Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics

By Edward Teller; Judith L. Shoolery | Go to book overview

4
ROMANIAN INTERLUDE
1919-1920

I WAS THOROUGHLY RELIEVED when my second year in the Minta ended. In the summer of 1919, my father took us all to Lugos, where, because it was a country town, we could again have the pleasure of eating three meals a day. My father stayed in Lugos only briefly; he was anxious to return to Budapest to reestablish his law practice. My sister, my mother, Magda, and I stayed behind to be fattened up. About the time we had planned to return for the beginning of the school year, Emmi and I came down with chicken pox. By the time we had recovered, the Treaty of Trianon had gone into effect: It decreed that Lugos, Hungary was now Lugoj, Romania.

In Lugoj, we got a little taste of the treatment of Hungarians under a victorious and vindictive government: We were not allowed to return to Budapest. My mother, born in Lugos and living there when the treaty went into effect, was considered a Romanian citizen. My sister and I were also classified as Romanians because we were the children of a "Romanian." As Romanians, we had lost our right to emigrate without special permission. We would spend the next eight months in Lugoj, trying to obtain that special permission.

An apocryphal story that I heard during our exile provides a glimpse, from the Hungarian side, of the ingenuity of the Romanian adminstrators:

The Romanian warden of the prison in Lugos was a most humane individual. The inmates of the prison were guilty of petty deviations from standard good behavior, so he let his wards go home for truly justified reasons, such as any wedding, baptism, or funeral. The inmates dutifully returned to prison, expressing their thanks in the form of a chicken or a small sack of potatoes. The system worked beautifully, except for the circumstance that the prison was practically empty all the time.

-24-

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