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The End of The Golden Horned Bull

February 22, 2010

Michal and Marisa Suster, in white, during WWI

It is said that history repeats itself, and in our family that has certainly been true.  Although life under Hapsburg control had its serious shortcomings, one branch of my family in that period  enjoyed a life largely of comfort and prestige.  The formation of Czechoslovakia would change all of that.

A tall, rather serious looking young man named Michal Suster (my paternal great grandfather) left home to go to school along with his younger sister Karolina in Dolny Kubin, in what is now Slovakia.  Michal and Karolina were two of the eight Slovak children of Stefan and Julia (Pintir) Suster in Pivnice, Yugoslavia. I found it curious that both went away to school at such a young age, especially for Karolina; she was one of the first Slovak women ever to graduate from school.

They attended Viššia obchodna škola (business school) and after graduating, Michal was in army school for reserve officers. During WWI he was a First Lieutenant for the Austro Hungarian Army, stationed in Timisoara, Romania.

Michal Suster, 1909

While in school, Michal met and fell in love with Marisa Andel, the beautiful young daughter of a wealthy landowner, and they married right before the beginning of WWI in 1913.  The Andel family had two other daughters as well, Illona and Gita. The Andels lived on a beautiful estate in Dolny Kubin, and their father was often seen riding his white stallion around the perimeter of the property.

Marisa Andel, Dolny Kubin, around 1913

When Marisa married Michal, she was given a dowry of ½ million dinars, a handsome sum at the time.  Marisa and Michal settled a few hours south of Dolny Kubin back near the Suster family in Pivnice, where they bought a large farm and would eventually build a hops processing plant.  Marisa and Michal soon had two children, Jaroslav (my grandfather “Jerry”), born during the war in 1915  and Igor three years later, a month after the end of WWI.

Officers in the Austro-Hungarian Army. My Great Grandfather Michal Suster is the First Lieutenant dressed in whites, standing at the far right.

Marisa Andel, around 1913

I remember how difficult it was to raise a small child when my husband, Nick was in the US Navy and gone for months at a time, and I imagine that Marisa, 22 at the time of Jaro’s birth, did not have it easy on the farm alone with the baby while Michal was away at war.  My son Will was born in late summer 1992 and soon after, Nick was on the USS Saipan, deployed in the Mediterranean for 6 months at a time.  Even when Nick was not out at sea, his work hours were atrocious; during Desert Storm he would be gone from 5 in the morning, returning after midnight each night, night after night, week after week.  For all intents and purposes I was a single parent, setting my own routine with Will and work.  My days started early too, with full time work and a small business on the side.  And with Nick unavailable, I was responsible for everything related to the house and the cars, from fixing a burned out pilot light in the furnace to cleaning up after a tornado.

Toddler Jaro Suster with Michal Suster on the farm, 1918

Igor and Jaro Suster, around 1920 - Love the shoes!

Life as a military wife away from my family was not only exhausting, it was lonely too; Nick missed the firsts –first step and first word, and it was somewhat bittersweet to experience these events alone. I assume Marisa’s life alone on the farm away from her parents and sisters would have been equally tiring, challenging and lonesome.

Marisa Andel, around 1915

Marisa and her sisters had lived a fairytale life of leisure provided by substantial family wealth. The Andels (Slovak for Angel is Anjel, and Andel is a derivative of it) were a family of lower nobility, descendants of Jan Andel, a Vladyka in the 1600s, the equivalent of a  Duke. Since at least the fourteenth century the knighted Andels had been wealthy landowners, luxuriating on expansive property – land, castles, manor houses – throughout what is now Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and what was then known as the Hapsburg Empire.

Oravsky Castle, Slovakia

The remains of over 150 stunning castles, fortresses and manor houses still exist throughout Slovakia, a country geographically smaller in size than the state of Virginia. One of the most fascinating is Oravsky Castle near Dolny Kubin, near where the Andel family lived.  The Andel family coat of arms featured a black bull with gold horns and hooves, and can be seen on some of the castles today.

Andel Coat of Arms

In 1919, Czechoslovakia established the Land Control Act.   The purpose of the Land Act was to reallocate wealth in the new country by expropriating it from the rich and the nobility such as the Andels. My great, great grandfather and his family lost nearly everything – their property in Dolny Kubin was handed over to the government, and they were left with but a small sum of money as compensation.  When the communists came into power, they built hideous apartment buildings on the property, eyesores to this day.  All that I know of that is left today of the Andel family’s fortune is a pair of black emerald earrings and a necklace, handed down to daughter-in-law Pauline, and then later to her daughter Lily.

Andel Bull – Black with Gold Horns and Hooves

And so goes the story of our extended family. Sacrifices are made, fortunes are inherited or earned, and then lost either through poor management or more often, expropriated by the government, dishonest business partners or greedy investors. The Andel family misfortune has repeated itself over and over in the past 100 years, across generations and continents.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Daniela permalink
    February 23, 2010 5:00 pm

    Hello , Marisa is buried in Novi Sad , on cemetery, she died in hospital in Novi Sad. Michal was in school in Dolný Kubin , when he met Marisa. After that he was in army school for reserve officers, and during the WWI he was stationed in Timisoara, Romania. In the same school was my grandmother Karolina, Michal younger sister. The school is Viššia obchodna škola, I dont known how to translate. Michal was family friend with slovak writer and poet Pavel Országh Hviezdoslav , who was living in that time in Dolný Kubin.

    • February 23, 2010 5:23 pm

      Thank you – I had no idea you knew this! I will edit the blog to reflect. I have a picture of a little boy at Marisa’s grave – maybe you can tell me who it is.

  2. lina permalink
    March 1, 2010 11:03 am

    Please excuse me for bargin’ in, but “andel” is nOT a slovak word

    • March 1, 2010 1:33 pm

      You are right – the word it means is Anjel in Slovak. I have seen it spelled about several different ways – Andel, Anjeli, Anjel. According to Ancestry.Com, Andel is both a Czech and Slovak last name. I’ve traced it back to Slovak church records from over 225 years ago.

      • lina permalink
        March 7, 2010 10:55 am

        Yes, it is hard to distinguish what is written in old Slovak, or slang, local words and such, or even Czech or Moravian. Especially when Sovaks and Czechs were together as Czechoslovakia and before in Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Anjeli is plural form for anjel. You have done such an amazing job with your research. People back then were not much educated and they wrote the words the way they sounded even if they were misspelled they knew what they meant.

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