Who are you?
I am quite old, close to 79. Have two diplomas: aviation engineering and economics. Besides my strange mother tongue, Hungarian, I speak fluent Russian and not so fluent English. The reason of difference is simple: I learnt Russian at the age of 18-22 in absolute isolation from my own language, I was studying in a university in Moscow, where I was the only Hungarian. I had my dreams in Russian on the third-fourth years. I learnt English much later, in Hungary and India, busy with thousands of other duties, obligations.
How did you grow up?
Without complaining much I didn’t have a life small children dream about. I was born in a small village, having around 1000 inhabitants, where my Dad was teacher in the school and cantor in the Roman Catholic Church. A street has been named after him recently, because the population and the present leaders of my birthplace still – after 70 years – remember, that he was the engine in building an open swimming pool and that he organized a brass band out of simple peasants who had seen only flutes made by themselves before that.
These five years I spent there were the best, though fascism was present, and my stupid country joined an awful war, WWII. Fortunately enough I didn’t perceive much of it, being too small.
We shifted to a big (in our terms) city, Nagyvárad, now Oradea in Romania, when I was 5 years old. I started my studies there in the primary training school of the training college (It seems you don’t have better combination in English?) The school had extraordinarily important effect for the rest of my life: I learnt there that Jews are not different from any other breed of people; just the fascist system marked them as of lower order. It was our form-master who explained to us, his pupils, which was very brave step at that time. We stayed in that city till the Soviet troops almost completely surrounded it. We, our parents and six children were lucky enough to escape, according to Hungarian officers on the very last truck that could get out of the circle.
Till then we enjoyed a few carpet-bombings performed by American and British air forces, I witnessed – going home from the school – an execution on the spot, on the sidewalk of a civilian who was checked by a patrol, consisting of a German SS and a Hungarian Arrow Cross officer. Who of the two shot him down, I don’t remember.
The rest of my primary and secondary/high schooling was unbelievable. Because of natural reasons (further escape from the front, shifting residence) and stupid regulations I was studying the 12 years in ten schools.
Didn’t you have some more happy periods?
To be fair to my faith I had another happy period: half a year in Belgium, spent with a Flemish family who selected me from a group of starving children of the same age, having been sent there for recovery. I was studying there using Flemish learnt in a few weeks time, enjoyed the company of six brothers-sisters and was living in one of the most beautiful towns of the world: Bruges.
What is your education?
Though this subject also belongs to “growing up”, I prefer to talk about my universities separately. The reason is that I started my universities in Moscow, just after the decease (and famous funeral) of Stalin. That was great opportunity to get acquainted with a mixture of interesting nations and with one of the greatest cultures of the world. Most of my student-colleagues were Russian, but there were Armenians, blondes from the Baltic States, one (of unknown origin) even from deep Siberia. Our professors have also been exciting people, most of them of high expertise.
The culture? I didn’t have much free time, but have read a lot, met with poetry, unknown for me till then, like Vysotsky, Yevtushenko, Yesenin, Blok, and Tyutchev.
The theatre on Taganka was fascinating, too, with Ljubimov as director.
But the musical life of Moscow is the most unforgettable: the Bolshoi and the Conservatory were and remained extremely important centres. To see performances in Bolshoi or listen to concerts of Richter, Oistrakh, Jansons, the best orchestras of the Soviet Union: eternal memories!
Then came the Hungarian revolution of 1956, and I was kicked out. It’s better to say that the Hungarian government withdrew me: the final word was said by them.
With difficulties but I could complete my studies at home: I have the diploma of aviation engineering.
The second diploma, that of economics I received in Budapest. It was easier from the point of view that I had to use my mother tongue, but it was much more difficult because I was married and had to work: triple job.
What did you do as adult that is worth mentioning?
In spite of my high education I hardy made use of them. Aviation was killed twice during my life in Hungary. First by the peace treaty after WWII, that forbade manufacturing any serious airplane, then after 1956, when the Soviet Union quietly refused to supply the top flying machines.
When I was invited to join the foreign trading company dealing with export and import of armaments as head of department of aviation techniques and tanks I hesitated only days. I quickly understood that we had to fight even for obsolete fighters, the Soviets didn’t trust us. I left this firm soon, but remained in the field of foreign trade.
