Ingeborg Sophie Ludmilla Korte was born on May 9th, 1910 in Hamburg. At age of 24 she married to a Saxon biologist from Transylvania, Dr. Hartmut Walter Palmhert. They had two daughters, Suse Liese and Anne Ruth Palmhert, but their marriage ended in 1941 when Walter was killed during the siege of Sevastopol.
Ingeborg then married Milutin Mučalov, born into a wealthy Serbian family from Banat. Together they had three sons: Sima Andreas, Georg Dietrich and Peter. Between 1944 and 1949, Ingeborg and Milutin lived at the Mučalov family’s mansion in Német (today the village of Beregsău Mic, Timiş county, Romania), which was originally built by the Damaszkin noble family.
In 1948/1949, all the Mučalov possessions from Német were expropriated and the family split to Romania, Hungary, Germany, Serbia, Croatia and Canada. From what is known, Milutin was the last Mučalov to reside at the mansion. It was only after 1990 when the possessions from Német were returned to Sima Andreas Mučalov, the first son of Ingeborg and Milutin. Being neglected for years, the mansion is now in an advanced state of degradation.
Before her death in 1995, Ingeborg Mučalov wrote her memories of Német, dedicating the document to her two daughters, Suse and Anne. In the following lines we invite you to read about the everyday life at the Mučalov mansion in Német immediately after the end of World War II.
Our team would like to thank Yves Dupont, Anna-Maria Muchalov and Ivan Muchalov for sending us this extraordinary family document and old photos of Német. Thank you!
Some of my recollections of Német
Written by Ingeborg Mučalov for her daughters Suse and Anne
The very first time I came to Német, shortly after our wedding, Maika1)Jelena Liliči, April 17th 1878 – November 11th, 1947 , Tata’s mother, came towards us with salt and bread, as it is the tradition there. The big dining room table in the first room was set-up for the reception in a wonderfully festive way, with the white and blue table setting, that you got to know well, with crystal and silverware. This left me a profound impression, of how it was so really beautiful. And Maika was not totally happy with me, she had not desired for her son a wife who had already two small children. This, she said to me often (saying things behind your back was not her way ever).
Tata’s mother, your Maika, in my eyes is so much linked to Német, that I must tell you more of it.
At the beginning, our situation was not evident, that we, namely Tata2)Milutin Mučalov, May 8th, 1909 – November 16th, 1999 and I, were introduced in the house of his parents, Német being her empire and this was not our fault; but progressively, I got used to it, through habit and soon, with delight, because I liked her and could communicate with her.
Maika had many facets and was well-read, formed and trained as it was then usual in very rich houses in Budapest and went to Budapest’s good schools, but surely also with governesses, either French, or German, or other, as it was the case with Tata and his siblings. Obviously, she was well traveled. She spoke Hungarian, German, Serbian and French fluently . As a personality, she was born a lady, with an imposing appearance, with a straight stature and was used to giving orders to other in relation to the house and the whole family business; in the garden and in the kitchen, she displayed love for everything. She had already lived in Német for decades, resided there and managed it in the summer. In winter they lived in a city house, large and beautiful, when Tata was a child, (I know it from the outside only) in one of the most beautiful areas of Temesvár in Elisabethstadt.
Maika was always just and fair, and with you the children, Suse and Anne, she expressed herself nicely. As loved ones, she had adopted two Serbian children. During the difficult years after the war, when things still went well for us, we still had enough, more than enough, to eat. During those times, elderly Serbian people were given hospitality, cared for and fed. And we had guests every day.
Tata and Német were exactly made for each other, Tata needed lots of work and a rich and well filled workday. He was involved with everything. He was up at 5 o’clock and soon was outside, dealing with the work. He supervised culture and the animals. A part of the work was at the main residence: work and wagon horses, many milking cows, sheep and, above all, about one hundred pigs were being fattened. At seven or eight, we were all on the veranda. In summer most often, we ate there; in winter we ate in the first room. After breakfast, sometimes after only a couple of mouthfuls, Tata went out with the wagon (at that time, obviously it was a horse wagon) or rode horseback to the puszta (in German one called it the outlying farm). There were the fields, there was the big stable. At one time, before the war, it contained 51 horses. In my time, there were less, and there were no more riding horses there. Also there was a small herd of cows of about 30 animals, mostly heifers. Then, there was the swine breeding and all what it entails. Most of the worker’s dwellings were there too. All these brought Tata the main part of his daily work. Most days, he came back for a short while to the house at meal time.
Everyone would be treated like a guest, they would sit and eat with us at our table. And every meal was very good, richly cooked and heartily eaten.
