Stephen Sisa


3 June 1918 \”“ 20 November 2012

Cold War Author-Warrior Stephen Sisa, most recently of Huddleston VA, died peacefully at his beloved lake house on Bella Vista Island on Smith Mountain Lake in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A son of Central Europe\”™s Carpathian Basin, with a keen sense of history, he was born in Budapest, Hungary towards the end of World War I. He became a champion of freedom for oppressed peoples of Soviet Communist-controlled Central Europe post World War II. His mind, pen and typewriter were his weapons, founding and becoming managing editor of Exiled Europe and then later the Free World Review quarterlies.

Sisa attended the Royal Academy of Commerce in Budapest, and saw action on the Russian front in 1941-1942 before marrying the former Elizabeth Tota of Nagykoru Hungary in 1943, whom he courted on a racing scull on the Danube river around Margaret Island and under the spires and turrets of Buda\”™s Fishermen\”™s\”™ Bastion. During the Siege of Budapest in 1945 by Red Army forces, they became refugees and lived in Austria until resettlement in the U.S. under the Marshall Plan in 1951, with two young children and little more than the possessions they could carry. Sisa, who was fluent in English, French and German, in addition to his native Magyar, established his young family in Newark NJ. He worked for Western Union International in New York City for 27 years, leveraging his language and typing skills \”“ and winning the company chess championship in 1965. It was during these post-war years, starting in refugee camps in Innsbruck, Austria, that he became a Cold War author-warrior. As a prominent writer and commentator in the emerging forums of exiled patriots from Central Europe, he was among those patriots \”keeping watch in the West\” and keeping hope for freedom alive for their countrymen behind the Iron Curtain. In November 1956, he and three compatriots — all named Stephen–made the front pages of the New York Times, New York Daily News, and other international newspapers by successfully carrying out a plot to break into the arm of the Statue of Liberty with bolt cutters and stream the red, white and green Hungarian national banner from Lady Liberty\”™s torch, along with the Stars and Stripes, to call attention to the plight of Hungarian Freedom Fighters battling Soviet forces against overwhelming odds during the Hungarian Revolution. The flag that flew from Lady Liberty\”™s torch of freedom was sewn by the \”women\”™s auxiliary\” in modest apartments in Newark NJ. It was Sisa\”™s modest apartment in Newark that also served as the publishing site for the Exiled Europe and Free World Review quarterly publications, which featured contributors from the prominent luminaries of liberty of the day. Sisa\”™s magnus opus, is The Spirit of Hungary, a wide-ranging, large format survey of Hungarian history and culture that has become the standard for embassies, university and public libraries around the world, and for those seeking an understanding of the Magyar nation and its people\”™s contributions to Western culture, science and learning.

In the early 1970\”™s, he and his wife Elizabeth, retired to Smith Mountain Lake at the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, where they established Bellavista, an island retreat and became founding members of Resurrection Catholic Church in Moneta VA. From here Sisa became a promoter of the area. With a simple camera and good eye for beauty, he delved into photographing local scenes. Many of his photographs became award winners at exhibitions, including at the Roanoke Museum of Fine Arts. His photographs also became the basis for his post card business, Bellavista Photos. All the while he maintained active contact with Hungarian organizations around the world and contributed to publications in the U.S., Europe, Canada, South America, and Australia. In 2011, he was presented with The Cross of Merit by the Republic of Hungary for his lifetime body of work.

He is preceded in death by Elizabeth, his wife of 67 years, infant son Ferenc, and sister Yolan. He is survived by his sister Gizella Nemeth of Budapest Hungary, daughter Elizabeth Varnai (husband Karl) of New Hope PA, son CAPT Steven Sisa USN (Ret) (wife Melissa) of Colorado Springs CO, son CDR Peter Sisa USN (Ret) (wife Karen) of Haymarket VA, 10 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.

A Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated by Father Salvador Añonuevo on Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 11 AM at Resurrection Catholic Church, 15353 Moneta Road, Moneta VA 24121. The family will receive friends one hour prior at the church. Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory is as the family, 540.586.3443.