My mind is all askew as to where to start with this account of my father's life. I have so many stories to tell, I have so many things to gush about with pride when it comes to him, and yet it's so hard to pin down on paper. I have an outline of my dad's life and history and I will be fleshing it out with him every time we see each other over the next few weeks and then sharing it all on this blog. The vintage photos in his albums will be visiting my scanner and I'll be sharing the images that I grew up with with all of you. It gives me the chills. At the same time, I feel like even though I have written some pretty personal details about my life as a traveling fashion model, and my life as a mother, this recanting of my dad's life goes beyond personal.
You see, I've not ever been really all that open about my family history. I've talked about it with people who have found out and asked me for more details...but I've never walked around announcing that my dad is a Hungarian Prince. Probably for the same reason I've never walked around announcing that I worked as a fashion model. It sounds SO pretentious, so unreal....and for some people it is. But, this has been my reality since birth. I did not grow up with the trappings of privilege, as a matter of fact due to my father's disability and the fact that it caused him to always be the first to be layed off work and the last to get hired (due to being "over-qualified") a large portion of my life was spent in government subsidized housing, eating government cheese and donated canned goods. I remember eating beans and rice for weeks on end because it was the cheapest thing my parents could afford while we lived with my grandmother and aunt in a cramped, two bedroom apartment.
My father was a hard working man. Still is. A man with bloodlines leading directly to St. Stephen, the first Christian King of Hungary and many other heroes of his native country. My father, the proud son of a man who saved seven Jewish families as they were being led to a concentration camp and risked his family's life to keep them safe, fed and alive. There is no drop of laziness in his genepool...and yet there we were....on welfare. I remember many times having friends' parents drop me off at a nice condo complex up the street from my own roach motel apartment after high school for shame of where we lived. How would anyone ever believe that my dad was a Prince? So I kept my family history on the down low and lived life as a normal kid in Los Angeles. Taking the bus home from school every day, wearing the same ratty pair of shoes all year long, watching drug deals happen in the alley under our kitchen window. A far cry from what any of today's popular royals could ever imagine. The closest thing to a tiara I had was a picture in my dad's album of our family's crown jewels.
And to be honest, all I cared about at that time was what any other kid would care about....how much Sun-In to get in my hair, will so-and-so want to go to prom with me, will I ever ace algebra? I knew my dad had an amazing story, but where to go with it? A veritable quandry. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops (as I am doing now) but at the same time I wanted to keep it a well hidden secret. I didn't want to answer all of the inevitable questions that would occasionally pop up..."Wow, do you live in a castle? Do you know Queen Elizabeth? Dude, you guys MUST be rich, right?!" No, no, and no. Although by marriage my dad really IS related to Queen Elizabeth. Funny how all of the royals are somehow related....I definitely never felt like a Princess even though my father's gentility was more King Arthur than Uncle Sam...but underneath it all I knew that I came from someone and something very, very special.
It hit home when I was 16 years old and my father took my mother and I to Hungary to revisit his roots. It was his first time back in his native land since his escape in 1956. Watching my father cry for the first time in my life as he revisited the place of his birth where so many wonderful and terrible things happened to him and his family was more than words will ever be able to express. We took a trip to Keszthely near Lake Balaton where my father grew up in one of Hungary's most beautiful palaces and when my father neared the palace docent (it had been turned into a museum) she quickly bowed, said "Oh your Highness!" and let us enter without waiting in line or putting on the mandatory felt booties that kept the rest of the tourists from damaging the original hardwood floors. To see my dad look around what was once his home...set up as a display....both hurt and amazed me. My history became reality that day. Later, as a Sophomore in college I studied abroad in Salzburg, Austria and while there Otto von Habsburg (may he rest in peace) sent me a letter asking if my father would be visiting me in Austria because he would love to meet with him. Otto and my father were the first two of their families to forge a friendship. I'll tell you more about this history later....Then when I went to visit my grandmother, who at the time was still alive and in Budapest, I remember the officers on the train who were checking passports stop and stare at me and ask "Do you realize the importance of your last name?" as did the owner of the bed and breakfast I stayed in. Duke of Csanad, Prince of Transylvania....all of a sudden it didn't seem so far reaching to me. People knew who my father and his family were...and that they were held in such high regard and with such fondness.....it meant the world to me. Laszlo Makay of Mako and of Gelej, de genere Csanad, Prince of Transylvania...otherwise known as "Apa" ("Dad" in Hungarian). It still amazes me when I think about it.....