For the meals at noon or in the evening, we were almost never alone. During the summer, there were almost always house guests: some students from the agriculture university who spent their study year with us, dwelt and ate with us too, Olga, Nicu, Miriana or Sasha, one of them almost always. In summer at least, we had refugees with us (Adam and Magda Messmann with their small daughter, who had fled from Yugoslavia; Magda was very efficient in the kitchen and Adam was a storekeeper or something similar). Who else came in daily: always some acquaintance, a friend, a neighbour, or the veterinary, the pastor, the notary, some merchants or buyers, anyone having some business with Tata or those who wanted to speak with him. Everyone would be treated like a guest, they would sit and eat with us at our table. And every meal was very good, richly cooked and heartily eaten. In the kitchen, at least seven more people dined, the three or four girls, i.e. cooks, one or two chamber maids (we had no more governesses in my time), but people fell into the groove, those who did not have anything to do, with their basket on their back, strolling between the outside and the kitchen, bringing corn cobs to the kitchen oven (not out of the ordinary but the best to eat). Then, came the people from the village, those who had something to do or to ask, earlier helpers, like the old Baba Tina, for example, who was the occasional shepherd.
The gardener, the blacksmith and two to three other families of the main compound dwelled around the large courtyard in the back of the main building, living in separate houses, mainly two families per house. At that time, in all, 14 families were living in the compound.
As I am narrating the colourful lively life in Német, I must also write that sometimes, during summer vacations, my mother-in-law from Brasso, “Grossi” was there with Hans Otto and Ingrid, so then, with two mothers-in-law, times were nice for me (I believe that already Maika had begun to see some good in me, as she would later), and certainly I got along well with her, to the end of her days. Then, I believe that it must have been during the summer of 1946, I went with Grossi, all my free time, for walks in the Park; having succeeded for once to feel confident, I overheard Maika say about that: “like a princess in a novel…” With you, Suse and Anne and with Kremper and Ingrid (you were like the 4 petals of a 4-leaf clover) she organized theater or dance presentations in the open or in the Park in the evening. In the living room she played marches for you on the piano.
Also, during the summer vacations, the house and the table was even fuller. And at the noon meal, when we were still sitting around the big table, the gardener or one of the maids brought for dessert a full wheel barrow loaded with melons, sweet melons and water melons in large quantity, one nicer than the other, and all came from a fountain in which they had been cooled. And when all of us could not eat a single mouthful more, despite all the temptations, we all, those sitting at the table, had to cut the peels in small pieces. Following this, the flock of turkeys had already been waiting (we had about 50 of them) and the other poultry, the geese and the ducks, had already gathered for a long time, and they all got their share.
Also, in the morning we all had individual tasks, it was always there, a substantial part of all the work. You Suse and Anne, had to, for example, pick up the plums to make schnapps from the fruit of our 400 plum trees. We can thank you for it, because during the plum season it gave enough daily work for both of you. But when it was not the plum season, that there was no school and that you had not already found something to do, some time you sat near me and learnt knitting or crocheting. We all, Trude who stayed once for several weeks, Frau Kremper or any other guest, I obviously, we all helped Maika. First in the spring, there was the peeling of asparagus and this gave us a lot of pleasure with each meal. Most often, we sat around outside peeling vegetables of all sorts, mainly at the time of preparing preserves, and there was never enough help at hand. Grossi was sewing with the sewing machine small seed sacks, and she always found something to do that the others had not always thought of, things often unspectacular, but so important and of good use, like some small vests or aprons for you the children… Things quick and good to do for idle hands, when there was nothing more to say for anyone on anything.
Tata, as I have already said, was not in the house for most of the time, he was always outside, and often went to the city to take care of something, to speak to someone, to buy some cereals or something else… But also for all of us, who were in the house or in the garden, there was always something that one had to deal with, like, for example, smoking meat, always in demand there, and they needed or wanted something to be brought. Once, I saw the wife of the gardener, so comfortably and alone in her small garden, and I thought: “oh, how things are good for us”…
Also, Maika went often, sometimes with you, in the garden to see the gardener or to tend to the vegetable crop.
After the evening meal, things were somehow quieter. Only Tata, when he was finally in the house, was catching up with paperwork and bookwork. He maintained a book on the newborn animals, and when there were new calves or fowls we helped him to find names for them. He also maintained a book on the work performed, by whom and for how long; then, in summer, many day labourers came, in addition to our resident families. He spent many hours sitting and designing careful plans for what needed to be constructed in the fall or next spring and where, he also planned whatever else was needed; besides the wheat and the other kind of cereals, the corn, there were sunflower, hemp and poppy seeds.
