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Hungary Backstory

Why is Hungary featured in the "Mistletoe Inn Mysteries" (the 2023 holiday season Empress Isabella novellas)?

I'VE GOTTEN COMMENTS ABOUT THE GENEALOGY in the "Mistletoe Inn Mysteries." I thought I'd clarify my interest in the history of Hungary.

​     I am roughly almost half Hungarian. I am also a lot of other things, too, but you know that nobody on this beautiful Earth is 100% anything, or even a clear 50/50. Honestly, I look normal, whatever that is. I also look pretty much like any other older person. 

​     My father was born in Hungary a long time ago. His family were landed gentry for centuries, owned vineyards, raised polo ponies, and lots of other cool stuff. They were knighted at one point and awarded the Maria Theresa Medal of Honor by this well-known sovereign with dominion over the Austro-Hungarian Empire and other Hapsburg regions until her death in the late eighteenth century. We still have the original medal.

​     When the "winds of war" came, my dad's family fled to America right before World War One. He stayed behind with his grandparents to finish his education, because they never thought things wouldn't go back to the way they were, and my dad was the eldest son. Of course, nothing ever goes back to the way things were, and after World War One, the Treaty of Trianon chopped up Hungary, removing nearly two-thirds of its territory (and giving it to other countries), regardless of the cultural origins of the people who resided there. Because of where his family lived, my dad was now a Czech citizen and by the grace of God and a little bit of luck, he was able to get a Czech passport and exit visa to leave the country and join his parents and siblings in America. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here and you wouldn't be reading this, but that's another story for another time.

​     The town in which he was born (Leva, Hungary) is now called Levice, and it's located in Slovakia (following the recent breakup of the Czech Republic). If you look up my dad's family history in Levice ancestry records, his family is considered Slovak and Slovakian citizens, but luckily, my family and I know they were never Slovakian, but always Hungarian. DNA proves it. We have a certified, stamped original of his 1899 birth certificate as further proof.

​     Just like in the Empress Isabella novellas, Hungarians were living in the part of Hungary still known as "Hungary" after the country was split up, but there were other family members there who hadn't escaped after the Great War and were caught behind the Iron Curtain of the U.S.S.R. During the 1956 rebellion, one of my dad's cousins, her husband, and son managed to escape and find their way to Germany where they settled. I grew up hearing tales of their hiding in haystacks and huddled in forests and how difficult it all was. But they made it.

​     I wanted to share that I grew up asking my dad what was for dinner, and he always said "krampampuli" knowing we would laugh at the silly-sounding word (sounded like krumpumpully). But he would never tell us what it was! He's been gone for a long time, and it was about twenty years ago that I was glancing through a Hungarian cookbook and got to the last page...and there it was!! KRAMPAMPULI!! Turns out it's a New Year's Eve burnt punch (yes, you set it on fire to burn off most of the alcohol) and it's a real thing popular even to this day. While I've never made it or tasted it or even been near it (!), I thought it would be neat to include it in the Empress Isabella stories because it's one of my dearest memories of my father who passed away when I was only 19.

​     I hope you enjoy reading the Empress Isabella novellas as much as I enjoyed writing them.

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