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The George Hajash Story

By Belinda Anderson


George Hajash at his home in Beckley. Photograph by Michael Keller.

George Hajash

Sixty years ago, it wouldn’t have seemed a very good bet that George Hajash of Beckley would be sitting in his kitchen at age 82, sharing pictures of his grandchildren.

George was the seventh of seven brothers inducted into the armed services during World War II. Miraculously, all seven brothers returned home. Like many veterans, George’s life has been haunted by the question of why they were spared, when so many others died.

“ I don’t mean I think we should have got killed, or nothing,” George says, sitting at his kitchen table. “But it’s a funny feeling — a little guilty, maybe — to know that we had seven, and all of us came back.”

George Hajash was spared, perhaps, to meet the love of his life and to father two children, who now work to better the health of West Virginians. Or perhaps he was returned so that he could carry the mail on the day he saw smoke rolling from a house and rushed in to find a man asleep in a chair, unaware of the potentially disastrous attic fire.

George has spent much of the past decade reflecting on his life and the lives of his family members, steadily tapping away at an old typewriter with his left index finger, having lost pieces of other fingers to various woodworking accidents. “I was going to plane a piece of wood, and my fingers got in the way,” he says, showing his hand. “But I didn’t learn my lesson. A few years later, I did the same thing and got this one. Same machine. Took a big chunk off this one. Just nipped the front end of these. Cold weather, I can feel these things raising Cain.”

Despite this impediment, George has produced hundreds of pages of typed commentary, along with photos and copies of old documents. “That’s my life and my family’s life,” he says, tapping the thick album. “I wanted to write the history of my family so my kids will know what went on before they were born.”

George, the son of Hungarian immigrants, was born in a coal company house in Elbert, McDowell County, on August 25, 1920.

You can read the rest of this article in the Spring 2003 issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.