HUNGARIANS IN SASKATCHEWAN
Hungarian history is set in the Carpathian Basin in central Europe. Most of the country is rolling farm land drained by the Danube River. The Magyars (Hungarians) belong to the Ugrian branch of the Finno-Ugrian people, with a distinct unique language. Scholars suggest that a most likely ancient homeland would place them south of the Volga bend at around 1000 BC. By 500 BC the Magyars came into contact with the Bulgar-Turks. It was during this time the Magyars became predominantly herdsmen, intermixing with the Turks and organizing into tribes. The Magyars gradually became an agricultural people and a hereditary aristocracy evolved at the head of the tribes.
The development of Hungarian society was away from tribal relationships and toward territorial organizations. As subjects of various empires, over the centuries seven tribes formed an alliance explicitly Magyar. Hungary with the consent of Rome became a Christian kingdom on Christmas day in the year 1000, when King Stephen (1000-1036) was crowned. (Today about two thirds of Hungarians are Catholic) The kingdom suffered attacks by the Mongols in 1241 and the Turks invaded in 1526. The Turks were driven out after 150 years of occupation. Hungary is credited with stopping the spread of Islam in Europe.
Austria helped rout the Turks. As a result, Hungary forfeited its autonomy until a compromise was reached and a dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy was established in 1867. A single monarchy was again declared in 1919 (but no king installed). The First World War and the subsequent treaties resulted in Hungary losing two thirds of its territory. World War Two saw the occupation of Hungary, first by the Germans in 1944 and then by the Russians in 1945. A communist government was installed in 1947 and continued in power until 1956, when a popular uprising opposing the communist regime required the Russian military intervention to crush the revolt. With the leaving of the Soviet army in 1990 the Hungarians have attempted to emulate the democratic west, establishing a multi-party parliamentary democracy. They joined NATO in 1999 and are now aspiring to become members of the European Union.
One might ask WHO, WHY and from WHERE were the Hungarians that emigrated to Canada and to Saskatchewan in particular? It can be safely said that up to 1930s up to 90% of immigrants came from the poor classes of Hungary, especially from the rural areas and villages. They were the children of the landless peasantry or of the “dwarf holders” compelled by critical social problems, by poverty, by the system of great landed estates and the social and political inequality of the classes. Also, because up to the end of World War Two remnants of feudalism survived in Hungary and the differences between the social classes were great, separated by formal conspicuous barriers. Mention of the hardships of family life in Hungary include the stories of gleaning the wheat fields after harvest to gather the stray heads of wheat to be hand rubbed and ground so the family could bake and enjoy some wheat bread rather than the black rye bread which was the usual fare. Also tales of how a child sent to the woods to gather some fire wood for the kitchen was thwarted by the estate overseer who was making his rounds on horse back, and upon finding the child with a poke full of dry twigs, quickly scattered the precious fire wood and gave the child a severe scolding for being in the landlord’s wood lot.
The reasons for emigration were economic; there were slumps in farming, manufacturing mining and other industries. There was seasonal unemployment, hard physical labor, low wages, a heavy burden of taxes and compulsory military service. In addition to these reasons, there was the lack of opportunity to buy land because of the large estates and holdings of a few privileged families and institutions. Credit that would have helped ambitious workers stand on their own feet was completely lacking, resulting in a lower standard of living than in industrialized western Europe or North America. An aspiration to possess property of one’s own. A veritable land hunger was felt by the small holders and by the dwellers of rural areas and villagers, who were employed as farm hands, renters, share croppers and day laborers on the estates of the more prosperous.
Sources tell us that most of the first Hungarians who settled as farmers in Saskatchewan arrived using the Esterhazy area as a stopping and staging point. This was so because “Count” Paul Oscar Esterhazy, a professional agent and a controversial figure, in the year1886, led a group consisting of 35 families from Pennsylvania to Esterhazy which was near the post office of Kaposvar. Hungarian settlements were established at Otthon in1894, St Lazlo (near Prud’homme) in 1900-1905, Bekevar (Kipling) in 1902, Wakaw, Lestock, Magyar in 1904 -1906 and Plunket in 1908.
Hungarians in Saskatchewan in 1921 were 8,946 in number, in 1931 13,363, in 1941 14,576. In 1951 there were 60,460 Hungarians in all of Canada. Arrivals after 1945 were people uprooted by World War Two. many of whom were members of the middle class, men in the professions or businessmen. Very few of these came to Saskatchewan. After the 1956 uprising a new more educated, politically astute group made their way to Canada and Saskatchewan to escape Russian occupation and control. Many had to flee after taking part in the revolution.
