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Wed, 20 Apr 2011 12:02:38 EDT by admin, 144415 views
History paper by Beszedits, Stephen (all papers)
The Kossuth Sisters and Their Families in America
A most memorable event in the history of the United States was the visit of Lajos Kossuth, leader of Hungary during the 1848-49 War of Liberation against the ruling Hapsburg dynasty. The renowned patriot toured the country as “the nation’s guest” from December 1851 to July 1852 seeking support to continue the struggle. He addressed vast crowds, spoke at banquets hosted by sundry groups, and met many of America’s leading public figures. Everyone was deeply impressed by his demeanor and sincerity as well as his superb command of the English language and spellbinding oratory. Popular enthusiasm, however, didn’t translate into any form of official help and a disappointed Kossuth returned to Europe, settling in England.
Numerous plaques and statues throughout the land recall Kossuth’s seven-month sojourn. He has also been honored by the U.S. Post Office; he is one of the individuals pictured in the Champion of Liberty series. Kossuth’s every step in America was closely followed by the press and interest in his activities did not cease with his departure. There is no shortage of information on Kossuth; biographies abound and he appears prominently in innumerable books.
While Kossuth did not remain in the United States, three of his sisters – Zsuzsa, Lujza and Emilia – and their families became permanent residents. Unlike Kossuth who has been accorded massive publicity, their lives have been chronicled far less. Even Hungarians and Hungarian-Americans well-versed with Kossuth and his deeds are often surprised to learn about these sisters or know very little about them. Indeed, several Hungarian writers refer to Kossuth’s sisters as his "nővérei", whereas in fact they were all younger than him and hence should be denoted as his "hugai".
Although their arrival in America was duly reported and they were given a cordial welcome, it was without the fanfare lavished upon Kossuth. Despite the aid rendered by generous Americans, the three sisters experienced great difficulties in adjusting to the new homeland and establishing a secure foothold. Their initial years in New York City were fraught with hardships and marred by a series of misfortunes and tragedies. The children – totaling nine – grew up Americanized but retained a strong awareness of their Hungarian heritage. Five of the nephews participated in the Civil War. Because four of them were officers in the so-called colored regiments, their names have been inscribed on the African-American Civil War memorial.
As years passed, the three families became dispersed, contact between family members diminished, and all of them lost touch with New York’s tiny Hungarian community. Consequently, a multitude of erroneous stories began to proliferate in the émigré folklore and literature, a phenomenon which persists to this very day. American commentaries have also contributed to the storehouse of incorrect statements.
The chief objective of this presentation is to give a succinct but thorough account of all members of the three Kossuth families. Facts employed to buttress the narrative were drawn from reliable sources after exhaustive research and careful assessment. The Kossuth sisters, like their illustrious brother, made considerable sacrifices for the sake of liberty and in behalf of their children. Their stories deserve to be told accurately.
Brief Professional Bio:
Stephen Beszedits obtained his B.Sc. in chemical engineering from Columbia University and his master’s degree, also in engineering, from the University of Toronto. Long involved in historical topics, he has authored some fifty publications during the past decade about Hungarian-Americans and Hungarian-Canadians. Although his primary interest revolves around the participation of Hungarians in the American Civil War, he has also touched upon artists, musicians, physicians, architects and his celebrated grand-uncle, the writer Lajos Zilahy.