Sunday, April 28, 2013

An Interesting Story of a Noble Refugee!

Countess Ilona Teleki von Szék [©NYT]

Two weeks ago, a little-known Wall Street banker passed away in New York City.

For decades she worked for Merrill, and in spite of having no college degree or any university education to speak of, Ilona DeVito di Porriasa enjoyed a very successful career.

Reading the obituary made me want to find out a little more about this obscure lady, her past and roots deep in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.

As it turns out, Mrs DeVito di Porriasa was born Countess Ilona Teleki von Szék, her family being among the most prestigious of the old Hungarian aristocracy that for centuries served as the mainstay of Habsburg power in Eastern Europe.

The Telekis can find their roots in the XIII century and have enjoyed noble status for centuries. Their familial connections run deep among the pristine group of aristocratic families that for centuries ruled that part of faraway and legend-filled Europe. A look at their genealogy (Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Gräfliche Häuser, Band XVI, 2000) provides the genealogist with a vast sampling of the intricate web of aristocratic relations that formed the ancestry of this famed countly family.

Countess Ilona Maria Teleki von Szék was born in 1939 at Klausenburg (Kolozsvár), the former capital of the famed and legend-rich Grand Duchy of Transylvania. Her family suffered greatly during the Second World War. Eventually her father made it to the USA and after nearly two decades of trying to get his children out from behind the Iron Wall, he succeeded. Ilona and her brother Pál Arctur, with their mother, the former Baroness Anna Benz von Albkron, settled in New York with their father Count Béla (1899-1990).

Read the obituary, it tells us a fascinating story of a family that lost everything and through perseverance, was able to build a new life in the USA.

As sad as their tragedy was, theirs is a living example of the great opportunities America provides, one of the many reason why I, an immigrant, love this country so very much!

Enjoy the reading...

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