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“My Father did not abandon me”

“After looking for any trace of my father so long, I have come to know in the end that he did not abandon me”, said Antoine Jules Bukovinszky. The French came to see the International Tracing Service (ITS) and its French Liaison Mission office in Bad Arolsen yesterday. “I wanted to express my thanks to all persons who have helped me with my inquiry.”

Born in France on 13 January 1939, Bukovinszky has only a fragmentary knowledge of his early childhood. “My parents Antoine and Anne left their native countries of Romania and Hungary in 1932”, relates he. “Why they did so escapes my knowledge. In May 1933, they got married and in August 1933, my sister Irene was born.” Before being made redundant in 1940, his father had been working in a factory. “When the war began, it was almost impossible to find a job in France for the country’s own people, not to speak of émigrés like my parents”, reports the 72-year-old.

Around the time his mother fell severely ill and died in April 1941. “My father did not have the money to provide for us children. He was in the bad need of finding a job immediately“, so Antoine. “When I was two years of age, my sister and I were placed in a foster family.” His father signed an employment contract and left for Germany from where he sent money regularly thus seeing to his children’s being raised and brought up. “Now and then he came to see us”, knows the French national. “I do not remember my father at all. I do not even have a picture of him.” He was last heard of in August 1944. His research activities allowed Antoine to find out that alimony had been transferred for two further months. “Up to now, I have not known why my father did not come back home after the war had ended.”

Until he turned 16, he had been placed in various foster families and stayed in contact with his older sister. “Then I had to struggle along by myself all of a sudden”, so Antoine. “I have found a job in a factory, have done my military service and lived a ‘normal’ life.” Nevertheless he wondered time and again in all the years what had happened to his father. His sister was reluctant to start investigations on the father’s fate. Antoine, however, did not resign himself to ignorance. He made several attempts to follow the few traces he had found in the past. “A parentless child raised in a home, I was often insulted by both, children and grown-ups, and called a ‘nobody’.”

The Frenchman had already conducted research in several archival institutions, when he was given the tip to try and contact the ITS in Germany by the archives of the French Ministry of Defence in Caen in November 2010. “As I had never heard of the Arolsen tracing service before, I was most grateful for that piece of advice.” He placed a request and had frequent phone conversations with Nathalie Letierce-Liebig from the Arolsen-based French Liaison Mission. “Fairly soon I received the news that she had managed to clarify my father’s fate and find his burial place.” Through more specific investigations she had conducted with the town authorities in Leipzig, she obtained the information that the grave found to be his father’s did still exist. “I was overcome with emotion when I got the information on my father“, recalls the 72-year-old. “He died shortly before the Second World War ended.” The documents the ITS archives keep on his father are wage and receipt cards made out by the “Metallguß GmbH” in Leipzig as well as a death certificate.

The Leipzig town authorities have sent the French national an invitation to take part in this year’s commemoration event in the exhibition centre on 8 May as their guest of honour. Antoine’s father had been killed in an air raid at Beethovenstrasse in Leipzig on 6 April 1945. “I am going to see my father’s grave for the first time now”, says the Frenchman. “It is an irony of fate somehow that my job made it necessary for me to be in the Leipzig surroundings so many a time in the past. Unknowingly, I have often been so close to the secret truth.”