Made in Hungary: A Life Forged by History
“ . . . to all who wander the world in search of belonging.” Maria Krenz’s memoir of her early life in Hungary is just that, a tale of a child aching to belong. Born in 1944 to Christian Jews, Maria’s family barely survived WWII. From 1945 to 1949, the Fleischls experienced hunger and shortages as Hungary struggled to rebuild. The Stalin years, 1949 to 1953, dashed hopes of normalcy. Her parents faced double opprobrium as educated people and Jews. Worse than fear for their lives was Maria’s fear for her beloved father’s life. Alexander Fleischl died from cancer when Maria was six. Maria’s mother, Marianne, unevenly soldiered on as a single parent, with the help of family and friends. Her mother’s and stepsisters’ frequent reminisces emphasized their failure to be viewed as Hungarians (particularly her father’s) because they were Jews. Even after Stalin’s death and the brief Hungarian spring, Maria’s Jewish ancestry proved a stumbling block. Her first boyfriend rejected her because of it. Her longing to belong is only realized by emigration to the United States, a bittersweet triumph.
The interweaving of familial history with Hungarian history constitutes the book’s most appealing feature. Readers not only empathize with Maria but also understand her in the context of her times. An occasional awkward phrase, indicative English is not the writer’s birth language, adds a poignant touch.