Back to Index

UNITED STATES: Dual citizenship. The case of Steve Torok



The dual nationality issue has elicited responses from several WAISers, including Steve Torok, who lives in Thailand: "My own case may clarify some of these issues. I came to the US in 1957 as a Hungarian refugee due to political reasons (participating in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956). Hungarian law allows you to lose citizenship only by an act of parliament, as does Turkish law. For many years I traveled on a "Nansen Passport *" for stateless persons issued by a Notary Public in New York State that looked like a passport, since, obviously, I did not recognize the then Hungarian Government installed by Soviet arms. Not all countries recognize such travel documents. The Japanese, for instance, did not. When I went there on a Jan Ignacz Paderewski Fellowship in 1961, they issued me a special visa in beautiful calligraphy that was a "stand alone" document something almost as big as a bed-sheet ( I am exaggerating!). However as soon as some country stamps a visa on them, such "Nansen passports" become de-facto travel documents.

I had come to the US on the basis of the special decree of Eisenhower letting in 6000 Hungarians and allowing us to wait for our immigration quotas to come up in the US. Fortunately this "white card" was turned into a "green card: within two years, so after 1959 I could travel out of the US; under the "white card" we were not permitted to do so! While on a Paderewski Fellowship, my US residence qualifying me for citizenship was not interrupted by special permission, although for three years (1961-64) I lived in Japan. This allowed me to apply for citizenship upon my return in March, 1964 and, again, through special efforts by my congressman Edward Royball of California and by Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who visited Japan while I was there at Waseda University. In 1964 I was sworn in as a citizen at the Los Angeles Federal District court, with the State Department standing by for a phone-call from the Judge so that my wife, who was eight month pregnant and waiting for a visa at the US embassy in Tokyo, could get on an airplane before they stopped her because of airline regulations. This was important since, if my son had been born in Japan, he would have been stateless (following his father's citizenship in a patrilineal system) or illegitimate (because of his mother's citizenship under Japanese law)! Fortunately, everything was on time, so John Edward Torok was born a Connecticut Yankee in Stanford, Connecticut on Independence Day of 1964...

The next installment in this saga is 1992 in Cambodia. I was serving UNTAC there as Head of Electoral in Pursat province (where Pol Pot's mother lived) when the Hungarian Consul brought me my Hungarian passport that the new regime in Hungary issued as rehabilitation to 1956 political exiles. So now I had 3 passport: US, UN, Hungarian. After retirement from the UN in 1998, I still had two passports left: US and Hungarian, since the UN repatriated me to Hungary where my old mother lived..."

My comment: Steve could have has another passport if Gary Wills (?) had succeeded. He proclaimed himself a world citizen, but the State Department refused to recognize his world passport. Does any WAISer remember his story? What happened to him?

*A Nansen Passport is named after the Norwegian explorer Fridjof Nansen. who became his country's representative to the League of Nations. He negotiated with the Soviet Union to release war prisoners. Since he died in 1930, he had nothing to do with the UN. I do not know the date of the creation of Nansen passports.

Ronald Hilton - 1/24/02


Webmaster