I spent years as organiser/director of exhibitions abroad. Later I got an invitation to represent Hungarian foreign trade in India. I occupied first the post of Deputy Trade Commissioner in Bombay, then – after a gap of four years – I represented Hungary alone in Calcutta, as Trade Commissioner. Both positions were excellent to get acquainted with wonderful people. I mention only two of my counterparts: Mr. Naval Tata, the No2 of the best of Indian private firms (Bombay) and Mr. Jyoti Basu, the president of the China-friendly communist party and the No1 leader of the labour movement of the whole country. Even capitalists acknowledged his achievement; he was often mediator between them and striking workers.
After three years in Calcutta I was offered the post of Deputy Commercial Councillor in New Delhi, which I refused to accept: I knew that my boss would be a Stalinist and sick person.
What is your opinion about
– White men?
I agree with the American movie director: the white “race” is crazy. Do you need details? Just look at what the USA is doing now in the Arab world. Crazy, crazy!
– Your country?
It’s similar to the above. We are a nation that for the last two centuries alone has made stupid step after stupid step. We were one of the initiators of WWI (losing hundreds of thousands, and half of the territory), established the first fascist state, stepped into WWII first invading the Soviet Union, then declaring war against the small and weak USA (lost another million people – killing 600 000 Jews – , more than half of the national wealth), followed the Soviet Union in nationalizing everything and pursuing tens of thousands, killing hundreds implementing false accusations, introduced terror for years after the revolution of 1956, and finally hurriedly privatised everything, losing half of the remaining national wealth, when the country was left alone.
It is a sinking ship.
I am unable to express in printable words how I hate them, the past ones, the present ones and the quickly formulating ones (Hungary and the USA).
– What is the problem with some of your ethnic groups, Gypsies and Jews?
The problem is not with them, but with the nation as a whole. The main reason of hatred certainly is that it is heated by our leaders, but Hungarians are too proud of themselves, they believe to be cleverer than any other nation or ethnic group around us, or in the body of the nation. Gypsies were welcome by our kings when they arrived from India, but hatred turned to them long ago. I believe the basic population were and are unable to appreciate that they have an absolutely different culture in their blood. Around a million of them are living below any human standard in Hungary.
The Jew question is also centuries old, the reason being that they are better educated (it starts at the very first years of their children’s life) and have better entrepreneurship. The first laws in the world, limiting the life of Jews had been implemented in Hungary, that were followed by more and more inhuman ones with the final result – as I mentioned above – that 600 000 of them were transported to and killed in concentration camps. Incredible fact that the German SS commander of this process reported to Hitler, that he doesn’t have to do much, the Hungarians readily execute everything to be done.
My heart is in permanent pain because the present system widens the routes for rehabilitating the fascist rule. I was kicked out from my university in Moscow, because I protested against the stamp that fascism had deep roots in Hungary. Now I understand that the accusation was right.
When and why did you start publishing?
When? I cannot define an exact date or even period. I used to write as small pupil already, participating in competitions, writing verses. I was encouraged by my teachers and acquaintances to continue on this line, but was never sure about myself. Probably India influenced me, pushed me, but even that wonder could only force me to put down my experiences for my family. I started write after having left India for good. When someone saw the first 50-60 pages, wondered: how can you remember all this, have you written notes? No, I haven’t. It was ridiculous even for me: I was writing about an event or place and at the same time the pictures of another related subjects appeared in my brain. This resulted in my first book, in Hungarian: “7 csodálatos év Indiában és két nepáli túra” (“7 Years in Wonderful India and Two Trips to Nepal”).
It’s not difficult to reply the question why. First reason was that this book was accepted immediately by the Hungarian Electronic Library. It occupies wonderful place among books of the greatest writers and poets of my country. The second reason is my age. I understood that I have so much to tell the dwellers of this Earth, that it is a must to continue. Seven more Hungarian books were born in a very short period of time: I was continuously feeling the pressure of my age.
