Hungarian POW Reunited With Family
Oct. 05, 2000
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) _ Authorities using DNA tests firmly established the identity Thursday of a former prisoner of war who returned to Hungary this past summer after spending 53 years lost and forgotten in a Russian mental hospital.
DNA tests proved that the man is Andras Toma, a former blacksmith's apprentice from the eastern village of Sulyanbokor. His family will soon take him home, said Dr. Andras Veer, the director of the National Psychiatric and Neurological Institute.
``For Andras Toma, World War II ended today,'' Veer said. ``He has found his identity and his relatives.''
The identification marks the end of Toma's tragic saga that spanned more than half a century, most of it spent in virtual isolation among people with whom he could not even communicate.
Toma was born Dec. 5, 1925, in Ujfeherto, a tiny village 125 miles east of Budapest, and lived in nearby Sulyanbokor until 1944, when he was drafted.
Along with other Hungarian soldiers, he was captured by the Russians in the vicinity of Auschwitz, Poland, and taken to a POW camp.
Noting signs of psychological problems, prison guards transferred him to a psychiatric hospital in the Russian town of Kotelnich, 700 miles east of Moscow.
Though his fellow prisoners returned to Hungary, Toma was forgotten. No one at the hospital spoke Hungarian and they dismissed his words as being gibberish. Only a chance encounter with a Hungarian-speaking Slovak doctor began to unlock the mystery.
The Russian hospital had his surname as Tamas, which turned out to have been a misunderstanding.
The confirmation of the man's identity, after an exhaustive search by a team of defense ministry officials, was made when two people came forward because they thought they were relatives.
Janos and Anna Toma, who were children when their half brother went to war, gave blood to see if DNA tests could show any relationship. Now they plan to take him home.
``We are joyous and look forward to having him with us,'' Anna Toma said.
Such a reunion is a few months away, as Toma will remain in the hospital for another two months while he adjusts to a new artificial leg, dentures and a hearing aid.
The defense ministry said it will promote Toma, who is a private and technically still in the military. His new rank has not been revealed.