The most recent arrivals are largely from former Hungarian held territories where they were not allowed cultural and language freedoms even though they felt an affinity to their Hungarian roots.
High praise was directed at the desirability of the Hungarians as an immigrant group. To quote one source, “Hungarians as a class can be looked upon as a desirable acquisition to the communities of the Canadian North-West.” The meaning of family to the Hungarians extended to a wide circle of relatives, aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws, sometimes to a remote degree. So it was they decided to emigrate and settle in communities. The families were there to help and provide in time of need and also to assist in bringing more relatives to Canada. Hospitality given to guests in food and drink was a highly developed trait. Culinary skills were highly regarded especially in the preparation of festive traditional dishes which were a matter of national pride. So it is and was that the Hungarian communities enjoyed the acceptance of neighboring new Canadians.
Mihaly Macza (1866-1941)as told by grandson William Macza
News of opportunities for a better life in Canada had been circulating in Hungary for a number of years. Some distant relatives and families from the area of the major trading center of Kisvarda in Szabolcs-Szatmar county had already taken the plunge and were now in transit or already in the promised land.
So it was that in the spring of 1904 Mihaly Macza, my grandfather, at age 38 with wife Maria , sons Mihaly 9, Istvan 8, daughter Maria 16, together with relatives Mihaly Molnar and Joseph Mayor and their families, had decided to emigrate to Canada . The rail trip from northeastern Hungary with children, suitcases trunks and other baggage was an adventure. The port city of Antwerp may have been their point of departure on the steamship Bremen of the Nordutscher Lloyd line. Boarding ship and heading out over the Atlantic was great fun for the children, but the adults became sea sick, especially Mrs. Mayor who was expecting an addition to her two boys. Upon arriving in New York they gathered their belongings and headed west only to halt briefly to welcome infant son Gabriel to the Mayor family.
Then on they went to make connections with the C. P. R. to take them to the end of rail at Esterhazy Kaposvar. Leaving their wives and families behind with friends and relatives, fourteen men struck out on foot, a distance of about 150 miles northwest to identify parcels of land suitable for homesteads. After 5 days of walking the men arrived at the site of the Indian Mission west of present day Lestock then traveling about 10 miles south to find the homesteads they had identified at the Dominion Lands office in Yorkton.
Returning to Esterhazy they spent the winter buying supplies, wagons, oxen, tools plows and seed with which they returned to their homesteads in the spring of 1905. Mihaly’s farm was the NE1/4 Sec2, Tp26, Rge15, W 2nd . The other three members of the related family group took the remaining three-quarters of section 2. Each was to be less than a mile from his kin folk. Building a shelter and turning over some sod was begun. Grandfather was on the list of citizens petitioning for a school in July 1906. A year later his son Istvan (Steve, my father), age eleven, was one of the first students. Unfortunately his older brother and sister did not attend any schools.
Clearing the land of trees and rocks and turning over the sod was back breaking work. Cash strapped Grandfather found work on farms 30 to 40 miles south around Indian Head. He transported essential supplies like flour and salt on his back when making return trips. Lipton was the closest town until 1909 when Lestock came into existence with the Grand Trunk Railroad passing through the site. Maria (my aunt), a teen when she arrived, was a strong willed girl. Pressed by her parents to marry a local older widower, she chose to run away from the homestead and make her way to Lipton 30 miles away. Getting cold and wet on the trail she suffered from exposure and died at age 17. Later in October 1906 a seven month old child also died. The family continued to struggle and make hard won progress.
Istvan was an inquisitive lad who greatly admired local violin players. Lacking funds to buy a violin he made one. Alas my Grandmother would not allow him to play it in the house. Storing and playing in the barn was inviting disaster. One of the horses caved in the instrument. Father built his own pool table which was much better than driving 10 miles to town for a game.
Eager to see the world, Father then went to see some of the United States. Traveling to Oregon and California, visiting Los Angeles, working in mines and on construction projects, and finally returning home carrying a violin he had purchased while on his travels.
It was time for improved transportation, as a result various autos where considered. Finally a 490 Chevrolet was purchased. Shortly after father completed a short course on how to operate and repair gas tractors after which the family bought a new 1921 Case 15-27 gas tractor with matching thresher.
In 1922 the older son Mihaly Jr. married Martha Macza and embarked on a farming venture of his own. Mihaly Jr. raised two sons and a daughter on the new farm he established several miles north of the homestead. Mihaly Jr. passed away in 1967. Martha his wife lived on the farm till her dying day in 1990.
