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< Echoes of Memory

What I Learned from My Father


By Peter Gorog

Father’s Day is just around the corner and I am looking forward to celebrating it. Being the father of six daughters and the grandfather of four fills me with joy, not to mention the expectations of surprise presents. Presents or no presents, the love of children and grandchildren is the best thing that any papa anywhere can get. And I get a lot. Unfortunately my father never had a chance to receive the same love from me. He died during the Holocaust when I, his only child, was not even two years old.

The precious little I know about my father is from my mom’s wartime diary and her reminiscences of him, as well as my father’s diary of a ski trip to Austria, the very few pictures that survived World War II and, most importantly, the postcards he sent from the Hungarian labor battalion where he perished as a Jewish slave laborer. These cards are not only the records of all the suffering my father had to endure during the Holocaust, but they are also a living testimony of how much he loved his family.

If my father could see our family today, he would be very proud to see how we engage together in outdoor activities. My father never had a chance to teach me to ski or take me kayaking on the Danube. His love for anything outdoors was handed down to me by the pictures of him and my mom at a ski resort, or paddling on the river, or the one showing them in the company of friends in front of a camping tent. These pictures are not only inspirational for me, but also for my children. My oldest daughter was not even three when she was on her skis. My second oldest was only a few weeks old when we took her for a short canoe trip on the C&O Canal on a warm, sunny, late February weekend. Not everyone agreed with that decision. As my girls grew up, we frequently went camping, and all of my daughters are very good skiers. I occasionally go cycling with one or more of them, and I hope that my grandchildren will join us before I have to give it up. We just started a new family tradition as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every Sunday our family goes on a three- or four-mile hike in a close-by park. 

If I can claim only one thing as my paternal legacy, it is my father’s love for his parents, my mom, and me. I have tried to pass it on to my family and only time will tell how well I have succeeded. I believe we are a tight-knit bunch; we wear our hearts on our sleeves, and we never fail to say goodbye without a “luv ya!” And we mean it! My girls are like the three musketeers; “one for all, all for one.” We lost our Juli at a very early age, but she is always included in the “all.”

It might be presumptuous, but I firmly believe that 50 years from now, when my children have spent all of our 401k retirement leftovers and sold the house they grew up in, they will still fondly remember the family love that helped them through even the toughest of times.

© 2022, Peter Gorog. The text, images, and audio and video clips on this website are available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.

Tags:   peter gorogechoes of memory, volume 14familyparentsforced labormemorydiariespostcards

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