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New York Folklore Quarterly, Vol. XXVIII, No. 1, March 1972

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Vol. XXVIII, No. 1, March 1972

Linda Dégh

MR. JOE SZABO and his wife live in a grapevine enmeshed two-bedroom home in East Chicago’s green area, only ten miles away from the steel capitol of the United States. Mr. Szabo is a retired steelworker and still an active man. He does all kinds of odd jobs and is the warden of the Hungarian Presbyterian Church. He buys grapes by cart loads and makes his own wine. Mrs. Szabo’s vegetable patch caters to the strictly Hungarian diet and the flower seeds sent in air mail letters from the old country provide a stunning flower carpet for the passers-by to admire. Yet, this isolate Hungarian microcosm is about to collapse. There is a poster on the front lawn of the house: “Home for Sale.”

Joseph Szabo was born on a manorial estate of Szabolcs County. Like other itinerant tobacco growers, he served on different estates and like 75 per cent of migrant agricultural laborers in the County, he also tried to find his luck in America. A chain-migration and remigration trend became established in the 1880s and continued to flow back and forth for several decades. It was not as big an adventure to cross the ocean as one would imagine. Migration for seeking job opportunities to merely provide subsistence was common among these people. Once the kin had taken care of the financing of travel expenses, the American venture was not too risky in comparison with the expected outcome. The job seekers knew where to go from the moment they left home. They were welcomed and aided by old friends and relatives in the large American industrial centers where unskilled jobs were available and the immigrants were protected from the outside world. The migrant who joined his peers in America wanted to work as much as he could and to stay as long as it was necessary to achieve his ultimate goal: to make enough money to purchase a farm in his home town and become a good farmer.


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