The most vivid memories that my trip to Vienna stirred were, of course, of my last days there, after I got married in the Fall of 1949. I had been anxious to be married before my final exams because I did not believe that I could pass them all unless my sweetheart was with me, and we wanted to have our marriage confirmed in a Catholic church in Vienna because my Protestant family had been opposed to my sudden engagement. We were more amicably received by our Viennese relatives. Geraldine and I were married in St. Mary’s Church in December. And, my aunt Liesl made the arrangements for a proper reception, at which we were to have a surprise guest, someone I had never before met. Aunt Liesl had gone to some trouble to find his address and send him a written invitation.
My mother’s youngest brother, Teddy Jauner, had been one of the opposing party in the estate battle after Grandma Jauner’s death in 1923. My father had been furious over my uncle’s role in the affair, and we were forbidden from mentioning his name in our household. After almost three decades, my mother was longing to let bygones be bygones, but she did not dare suggest this to our father. When I went to Vienna to study, she took me aside in confidence and asked if I would try to find out how Teddy is doing and, if possible, arrange to meet him to pass on his sister’s greetings, to tell him that she wishes him well.
Geraldine and I did not meet Uncle Teddy until we were assembled in the sacristy of the church to sign our marriage papers. He had slipped into the church unnoticed to witness the wedding ceremony, then snuck into the sacristy to meet us and to kiss the bride. He wished us well and told me that finally, after 25 years, he had called my mother in Salzburg and had a pleasant talk with her. Before my aunt Liesl could invite him to the dinner party that she had arranged for all the wedding guests, however, he had vanished.
I am happy to say that we did have the opportunity to meet him again, though. He invited us to have lunch with him in his small apartment, where we could have a heart-to-heat talk. We learned about his life and his work. He had written a self-published biography of Franz Ritter von Jauner, the famous theatre director and his own uncle, and was now living life in general isolation. He also described the tragic misunderstandings that had occurred upon the death of my grandmother.
Times were very hard after World War I. The depression and mounting inflation gave rise to a sect of greedy, artful lawyers and government agents who preyed on the ignorance of the relatives of those who had been lost, robbing them of their inheritance. A few years earlier, Uncle Teddy had received a pittance from the estate, then a letter from the two sisters of his lawyer who had passed away. The sisters were packing up their brother’s office and had found a heavy box marked ‘Jauner’. When Uncle Teddy brought the box home and opened it, he found it was packed with stock certificates that had been issued to his mother. The companies in question had flourished during the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, but now their stock was, as he said, “worth as much as wallpaper”.
Geraldine and I met with Uncle Teddy a few more times and I was able to put him in touch with my brother, Benvenuto, when he moved to Vienna as well. At least he then had something of a semblance to family. Unfortunately, he and my mother never had the opportunity to meet, ever again, in person.
Yes, Vienna is still very much on my mind and will continue to be as I complete the English translation of Uncle Teddy’s manuscript, Franz Ritter von Jauner: The King of the Operetta. I am very happy that I had the chance to become reconnected with my brother’s children in the most pleasant way. I hope that, one day, they will come to visit me in Canada.
Photo source, google images