On June 27th 1958 I was born Monica Varga Barany in Buffalo, New York. I was placed for adoption with Catholic Charities. At six months old I was adopted and moved to Niagara Falls, New York with my family.
I knew I was adopted from a very early age. My mother told me the story of how I was born Monica and became Deborah Ann Deuro. I was always proud of being adopted. It was something special and unique. I grew up confident, happy and surrounded by a loving family. Life was great, but something was missing. I needed to know about Monica.
When I was 16 my mother gave me my adoption papers. It was then that I knew I could begin my search. Over more than 30 years I searched for my beginnings. It was never easy. While I often felt my journey to be one of pain, frustration and loneliness, I always knew I had the love and support of my family and friends.
As a teenager I began searching phone books for people with my last names. As the years progressed I became more aware of the various resources one could use; old city directories, newspapers, law postings etc. Dozens of phone calls were placed and letters written but no one knew of Monica.
As the years went by I married, became a mother of two and began a teaching career. All the while I continued to search. I joined an adoption support group in 1987 and my search gained new direction. We shared ideas, tips and resources. That same year I joined the N.Y State Adoption Registry. I also contacted my adoption agency and tried to learn what information I could. The facts revealed to me were minimal; mother’s age, eye color, ethnic and religious background. I learned my birthmother was a recent immigrant from Hungary and was 24 when I was bom. Any other information I requested was denied to me. I couldn’t know the hospital of birth or any other circumstances surrounding my adoption because it was considered private. I could not have access to my birth information for fear it would be identifying in some way.
Then in the late 1980’s a resource opportunity came along. With the help of some friends and a few strangers, I learned information about my birth mother at the time of my birth. I was given her name, her address, and the name of her next of kin and told that I was listed as her third birth. Now I had something tangible to work from.
My husband and I began to search for Elizabeth. (Erzsebet in Hungarian) We started at the beginning, retracing where Elizabeth lived, and most likely worked. We searched for her next of kin, a woman named Gizella G. We searched immigration records, knocked on doors, contacted the local Hungarian Social Club, visited churches and talked with any Hungarians we could find who came to Buffalo around the same time as my birthmother. Our leads took us all over Buffalo and into Southern Ontario, Canada. It became apparent to us that Elizabeth probably moved from the area and we needed to widen our search.
Around 1999-2000 my daughter met a friend named Levi through the internet. Levi happened to be from Budapest. As soon as Levi learned of my Hungarian search he offered to make a webpage about my search for Elizabeth.
The webpage proved to be the most helpful tool for the real searching to begin. I received many emails from people in Hungary and the U.S. One email came from a woman named Linda. Linda lived in England and was Hungarian. She was very interested in my search and wanted to help. She became my translator and friend. Together we read and responded to hundreds of emails offering ideas, tips and suggestions about how to find Elizabeth.
Then in 2002 I received an email from a woman living in Hungary. She had seen an article written by Erzsebet Schaefer about adoption in Nok Lopja, a Hungarian women’s magazine. In it was a brief mention of my search. The woman from Hungary wrote that she knew of one of the women I was looking for. I wrote back and forth to this woman and learned that she was married to Gizella G’s son. A trip to Hungary became the next step.
In the summer of 2003 my husband and I traveled to Budapest to meet Ferenc, the son of the woman named as my birth mother’s next of kin. When we landed in Budapest I immediately felt a connection to Hungary. It was not as if I belonged there, but I felt a sense of being in the right place. I met Ferenc and we both wondered if it was possible that his mother could have been mine as well. I knew it certainly could be possible that some information on my records could have been inaccurate. So to be sure, Ferenc and I had DNA testing done. The tests proved that Ferenc and I were not related. While I had hoped to learn I had found the truth, the visit to Hungary and meeting of Ferenc proved many things. I knew for sure the information I had was truthful, there was a Gizella and she fled Hungary and ended up in Buffalo, New York. She also had met a woman very similar to her. A young Hungarian woman named Erzsebet who also was starting life over in a new country. These two women ended up working in the same hospital and became friends. The search was on the right track. I felt a sense of renewed determination. I had finally found someone from Monica’s life. Though Gizella had passed away, her son was my ray of hope. Ferenc put me in touch with his Aunt Mary who also fled Hungary and was living in California. I immediately contacted Mary and she offered much help. Mary had lived in Buffalo with her sister and remembered many Hungarians who lived in Buffalo when she was there. She told me that many of the Hungarians she knew left Buffalo for California in the late 50’s and early 60’s.
Mary became a strong resource and support. While looking through old photographs she found one of her sister, a man named George and a girl she knew as Erzzie. Mary sent me the photo. As soon as my husband and I saw it we knew we were looking at my birth mother.
In the summer of 2004 my husband and I traveled to California to meet Mary and her ex husband. We talked with both of them about their life in Buffalo, the people they met and the possibility that Erzsebet may have relocated to California. We searched throughout the Los Angeles & Santa Monica areas looking for any information we could gain about Erzsebet. We knew her friend George from the photograph had moved there but it looked like Erzsebet never did. No one knew what happened to her. This was a dead end that was difficult to overcome. Where do we look now was all I could ask.
