Seller Story: Larry Balas, Dayton, OH


Larry Balas lived courageously and compassionately for all of his 94 years. Born in Cibakháza, Hungary in 1924, he moved with his Jewish family to Budapest, where they came under the forces of fascism and eventually, WWII. “Larry was in a labor camp by 1943,” says his stepson Gary Opper. “He did many jobs and was forced on long marches, in the cold, in the rain, it didn’t matter. At one point, he and his group were made to cut down trees in a forest, pull out the stumps with their hands, and then march up and down the field to flatten it out. They were then made to build a runway and forced to hang bombs from the wings of German planes dropping bombs on the Allies. They managed to disarm about half of the bombs before the planes took off. They knew if they were caught they would be fogged.”

Larry was later marched again, in the snow, through nearly the full length of Austria, to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. “Larry had taken his grandfather’s gold watch and would hide it in the piece of bread he received every day," says Gary. "When they arrived at Mauthausen, the guards pulled out their rifles and said run. So they did, and the guards used them as target practice. As he was running, he was holding his knapsack with both hands with his knuckles right at his shoulders, and one of the bullets entered his left hand on the knuckles and hit the buckle right by his heart and deflected. There was a Jewish doctor at Mauthausen who helped him bandage it, and that basically saved his life. When he contracted typhus, he used his grandfather’s watch to bribe the guard for medicine.”

Liberated by the Americans in May of 1945, Larry returned to Soviet-controlled Budapest to find his father and older brother deceased. At 25, he resumed life with his younger brother and mother, initially going to work for the Jewish Federation of Hungary, where he was made to go into people’s homes at night and ensure they didn’t have forbidden items. “You have to understand the terror that these people lived under in Budapest after the Soviets came in,” says Gary. “It was worse than the Nazis.”

Seller Story: Larry Balas, Dayton, OH
Seller Story: Larry Balas, Dayton, OH
Late 19th Century Meissen Two Handled Bowl

