on planning a trip to SLovakia #hungary
George Farkas raised the questions below, having just spent several weeks
there I share answers >from my perspective...I did not go to the towns he plans
to visit [he plans to visit the villages around Zilina (Zsolna), Lipto
Szentmiklos, Nyirbator, and Marghita (Romania)
and the archives in Bittse among others.]
I went to Kosice, Bratislava, and Nyitra in Slovakia, Budapest and Miskolc
in Hungary, Prague and Vienna. No matter where one goes detailed preparation
-know what you want to find out and what you want to see...for example a
specific time range for a specific community's marriage records. Some of the
archives have on line information as to what is there....
a nice resource for Slovakia is:
1. How important is it to be able to speak Slovak? I do not speak Slovak at
all; I so speak Hungarian as well as English, French and Hebrew, and I have
-Yes Slovak is very important, I had a translator. Then again I don't know
if the Hungarian and German will help. I understand politically those
languages are in disfavor. Hebrew is helpful in the cemeteries in reading the stones,
if they are readable, to find your family. [more on cemeteries in a bit].
2. Do I have to set up appointments to visit the archives, cemeteries,
Jewish community organizations in advance? This is problematic because I do want
to be flexible if possible.
-Appointments can help....archival hours this summer tended to be Monday
through Thursday 8 or 9 or 10 [!] to 3 pm with no Friday hours. What ever small
Jewish communities exist be mindful of all the holidays and don't even think
of asking for anything on Friday....people who are observant are too busy.
-some places require you file a few days in advance for material, some
cemeteries require keyed access, which implies appointments to get the caretaker
or key holder....in general it is hard but plan ahead.
3. How easy/difficult is it to find records of events, vital information,
etc prior to 1900? 1800?
-I traveled with Gabi Svatos and several people told us there were no vital
records before the 1850s....they were wrong. In Nyitra we found a wealth of
material for that region including what appeared to be a Pinkas going back
into the late 1790s and ledgers for the 1840s including a previously unknown
Nitra census of the Jews in 1841. Gabi and I got a lot of good personal
information >from that. NO matter what you have been told, ask if there is anything
else that might be relevant...that's how we learned about the 1841 Nitra
4. How can I find out where (official and Jewish community) archives are
located? How easy/ difficult is it to get access? Are tips for civil servants
appreciated? (If yes, what amounts are reasonable?)
-http://www.minv.sk/en/index.htm this link is to the main listing of the
SLovakian National Archives, some of it is in English...the part you need to
know is which archive covers your area then check for State, Regional and City
archive repositories as well as any remnants of Jewish community material held
outside the archive either by the community or public library.
I noticed that in some church records, particularly under the listings of
deaths, there would be 25 or so to a page and number 26 would be squeezed in at
the bottom for the 'Jud'
5. How easy is it to get about? I was thinking about renting a car, so as
not to be tied to the bus and train schedules. Are good maps easily available?
How easy/difficult is it to be able to get an Internet connection for my
- we did very well without a car..buses are fine. Parking and negotiating
the tiny streets of small towns might be prohibitive, to say nothing about the
cost of gas. Besides, a great portion of your time is inside an archive, or
targeting a destination. Taxis are very cheap, the price differences in
Slovakia are astonishing and USD and CD have a very favorable rate of exchange.
When I went to the cemetery in Kosice I negotiated for the driver to return in
3 hours and was able to give him a generous tip for doing so.
I copied a few pages >from a European motoring map to cover the areas I was
interested in and also got detailed printout >from mapquest for more specific
areas like around familial places of origin. The tourist maps are just
By the way, I found it very hard to exchange travelers' checks...and the
only place to do so, banks, charge a good percentage. The many exchange centers
around charge no fee for cash so make with the money belt.
-we used cyber cafes rather than lug around a laptop that would also require
guarding when not in use....unless you have a very small and light one and
absolutely need the data in it don't bother. Most cyber cafes in Slovakia are
really cheap....a few dollars an hour. Not all have printout capacity if that
Both Vivian Kahn and Gabi made excellent notebook printouts of their data
and what they were researching and got a lot of mileage out of that. I made the
error of carrying too many files with me and it got heavy and tedious. [I
don't have a laptop]
6. Is a week enough time or will I have to cut out some of the places?
7. Is kosher food available at all?
Check Ruth Gruber's books and Centropa.com. Where there a Jewish communities
with kosher kitchens reservations will be necessary. Your 'degree' of
kosher, ie Glatt or some less strict form will determine whether going vegetarian
will suffice. I don't know that there are kosher restaurants per se in many
places. Chez David in Bratislava comes to mind as good but relatively expensive
Finally, about cemeteries...I can't overemphasize Bobbi Furst's advice to be
prepared..long sleeves, strong shoes and socks, long pants, bug spray, water
and a mopping rag [for both you and clean up], heavy gardening gloves at the
MINIMUM. Even with all that I got injured by the very thick shrubbery and
underbrush. The grounds are very uneven and squishy, with unexpected sinkholes
hidden in weeds that lie in wait for weak ankles...a walking stick to probe
ahead might be a good idea. Go early in the day or later, for better lighting
and shadow. Midday contrast is low and hard to photograph. In the cemeteries
I want to it was hot, buggy, hard to walk, hard to find even the most well
recorded graves as the sites are so deteriorated.
A final thought........just being there to witness the past is an important
part of such a trip. So whether you find the documents you wish or not, being
able to appreciate what you have come to see is richly rewarding. Enjoy!
Newton, MAssachusetts, USA
ASCHNER-, Assakurte, Berko, Bratislava, Budapest , Hradiste, Katlo, Kosice,
Malacky, Nyitra, Spisska Nova Ves, Wien, Berlin, Beuthen/Bytom,
Breslau/Wroclaw,Brunovce, Danzig, Chorzow [Konigshutte], Kattowitz LIFSITZ-Galati;
GOLDMAN(N), LANGER -Kosice, Bolyar; Miskolc, Presov; LOW'Y-Brezova, Hradiste,
Spisska Nova Ves MELTZER, PERLBINDER, LADENHEIM-- Horodenka, Galicia
RAKOFF-Keilce,Russia, RIESENBERG- Bolygen, Horodenka, Kasperowicz,
Zaleschicki, GORDON-Moletai, WATMAN, MILLER-Lithuania, Ponemunka