My mother was born Julia Veronica Szappanos in Szarvas, Hungary on June 16, 1933. Her mother, Margit (Lazar) Szappanos and father Janos Szappanos were performers with a dance act that toured Europe under the name “Rita and Ray”.
Janos was also a circus performer and developed a blindfolded knife‐throwing act with Margit. Shortly after my mother’s birth, due to the busy traveling schedule her parents had, they moved to Szeged, Hungary to live with her grandparents, Janos Lazar and Juliana (Karolyi) Lazar. Her grandparents had a small farm with an attached bakery, and her grandfather Janos was a master baker. My mother’s grandparents raised her and her parents dropped in from time to time as their touring schedule allowed (she was always thrilled to spend time with her dad, who did dote on her, but she described her mother as “distant”). My mother had a happy childhood helping with chores on the farm (loved the animals especially) and described herself as a tomboy, climbing trees and getting into fistfights with the local boys.