SNEAK PREVIEW, CHAPTER 7: 1942
The New Year ’s Eve party at the Manor House was once again the social event of the year. It was one of the few occasions where time seemed to have reverted to the 'good old days of the Monarchy' during which so many of the guests had enjoyed privileges they were no longer accustomed to in this new and independent Slovakia.
Many rich Hungarians had opted to stay here after the Great War hoping that it would be easier to keep their properties and money over here. They were concerned about the political instability of a republican Hungary where old enemies might seek retribution for the abuse of power and position but more so they feared a Bolshevik revolution.
In the Czechoslovak state they had seen a tumbling of their influence at first due to the dominance of the Czech aristocracy and now the German military leaders and emerging Slovak 'puppet' politicians.
The Hungarians were equally unpopular with the emerging Intelligentsia and players of the Slovak society who still had their reservations against their former Magyar oppressors. To some it seemed a high price to pay for evading the threat of Communism.
At the Manor House Ball all of these problems seemed forgotten or unimportant. The countess did not tolerate heated debate or disagreement in her house. As a charitable and generous woman she was a shining specimen of a respectable modern Hungarian and a role model to her countrymen.
The players in the current Slovak high society who had taken a shine to her also felt more positive to her countrymen. With her gift for diplomacy she calmed down any tension that might arise. Almost everyone in Bratislava wanted to be invited to her festivities.
She welcomed the German army officers and generals in the same way as Slovak Party leaders, nobility and her beloved artist friends. Having been wined and dined in separate groups by the Countess during the year they were all too obliged to her to dare stir up any trouble. Catholic party leaders spoke to their Lutheran rivals amicably about the goals they had in common, the army officials refrained from provoking the artists, whose appearance they so detested, and the 'new aristocrats' of society pretended to be best of friends with the established and former noble men.
To see such a convincing and unusual display of pretence and falsehood was in itself a sight no one wanted to miss. Jonah however would have loved to miss out on such a charade, had it not been for his dependency on the good will of his patron.
His new friend Visser took him under his wing and introduced him to a few more of the artists at the party. There was a Polish piano player, a Lithuanian tenor, an apparently well-known French author and an Austrian poet. It was amazing how the Countess managed to keep all of these bohemian looking and politically left leaning people near her without raising the suspicion or worse: the interference of the authorities.
A string quartet played music for the first part of the evening, but when the reception hall had filled up the Countess had the doors to the ballroom hall opened where a small orchestra started to play dance tunes and continued to do so well into the early morning hours.