10. Family stories

a) Youngsters in Vázsony

The first family gathering after the second world war took place end August 2000 at Nagyvázsony castle, north of the Balaton lake, - a former Zichy place. Hundred nine family members participated on the three days event, most not knowing each other or not even having a common language. Yet it went well (despite the salmonella more than half of us was poisoned with thanks to the carelessness of the caterer, a Hungarian state entreprise). The great thing to see was how the teens and the twens found each other, how they got along. You could sense the hope of the future. Seeing this I thought, it was worth the pain after all to organise a new gathering…. and to put together this first family manual.

b) Family institutions

In various magnate families in Europe it is usual to establish a sort of foundation for the family as a whole or part of it. The foundation consisted normally of land possessions that were to be managed by the eldest son for the good of the family. Unmarried daughters/sisters were for instance to be supported from the income of the foundation. The possessions were unsellable by law, so as to protect the family from loosing possessions and prestige. The administration went from eldest son to eldest son again. This type of family insurance was called “majoratus”.
Some noble families established another type of foundation, the
“senioratus”, entrusting on estate one of the elected elders of the family. In the Zichy case this has been the “birtok” in Nógrád, an estate of 34.110 kh.

c) Mozart and the Zichys

The musical genie taught piano to Amália Zichy, the daughter of the younger Károly Zichy in Vienna, in the 1790-ies. He was after sponsors and maecenae and had great hopes, - as he reports to his father - that Károly Zichy, at that time minister of finance, will introduce him to chancellor Kaunitz and the Emperor himself. In his letter home to Salzburg Mozart spells our family name in six different ways (…….). That proves that he might have been a genius in music, but hardly a champion in spelling family names.

d) Zichy-places in the World

There are a number of places named after one or the other family member in Hungary. Not surprising. Don’t be however astonished to find a few also abroad. Here a guide to find your way:
Fiume, the commercial harbour of pre-first world war Hungary at the Adriatic has a ‘Zichy quay’ – after Joseph, who served there as govenor and promoted constructions of public interest;
‘Zichydorf’ (‘Zichyfalva’ in Hungarian) is a settlement in Vojvodina/ Vajdaság, Torontál county, bánlaki district, (now Serbia) founded upon Zichy initiative (Ferenc) in majority by German settlers after the Turkish wars;
New Zichydorf” is a settlement in Canada (…….) founded by the immigrants from the above mentioned Zichydorf, after the first world war;
‘Zichy-Land’ is an archipelago, in fact the central part of the Franz-Joseph-archipelago in the North-See between Russia and the North Pole. The archipelago was discovered 189… by an expedition of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy organised by Ödön Zichy (the Maecenas, OR-ve-szm 1) and led by the explorer Karl Weyprecht. After count Wilczeck Ödön himself was also the second biggest financial sponsor of the expedition, this is why the archipelago bears our family name. With the global warming and with Russian permission, we might plant potato there one day…. ;
- ‘Zichy-cave’, on the Körös river, (East of Oradea, now in Rumania) on former land of Ödön Zichy (the III.), who made the spectacular cave accessible for tourists; Link 1,
- ‘Zichy-vízesés’, Link 1,
The “Gräfin Zichy Gasse” is a street in Kalksburg in memory to the lady, wife of Ödön II., a born countess Gatterburg – who donated the land including park for construction of a later famous jesuit collage in the Woods of Vienna
- ‘Zichy gasse’ is opposite the imperial summer palace in Schönbrunn, Vienna. It stands in the former park of the Zichy Palace, now the University for Theather and Filmscience.
- ‘Zichy liget’ is the now public park in the place of the former garden of the Zichy Palace in Székesfehérvár, named after the “Ipargróf”.
- ‘Zichyújfalu’ formerly ‘Újfalu’ is a village in Fejér county, Hungary.
In Budapest streets are named after three Zichys, Géza, the musician, Mihály, the painter and Jenő, the ‘Ipargróf’;
- Óbuda, too, has a ‘Zichy street’ remembering that after the Turkish wars Zichy Péter and Miklós were very active organising new settlements and public life from their Óbuda castle base.
- Zichy csatorna – lásd Kapos !

