So Many Boxes!

I won’t ever forget the first drive to Szolnok to dig into the material. I had set out before dawn from my house in Austria in my beloved red Peugeot 207 (name: Francois).

My Jack Russell, Remi, was in the passenger seat, as ever. She was always riding shotgun. My trusty companion. It wasn’t a long drive—maybe an hour and forty minutes, or so? Something like that. I left before sunup because I wanted to get there early enough to get settled into the apartment I’d rented in town, a studio in an old, decaying Communist-era building (it had a soup can attached to the wall that served as an ashtray), before heading to the archives with the new assistant I’d hired.

The Szolnok Archives (not its official name) was at the time located in an older building in what can generally be considered the central part of the city. We were given a very hot and very un-airconditioned room on the second floor to work in. A staffer named Geza brought in an untold number of cardboard boxes and plopped them on the table. He soon left the room and left us to it. So many boxes filled with so many papers. None of the info was digitized. No, just loose papers slid into thick folders. Everything was either typewritten (by way of an ancient typewriter) or handwritten. Most of the papers were nearly a hundred years old. My assistant and I sat down and got to work. He, a historian fluent in English, was to translate, and I was to key his translation into my Mac. We would be doing this for months.