Derenk: Ghost Town in Hungary

                           Named after the Dogwood tree in the Slavic language, Derenk was the only town with an exclusive Polish population for almost three centuries in the country of Hungary until 1943. In medieval times, it was known as Derek (Dren, Drenk) and the earlier community was peopled by Slavic settlers and Hungarian colonists. At one time, there was a castle near by that belonged to a royal estate owned by the Bebek family. According to the tax records in 1492, the village was populated until a Turkish occupation expunge the villagers out. There is a tax record from 1682 that demonstrates that the tax-payers in Derenk paid taxes on leased land or owned parcels of land :

                           A  plague in 1711 decimated the entire population of the village. The landowners were the Esterházy family. They were the same family that owned the forests surrounding the area of Szadvar a mile away from Derenk thoughout the latter 1700's. One of my ancestors worked for the Esterházy Estates as a forester. 

                          Around 1715, Derenk was repopulated with serfs from Poland. According to the local historian, Dr. Bill Remias, the population was more than 90 percent Goral Poles, with only a couple of Hungarian craftsmen, that lived in this close - knit community. In my mind, the Goral Poles are the equivalence of Scottish Highlanders! Although some people always thought that the Goral Poles in Derenk originated from Szepes, researchers at the Ethnographic Museum in Krakow designated the origins of the population that settled in Derenk in 1717 as hailing from Nowy Targtól; a town in Tatra County called Czarna Góra; and in Bukowina county, the village of  Tatrzańska Białka and Tatrzańska Bubenkó. The new settlers were mostly shepherds and swine men as the soil was too rocky for farming. 

                         The people of Derenk maintained their inclusive environment for almost three centuries. They were mostly of the Catholic faith worshipping at the parishes of Almas, Jabloncza, Szent Andras, Szilas and Szogliget. The Magyar communities surrounding Derenk respected their independence and eventually, some married Derenk villagers. The Polish language and traditions flourished for many years in Derenk.

                         In 1907, with 367 inhabitants living in Derenk , the treaty of Trianon split Derenk between two countries, right down it’s only main road. One side was in Czechoslovakia; the other in Hungary. Derenk was given no peace as a homeland. Unfortunately for Derenk, in the 1940's, the landowners wanted the forests preserved for a 'Hunters' Park' so they razed 110 houses where Derenk thrived for so many centuries. With heavy hearts, families relocated to the villages of Emőd-Istvánmajor, Sajószentpéter and many other places. It is now entirely obliterated and  located in the middle of the Aggtelek State Parks. The location is still considered to be in the country of Hungary.

                        Derenk became a ghost town in the middle of a forest. It’s cemetery is still there. A distant Bubenko cousin visited and remarked that some of the foundations of the building, some of the fruit trees were still intact. 

                       To this day, the descendants of the village of Derenk meet every year in summer to honor their ancestors with a mass, a cleaning of the cemetery and a family reunion. They restored the tiny chapel and recently set up a Memorial Hall. The entire 1869 census of the villagers in Derenk  (including some of my family) can be searched on this website.

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1.© Nick M. Gombash. All Rights Reserved






Thank you, Zsolt . I see by the pictures on your site that people met in Derenk again last summer.

Fascinating story! Had not heard about this before. Trianon had such an impact on so many peoples lives!