March 21, 1904 - November 8, 1986
George's mother was born on the first day of the Spring of 1904 in the small village of Nikla, in the District of Somogy, Hungary. Her father, Sándor Berzsenyi was a wealthy land-owner there, who also had a law office in nearby Marcali, where he practiced law with a fellow landowner and distant cousin of his. Her mother, Lenke Juhász, was from the neighboring village of Pusztakovácsi, where her father was a noble man, who also owned some land. She was one of the most beautiful women of Somogy, and 23 years younger than her husband. Their marriage was blessed with five children, of whom only the three girls survived, with my mother being the youngest. In baptism she was named Zsuzsánna Kornélia Györgyike, of which she used the latter two most often. But among friends and family members, she was known by the nickname, Donci.
The Berzsenyi family was of old nobility, which was reaffirmed in 1559. It was made famous by my mother’s great-grandfather, the poet Dániel Berzsenyi (1776-1836), who is still one of the most celebrated classical poets of Hungary. It was he, who moved to Nikla in his youth, settling on his mother’s estate, which was greatly enlarged by his grandson, my grandfather. Thus, my mother grew up with all the riches a well-run country estate could provide. There were servants galore, as well as governesses and others entrusted with the education of the three girls in basic subjects, as well as proper behavior (etiquette). They had piano lessons and mastered English, German and French so much so that one of my aunts could still converse in French, the least emphasized of the three languages, even in her eighties.
In view of her losing both of her sons as babies, my grandmother was very protective of her daughters. Nevertheless, my mother was allowed to learn how to ride horses and to take part in competitions with her horses both in dressage and jumping. She also mastered how to drive a four-in-hand and five-in-hand, and won various trophies there too. Unfortunately, most of her trophies were lost during World War II, but their memories remained with her throughout her life.
While the loss of World War I was hard on Hungary, it barely affected the carefree life in the countryside. There were no dire consequences of the brief, but brutal communist dictatorship either, for my grandfather was well liked and respected by everyone in Nikla. In fact, he was instrumental in making sure that none of the communists of the village were punished afterwards --- a gesture soon to be forgotten. When the communists came back into power following the loss of World War II, we barely survived its terror. By then, my grandfather, who died in 1921, was long forgotten.
Between the wars my mother assisted my grandmother in the management of the estate, and hence even delayed marrying my father for some time. They were engaged for a full 3 years, rare even in those days. They got married on the 26th of October, 1935 in Nikla; their wedding photo is shown below.