In the spring of 2006 I received a call from a Hungarian film producer living in San Francisco. He was making a documentary about Hungarian people who fled their country during the Revolt of 1956 and started a new life in America. While doing research he had come across my website and was very interested in my search. He wanted to include my story in his film. That August my husband and I traveled again to Budapest. We took part in the filming and did more searching. We felt that the only way to find Erzsebet was to start in Hungary, where her life began. One of stops we made was to the National Hungarian Archives. I meet with the director of the Archives and shared my story and the information I had. He gave me little hope as being able to help because my birth mother’s name was such a common one. Luckily, along with my mother’s name, I also had her husband’s name and their marriage date. I supplied the director with all the information I had. While the chances of learning something was slim, I managed to get my foot in the door of a government office and my story on film. It was a time of faith, hope and patience as we returned home.
In September I received a letter from the National Archives. While they couldn’t find anything about Erzsebet, they managed to locate her son. I saw his name in print. They had found Laszlo Barany, son of Erzsebet and Laszlo Sr. I stared at his name and had come face to face with this truth-l had found a real connection. With the help of friends and another stranger, phone calls were placed to Laszlo. Laszlo knew nothing of me or what I was about to share, but was willing to talk. My friend Linda spoke with Laszlo and told him the whole story. He heard of my search for my birth mother and how everything seemed to match with records of his mother. Laszlo though shocked, was excited. He wanted to help me find out the truth.
Laszlo shared the story of how his mother and father fled Hungary. He told me about himself and his sister Veronika. He was happy to learn of me but surprised to know that his mother had another child. He gave me her current name and where she was living. She was living in a town outside of Atlanta, Georgia. My birthmother was still alive and living a quick plane ride away!
I had waited for years and now I had what I had been looking for. I called Erzsebet one quiet Tuesday evening in September. She did not want to talk. Her response was not something I had wanted to hear, but all my years of searching taught me to be prepared for disappointment. In the weeks and months that followed, Laszlo and I communicated through emails and Linda’s translation skills. Laszlo made attempts to talk with his mother. She would only share that she was aware of me but would not talk about me. She would not tell him anything else. It was a painful truth I had to deal with. I had to respect her decision, for I never wanted to invade or disrupt her life. I only wanted to find my birthmother so I could thank her for the choice she made so many years ago. I focused on the positive, learning about my brother Laszlo and sister Veronika.
In January of 2007 my husband and son traveled to Hungary to take a course to learn Hungarian. Because I wasn’t able to visit Hungary until the summer, my husband and son went to Budapest to meet with Laszlo and Veronika. My husband called me the day he met them. His words to me brought such joy and many tears. He said that he knew he was looking at my brother the minute he saw Laszlo’s eyes. We would later learn that Laszlo, Veronika and I were half siblings.
In August of 2007 I traveled to Budapest and met my brother and sister. I looked into their eyes and knew immediately that I had found a piece of Monica I had been looking for, for so long. My husband, daughter Erin and I spent a week getting to know my family. With the help of my friends Linda and Levi, we were able to talk and share many thoughts and questions. We learned about our lives, our families and hopes for the future. It was a glorious week filled with smiles and tears, happiness and sadness. In one short week we met each other, held a wedding for Laszlo and Krisztina, enjoyed a family picnic and talked at the kitchen table. I met nieces and nephews, sons and daughters, extended family members and friends. We couldn’t speak without a translator and I was so very far from Niagara Falls and yet, in some strange way, I felt I was at home.
In July 2008 my daughter Erin and I travelled to Budapest for 12 days to visit with my family. Last year we had just met This trip gave us the opportunity to learn about each other a little more. We talked, went out to local pubs and even visited the neighborhood where Laci and Marta were born. This experience has brought me much joy and I find myself homesick for my family in Budapest. I look forward to spending more time with them and Budapest again soon.
In 2011 my husband Chuck and I visited Hungary for two weeks. We spent many days visiting my brother and sister and their families. It was wonderful to get to know them better. We had dinners together and a day at Lake Balaton. We talked, we laughed, we shared food and wine and even a few tears. I was able to take my brother’s daughters back to school shopping and took all the children to the zoo. One of the most wonderful times was spending time with my nephew Tomi, who has grown so much since the last visit. His english is fabulous and he was able to do much of the translating for us. As always it was difficult to say good bye and I am already thinking of when I will return.
Another part of our trip was to meet Nita, who is the daughter of George Horvath. This was the man who was a very good friend to my birthmother while she lived in Buffalo. There is a possibility he may be my birth father so Nita and I have been in communication and have become friends. DNA testing will be done in he upcoming months.
As in the past, my trip to Budapest was filled with much emotion. It was a time of discovery, love and blessings. The search for Monika continues and the journey continues to provide me with self discovery of the person I am.