Veronica Misbrener was born in 1942 in Németkér, Hungary while her father John Brown was away at the war. Her two older siblings were born before then, so they knew a very different version of him.
“My dad was always a gruff man. My sisters said when they were younger, they used to have so much fun with him,” Veronica said.
He wore his hair long, and even let his daughters braid it.
“He was not like that to me,” Veronica said.
One of the few expressions of love from her father came in the form of a little white tea set.
After the war ended in June 1946, Russian people came to occupy their town of Németkér to claim the spoils of war. They gave Veronica’s family’s home to Romanian people from the surrounding area who lost their own homes to the war. Veronica’s family was shipped in the first transport from their hometown to Hochausen, Germany.
“They took everything. We could only take what we could carry,” Veronica said. “We had a vineyard, we had horses, we had cows, pigs, you know.”
She loved her hometown — it had a theater, which was unusual for that region, and a lake where residents could swim.
In Germany, they lived in the upstairs level of a farmhouse. It had two rooms: One served as a bedroom for all four kids and two parents, and the other, a very small kitchen.
Her dad began working in Würzburg, Germany. The city was in ruins, and his job was to help clean it up.
One day while sifting through rubble, he found a shockingly intact white tea set. He brought it home and gave it to his young daughter.
“I was so happy, because I never really had many toys,” Veronica said. She cherished this small token, and thought it was beautiful.
By this time, the family wanted to immigrate to America–they saw it as the land of opportunity. Her dad’s uncle lived there, and he offered to sponsor their boat ride to New York.
So her family began packing all their most valuable items.
For reasons Veronica doesn’t understand to this day, her mother refused to allow her to bring her precious tea set.
“She had no room, she said. No room for that little tea set,” Veronica said.
“She could’ve put it in between bedding, or anything.”
So Veronica was forced to give her most prized possession to a friend in the neighborhood named Irmgard Konig.
“I was just so upset,” Veronica said. She hated giving up her most beloved gift.
They left without the set, traveled to New York by boat then Alliance, Ohio by train.
Years later, in 2005, she and her sister Matilda went back to their hometown.
They contacted the current resident of their old house, who was the brother of the Romanian occupants. He thought they were interested in buying the house–but he only spoke Hungarian, so Veronica didn’t know that at the time.
“Oh, if I would have known,” Veronica said. “I would’ve somehow made him believe that this is our house. This is OUR house! Not your house!”
In 2010, her other sister Mary went to visit an old friend–who happened to be Irmgard’s cousin–in their hometown.
Mary’s friend gave her Imgard’s address and phone number to give to Veronica, in case she wanted to get back in touch.
Four years later, Veronica still hasn’t picked up the phone.
“Something in the back of my head will not let me do that,” Veronica said. “And I always say, I should do this, I should do this.”
So what’s holding her back?
“I think the tea set,” Veronica said.
If she doesn’t know for certain that the tea set is not in Irmgard’s possession, the tea set can still exist in her mind.
“I wonder if she still has that tea set.”