The Frigyessy/Frigessi di Rattalma Tomb

Abraham Friedberg was born in 1843 in Ráczalmás, a small village not far from Budapest. He was also known as Adolf, and his family had German origins and was very attached to Jewish religion and tradition. He studied in local Jewish schools first, later transferring to State institutes and eventually graduating in 1861 at Pest’s Commercial academy.

In these years his family changed its last name for the first time, opting for the Magyar “Frigyessy”. This choice was made by the father Moses, probably to help his sons get better opportunities in the local labour market, but it is certain that in the following years Adolf would always identify as a Hungarian. In 1869, as a reformist candidate for the General congress of the Jewish communities of Hungary, he ran under the Hungarian name Aladár Frigyessy and, once he moved to Trieste, he was among the main patrons of the local Magyars’ Club.

Having begun a career in insurance, young Adolf built his expertise between Budapest and Vienna. Here he had the opportunity to showcase his professional and human skills, making contact with the biggest insurance companies in the whole Empire, Generali and Riunione Adriatica di Sicurtà. In 1877 Alessandro Daninos, the latter’s general manager, convinced him to accept a job offer and move to Trieste. This would mark the beginning of a relationship bound to last forty years, that culminated with his appointment as Ras’ general manager in 1899.

Adolfo de Frigyessy in his mature age – Civici Musei di storia ed arte, Trieste.

In Trieste Frigyessy proved himself to be indeed a son of late imperial Austria, and he added an Italian component to his already mixed and multiform identity. He quickly acclimated, helped by the cultural codes he shared with the era’s bourgeoisie and the knowledge of the Italian language that he had learned in school. His Jewish religion, while never forsaken, became a strictly personal matter, devoid of outward signs. He began being known, at least in Trieste, as “Adolfo” and in 1878 he married an Italian woman, Giulia Pavia, daughter of a Ras’ Milanese high ranking executive. All of their six children, as well, were born in Trieste. Amongst them Arnaldo, his eventual successor as Ras’ general manager, Clara and Carlo, supervisor of Credito Italiano in Fiume and Trieste.

All of this being said, Adolfo Frigyessy never repudiated neither his Magyar identity nor his loyalty to imperial Austria and its culture. The timing and the manner of his ennoblement stand as a symbolic proof of this. Adolfo received the title of Edler (noble) thanks to his financial success, something very important for the Habsburg empire’s fame and prosperity as well. Furthermore, he received it in 1896, on the occasion of the “millennium of the Magyar nation”, and, once he became a Hungarian noble, to honour his birthplace he chose “von Raczalmas” as predicate.

He died in 1917, in Vienna, where he had moved to handle Ras’ business away from the frontline that was running a few kilometres from Trieste. For Abraham/Adolf/Aladár/Adolfo that war sounded the death knell for a whole world, the world he grew up in and believed in. An open, free trading and cosmopolite world, inspired but not prejudiced by “small” national belongings, a world where one could be at the same time Hungarian by birth, Italian by culture and a loyal subject to an Austrian dynasty.

Anyway, it would be the new priority given to national belonging that led to the family’s last change of name. In 1929, ten years after Trieste was joined to Italy, seven after the Fascist takeover of the country, two after the promulgation of laws that mandated the “return” to Italian of any surname «originally Italian or Latin [but] translated into other languages or deformed with foreign spelling», a Prefect’s decree declared that the old Frigyessy von Raczalmas would become a more Italian (and more attuned to those years’ cultural and political climate) Frigessi di Rattalma.

“Restoration” decree of the faily name from Frigyessy von Ràcz-Almàs to Frigessi di Rattalma – «Gazzetta Ufficiale del Regno d’Italia», year 70, issue 81, August 5th, 1929.
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