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Dr István Bakonyi’s Wanderings, Part 6 and Epilogue

The misadventures of a Medical Doctor from Győr in the final days of World War 2

In the first part you learnt why and how the diary is born, in the second one you discovered that German and Hungarian military units couldn’t resist the Russian advance, bombs were dropped even during the Christmas holidays, a good pair of boots was worth its weight in gold and a doctor could help those in trouble anywhere and anytime. In part three you read about occasional forced work hours, the tampering with their medical supplies and medicines, the adventures of the wandering troop in Székesfehérvár and their approach to the capital city. We learn about the behaviour of drunken Russian soldiers in part four, as well as the mutually profitable exchange of “goods” with another Russian, a repeated robot (forced work for the Russians), how important it is to have good ID papers, and the search for wine for a Russian army unit. Dr Bakonyi explains the difference between the behaviour of the Hungarian authorities and the Russian Army towards the Jews. This comparaison goes in favour of the latter. In part five we meet the kind-hearted Uncle Schatz from Párkány, learn that Dr. Bakonyi’s medical work is paid for by his patients with flour, fat and bacon, that there are great difficulties crossing strictly controlled bridges, that the lice attacks in Zebegény, that the doctor runs into relatives and acquaintances in Budapest, that he stays for an extended period and practices medicine in a village called Penc.

Sunday, 25 March 1945

I was in church (not clear: church or synagogue? – editor’s note) this morning and I was really thinking about a lot of things. I really want to be home and especially with you, my wife. I read in today’s paper that Esztergom, Felsőgallá, Tatabánya have already been taken by the Russians, and some say even Komárom. I have just written to Feri Parányi, who is in Vác, asking him for further news, because if these reports are true, I shall be on my way home immediately.

Tuesday, 27 March

I hope to have Parányi’s reply by today. According to a Russian telephonist here, the Russian army has taken Komárom and has already surrounded Győr. This is not good news, because if it comes to a siege, there will be a lot more unnecessary casualty. I am very worried about what is to come! I’m counting the days, if the news is true, I’ll start tomorrow, and with a bit of luck I’ll be home by Easter, … it’s a little over 100 km from here.

Wednesday, 28 March

Feri Parányi wrote yesterday and in his letter, he says that he wants to leave in about two weeks only. For my part, I don’t want to wait any longer, I’m fully packed and will leave tomorrow morning. I will check in Vác what the situation is and which route I can take. If possible, I will go to Párkány and continue that way, because I am very interested in the fate of Uncle Schatz, who is still in Párkány.”


Epilogue

So far, “Dad’s Diary”.

But who was actually Dr István Bakonyi?

About her father I can no longer talk to his daughter, Hugi, who kept his Dad’s Diary.

Towards the end of his misadventures, Dr Bakonyi reached the village of Penc, which fortunately did not forget the forced labourer medical doctor who practised there in March 1945. This is what the local publication Penc News wrote about him in 2018:

“The author of the diary, István Bakonyi, a doctor from Győr, was born in 1904 into a civil family of Israelite religion. He completed his primary and secondary school education in his home town and although he passed his school-leaving examination, his intentions to continue his studies were “not encouraged” because of the numerus clausus in force at the time. Thus, in 1922-23, he worked as a carpenter.

István Bakonyi (upper row, fourth from left) with his fellow medical students in Pécs in the years 1923–1924, archivnet.hu

In 1923, he was still admitted to the Faculty of Medicine at the Erzsébet University of Pécs, where he graduated in 1929. After his studies, he returned to Győr, where he worked as an ambulance doctor, and from 1937 until he was called up for labour service – realising his idea of building a modern medical practice – he served the citizens of Győr as a private doctor.

Irén Kőműves and Dr István Bakonyi, wedding photo 1942, archivnet.hu

In the 1930s, he met Irén Kőműves, his future wife, who was not of Jewish origin, but according to the laws on Jews, their marriage on 23 August 1942 was only possible if his future wife converted to the Israelite faith. During the labour service she was often close to her husband, only leaving when the situation no longer allowed it. They had two daughters.”


And who was Irén Bakonyi?

A few words about Hugi (her nickname), one of István Bakonyi’s daughters, the guardian of the diary.

I met her decades ago in the Győr cemetery. To my great surprise, she told me in very modest and simple words that she was a sports shooter and not at any level, because she was a multiple Hungarian champion and a member of the national team!

She was a great sportswoman, and perhaps she inherited her perseverance from her father.

On the occasion of her very early death in March 2019, the Budapest Sport Shooting Association published the obituary (in Hungarian) quoted in part here:

“Irén Bakonyi was born in 1948 in a family of intellectuals.

She got acquainted with sport shooting in the club Győri Dózsa, from where she joined Újpesti Dózsa (UTE) in 1970. Soon she became a member of the national team …

As from 1981 she has been the Technical Director of the Sport Shooting Division of Újpesti Dózsa … She has made an invaluable contribution to the success of UTE today.

Hugi Bakonyi, the shooter, sportloveszet.ute.hu

But she was not only dedicated to the Division, but also to its competitors. Many of our athletes owe the development of their careers to Irén.

She was the one who stood by us in the most difficult times of the Club and the Division.

She also participated in the daily work of the Hungarian Shooters’ Association and the Budapest Shooters’ Association as a board member of both organisations. These positions were not just titles for Irénke. They meant a great deal of work for her. From student competitions to continental tournaments, she took part in all the work from preparations to execution. She was also involved in the everyday life of sport shooting as a competition judge.

She fought his serious illness like a sportsman, but after a moment of hope, finally, she did not emerge victorious.”


Edited and translated into English by Péter Krausz