e) Ancient cultures

My boss Bruce, an internationally respected American, who served the United Nations as Assistant Secretary General, one day called me into his office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He had just returned from his holidays in Egypt. ‘You know, Zichy, - he said, - by all respect to your ancestors, who obviously had an interest in ancient cultures and managed to visit Egypt back in the mid 19th century, what kind of barbarism is it to carve high up into one of the columns of the Kings Valley ‘Zichy Károly, and the year of his visit’? I do not even understand how the hell could he get up that high to commit that sacrelege !!’

f) The senior of the family

In older times it was something particular to become the senior of the family. Not only honour, but also the big Divény estate that went with it. Hermann (19.OR-vá-li-32732) was aspiring to become the senior one day, however - to his bad luck - our grandfather Ödön III. (18.OR-ve-szm-1b.24) was a few months his elder.
As it happened, deep in communism, when all estates were long gone, the postman brought a postcard to grandfather’s 90
th birthday. On it it stood: “Ödön, are you still alive?? Hermann”

g) Excellent memory

Rubido-Zichy Iván ( 19th generation *1874) was ambassador of Hungary in Great Britain. Later he served as chief of protocol in the Ministry of Foreign affairs, a post, where you need an excellent memory for names above all. One day, two of his altogether five daughters crossed him suddenly at the corner of the corridors at their Nágocs castle. In his surprise he said: ‘well, can you tell me, please, which ones are you, now’ ??!” (story from Gabriella, one of the daughters concerned).

h) Communists’ favourite

In 2010 the first scientific analysis came out in Hungary – its English version has now gone to print – about all the political deportations in Hungary during the Stalinist era. Sociologist Zsuzsa Hantó found that the most punished aristocratic family was the Zichy. We ignore why we got this communist honour. In any case Hantó consacrated a special chapter to the Zichy stories. If you want to look at it, just refer to the literature listing hereunder.

i) Where our ancestors roamed around

History does not tell us on what places our ancestors roamed around in early times, when Hungarian horsemen terrorised Western and Southern Europe. Perhaps, just as well. We also ignore, how far we ran fleeing the Turks and how far the braver followed them in the 17th century, when some family members made name and fortune in pushing them back to the Balkan.
The famous travels linked to the family are those to Asia done by Jenő (17.OR-ve-szm-1b.4) on one hand and the brothers József (18.OR-ve-se-12a.1) and Ágoston
Jenő (17.OR-ve-szm- 1b.4) was most puzzled by the origin of Hungarians and made, in the second half of the 19th century, four expeditions, at own costs, to Asia, once even to Peking and back. He took various scientists (geographers, linguists, ethnographers, biologists etc.) with him to explore all aspects of possible relationships and reported to the Hungarian Academy of Science. The findings were published also in German and French. I found the 6 volumes of the expedition reports in French in the Vatican Library in Rome.
[It might be noted, at this junction, that “bad tongues” say, it was Jenö’s wife, countess Redern herself, who said, that Jenö – a great admirer of ladies - travelled to the East first, to enquire about the ancestors, later, to visit the “utódok”.]
The travels of
József (18.OR-ve-se-12a.1) and his brother Ágoston (18.OR-ve-se-12.a.3) became famous, because they succeeded exploring parts of China and Japan at the time (also in the seond half of the 19th century) when foreigners were not welcome in these countries at all. Their reports must be somewhere in the Hungarian National Library and/or in the Academy, but I found no time to trace them yet. They also undertook an extensive travel to Northern America. The itinerary of the former was Constantinople (now Istambul), Egypt, Aden, Ceylon, Indonesia, Singhapur, Siam (now Thailand), Macao, Canton, Shanghai, Japan, Peking, Gobi, Mongolia, Ural. They managed to be the guests of the highest dignitaries and were thus shown places and buildings never seen by European eyes before.
Another travel is linked to
Ödön I. (17.OR-ve-szm-1b.2), the father of Jenö, the Maecenas. He roamed around in the mid 19th century mainly in the Middle East, partly as imperial envoy organising the establishment of the Orient Express between Paris and Istambul. A prove of his travels hangs in the National Galery (19th century painting department) in Buda Castle depicting him, by portraitist J.Borsos, as
“Libanese Emir”. He actually wore this clothing first at a diplomatic reception in Berlin.
He was also the organiser of the great expedition of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy to the Arctis result of what was the discovery of Franz-Joseph Land. It was actually not him, who got caught in the ice…. (for the story see …. Weyprecht…. Payer), however he also sponsored the expedition, for what the name Zichy was given to one of the main group of islands of the archipelago.
Another one with discovery ambitions was
Vilmos (17.OR-vá-da-39b.) of Daruvár, who tried to explore Sudan and Abessinia. Unfortunately he was killed there in 1875. For the two versions of the story see the German book …….. and the Wurzbach Biographisches Lexikon, that gives you the French version.
Travel, of course, became easier and more common in modern times. Yet, I was a bit surprised
when my gentil Vietnamese tennis partner, Jean, a professor in physics in the local French Lycee in Niamey, Niger, right on the Southern edge of the Sahara, asked me, if I had any relative called Jacque. You know, it’s the same spelling of the family name, he explained. To solve that riddle I needed until our next tennis session. By then I found out: Jacque was in fact Jakab, (1928-1985), (20.OR-vá-li-32f.612), - son of Rezsö, “the holy Zichy”, - who lived in France and had joined the Légion Étrangère. ‘But how did you meet him?’ I wondered. “Well, - said my friend, - he was the best man at my marriage back in Vietnam”.

