Sometimes when we’re simply LIVING here in Pécs – taking the bus to school, teaching a class, going for a run, eating a meal, watching Gaelic rugby on the German sports station, or enjoying a festival performance (which is fairly non-stop around here), I sometimes forget WHY we’re here, why we’ve come all the way to this little eastern Central European country. I was reminded of the reason, again, when we took the bus to a nearby mining town called Komló about 20 miles north of Pécs in the Mecsek Mountain region. Wikipedia calls Komló a “planned mining city” during the socialist era. Unfortunately, the last coal mine was closed in 2000 and now the town has a terrible unemployment problem — there’s essentially no work to be had.
Before the Soviets took over the mines, Komló was called Jánosi. Margaret’s mother’s maiden name is Engel de Jánosi (and it’s our son James’ second middle name — James Raymond Engel de Jánosi O’Connor), which should give you a clue to the significance of the place.
Here are some archival photos of Komlo:
Margaret (and others) are (and have been for some time) sorting through the details and putting together pieces of family history, but I think the gist of the story as it relates to Komlo is that Adolf Engel (1820-1903) essentially opened the mines in Jánosi in the late 1800’s and is at some level responsible for the development of the mining industry in this area. That’s why there’s a bust of Adolf in front of the museum:
And it’s why a section of the Komlo city museum is dedicated to Adolf and his family:
And the next two photos help explain why Adolf Engel became Adolf Engel de Jánosi:
There is a genealogical chart on the wall in the museum – it was an amazing feeling to see our little branch of the family included in the display.
Here are a few shots from around Komlo. It’s really a beautiful town, tucked into a small valley. Just looking around you wouldn’t think that the town was struggling. It was clean and there were flowers planted along the road in front of the museum. A student of Renata’s told us that it wasn’t safe in the evenings, so we headed out before sundown.
And finally, to show that not everything is serious in Hungary — here’s a shot from the “Sports” section of the museum, which was full of photos, statues and trophies from the town’s rich sports history:
The crazy part of all this is that the Komlo/mining element is only a small part of Adolf’s business/industrial/cultural/philanthropic impact on the region. He owned, built or invested in real estate, schools, railroads, public swimming pools, and lumber yards. He build some of the most beautiful buildings in Pecs. As a leading member of the Jewish community in Pecs, he was instrumental in building the synagogue, but also he contributed to the restoration of the Catholic Church, and he paid for the restoration of a church organ in one of the smaller towns where he had a business interest.
Later this fall, the Mayor of Pecs is going to participate (hopefully) in a ceremony to place a plaque commemorating Adolf’s contribution to the city. We hope to be there.