Late 19th Century Meissen Two Handled Bowl

Final Bid:
$220
Vintage German 800 Silver Fish Forks, Set of Six

Vintage German 800 Silver Fish Forks, Set of Six

Final Bid:
$45
19th-Century Fischer J. Highly Reticulated Vase

19th-Century Fischer J. Highly Reticulated Vase

Final Bid:
$345
Herend Hand Painted "Rothschild Bird"  Demitasse Cups

Herend Hand Painted "Rothschild Bird" Demitasse Cups

Final Bid:
$500
19th-Century Fischer J. Reticulated Ceramic Figural Console Bowl

19th-Century Fischer J. Reticulated Ceramic Figural Console Bowl

Final Bid:
$750
Hollohaza Porcelain Crane Figurine with Fishnet Black

Hollohaza Porcelain Crane Figurine with Fishnet Black

Final Bid:
$90
Schuman Bavarian Porcelain "Empress Dresden Flowers" Tea Cups

Schuman Bavarian Porcelain "Empress Dresden Flowers" Tea Cups

Final Bid:
$160
Herend Porcelain 150th Anniversary Figurine Woman with a Mirror

Herend Porcelain 150th Anniversary Figurine Woman with a Mirror

Final Bid:
$199
Herend Porcelain Figural Group of a Man and Horse

Herend Porcelain Figural Group of a Man and Horse

Final Bid:
$212
10K Yellow Gold Shell Cameo Pendant Brooch

10K Yellow Gold Shell Cameo Pendant Brooch

Final Bid:
$96
19th-Century Fischer J. Reticulated Ceramic Ewer

19th-Century Fischer J. Reticulated Ceramic Ewer

Final Bid:
$650
Rare Herend Porcelain "Wedding Party" Porcelain Figurines

Rare Herend Porcelain "Wedding Party" Porcelain Figurines

Final Bid:
$90
Herend Porcelain Pelican Figurine with Fishnet Rust

Herend Porcelain Pelican Figurine with Fishnet Rust

Final Bid:
$225
19th-Century Fischer J. Reticulated Ceramic Floral Vase

19th-Century Fischer J. Reticulated Ceramic Floral Vase

Final Bid:
$195
Wallace Weighted Sterling Silver Compote

Wallace Weighted Sterling Silver Compote

Final Bid:
$56
Italian Glass Mosaic Jewelry

Italian Glass Mosaic Jewelry

Final Bid:
$61
Zsolnay Ceramic Pitcher Designed by Lajos Mack

Zsolnay Ceramic Pitcher Designed by Lajos Mack

Final Bid:
$1,266
Five Sterling Silver Serving Utensils Featuring Gorham

Five Sterling Silver Serving Utensils Featuring Gorham

Final Bid:
$158
Herend Hummingbird  Porcelain Figurine

Herend Hummingbird Porcelain Figurine

Final Bid:
$80
Herend Porcelain Figurine Of A Man With Hat

Herend Porcelain Figurine Of A Man With Hat

Final Bid:
$36
James Kent "Easter Glory" Porcelain Pitcher and Bowl

James Kent "Easter Glory" Porcelain Pitcher and Bowl

Final Bid:
$62
Two Antique Czechoslovakian Cologne Bottle Attributed to Moser

Two Antique Czechoslovakian Cologne Bottle Attributed to Moser

Final Bid:
$110
1930s English Silver Plate Knife Rests in Presentation Box

1930s English Silver Plate Knife Rests in Presentation Box

Final Bid:
$35
Henriot Quimper Faience Fish Console Bowl

Henriot Quimper Faience Fish Console Bowl

Final Bid:
$50
19th-Century Fischer J. Reticulated Ceramic Centerpiece Bowl

19th-Century Fischer J. Reticulated Ceramic Centerpiece Bowl

Final Bid:
$305
Small Walnut Shaped Sewing Kit

Small Walnut Shaped Sewing Kit

Final Bid:
$100
19th-Century Fischer J. Hand Painted Ceramic Jug

19th-Century Fischer J. Hand Painted Ceramic Jug

Final Bid:
$180
Assortment of Vintage Sterling Silver Spoons Featuring Whiting

Assortment of Vintage Sterling Silver Spoons Featuring Whiting

Final Bid:
$346
Barbour Silver Co. Silver Plate Coffee Pot

Barbour Silver Co. Silver Plate Coffee Pot

Final Bid:
$56
Henroit Quimper Faience Serving Platter

Henroit Quimper Faience Serving Platter

Final Bid:
$145
19th-Century Majolica Triangle Form Pitcher

19th-Century Majolica Triangle Form Pitcher

Final Bid:
$125
Herend Porcelain Figurine Of A Man In Ethnic Outfit

Herend Porcelain Figurine Of A Man In Ethnic Outfit

Final Bid:
$60
Herend Porcelain Figurine Of Hussar With Dragon

Herend Porcelain Figurine Of Hussar With Dragon

Final Bid:
$75
Rindskopf Nouveau Art Glass Vase

Rindskopf Nouveau Art Glass Vase

Final Bid:
$222
Four Italian Glass Mosaic Brooches

Four Italian Glass Mosaic Brooches

Final Bid:
$72
19th-Century Fischer J. Reticulated and Embossed Ewer

19th-Century Fischer J. Reticulated and Embossed Ewer

Final Bid:
$585
Herend Round Green Covered Box

Herend Round Green Covered Box

Final Bid:
$120
Three 19th-Century Majolica Plates

Three 19th-Century Majolica Plates

Final Bid:
$103
19th-Century Zsolnay Ceramic Moon Vase

19th-Century Zsolnay Ceramic Moon Vase

Final Bid:
$525
Herend  Porcelain Lattice Bowl

Herend Porcelain Lattice Bowl

Final Bid:
$182
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Seller Story: Larry Balas, Dayton, OH

When the Hungarian Revolution began in 1956, Larry’s mother urged him to leave the country. He reluctantly escaped, bribing the guards at the Austrian border with cigarettes his brother gave him. Once safely in Austria, he opted to be relocated to America “He said, ‘The Americans freed me, I want to give back,’” says Gary. Larry eventually landed in Dayton, OH, where he got his first job. “He was plucking feathers off of chickens,” says Gary. “And learning English from three black women from the south who had the same job. Because of it, Larry always had a little bit of a southern accent.” Set up on a blind date with a Sydelle, Gary’s mother, the two married in 1970 when Larry was 49.

Together Larry and Sydelle started Sylar Antiques, a business built largely around Hungarian porcelain they would hand carry from visits home. “I love that expression you can take the man out of a country, but you can never take the country out of a man,” says Sydelle. “He was dedicated to the U.S., but deep in his heart he was still a Hungarian.” Larry loved Zsolnay, Herend, and Fischer porcelain pieces that evoked his country, sometimes visiting the factories to handpick them himself. He was, by all accounts, motivated by kindness. “He had every reason to be bitter and to hate, but didn’t hate anyone he didn’t judge anyone," Gary says. "Anyone he met he called his friend — that was the kind of man he was.”

The couple collected to make their clients happy. “They want these pieces to find loving homes where people appreciate them," Gary says. “To teach people to talk about history and get people interested in Hungary and what all went on there. How one first generation American and one immigrant — you know my mother’s parents didn’t speak English before they got here, and Larry didn’t — lived the American dream.”

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