j) Little Zichys

The champion is undoubtedly

        1. Károly (16-OR-vá- 32), the founder of Libényszentmiklós branch. He placed (legally) 16 little Zichys into this world, 5 girls and 11 boys. Admittedly, from three mothers: an Esterházy, a Festetics and a Seilern.

The second in fatherhood is

        1. Benedek I., back from the 1400-ies. He became father of 13 children, - 7 boys and 6 girls, - from one wife, Anna Imrefi. They are followed by

        2. Miklós (16.OR-vá-39), founder of Daruvár sub-branch, who had 12 kids from one wife (Juliana Loe).

The crowd follows:

father Ferenc (16.OR-ve-1, * 1749, the founder of the Vedröd branch) with two wifes (Kolowrat-Krakowsky, Lodron-Laterano et Castelromano) and 11 kids,

son Ferenc (16.OR-ve-se, *1774, the founder of Seregélyes sub-branch) with two wifes (Esterházy and Cavriani) and 11 kids

and Károly (OR-ve-16, *1788, founder of Cziffer sub-branch), (with a Batthyány and an Apponyi as wifes), with equally 11 children; last but not least

George Gustave Zichy-Woinarski with 11 kids.

It can be suspected, that this is the secret, how the Zichys have managed to become the most extended aristocratic family of Hungary.
Admittedly, we have, of course, some difficulties in counting the illegal ones…..

k) A donation to the Jesuits

Ödön II., the middle one among the three Zichy Ödöns, (17.OR-ve-szm- 1b.2) married a Gatterburg. The Gatterburgs were at home in Retz, North of the Danube, blessed wine region in Lower Austria and had some land also around Vienna. Generously the countess made a big donation to the Jesuits, that enlarged the grounds of their famous college in Kalksburg, in the Woods of Vienna. To their bad luck, both my grandfather, - the son of the charitable countess Zichy-Gatterburg (and the youngest of the three Ödöns) - and Ivan Rubido-Zichy, same in age, were put by their parents into this reputedly very strict jesuit school for getting good education.
One night, the jesuits discovered two of their pupils in the act of trying to get over the high wall around the college park, out into the village.To their horror, they were the two Zichys!
And to the Jesuits’ honour it be said, that they - after painful dilemma, - pushed aside all the gratitude to the generous countess and … dismissed the two.

