In Loving Memory of Brother Iosif Szabo
27th February 1946 – 14th October 2012
A short phone call, in the early hours of January 9th this year, changed everything for our family forever. The much loved husband, father, grandfather, friend, brother and patriarch of our family was diagnosed with a disease that had the potential to take him away from us abruptly.
My father, the father I knew, was the best father anyone could ask for. About three months before he passed away he told my mum that if he were to go to rest, that she would make sure that it would be a simple affair, nothing fancy, as he never liked too much fuss made about him.
When Anglican archbishop Peter Jensen was asked what music would be played at his funeral and by what he would be remembered he replied, “I hope that they won’t speak about me, but about Jesus and him crucified, for I’m a sinner just like everyone else.” I believe my father would have agreed with him. Therefore I will not speak too much about him but his experiences with God.
He was born in Cluj- Napoca, Romania on 27th Feb, 1946 the youngest son to Janos and Erzsebet, and brother to Jancsi and Pista. Being born just after the Second World War he lived in a country devastated by poverty and the one bedroom home was shared by mum, dad, the three brothers and two other boys that came from the country seeking employment in the city.
I remember talking to my dad about the difficult childhood he had. His Mother was sick quite often and he worked in the family garden, then pushed a cart a long distance to sell the produce at the market to help make ends meet. He had to work hard from a very young age, and that work ethic stayed with him all his life. He was formally trained in carpentry and joinery, where he was employed until called up for civil service.
Around the age of twenty he was enlisted in the army, where he was not able to participate in the bearing of arms due to his conscience, and therefore was sentenced to 5 years in prison. He feared that if he were to be locked away five years he would not see his mother alive when released, as his mum was quite sick by this time. He told me about how God blessed him while in prison. I would like to share with you two short but amazing stories that I have cherished my whole life.
Being vegetarian, food was scarce in prison. Inmates at the time were forced to work in all sorts of industries. One of the jobs he was hoping to get was animal husbandry. However, the prospect of working swine was not very appealing to him. On the other hand, if he were to get a job working within the dairy industry, he would be assured of some extra food which was so needed in prison. His prayers were heard and he did spend a number of months looking after the cattle, which in turn meant he would not need to go to sleep hungry every night.
The other story is truly amazing. One day on a roll call his name was called up. He had no idea what this meant. Shortly after he was put on a freight train and soon he was traveling to an unknown destination. Remember this was a freight train, with no windows and no indication of the direction of travel. After a few hours the train stops and he is ordered off the train. To his surprise he is back in his home town. Not only his home town but he is required to excavate with pick and shovel right at the end of the street that he comes from. He misses his mother so much and is so worried about her—yet will he get a chance to see her? Will someone recognize him from among the army of striped prison uniformed crowd? He prayed and his prayer was answered. A church member walking nearby recognised him and alerted his mother, and from that day his mum would come out daily to walk past her son. They were not allowed to communicate but for him to see his mum every day meant the world to him. Just to see his mother’s smile meant everything to him.
After 18 months of prison he was released due to the fact that the government of that time offered asylum to certain offenders. He was finally free to come home and see his mother that he so loved. Not long after his release, his mother passed away. She was in her early 60s at the time. Soon after that, my father started searching for his own soul mate. With his best friends Zagoni Miki and Halmi Pityu they spent much time roaming the country side visiting any place where pretty girls were found. After a number of false starts he met my mother who was the fairest of them all.
Soon they were married and had two boys, Peter and myself. Growing up under a communist regime was not easy, and I remember the strong faith of my father instilling in us Christian values—even if it meant that our education could not advance past the basic schooling offered at the time. He never cared about our career paths; all he cared about was whether we have the love of God in our lives. Everything else was secondary for him. I will forever cherish the stories he shared with me from the life of Abraham, Joseph, Daniel, and other Bible heroes.
In 1986 we left our home country in search of a better life abroad. We managed to escape to Germany, where we lived nearly two years. With generous help from our friends in Australia we were accepted as asylum seekers to this country, and in early 1988 we arrived to this strange yet beautiful country. With the support of our brothers and friends my father started a new career as home/commercial painter. He continued to work in this field for the remainder of his life.
Soon after arriving in Australia both his sons were baptized in the church. It was one of the happiest days in his life. A few years later both his sons married girls that he approved of and he was blessed with four grandchildren—three boys and a little baby girl he adored very much.
Although working full time in secular employment, he was an active member of the church he loved, serving in various capacities throughout the years. In every office he was a dedicated servant. Even the holiday trips were timed with conference meetings in the islands, Europe or Brazil. He loved to travel, meet with fellow believers, making many friends throughout the world.
For my Mum he was more than a husband. He was a friend, confidant, and soul mate. A true life partner in all the sense of the word, whether in the bakery, painting the roof in the 40 degree heat or doing voluntary mission work, they were together, inseparably supporting one another until the last breath.
As a father, he was strict but fair. He did not command but earned respect. He was gentle, loving and very protective of his children. Although not perfect, he was willing to accept responsibility for his mistakes.
In the last few years he spoke a lot about retirement. He wanted to be able to spend more time with the grandchildren, work more in the garden, and do more missionary work but one final project dear to his heart kept him pushing on. The construction of a new church at Kalkallo needed financial assistance and he wanted to extend his working life another couple of years. But it was not to be.
After his final return from Europe he was very weak but he had one wish that he wanted to fulfil. He desired to meet with everyone and sort out any differences he may have had and have a final communion service with everyone. He only came to church once since his return.
In closing I would like to thank everyone who cared and prayed for my father, those that have fasted including the very young ones. I especially would like to thank all the brethren in Europe who cared for my father on his last trip, including Dr Doru and many others whom I do not even know. Thank you to my brother, who spent countless hours, day in, day out, massaging, exercising, and bringing the best of the best equipment from his house to ease dad’s pain. But most of all I would like to thank my mother, who was the most dedicated carer anyone can have. She was there for him 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No road was too long, no mountain was too high to climb, in order to ease the burden of her love.
Farewell my father, you will be missed and will never be forgotten.