Istvan (father) married Ann Mayor in 1923 and established his own farm about 3 miles from the home stead. There he raised a family of five boys and two girls. With his three years of intermittent education he served as the secretary treasurer of the school board, as municipal councillor, Wheat Pool delegate, telephone company president, retail co-op and credit union organizer. From such humble beginnings the direct descendants of Mihaly Macza are teachers, lawyers, biologists, agrologists, philosophers, RCMP, marketing experts, computer animators, investment counsellors, physical therapists and others, who are making their contribution to society in many other ways as well.
Father and Mother retired from the family farm and moved to Saskatoon in 1968. they enjoyed retirement as a couple to 1974 when father passed away, Ann my mother lived alone until 1994. After a brief and only stay in a hospital she passed the torch to her many surviving family members.
Let this brief history be a tribute to the sacrifices our forefathers made.
THANK YOU GRANDPARENTS, PARENTS AND ALL WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE US
OUR PRAIRIE HOME – SASKATCHEWAN
The story of the Hungarian settlers is a story of perseverance against many odds, a determination to succeed for the sake of a better life for their children and future generations, upheld by a strong faith in God. Since my own ancestors, the Miskolczi’s of Prud’homme and the Galambos’ of the Wakaw area have kindly told me their remembrances, I am pleased to relate some of these personal experiences to be put into record at the time of Saskatchewan’s 100th. Anniversary. A quote from the writings of Dr. Frank Hoffman, a United Church missionary in Sask. states “ As early as 1900 from Rosthern, Sask. as distributing point, Hungarian settlers filed on homesteads around Prud’homme, Wakaw, St. Benedict, Middle Lake and St. Brieux , Sask. These settlers saw in Canada a chance to build a new and better life in the land of their adoption.”
In August of 1902, Erizabeth Galambos and her three sons, Joe, George and John, sailed to Canada from Hungary on the ocean liner, Armenia. They left behind the lush, green, hillsides, rich with grapevines where Erizabeth had worked for the landowners, said goodbye to family and friends and the grave of her husband, venturing forth into the unknown.
There had been posters saying that a quarter of land could be bought in Western Canada for $10 and the thought of her sons becoming landowners and prospering seemed worth the sacrifice of leaving her homeland and all that was dear to her. Joe’s young wife and child were part of the family group as they disembarked at Halifax and were loaded on to a train that was traveling westward. Other families of different nationalities were also aboard the train and they felt a common bond as the train moved noisily along the new tracks that had just been laid a few short months ago and were still in the process of being finished across the wide expanse of Canada. After three days, their destination was reached; Rosthern, North West Territories. There was a large building , the Immigrant House where the new settlers could find room to sleep and some rudimentary facilities for washing and cooking. The womenfolk soon settled their families as best they could and went about preparing meals on outdoor fires. Their weary bodies found comfort on the makeshift beds of straw and blankets on the first night in this new unfamiliar place.
With the bright sunshine of the early fall morning, the mother and her three sons sought out the registrar of the land titles and purchased a quarter of land for each. They proudly showed the paper that give them ownership of the land and within days were on their way to their homesteads. Their few meagre possessions were placed on the wagon that had been purchased along with two horses. On the way, as night fell, the Venn family, who had only recently settled in the area, warmly greeted them. Warm food, lodging and a friendly word were most welcome to the travelers. Another day of rough bumpy trails brought them to the markers that signified that this was indeed their property. The young men ran about, hollering and laughing, as they observed the immensity of their quarter. Forgotten were the months of preparation, the ocean voyage the seemingly endless train and wagon ride. They had arrived!
Erizabeth prayed a silent prayer and embraced her sons. Now they would be assured of a good future. The two younger sons, George 18, and John 16 found work harvesting in the area and later went north to work in lumber camps. Joe, his family, and the mother stayed at the homestead and began building a “putry”(a home partially dug into the side of a hill and finished off with logs and plastered with mud) for the approaching winter. Soon the families had a reasonably warm dwelling but were quite unprepared for the blast of cold that the Canadian winter brought. The blizzards came and the snow piled up around the little prairie home, the coyotes howled and Erizabeth wondered about this God-forsaken land that they had come to. Her sons returned with supplies and news from other settlers around. They were invited to join others in celebrating Christmas. And the memories of their homeland dimmed somewhat as they met other pioneers who spoke enthusiastically about spring and sowing their first crop. Slowly the months passed, and spring burst forth. A plow was bought and a few acres were worked to sow the precious seeds they had brought with them. Soon their first crop of wheat was pushing its blades through the fertile soil. The trees would be cleared in time and more crops would be sown. One poignant story was of Joe’s young wife, Julia, terrible homesickness engulfing her, climbing up the highest hill she could find and looking desperately into the distance, hoping to see Hungary. She would go on to bear 12 children, be a pillar of strength and a beloved member of the community. She died at the young age of 43. Erizabeth became the midwife to her daughters in law and other women in the area, give her sons and their families’ encouragement and was respected as a true pioneer woman.