l) The polyhisztor

Some say Tivadar (19.OR-vá-li- 32f.32) was a real polyhisztor ….. Well, he definitely wrote an essay about the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, about the influence of astronomy-based time-calculations on agricultural productivity and God knows about what other important scientific subjects. Also, he was a noted sportsman, in fact in 1928 champion of car-driving in Hungary, a daring pilot; a professional piano player in bad post-war times in London, moreover a writer again about his personal experiences as dedicated playboy. His lasting fame is mostly for this latter activity… it’s not a secret: he was proud of it.
I ignored most of this when I arrived in Chile. But my folkdancing acquaintances there got puzzled by my family name….would it be the same as … well, as that of the ‘hero’ ?!
A few years ago there was an awful fire, you know, - they told me – in a well-known place in Santiago. The entire building stood in flames, and a big crowd gathered to see the drama, to eyewitness how the firebrigade fights to save those who have taken refuge on the second floor. They were to jump onto the strechted canvas held by the firemen, but one could see them in the windows screeming of horror, hesitating of fear to jump.. All of them women. The crowd started cheering encouragement and finally what seemed to be the sole man up their helped and pushed a girl from behind down into the depth, then another, then a third. When even the last was saved, the man himself appeared fully in the flood-lit window. And there he stood …. in fluttering underpants. The crowd could hear him shouting: ‘in name of the Allmighty, let’s now jump!’.
The hero of the prominent brothel was a gentleman: Zichy, Tivadar.

m) Ex libris

János, the nuclear physicist, (21.PA-lá- 332431) was traveling to the Ural and Siberia on behalf of the Swiss government to look at Russian uranium for sale. Interested as he always was in books, all kind of books, he just walked straight into the Novosibirsk public library. He took a book from the shelves, at random, and discovered a stamp: “ex libris Ödön Zichy, Zákány”. What do you guess, how did this book reach Novosibirsk….?

n) The dilemma of the freedom war 1848-1849

The independence from Austria was important for Hungarians. After all, a Habsburg king was elected by the Western part of Hungary – to reign in personal union - to help mobilizing forces against the osman Turks. However, on this point the Habsburgs disappointed: neither much respect for the principles of personal union, nor efficient help against the Turks.They tended to see the World from Vienna only. The language of command in the army had to be German; the Hungarian Parliament seated in Pozsony, close to Vienna, instead of Buda. A compromise, like the language of the Parliament, that was Latin so as not to be either Hungarian, or German.
In the spirit of the French revolution, heated by the nationalistic movements all over Europe and fed up with the police state of chancelor Metternich (whose 3
rd hardly popular wife was admittedly Melanie Zichy-Ferraris (17.OR-vá-315), Hungarians forced the reforms and that lead to an 18 months ‘freedom war’, that finally was won by the Austrians thanks to a clever diplomatic move: they succeded convincing the Russian czar, that it is also in his interest to put down this uprising that might spread to his country, too.
Our family - reputed more conservative than liberal – was pulled apart by the pre-March, March and post-March events in 1848. Many felt, we need a king for ourselves, more modern economic policy and reforms in the social area and time has come to press for these reforms. Others feared the possible rapture with the Habsburgs and favoured progressive reforms. Some stateman, like
Ferenc (1811-1900), (17.OR-ve-se-12a.) had even their internal conflict. He first became secretary of state for trade on the side of István Széchenyi in the revolutionary government, only to switch to the imperial side when real fighting started. At last, he became Vienna’s representative in settling the financial accounts in St. Petersburg for the Russian intervention in Hungary.
At least four Zichys have lost their life in this serious conflict
: Ottó (1815-1880), (17.OR-vá-li-328), Béla (17.PA-pa-822, Ferenc (18.OR-ve-se-1211) …. and Jenő, (16.OR-ve- 1a.) …. The former on the battle field, at Esztergom, at … and at … respectively. The latter was hanged, as national traitor. That story stands hereunder separately.
Manó (Emmanuel) Zichy-Ferraris (…) pursued a military carrier, joined the honvéd army, offered all his silver for the Hungarian revolution, later became chamberer and was much admired for his good looks: “igaz, nekem olyan publikumnak való pofám van...”

o) When honour still counted…

Victor Zichy-Ferraris (1842-1880) (18.OR-vá-3181) doctor juris, became lawyer at the outset. He then moved into politics, made it to deputy lord-lieutenant of Moson county, later lord-lieutenant of the central Pest county, later secretary of state for trade. With politics came influence, with influence the temptations. He got publicly accused of being involved in corruption, and felt obliged to resign from both his mandate in parliament and his state secretary post. As also the high society started boycotting him, he challenged István Károlyi, one of the initiators of the boycott, to a duell. He died from the shot at his heart.

