Providence? remarkable concurrences

Love at First Sight

Bela and Marya met in Debrecen, Hungary and married shortly thereafter.

Bela was a Law student and they both looked forward to spending time with family and friends, enjoying good food, music, and czárdás (Hungarian folk dancing).

In 1939 WWII Started

The two were separated as Bela was put in a German labor battalion in Ukraine.

Later, he was captured by the Russians to bury the dead.

The War is Over

When the war finally ended, Bela walked hundreds of miles by foot only to find strangers living in his home; Marya, along with the rest of his family, had been sent to Auschwitz and died.

Completely heartbroken, he traveled once again by foot, crossing several borders into Paris where he managed to immigrate to the United States.

A SubwayEncounter

Three months after Bela immigrated, on the morning of January 10, 1948, Marcel Steinberger boarded the 9:09 train (as he methodically did every single day). While in route, he broke routine and decided to visit a friend in Brooklyn who was very ill.

At midday, Marcel (a man also of Hungarian decent) boarded a crowded train back to Manhattan. Suddenly, someone jumped up to exit, leaving an empty seat for him to fill. As he looked around he saw a very sad man reading a Hungarian newspaper. Marcel began glancing at the paper, which led to the two men conversing. Bela told him of all he had been through and how he hoped that somehow Marya survived the camp. News had gone out that the US liberated the camp and brought the displaced to America, but he knew it was a long shot.

A Familiar Story

As Bela spoke, his words sounded so much like that of a woman Marcel had recently met. Marcel pulled out a piece of paper from his wallet with the woman's name and number on it; he had intended to invite her to for a meal with his family in hopes that company would help relieve some of her deep anguish.

Marcel told Bela to get off the train at the next stop. He then led him by the arm to a phone booth and dialed the number. When Marya answered, Marcel asked her what street she lived on in Debrecen; all the while Bela stood there trembling. Knowing the unspeakably great news he was about to receive, Marcel urged Bela to be calm stating that “something miraculous is about to happen to you.” He passed the phone and said, “Here, talk to your wife!”

Bela could only cry out “Marya, Marya, Marya,” as Marya cried out “Bela, Bela, Bela”. They both continued to mumble hysterically. Marcel then took the phone and stated that they would be there soon. He paid the fare for the taxi and sent Bela on his way, deciding that the moment was too personal to watch.

“Skeptical persons would no doubt attribute the events of that memorable afternoon to mere chance. But was it chance that made Sternberger suddenly decide to visit his sick friend, and hence take a subway line that he had never been on before? Was it chance that caused the man sitting by the door of the car to rush out just as Sternberger came in? Was it chance that caused Bela Paskin to be sitting beside Sternberger reading a Hungarian newspaper? Was it chance or did God ride the Brooklyn subway that afternoon?” —Reader's Digest, 1948

Coincidence? I think not.

Created By
Sabrina Wood

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