John married Mary Latos and their family numbered 10. Elizabeth Swab married my grandfather, George and their children were George, Elizabeth, John, Julia and Arthur. Their home was in an idyllic setting, a valley where the family lived a self- sufficient, protected life surrounded by loved ones.
Grandfather was a fun loving, generous man, who would run around the house outside in the weeks before Christmas, jingling bells and leaving candies and nuts on the windowsill so his children would enjoy the excitement of the season. His birthday was on Dec. 24, and the family would gather, whether fair weather or foul, to celebrate together. There was always time for prayer and hymn singing in the Hungarian language. Then a wonderful meal of all the traditional delicacies: Chicken soup with fine noodles, paprikas chicken, retes ( strudel) and kolach. One of my fondest memories are those special times in the valley.
My father, George, being the oldest, was his father’s right hand man. At a young age he would set out for Wakaw on an icy 30 below morning to deliver a load of grain pulled by their two trusty horses. Before long, icicles hung from the horses’ nostrils, as they plodded through the deep snow. Dad would walk, sometimes most of the 15 miles to keep warm. One summer,when he was on his way home with an empty wagon, the young team of barely broken broncos got spooked and began running “ all they were good for.” The wagon hit a stone and Dad flew off, box and all. The horses kept running with the double tree attached. Eventually, the wagon was put back together and a subdued team carried on home.
My father, George Galambos, after a long life of hard work, dedication to family, and prosperity, died Dec. 25, 2003 at the age of 92.
Janos Miskolczi was 55 years of age, but when word came back to Dunafoldvar, Hungary, that homesteads were a reasonable price, his family of five sons and two daughters, his wife, Anne and himself boarded a ship at Hamburg, Germany and set sail for Canada, arriving in Rosthern in 1903. He paid the $10 for his quarter of land, bought a wagon, a team of oxen, seed grain and food, and with his family set out traveling the three days until they reached their homestead.
Janos tied a white hankerchief on the surveyor’s marker and said, “Children, we Are home!” Overnight, as they slept in exhausted slumber on their grass beds, a drenching rain soaked them but they hardly noticed. The following day, Janos built a cross from a poplar tree and erected it on the corner of his land. This became a gathering place for other Hungarian pioneers where each Sunday they would say the rosary and sing hymns. A steel cross stands in its place today with a plaque telling this story. Ann brought all her seeds from Hungary and planted a garden. With an excellent potato crop, the Miskolczis ate potatoes and drank tea for their first Christmas in Canada.
Later they built a house 100 feet long with both the house and barn in one. Their sons and daughters chose their mates from other pioneer families. Janos Jr. married Veronika Andre. ( my grandparents) Janos was very industrious and purchased a threshing outfit with his brothers in 1918. The district farmers were grateful, as their crops were harvested in turn.
As time went on, Janos kept increasing his stock and buying more land. At one time, they were working with five plows drawn by twenty-five horses. Janos and Veronika had 11 children: Steve, Paul, John, Anton, Verna,(my mother), Mary, Matt, Alex, Frank and Louis. Janos was proud of his eight sons and as they became young men, made sure they were well dressed. Their mother kept her children busy, working in the garden, sowing and weeding, harvesting in the fall, until every shelf and bin was filled with vegetables and fruit. They never lacked for food and willingly shared. My mom would miss school one day a week to help with the washing and mending. There were always cows to be milked and the milk delivered to the Cheese Factory in Prud’homme for processing. As a hobby, Janos planted different fruit trees and tobacco. He also enjoyedcarpentry and making baskets and brushes which he gave to his friends.
His thoughtful ways and his wife’s generosity and devoted attendance at St. Laszlo Catholic Church, made them well-loved and respected members in the Prud’homme community.
