were alive with our youth. A boy came over and sat beside me. He was tall, slim, had wavy hair, and brown eyes. To me he was very handsome. I had noticed him many times before because he was so nice looking and well mannered. Girls always surrounded him and although I liked him, he never acknowledged my existence. I felt myself lucky that the handsome fellow had decided to sit beside me. We introduced ourselves and talked of our cities, of books, movies and many other things. Before the end of the evening, we exchanged addresses. We corresponded with each other for years. We fell in love.

My family were poor with five girls, the two oldest from my father's first marriage. We lived in the lovely city of Pecs, the capital of the Baranya Province in Hungary. My boyfriend, Zolti lived in the city of Papa with his parents as well, he being their only child. Zolti's parents were also poor, but they wanted their son to marry into a rich family and tried to influence their son to get a rich bride.

As I said before, everything comes to an end and we drifted apart. Somehow we lost contact; he stopped writing and eventually I moved to Budapest to one of my sisters. I worked in a factory and later moved out from my sister's apartment and rented a room with another young girl. I was miserable and could not get Zolti out of my mind. By this time, I assumed his parents must have persuaded him to marry a rich girl.

It was a summer Sunday afternoon, I was in the little garden behind the house reading, resting on a lounge when I had this feeling that someone was looking at me. I looked up and there he was, standing a few feet away, staring at me. I can not describe the surprise and joy I felt at that moment. He came to me, helped me from the lounge and hugged me. We clung to each other, tears ran down our faces. He was not ashamed to show his feelings and his tears. I hugged him. I loved him with every beat of my heart. I always did and I always will. I thought I had lost him and tried to accept my loss, but he came back. How beautiful it was to love someone so much and to know that he felt the same way as I. Now, while I'm writing these words, in my thoughts I am young and pretty again, hugging my loved one - and my eyes fill with tears.

Later he said, "He had a fight with his parents over me and left them. He got a job in Budapest and found me through my parents." Now we are together and we spend our free time with each other. We talked of marriage. By this time, Zolti's parents had moved to Budapest and Zolti wanted me to meet them.

I was afraid.

What would they think of me?

Would they agree to our marriage?

"Dress up nicely," he said.

From my few dresses I selected one I thought was nice and fixed my hair. "How do I look?" I asked.

"You look lovely, sweetheart. Just act natural as always."

His parents were nice. When we talked about marriage, they asked, "Where would we live?"

"Mama," Zolti answered. "We will sleep in your kitchen. It is big enough to put a bed in the corner."

They stared at him, not believing what they heard, but he convinced them he was sincere.

Our wedding was very simple. We were married on September 14, 1939 in the Nagyfuvaros Street synagogue and for our honeymoon night, we went to a restaurant and to a hotel paid for my Zolti's parents. Over time they came to love me and I became very fond of them. As I said earlier, everything comes to an end and your father had to join the army.

All I have now are my letters to him and you.