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Have you heard about the Hungarian Robinson Crusoe?

Have you heard about the Hungarian Robinson Crusoe?

In the 18th century Europe, it was not exceptional that an Englishman or a Frenchman set foot on two or three continents during his life or took part in a multitude of adventures. In contrast, Hungarians were able to sail on the board of an ocean liner only if they were wealthy enough. In fact, András Jelky was only the son of a tailor, but he managed to live on five continents and became a wealthy plantation owner in Eastern-Asia by his 30th birthday. It is hard to confirm all of his adventures, but even if only half of them are true, he lived quite an interesting life even worth to be filmized.

Slave, soldier, lover, tailor, sailor

He was born in Baja in 1738, and his father wanted him to become a tailor like his older brother. Instead, the young András Jelky started to travel around Europe when he became 16. After spending some time in Prague, Leipzig and Nürnberg, he evaded being enrolled as a soldier with the help of a girl who

helped him escape in her fruit basket.

He went to the Netherlands but finally get caught and was sent to Indonesia. Allegedly, however, a lightning sank his ship but he survived with the help of a floating log. Afterwards, he worked for a Dutch captain as a tailor and travelled to South-America with him. After returning to Lisbon and setting sail again to Malta

pirates caught him and sold him as a slave.

According to the legend, he managed to escape again and he rowed for a week until a Portuguese trader hired him. After this, he went to Macao and Canton where he joined the Dutch East India Company as a soldier and finally, became a tailor in the house of the company’s head, Petrus Albertus van der Parra in Jakarta.

The Hungarian tailor met even the Empress of the Habsburg Empire

He got married there but left his wife soon to go to Ceylon where he was attacked by cannibals. Though

the local chieftain wanted to sacrifice him,

his daughter saved his life. He managed to travel back to Jakarta where he could meet his own daughter for the first time when she was already 1.5 years old. Since Parra became the governor of the Dutch East India Company, he made him the director of an orphanage in Jakarta. Later he became wealthy in Jakarta and he did not reach his 30th birthday when he could already afford to buy a plantation there. Allegedly, in 1770, he became the

secret advisor of the Dutch Embassy

and fulfilled many tasks in Japan and Java with success.

However, his wife and Parra died in the following years after which he decided to go home.  In Vienna, he met even with the Empress of the Habsburg Empire, Maria Theresa who was fascinated by his astonishing adventures. Finally, he moved to Buda where he married his housekeeper and had a son with her. He was buried as a Dutch advisor in the Saint Anne church of Buda after he died in tuberculosis at the age of 45.

To be frank,

historians doubt most of his exceptional adventures.

However, his biography dictated by himself in German and published in Hungarian firstly in 1791, proved to be a perfect source for Lajos Hevesi to write a young-adult fiction titled The adventures of András Jelky’(in Hungarian: Jelki András kalandjai – accessible HERE).

Featured image: András Jelky’s statue in Baja. Photo:

Source:, Daily News Hungary

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