My niece in Hungary and I Skyped just the other day, and she was so excited to see me for the first time in over thirty years! She is now in her sixties in Ivanca, Hungary, and my life has led me to Denver with my wife Gretchen. I could not have reunited with my niece without the help of the Red Cross Restoring Family Links program.
|George Kantor in his Denver home meeting with|
Restoring Family Links volunteers.
I was fleeing political instability after the Hungarian anti-communist uprising of 1956 and I feared my personal security after being discovered as a messenger between student groups in Budapest and my grandparents’ town. My father, brothers and sisters were murdered civilian casualties from USSR and German conflicts during WWII in my childhood during the late 1940’s. When I fled Hungary, I left my surviving mother and older sister behind.
I was nearly sixteen. I had escaped via a French contact to the European coast, then on to the ship to London. The ship’s officers were aware of what was happening in Eastern Europe and decided, “He’s made it this far, let’s let him keep going!”
Although I remained in contact with some family while I lived in London then South Africa and the U.S., I was completely severed from my family after my mother’s death in 1987. The mail system collapsed and it was nearly impossible to communicate efficiently. I received word of my mother’s death six months after the funeral.
During the 19 years I lived in Colorado, my wife Gretchen understood my unresolved, and hidden grief but encouraged me to try to reconnect. I am now in my early seventies and recently had a long and difficult recovery from surgery. It gave me perspective and I decided to return to Ivanca to investigate my past. I wanted to know what happened to my sister and find my niece.
|George and his wife Gretchen looking at their first contact|
Red Cross note from Karolyne, George’s niece, since 1987.
In February 2014, Red Cross volunteer Robbe Sokolove knocked on my door in Denver to tell me that the niece I had been searching for wanted to establish contact! I learned that several weeks after I left my hometown, my niece had also returned to my mother’s grave. The business owners and the town hall employee explained to her that I had been visiting from the U.S. and looking for relatives. It was a cultural imperative after decades of communism to keep my personal information and my niece’s privacy secure. During that period, Hungarians and the Ivanca community had always trusted the Red Cross. After my visit, they helped my niece send a message to me through the Red Cross humanitarian network.
|Robbe Sokolove and George Kanor, laughing about how they|
met through the Red Cross Restoring Family Links contact started
by George’s niece in Ivanca, Hungary with the Hungarian
|The request for contact sent through the Red Cross|
International Services, Restoring Family Links
humanitarian aid network.