p) The origins

One day a Zichy cousin called me: “listen, Aladár, it’s time we arrange for a Zichy-gathering. After all, we have to decide, where our origin is. You organise it and I put my castle – the only one not under soviet rule - at the family’s disposal for that event. The venue is my contribution. The organisation yours. And don’t be reluctant! If you have succeeded in organising a world conference for the United Nations, you will also succeed in organising a Zichy reunion, won’t you?” - I told him, I fear, the Zichy reunion might prove a bit more complicated than a UN world conference. ‘But in any case, what do you mean by deciding, where our origin is. How do you do that’ ? “Well, - he said, - it is simple: we just vote whether we descend from Chief Töhötöm, as I believe it, or from one of the others among the seven 9th century Hungarian chiefs, who look down at you on the Hero Square in Budapest.”
This was thirty years ago. In fact, - as far as our origins are concerned, - tradition has it, that our ancestor was
“Apafarkas” (= father wolf) who led, back in the 9th century, the occupation of the Szamos river valley in Transsylvania (now West Roumania), into the later Doboka, Kolozs and Torda counties, where his “Agmánd” clan eventually settled. There is written proof of that from the year 1288. The ‘nobiles of Jára’, - mentioned in 1303, - were a branch of these, settled in Torda and were active also in gold mining. The two sons of Paska, refered to as magisters László and Jakab, were knights at the royal court of kings Károly Róbert and Louis I, the Great. It was their brother, the younger Paska, also from the royal court, who received the donation Zics in Somogy county and Zajk in Zala county. Paska still used the zajki (= szajki), his son Gál already the zicsi (= zichi) ‘family’-name.
The “járai de zich” form of the family name was mentioned last time in connection with Elek (Alexius) in 1418. His heirs kept the possessions in Jára, however, in 1496 they have put them in pledge to Járai relatives, and they stayed with them.
There is yet another, more modest version of our origin. It roots in a different interpretation of the very same few existing written documents in which the same names occur in different generations, that makes identification somewhat problematic. There was
Buus – the story goes - , a “várjobbágy” (=…) in Nyitra (North of the Danube). One of his sons (Gál, who lived in 1301), had a son (Paska, 1335-1383), who was deputy lord-lieutenant of Pozsony, became the founder of the ZAJK-line and had two sons, Miklós (1372) and István (1395-1397). The other son of Buus (Paska, 1301), had three sons: László (knight at the court, 1338-1365), Jakab (also knight at the royal court, 1347-1382), who founded the ZICS branch, and Gál (bailiff at Kolozs, 1353), who founded the JÁRA branch, and who had a son János (1362).
Jakab, the father of the ZICS branch had a daughther, who married László Fáncs of Gordova,
who was “bán” (=…). Jakab’s son, Elek, became deputy lord-lieutenant of Zala (1365-1397); he married a Katalin in 1417, who bear (?) him a son, Zsigmond (1380-1415), who is ancestor of all Zichys, noble or more.
Do not tell me, there is no room for more research! – especially when I now hear that one of the fifty members of the Hungarian St.George Order, - the oldest non-religiously founded order in Europe ! – (founded by king Róbert Károly in 1347) was reportedly “vásonkeöi László Zichy”. If so, where does this “vásonkeöi” come from, when we always thought, István the Founder obtained it in the 17
th century ???
[Scan in page 96 from “Zics története”, on separate page!]

q) What a life!

Dr. Nándor Zichy (19.OR-ve-szm-1b.454) was born in Mosdós in Somogy county. He obtained his diploma in economics at Berlin University, his PhD in Budapest. He began to work as secretary for the Hungarian National Tourist Council; he later became the director of the Hungarian National Tourist Office. As such, he travelled the world. He was one of the best Hungarian sport pilots. As pilot for the desert explorer Ede Almássy (The English patient) he flew to Asia Minor in his little sport plane. It was a daring exploit recognised even by the world press. He thereafter became under-secretary in the Teleki government, and played a decisive role during the war in the policies of the Horthy government that sought to bail out of the war. After the war, together with István Bethlen, he became “guest” of the Soviet army. He had to endure innumerable interrogations, as he described in his letter written on January 14, 1990.

