Archive for February 24th, 2010

Erno’s Abbazia Found

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In the story about my great uncle Erno’s involvement in the torpedoing of the City of Benares I included this postcard that I found in my mother’s effects showing Erno and his son Gyorgy and his brother Imre with his son Istvan:

In the post I said that I was unable to figure out where Abbazia was but that I thought it might be on the Adriatic coast. I was thinking of Italy, perhaps north of Venice. On February 11th, 2010 I received this Comment, which has been posted with the story:

Your hunch was right, it is the Adriatic!

Abbazia is the Italian (and Hungarian) name for Opatija, a resort lying on the Gulf of Kvarner (Quarnero). It’s in Croatia now, but in 1939 the region was a part of Italy (it was ceded to Yugoslavia after World War II).

Until the end of WWI, Abazzia had been in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was a stylish resort and very popular among Hungarians – even in the interwar period. Nowadays it’s known for its old-world charm. It’s beautiful!
Andy Gane

I sent this reply to Andy’s Comment:
I would never have guessed. It is one of those small things that gnaw on your mind. It’s a great relief to have the answer.
Roger Kovach

And then followed it with this note:
Just did some map reading: Opatija looks like it is near what used to be Fiume which I think is now Rijeka. Is that right?
Roger Kovach

Whereupon Andy explained the history:
Yes, that’s right. As you doubtless know, at the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Fiume (Rijeka) was Hungary’s main port. The rail connection from Budapest to Fiume was excellent, and the tourists then went on to Abbazia (which actually lay in the Austrian half of the Empire, the border was just between the two places). Of course, between the two world wars the area belonged to Italy, but I imagine the rail connection from Budapest was still a direct one. Nowadays you have to change trains in Zagreb!!! I also have some old postcards from Abbazia (Opatija). I’ve spent several vacations just south of the resort, in a place called Moscenicka Draga. It’s a beautiful coast (it’s called the Liburnia Riviera), with pebble beaches, crystal-clear water, and a steep wooded mountain (Ucka, or Monte Maggiore) behind you.

I very much enjoyed reading about Erno.

Best wishes

I then used Google maps to get a better idea of the layout of all of these places. First, a wide view of the area:

Trieste is towards the upper left, Abbazia (Opatija) is the tagged place and Rijeka (Fiume) is a little below and right of Opatija.  Venice is around the bend on the upper left, south and west of this view.

This is a closer view of the Liburnian Riviera:

To  amplify Andy’s history a bit: Trieste and Fiume were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Trieste was Austrian and Fiume was awarded to Hungary in 1870. Both were mainly Croatian in populace, culture and commercial significance and were competitors for much of their shipping business.  Fiume was Hungary’s only access to the sea and Trieste was Austria’s main port. (My grandfather, Peter Kovach took the Ultonia from Fiume on October 25th 1906 with his wife and three children, the eldest being my five year old father, landing at Ellis Island. I have a copy of the ship’s manifest, thanks to the wonderful Ellis Island Museum.)

After World War I Trieste was given to Italy (one of the Allied powers during the war) and Fiume was given to Croatia as part of the newly formed Yugoslavia. Almost noone was happy about this arangement. Gabriele D’Annunzio led a famous attempt to capture Fiume for Italy in 1919 and Hungary was bitter over its loss. (My other grandfather, even after the second World War fumed over the loss of Fiume (pun intended)).

Here’s the souvenir postcard that Andy sent:


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