Going home

The trip from Canada to visit Hungarian relatives of my parents was a proper Cold War border crossing in the early 1970s when I was about seven years old. The border crossing was ‘modern classical’ in that sense: strip search for me and my mother, diaper removal and search for my baby sister (I remember they actually tore apart the diaper she was wearing), random confiscation of goods we were carrying, nasty border guards relishing their power and looking at us with obvious and aggressive disdain, and spending what seemed like a very long time in the ‘family interrogation room’. I remember quite clearly the comments from the border guards, comments that were debriefed immediately among relatives during our trip to Hungary, as well as friends and relatives, back in the suburbs of Toronto, of course all in Hungarian. ‘Why are you bringing chocolate from Canada to Hungary? We have chocolate here’; ‘those kinds of diapers are bad for children. Don’t you know that?’; ‘Why are your children asking for water? Were they not treated well on the plane?’; ‘Your children look ill and malnourished. Hopefully your relatives will be able to feed them properly when they are here at home in Hungary.’ They took a couple of books from me and also my own chocolates I was carrying. No explanation was forthcoming. And of course at the end of the interrogation we were told ‘welcome home’. Not welcome to Hungary, but welcome home.