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February 1, 2011   

From Budapest to Duluth


The Port of Duluth on February 1, 2011

The Port of Duluth on February 1, 2011

Duluth, Minnesota. Aside from a warm bed and a decent breakfast, I didn’t give it much thought. But a quick reminder about an old family connection to this area, gave me something more meaningful to do.

My grandfather, Captain Andy, was a Hungarian Merchant Marine. In the 1930’s, he was a bright officer about 25 years old, sailing into the Port of Duluth through the very inlet and harbor pictured above—though not when frozen over like it was today. He would transport various goods aboard the MV Kassa to ports along the way, returning to Hungary with grain from this dock. It would have been an epic journey to be sure—a circuitous route navigating the Danube, across the Atlantic Ocean, up the St. Lawrence to the Great Lakes, the Welland canal around Niagara Falls to Erie, Huron, and finally, Lake Superior.

I spent much of the morning and afternoon driving around the Port of Duluth, doing some research into what my grandfather may have seen and experienced during those arrivals and departures. What did the streets look like? Where did he have a drink with his mates? I spoke at length with a very nice woman named, Adele, in the Port office, studied some historical maps, and read profiles on all the docks and elevators currently in operation here. It was the old ones that interested me most. General Mills’ Elevator A, pictured above, was built in 1908 and would have been run by Consolidated Grain Co. when my grandfather came through.


Taken in 2001: The MV Kassa and my nagypapi, Captain Andy, of the Hungarian Merchant Marines

Taken in 2001: The MV Kassa and my nagypapi, Captain Andy, of the Hungarian Merchant Marines

My family’s migratory path is far too complicated for an abbreviated post, but the short story involves World War II, the Germans, the Russians, some gun ships and gold bullion, and my family’s eventual escape to Argentina via Allied ports in Western Europe. Then it was Boston in the late 50’s. My dad finished high school there before heading off to college at RIT in upstate New York, while my nagypapi moved the rest of the family to Seattle and continued his work as a naval architect. He would sail his grandson around Puget Sound whenever I came to visit.

The pictures of the Kassa were taken during a family reunion in Hungary back in 2001, on his birthday. He was interviewed around that time by a Hungarian yacht magazine. He died two years later at 91, and his hat (pictured) rested proudly upon his casket. Captain Andy is buried in the town of Kenders, next to another of Hungary’s heroes, Admiral Horthy.

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