My mother, Verna Miskolczi married Dad, George Galambos, in a triple wedding where John Galambos married Mary Kurja, and Elizabeth Galambos married John Miskolczi. The Budapest newspaper carried a write up of the wedding as a big event among the Hungarian pioneers. My parents had five children: George, Veronica (me), Robert, Ralph and Jane. With many years as a devoted wife (this year would have been 69 years) and loving mother, my Mom, Verna, is now living at Wakaw Lakeview Pioneer Lodge, where Dad also had lived before his passing. From her girlhood in a large farm family at the beginning of the century; her own years of running a farm home, where electricity replaced the coal oil and gas lamps; the threshing crews of the early years replaced by combines and a one man operation. From radio to television to internet; from buggy and caboose to minivans. She has seen and lived it all. Many friends and acquaintances of bygone days also make their home at the Lodge and there is much reminiscing, filled with laughter and some tears, as stories of the early years of farming in Saskatchewan are retold.
The seniors all agree that there could be no better home than our dear Saskatchewan.
HISTORY OF THE SZABO FAMILY
Lajos ( Louis) Szabo was born in Perkata, Hungary 1924, and Ilona R Szabo was born in Nemesded, Hungary 1932.
They were married in Nagykanizsa, Hungary, in 1952. Two years later, Lajos( Louie) Junior Szabo was bom in Nagykanizsa, Hungary in 1954.
Their journey to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, began in 1956, during the Hungarian Revolution where thousands of Hungarians decided to leave their country because they did not wish to be under communist dictatorship.
On November 20th, 1956, The Szabo family consisting of three now, escaped Hungary through Austria via England in which they arrived in British Columbia, Canada.
On May 3rd, 1957, they arrived in Middle-Lake, Saskatchewan.
A few days later on May5th, 1957, Lajos( Louis) Szabo started working at the local garage in which he repaired cars and trucks. On the weekends, he worked a second job on nearby farm, and after a month of hard continuous labor, he was able to save a total of one hundred dollars ($100.00), which worked out to an equivalent of .25 cents per hour.
The Szabo family stayed in Middle-Lake Saskatchewan with a family called.” Dobrohovcki Family”, in which they supplied room and board free of charge for one month.
On June 10th, 1957, Louis Szabo moved to Saskatoon to find a job, and was hired at Intercontinental Packers, where he worked full time during the day, and in the evenings and weekends, he also was employed in a small auto garage.
It was during this time that he began to make a higher wage, which was now $ 1.40/hour.
After five months of working continuously at two jobs, he quit working at the Auto garage, and continued to work full time at Intercontinental Packers, until his retirement in 1989.
Ilona Szabo, his wife, shortly after moving to Saskatoon, started to work a seasonal part- time job at a poultry plant with a starting wage of .80 cents per hour.
In 1958, Ilona Szabo quit working at this plant and both her and her husband started to build their first house.
The house, however, could not be completed in this year, as they ran out of time and money, and only the basement was completed.
By June l5th, 1959, the Szabo family finally moved into their first home. The house was not completed inside, and there was no money to buy furniture. Spare plywood was used for a table, and wooden apple crates were used for chairs, and an old mattress was used for sleeping. All in all, things were shaping up nicely.
The Szabo family were very proud of their accomplishments, especially when the first property tax arrived, they had finally realized that they were indeed home owners.
Eileen Szabo, their daughter, was born in Saskatoon, Sask, in 1962, and shortly after that, the Szabo family became Canadian Citizens in 1963.
Louie Szabo, their son, completed his BSc Honors in Physiology, at the University of Saskatchewan, then later entering the College of Medicine.
He later moved to Akron, Ohio, and entered the Internal Medicine program there, after which he moved to New Orleans where he completed his specialty training and examinations in Emergency Medicine.
In 1985, he married Mary Beth Wagner, and in 1986, their first child, a daughter Jennifer Szabo was born.
Upon completion of his residency training and examinations, Louie and Mary Beth Szabo along with their daughter, Jennifer, moved back to Calgary, Alberta, where their other two sons were born:
Christopher Szabo 1989
Alexander Szabo 1991
Later, they moved back to Shreveport Louisiana, where he works full time as an Emergency physician in one of the Local Hospitals.
Eileen Szabo, their daughter, completed her BSc. Advanced in physiology at the University of Saskatchewan.
She later completed her Medical training at the Albert St. Gyorgy Medical University, in Szeged, Hungary.
Upon completion of her medical degree, she returned back home to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where she gained entrance to an Internal Medicine Residency, in which she then completed extra training at Harvard Medical School as a Dermatology Research Fellow.
She has since returned to Saskatoon where she is now in private practice.
During the Schooling of the Szabo family children, the Szabo family have also constructed three additional homes, mostly by themselves, each one they felt was bigger and more appealing; and have since returned to Hungary to visit family, friends and relatives quite frequently.
At present, both Louis and Ilona Szabo reside in Saskatoon, where they are frequently visited by their family, friends, and grandchildren.