Saturday, June 14, 2008

His Inspiring Motto--A Story for Father's Day

I was eleven when we fled our Soviet occupied country Hungary, in 1947, landing in a refugee camp in Austria. Our only worldly possessions were the clothes on our backs. We had lost everything because of World War II, but we were alive, and for that we were grateful to God.

The refugee camp housed hundreds of destitute refugees. Although dismal and cramped, the camp provided a roof over our heads, donated clothes to wear, and soup and bread to fill our hungry stomachs. So what did it matter that we didn’t have penny to our names?

But it mattered a great deal to Apa (Hungarian for Dad.) He hated living off the charity of others; hated not being able to provide for his family, as he always did in the past.

Just beyond our dismal camp home was a beautiful natural world of mountains, a crystal clear river, and farms with grazing animals. The river was the Drau River, and Apa and I discovered it on a summer day while taking one of our rambles through the countryside.

“You can enjoy the water, while I get busy with something else,” he said,.

So I splashed around in the shallow, clear water, while Apa walked up and down the bank. I noticed he was cutting some branches from the river willows growing all along the bank. Soon, he had a large armful of them, so we headed back to camp.

“What are you going to do with them?” I asked him curiously.

“I will make some baskets,” Apa replied.

“And what will you do with the baskets?” I continued, suddenly remembering that his hobby in the past used to be weaving.

“I will try and sell them to the Austrians.”

Soon, Apa found some old boards and bricks, and set up a worktable in front of our barrack. Then, after peeling the willow branches, he began weaving his first basket. A large crowd gathered to watch him. Some boys volunteered to get more willow branches for him.

“Thank you. And when I sell my baskets, I’ll pay you for your help.”

Within a short time, there were six beautiful baskets ready for market. Apa hung them on a long stick, flung them over his shoulder, and off he went to town, looking like a hobo peddler. He returned a few hours later minus the baskets. He had sold all of them!

Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out the book I had been longing for, while we had walked around in town.

“Oh, thank you, Apa,” I shrieked, giving him a hug. “I can’t believe you were able to buy me a new book.”

“You are welcome, Sweetheart. Never forget–where there is a will, there is always a way,” he said. Then he went off to pay the boys who had helped him.

Apa continued with his new venture all summer, and even gave free lessons in weaving to anyone interested. After he sold the next batch, he bought himself a fishing pole, too, and a large frying pan, and building a fire outside the barrack, soon cooked up a large batch of fish he caught in the river, and shared it with our neighbors. It was most unusual to have the aroma of that frying fish wafting through the camp, where barracks were lined up like soldiers, and helpless people lived their lives in them, hoping and praying for something better.

My dear Apa’s example was an inspiration to many at that refugee camp. His motto became my motto in life, and it has always served me well.


"Any man can be a Father but it takes someone special to be a dad."
-- Anne Geddes

This story is from the book, “The Best Dad in the World” published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Copyright © April 2008.

A longer version of this story was previously published in Chicken Soup for the Father and Daughter's Soul. Apa was my dear grandfather, who raised me.

Thank you for reading. Have a wonderful weekend!


Old Lady Lincoln said...

Dear Renie, What a wonderful story to share with us. He must have been one terrific person and loved you very much.
Your blogging friend,

Mike Golch said...

Renie,my dear friend I thank you for shareing this part of your life. I celebrate the fact that you had a Great person in your life,a careing person as well.
I would have been honored to have met this Great man.

Gramma Ann said...

My father died when I was 4 years old, so my Mother was both Father and Mother to me. She was a wonderful person.

Susie said...

Your Apa sounds like a great and resourceful man. What an inspirational post for Father's Day weekend!

Loretta said...

What a beautiful post. I know he loved his family very much. What wonderful memories!!


BClark said...

Dear Renie,
What wonderful memories of an intelligent, resourceful, talented man. He taught you great lessons, which many people should learn. Not to sit back and complain, but to get up and do. Thank you so much for sharing.

Mississippi Songbird said...

Awww. I loved this story..He truly loved his family..

Merle said...

Dear Renie ~~ Another wonderful story
and your Grandpa was a loving, caring man. You were so lucky to have him and your Grandmother to raise you and to love you so much. Great tribute for Father's Day. Glad you enjoyed the jokes and Just a Mom. I am so glad that Eileen is doing well and the wrist is healing, and I hope the pain soon subsides. It's been a long
trying time for her. Take care, dear friend, Love, Merle.

david santos said...

Thanks for your posting, Renie!
Happy day

Glo said...


What a beautiful and touching story. Very good words to live by.

Carolyn over at talktograms needs our prayers. Her daughter Nancy is in the hospital. Carolyn called me this morning and said she had two units of blood,her lips were starting to pink up. Still not out of the woods.


Glo said...


What a beautiful and touching story. Very good words to live by.

Carolyn over at talktograms needs our prayers. Her daughter Nancy is in the hospital. Carolyn called me this morning and said she had two units of blood,her lips were starting to pink up. Still not out of the woods.


Tina Coruth said...


Thank you for sharing your story about your dear Apa. It brought tears to my eyes; it is touching, inspirational and very beautiful.

Love & hugs,

Nonna said...

What a great post for Father's Day! What a wonderful person he was! I hope you had a great weekend!

Jmkdreak said...

Love this story!
You had a wonderful Apa!


hippochick said...

oh tenie,

a beautiful story, beautifully told. thank you for making my day brighter.

~hippo hugs~

deborah wilson said...

Beautiful story, Renie! He must have been a wonderful man - I know that you miss him very much. Apa...I can remember that - what is the Hungarian word for Mom or Mother?

Sandy said...

OH my, what an inspiring beautiful story you shared. YOur father sounded so wise and loving - and to bring you home that book, wow.

Its' so hard to imagine what other people go through and thank you for letting me glimpse that time in your life.


David said...

Oh Renie that is so beautiful. I thouroughly enjoy your blog. Your life is so blessed, As we all are. Too often we just dont take time to realize it.

Sue or David said...

sorry about that name thing. I was working on my husbands blog and never signed out, so when I went to mine to check yours, His name came up, I hope it says Sue now. As soon as I posted I saw that little error, I had planned to add a note but figured it would be in his name too, So yes this is Sue.
Again I love your blog, I love your love of animals. Yesterday we were working in the garden, tilling the rows, as we approached corn, my husband stopped. There on the ground, was a beautful Kildeer egg, ( Kildeers lay their eggs on the ground and watch them, no nest is made.) I carefully scopped up the egg and the dirt it was on with my hands, being careful not to disturb the egg or touch it, then placed it back for the Mama. I went out this morning and took a photo I hope to post it.

ancient one said...

Loved your story! Your granddad was so smart. He left you a good example to follow.

Enjoyed the post below, too! Horses and wagons on your road. I'd have wanted to take pictures too! Your catus blooms are pretty!

2 LMZ FARMS said...

What a touching story. Thank you for sharing your life with us. Thank you for keeping me and my family in your prayers. I know that with prayer warriors like you things are going to be okay. Hope you and yours have a blessed day.

Linda said...

That was a lovely story. Your Apa was a wise and resourceful man. Thanks so much for sharing.

audrey` said...

Dearest Renie

Your Apa is a very great man =)
Thank God for him.