Nándor Zichy’s letter to Elek Baranyi, the husband of Teréz Zichy (translated from Hungarian)

January 14, 1990

Dear Elek,

Your kind letter gave me great joy. When I read of your marriage at that time in a Hungarian newspaper, I would have liked to congratulate you, but I didn’t know where to write. I am now rectifying the omission and I wish you and Teréz a very happy 1990. I think of you often when I read your name in connection with the heroic death of István Horthy. If my memory doesn’t fail me, that was the day we met for the last time. I will tell you briefly about myself. At the end of the war I took over some land in Fejér County from my father who was ill, and farmed it, until the Russians arrested me. Under the custody of the NKVD they dragged me here and there on foot, then on sleigh, interrogation every night, reports. On the way, our numbers grew.
When we arrived in Soltszentimre, there were seven of us, including István Bethlen, General Gerlóczy, Károly Apponyi,
20 then Henrik Werth. 21 From there to Kiskőrös with my fellow prisoners. I stayed with Werth one more week, they took me first to Kispest, then to Buda, and Pest. Then to Balatonalmádi, Szombathely, Baden bei Wien. There there were 400 of us in the cellar. That was where the Russian war tribunal sat. I got 10 to 20 years of labour camp. I was let out and placed in custody in an empty house. I met the daughter there of the French ambassador, Géza Lakatos, and Szilárd Bakay, 22 etc. Lajos Veres Dálnoki was there too. We were released after 1945. The Russians took me straight to Andrássy út 60 and handed me over to the Hungarian political police. Reports again, beatings, I was released, they, took me back, then I was released for good.
In my absence, the National Assembly, citing my activities in the resistance, released 100 acres for me. When I went to take possession of them, the police chief of Székesfehérvár chased me away. Completely destitute I joined with a friend who was a former pilot, I started selling cars, „Zichy automobiles” on Szabadságtér. Here I got in trouble with the economic police. I spent a night there. I had enough. I got an invitation and air ticket to Norway. I bought an emigration passport and flew to Oslo with five dollars to my name. There I met with a wonderful, educated family. I gave language lessons to their three boys. Later I was a pilot instructor with the Norwegian air force, then export manager with a private steel company. I traveled throughout Western and Southern Europe, the Near East, including Persia, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and New Zealand. It was very interesting. Then I became the director of a new mining company in Northern Norway with this same company. Fortunately, Oslo remained headquarters, for the mine was on an island next to Alta on the 72 degree latitude. There is a similar mine in Canada, “Lakefield Nepkelin Syenite”. I was there in Toronto, then in Montreal to spend a weekend with my cousin Ede Pallavicini. If only I had known that you lived there! My second wife is Greek, a close relation to my deceased first wife. When I retired in 1977, I took over the representation of the Norwegian company. I worked seven or eight years more. If you happen to come this way, we would love to see you. We have a guest room with two beds. We would be happy to see you.

Greetings from your old friend.


other stories:
(Aladár to complete, others to contribute…)
- kőszivü ember – Jenö story,
- Max, ‘send me Zichy!’ (Mexico)
- the holy Zichy
- Miklós, painter
- Marietta

20 Count Károly Apponyi began his military career in 1899 and he was demobilized in late 1918. He managed the estate he inherited beginning with 1927.

21 Henrik Werth, chief of general staff.

22 Szilárd Bakay, organised the armed resistance on March 19, 1944, the beginning of the German occupation. He was arrested by Gestapo agents. He was taken to Mathausen where he was prisoner from October 8, 1944 to May 5, 1945. The Soviet troops that liberated the camp, „illuminated,” then let him go home. He was brought before the People’s Tribunals, but was exonerated in November. On April 11, 1947, he was lured from Szombathely to the house on Lipp Vilmos Street, 9. He was executed on March 17, 1947 in an unknown place in Sopron or Sopronkőhida.