The Making of a Miracle

The Making of a Miracle

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith

The Making of a Miracle

We acquire the strength we have overcome.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

It had been five long years without our little daughter. How can I explain the desperate feeling? The situation seemed hopeless. We’d been in Canada for five years and had just received our fourth rejection letter from the Hungarian government. There was no explanation—as usual—just a short statement: “Your request cannot be fulfilled at this time.”

In 1945, while fighting in Hungary against the invading Soviet forces, I was captured and forced to spend the next six years in a Soviet camp doing hard labour. My wife and I had been married only two months when I was captured, so we weren’t reunited until April 1951. After my release, I was forced into exile as a state farm worker. Although she did not have to, my wife went with me voluntarily. Our beautiful baby daughter was born on August 15, 1952, while we were in exile.

After Stalin’s death in 1953, my exile ended. My wife had a residency permit back in Budapest, Hungary, but as a former deportee, this status was denied to me. So I lived illegally with her in Budapest—where I worked as a bricklayer—in constant fear of being found out and arrested. In order to protect our beloved daughter, we sent her to live with my parents in a town close to the eastern border.

I was a strong supporter of the Hungarian freedom fighters, and in 1956, when they were subdued by the Soviets after a spontaneous uprising, we were suddenly forced to flee. First we headed for my parents’ home to get our daughter, but our attempts to reach her failed. The Danube River flowed between Budapest and the town where my parents lived, and all the bridges that would have allowed us to cross the river were guarded as a result of the uprising. Budapest was now under siege, and we were in great personal danger. Despite our terrible despair over leaving our daughter behind, we had to leave.

With the help of some very good people, we made our escape from Hungary to Austria and eventually to Canada and to freedom. We settled in Winnipeg and started a new life. Our beautiful little daughter was only three years old when we came to Canada and began the process of applying for her to come join us in Winnipeg. Little did we know how many years it would take.

When we received our fourth rejection from the Hungarian government, I feared for my wife’s emotional health. First she had waited six years for me to return from captivity; she had now been waiting another five years for our daughter to return to us. How much could one person endure? The most frustrating part of it was that with each rejection we were required to wait another six months before making another application.

Another six months! I couldn’t bear waiting one moment longer. We had become Canadian citizens and were so very grateful for that, but the seemingly simple matter of reuniting our family remained out of our reach.

One day my wife said to me, “I’m going to pray for the intervention of St. Jude. He is the patron saint of hopeless causes.”

“Fine with me,” I replied. But I had lost faith in such supernatural intervention long ago. At that time, I was working in the basement of a downtown building in the evening as a sculptor. Day after day, after finishing my regular job, I went to work for a church supplies company for a few extra dollars. The bonus was, I was allowed to use the facilities for some of my own work—and sculpture is an art form that really requires a work space. In the church basement I was surrounded by dusty plaster figures of various saints. My job was to finish them and prepare them for painting. Hollow lifeless figures, I thought to myself. Ridiculous to expect any help from them.

But what did I have to lose? Why not take a chance? One evening I made a sudden decision. I dropped my work pail and went to the heap of wood where I often chose pieces for my own carvings. There I found a nice block of basswood that seemed to offer itself up for the task I was planning.

I began to envision the features of St. Jude. I had to see him first in my imagination. In a sudden flash, I saw a bearded face full of dignity and hope. That’s it! I thought. I put my chisel to the wood and started carving like I’d never carved before. The hours slipped away. Usually I arrived home at eight every evening, but on this occasion it was well past ten when I finally entered our little attic apartment.

I realized immediately that my wife was very agitated. “Where have you been?” she cried. “I was anxious to reach you, but there is no phone in that basement!”

“Why, what happened!” I asked.

“Look!” she said excitedly. “A new response from the Canadian government. They put some pressure on the Hungarian government, and they have finally relented. They’re letting her go! Our daughter is coming to us in six weeks!”

I was speechless. Suddenly feeling weak, I reached for a chair to sit down. I gently placed my new carving on the kitchen table.

“What is that?” my wife asked.

“Don’t you see? It’s a statue of St. Jude,” I replied. I told her then the reason why I was late, about my sudden impulse to carve and about my vision of St. Jude’s face.

We looked at each other. There were no words to express our emotions. Joy, disbelief, shock—all of these and more were wrapped into one.

Six weeks later, my wife and I stood at the Winnipeg Airport waiting for the plane that would bring our daughter home to us, to Canada and to freedom. Back then, the airport was more like a barn in a large field. We saw the plane land, but it was far away across the field. I could see people disembarking. Guards were placed there to keep the waiting people back. And then, suddenly, I saw her! Our little girl—now almost ten years old! In an instant, I broke free of the guards. I ran to her and in one miraculous moment, embraced her. My heart was overjoyed. Our beloved daughter had finally come home!

~Alex Domokos

Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul

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