Margit Liesche’s mother was a humble person who mostly kept to herself.
That, coupled with her mother’s experiences living in Hungary and leaving as a refugee, was enough to inspire Liesche to write a book about the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Liesche, a DeKalb native, will give a presentation and sign copies of her book, “Triptych,” at 7 p.m. Thursday at Barnes & Noble, 2439 Sycamore Road in DeKalb.
She recently spoke with reporter Andrea Azzo about the book and what sparked her interest in writing it.
Azzo: What can you tell us about your mother?
Liesche: Once she moved to the States [from Hungary], she maintained her old traditions and customs. That inspired me to think about what influence Hungary might have had, my mother’s way of life and how she was, and how that might have influenced me as her daughter. My parents did missionary work in China. Hungary had been taken over by communists, and they would not allow my parents back. They thought about coming to the States for a short while and going back, but they ended up staying here. That sense of loss and displacement was very obvious to a child. I admire her very much. She went to China during very primitive times. When they were in China, they had four kids there, and one of them was delivered by my father. She was in charge of the dispensary treating ill people, and she had malaria while she was there. I thought of her as an incredibly strong person to have survived all that.
Azzo: How much did your parents tell you about the Hungarian Revolution?
Liesche: We saw it on TV, and people were pleading for help. It was at this moment that my parents were just beside themselves and frantic because all of their family was there. Obviously, the revolution was not going well. There had been an implication that the U.N. and U.S. would come to aid the revolutionaries, but no one came to their aid. The revolution went on for 13 days. It was a real David and Goliath fight. There were stories of hardship. They’re very personal, and some of the stories I heard from people became part of the life of some characters [in the book]. A lot of things I read in books and about personal accounts fed into the characters.
Azzo: Are there any local connections in the book?
Liesche: One of the characters lives in a DeKalb-esque town. She’s a librarian and an English as a Second Language teacher.
Azzo: What do you think your mother would think about the book if she read it?
Liesche: In 2003, I wrote the story as an essay tribute to my mother. She had dementia then. She was ill and in her 90s. Even with dementia, I read it with her. She’d nod and say, “Oh, yes. Oh, yes.” It made me feel good to do a tribute to her. From there, I wanted to tell a bigger story.