The Tatars of Highland Park

Dr. and Mrs. Tatar in 1983 in their Highland Park home with their granddaughter.

Our son Christian with our grad school friend and her daughter in the fall of 1982 at the Tatar’s home on Ravine Drive in Highland Park.

Going to Highland Park was a fun thing back when our kids were young. We were new in the Deerfield area, having moved in in 1981 into our first house. It was, in short, a dump. I will get to that story another time.

The Tatars were the Hungarian in-laws of a good friend we had from grad school. She had come to Ohio University, found it wasn’t a good fit for what she was doing academically, and ended up at Marquette, Luckily for us, we got a chance to meet her. She and her husband lived in Clarendon Hills. We had gone to their wedding in Washington, as her dad was a Mexican diplomat. The wedding reception took place at the Watergate, site of the famous Nixon scandal. They used to come up north to visit and we made a connection.

The Tatars had escaped Hungary after World War II. Joseph was an ophthalmologist and had met up with the American Troops as a doctor for them, if my memory serves me correctly. He and Elizabeth had been told by the Americans, as the Russians were coming in, that perhaps it would be best to connect with them. They helped out and toward the end, one of them took their car packed with important personal valuables (the china, an oriental rug, etc.) and the other took the train. They ended up in Germany where they spent several years in a transient, immigrant situation with their small children, before moving to the U.S. I believe that our friend’s husband was the only child born in the U.S.

There were some wonderful people in Highland Park, Illinois who sponsored them and when we met them, they were completely established and had a wonderful old house near downtown Highland Park (not far from where one of our sons now lives) and not very far from the beach. They had a wonderful garden where they had raspberries, currants, and all sorts of other things. They did compost and taught us many common sense and natural gardening techniques.

Going to their home was a special treat, it was like going to the Europe. One time I remember going to their home for dinner. It was a real treat with our kids as we felt like royalty being served dinner on the family china and using the family silver. It was especially cool for me as I had no connection to anything Hungarian when I moved to Illinois from Cleveland. This, however, was a Hungarian connection unlike anything I had at home because my connection was to the peasant class of Hungarians. The Tatars were like Hungarian Royalty compared to what I was used to. I remember introducing my mom to them and she was hesitant about speaking Hungarian to them (although she had grown up speaking it and didn’t even speak English when she went to school). When she heard them speak, she knew that their dialect and accent was that of the upper classes, far removed from her experience. She was quite the quiet lady while around them.

It was a sad moment when Dr. Tatar got ill and passed away. Elizabeth then ended up selling the house and moving to Charlottesville, Virginia to be near one of their sons.

We shall never forget the Tatars, their warm family home, and the wonderful bits of the old world that they imparted to us.

About Richard Koerner

Sixty something, father, papi, educator, organizer, Francophile, traveler, amateur photographer, gardener, cyclist, kayaker, calligrapher, cinephile, reader, and overall renaissance type human being.
This entry was posted in Friends, Hungarian, Hungary, Life in general, Thoughts and philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

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