Monday, June 22, 2009

Amanuensis Monday: of pioneers, languages, and song

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue transcribing the tape my grandfather, Martin Deutsch, and his brother, Ted Deutsch, recorded in 1977. The Deutsch family immigrated to America in 1913, and the brothers are recalling their youth in the Transylvanian town of Almasu or Varalmas - depending upon whether you chose the Hungarian or Romanian language.

[Anything in brackets are my own notes]


Martin: Well I just wasn’t sure how big the house was, but it did have a fairly good roof I imagine
Ted: It had shingles, and didn’t leak. We never had trouble with leakage.
Martin: It was all one room. We did have a barnyard or something I’m sure to house the horse and buggy.
Ted: Well the horse and wagon was in the barn, and we had goats in the barn
Martin: We did raise chickens, I’m sure of that
Ted: Up in the loft we had hay stored for the animals
Martin: I think we raised chickens
Ted: Chicken coop right next to the barn
Martin: That was a big deal there I think for eggs
Ted: That’s right. Coming back to the room, it was a pretty large room and it had what you would call one room where we kept some utilities you might say. A little room added to the one room where we lived.
Martin: You saved the holiday dishes, the Pesach dishes, I’m satisfied. That had to be saved somewhere. We would take out once in a year.
Ted: It was more of a utility room – we kept things in there. Supplies, like flour and wheat.
Martin: When it came time to go to bed, of course you didn’t have electric lights
Ted: No we had gas lamps.
Martin: Oil lamps of some kind
Ted: We would burn lamps with kerosene.
Martin: But the kids…here you had about six seven kids, not older than 10, 11 years old.
Ted: That’s right, they didn’t all have beds either, they had to sleep down on the floor or alongside the floor.
Martin: Seven in a row.
Ted: That’s right we didn’t have seven beds or things like that. Two or three of us would sleep together in one.
Martin: Cot like things I suppose, we did have some padding of some kind I imagine
Ted: We had some kind of padding, I don’t recall what they were. We slept near the stove where it was warm. And there was one bed in the room for the parents. That’s about it.
Martin: That’s something. That’s really talking about a hard life. Talking about the parents being pioneers. Think about the pioneers in the new country. They didn’t have anything more difficult than that.
Ted: I’ll tell you, we weren’t the only ones living like that, everybody lived about the same way.
Martin: We occasionally had to struggle with the local population who didn’t have a high regard for Jews.
Ted: Well, there wasn’t very much of that at that time.
Martin: Well, that would go and come, because the background was there.
Ted: During the reign of Franz Joseph there was very little of that
Martin: It quieted down
Martin: Yeah, but, were we far away from Romania border
Ted: No, we were right on the border
Martin: Yeah, that’s what I thought too. And the river was probably the border.
Ted: No, that wasn’t he border. The section where we lived there were a lot of Romanians also living there with the Hungarians. They had their own school. They had the Romanian school. The Hungarians had a Hungarian school. And the Jews had a Jewish school.
Martin: Now, I know that we all could speak or spoke Romanian almost just like the native tongue. Because we were right there.
Ted: Well we were neighbors to the Romanians. On one side our neighbors were Romanians and the other side were Hungarians. We had to talk Hungarian and Romanian both.
Martin: And you had to talk Austrian which was German, which resembled Jewish [Yiddish] in any case, fortunately.
Ted: We talked Jewish to Jews in town. There were many Jews there.
Martin: Almost without any difference you might say you talked Hungarian and Romanian as if it were the native language.
Ted: Dad talked Hungarian. He talked Romanian just as fluently.
Martin: I would think so. You probably at one time knew Romanian just as fluently.
Ted: I do remember a few words
Martin: I remember a few words myself, but I sure can’t remember any ones I can repeat, but I think that what stayed in my mind were swear words like dunya bata zo [?] that’s god damn you, isn’t that. And that’s all I can remember. Laughter.
[break in tape]
Martin: You were saying, I’m on the record again, you were saying something about knowing a song you can sing which was half Hungarian and half Romanian. Go ahead and repeat that.
Ted: That’s the way they did when you went into conversation, sometimes you used both terms in a conversation, Hungarian and Romanian. Even songs were written and some of them went like this half Hungarian and half Romanian. For instance this song [link to mp3].

My grandfather mentioned frequently to me that his family had to know four languages: Romanian, Hungarian, German and Yiddish. I've tried to use Google Translate to figure out the curse he said. 'Zeu' is one of the Romanian words for 'god', so that might fit. I can't figure out the rest. Perhaps I'll have a reader with some understanding of Romanian who can help. I'd also love to get the half-Romanian/half-Hungarian song Ted sings translated.

My grandfather was six when they left for America - just about the right age to be learning the curse words from the older kids. I find it funny he says that none of the words he remembers he can repeat, and then he goes ahead and repeats it on a tape he meant to be preserved for the family.

My grandfather told me more than once they left Europe for economic, not religious reasons. I suspect my great grandfather, Samuel Deutsch, may have been proud to serve in Franz Joseph's army. However, while Emperor Franz Joseph granted the Austrian Jewish community equality of rights in 1867, the Deutsch family did live on the border of Austria-Hungary and Romania, and there was greater anti-semitism at that time on the Romanian side.

If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post below, or in the comments.


Greta Koehl said...

I can understand a few of the words in the Hungarian part of the song. The first part sounds a little bit like "Kolosvaros"; later there is something about "only one rose remains/remained" (csak egy rozsa marad/maradt" then something about "Oh, my ? rose, my heart is heavy" (literally "hurts" - faj a szivem). I'll see if I can find any lyrics like this on any of my Hungarian CDs.

Greta Koehl said...

Figured out one more word - after marad(t) comes "raja" = "on it," so that means "only one rose remains on it."

John said...

Thanks a lot for your help with the Hungarian portion of the song!

John said...

I agree the first word sounds like it's Kolosvaros, Hungarian for the town of Cluj, which was the nearest main city. So the song was likely a song concerning love for the city.

John said...

On the Romanian half is the phrase "Lăsaţi-o să rămână" which follows the Hungarian above, and also means "let it remain."