The bread was cooked two or three times a week. The maids, already up at 5 o’clock in the morning, in the kitchen, were kneading the dough in large balls as large as a wash trough; then, our servant had to warm up the stone oven for hours, that one that was outside in the back of the house. The breads were cooked in big baking moulds which stood on feet and they were all high and round, similar in appearance. The bread was ready and risen when it was twice the height of the baking mould. Baking the bread two to three times a week gave us seven or eight such bread loaves. There was a large cupboard in the veranda exclusively for keeping bread. It had a cutting board. Ah, there were always breadcrumbs there, because people went repeatedly to the bread cupboard, stood in front of it and cut slices of bread there. You can be thankful for the abundance of flour we had and for the many boxes of flour that were ours.
Often there were days, for me too often, where one, or two, or even three pigs were killed. The house seemed to take on another colour and changed for this event. All the helpers gathered around a big goulash pot, and each individual was rejoicing about the portion of meat he anticipated taking, and everyone did the same. The best smell came out of the kitchen and spread into many rooms, the good smell stuck at every door, people were pressing around their ration, meat and whole sides of bacon ready to be taken. Tata was standing there with Milan and supervised the sausage making or else was already looking at the next step to happen. It was a celebration for most people, and I had the impression that half of the village had congregated at our place, outside in the yard, in the laundry room and inside in the kitchen area.
At that time, there was no television yet, but already there was the gramophone, and Tata, one day, brought home the first radio. Then, the first radios had truly huge antennas for better reception.
Many times in the year you the children were permitted to ride in peasant wagons to go and get sheep cheese from the shepherd. Our sheep were together in pasture the whole summer with the other village sheep somewhere, and, from this, we received our share of cheese. This gave about six to seven balls of cheese, I cannot say it otherwise, in their sacs and in their whey.
Then, there was the milk. From the cows in their stalls in the back yard (there were maybe five or six of them), early every morning, a lot of very large pots of milk arrived at the house. First the milk was skimmed once. In my time, it was always centrifuged. But the butter was made the old way, in an old wood butter churn, in which the cream was beaten again and again, it was difficult work and an art, that was not too quick and lasted long, rather too long.
Our kitchen was a very big one and was the centre of everything. The cooking stove was burning from the morning until the evening, until everything was cooked, baked and ready. And Maika was busy with everything, for example, a lot of cabbage (some white cabbage), would be sliced in time and put into its barrels with all its ingredients, and also enough whole cabbage heads were added in the barrels too. She verified the smoking of the bacon, the sausages and the meat, and that they were properly kept in their seasoning in the basement.
Obviously, it was somehow quieter in winter. You, Suse, remember, how the petroleum lamps had to be cleaned, lined up in a long row, and the maids were standing there to help.
In the rooms there were big glazed tiled stoves, and during the long winter evenings, when Tata was sitting at his writing table, Maika and I were sewing and did most of our needle work. How often did Maika read aloud for me! She particularly liked historical subjects and biographies. Once, for example, it was Franz Joseph, another time it was about the Russian court and court life. At that time, there was no television yet, but already there was the gramophone, and Tata, one day, brought home the first radio. Then, the first radios had truly huge antennas for better reception.
Yes, Német was created for many people, and many, many enjoyed themselves there.
In early spring and in late fall, a good old Hungarian woman came to the house and and spent many days sewing, usually a necessity, while the bed linen was being washed.
And then, there were the days of the big feasts, not only those of Christmas and Easter, the biggest feast was that of the patron saint of the house. Ours was Saint George, and on May 6th was his feast day, the biggest party of the whole year was held on that day, every one who wanted to come was invited. The horse wagons rolled to the railway station, one after the other, to bring the guests who were coming from the city. I believe that we had a coach and a landau at that time, unless these were just two coaches. When Tata was still a child, there was even an old Viennese stage coach and a coachman in livery. Already days before the feast, they were pulled out of the coach house, washed, waxed, the blankets were cleaned, the horses would be spruced up and groomed, and then they would go early in the morning to the railway station, and again during the day, and brought the guests from the city. Also guests from Német itself and from the neighbouring municipalities came, those who knew and could. Already, for several days before, they roasted and baked all day long, a whole orchestra came and played to rejoice people and let them dance, and late, often until the morning, one sang, played music and danced old Serbian dances.
It was the high point of the entire year, full of joy and amusement. Yes, Német was created for many people, and many, many enjoyed themselves there.
And if someone was created for Német, then, it was Tata. I have not known one single other man of his capability for work and endurance, of his preparedness and love.