Then I understood that our excellent, complicated and beautiful language isn’t known by many and decided to publish in English as well. In English a subject that is meant mainly for the English-speaking communities of the USA and Britain: “Stay at Home, Uncle Sam”. It’s a kind of warning: the USA became an uncontrollable power ready to use its extraordinary military strength for extraordinary, dangerous steps against other nations.
What are you working on next?
I am now working on my second English book. I just completed the black translation of my Hungarian book: “Kolja, a nép ellenségének fia”, a screen-novel. (“Kolja, Son of People’s Enemy”) For most of you the title must make it clear that it is about the terror of communist regimes. Kolja is son of a deputy people’s commissar of the Hungarian Commune of 1919-20, whose father was shot in the 1930th and he had to live the life of a marked enemy. I met him in the summer of 1956, just before the revolution of 1956 broke out. I don’t want to go into details now. Through him I met very important members of the Hungarian intelligentsia, among them Imre Nagy, who became prime minister of the revolutionary government and was hanged later. The booklet has to go through check-ups and will be published at Amazon and later in Smashwords as well. At least I hope so.
Because of my age and some health problems this will be my last English book, unless someone or a publisher would finance the translation of some of my books. I believe that besides my book about India and Nepal another one, written about the problems the expected long life of human beings might cause for our world is worth to publish in English. This book has been dressed in the cloak of Sci-Fi.
I have two more ideas that are waiting for writing books on them, if I succeed at all, they will be written in Hungarian.
Who are your favourite writers?
I am ashamed – seeing what sort of books is popular nowadays – that my favourites are giants of classical literature: Lev Tolstoy and Thomas Mann. I don’t want to say that Balzac, Hemingway, or Franz Kafka are negligible, or poets of nations of great literature, like Shakespeare, Pushkin, Goethe are not important, not talking about Chinese poetry – Lao-ce, Jo Fu, Li Taj-po – but the two giants mentioned are Himalayas.
I am fond certainly of others as well, not known so widely. I mention here only Panait Istrati, who’s Kyra Kyralina was exciting experience for me. For years I mentioned this book as first when talking about the best writers. He was saved from obscurity and starving by Romain Roland, which fact in it says a lot about his talent.
Being Hungarian I left the Hungarian literature for the last words. It is great. We had and have a lot good novelists, but our poetry is definitely among the peaks of Himalayas. I consider even that the greatest poet among hundreds whose verses I read is Attila József, who was not only able to understand mankind’s ills, but also express them in fantastic poems of musical pulse. Two more may count for high pedestal: Endre Ady and Miklós Radnóti (He was Jew, shot by Nazis. Bewildering poems were found in his pockets.).
What are your favourite hobbies?
They have been changing with my age. In my childhood – along with the usual games, fighting – I used to read a lot. I could continue only this hobby for the first decades of my adult life. Starting from Moscow music was and is one of the presents of life which I enjoy very much. Fortunately enough Budapest is one of the outstanding centres of music.
When it was made possible, we used to travel quite a lot with my wife.
When I could afford – time wise and financially – I started playing sports. The first was golf (which was a sin at that time), that I played in the first golf course of Asia: Tollygunge in Calcutta then continued in Budapest where golf was revived. Then I joined the enthusiasts of skiing. The last was sailing. I introduced the first sliding keeler, the 8mOD on Lake Balaton.
But the best hobbies are our grandchildren: the 8 years old grandson, Beni (very good in maths and computers) and the 4 years old granddaughter, Dorka (top in Hungarian and has unbelievable memories). For the last 8 years of my life they occupy most of my free time.
Would you like to deal with anything else?
I mention three things:
– It’s worth making a remark about our language: we have two words for love. Szeretet is used for simple manifestations like: I love my country. Szerelem expresses love for the other pole of sex: I love you, darling. Nice, isn’t it?
– I quote the last sentence – which is an advice to my grandson – of my “Kolja, Son of People’s Enemy:
“And don’t be ever afraid to assume and proclaim your truth, you’ll have to look in the mirror sooner or later.”
– If you ask me, how I feel about our world, I quote Attila József:
A semmi ágán ül szívem,
kis teste hangtalan vacog,
köréje gyűlnek szelíden
s nézik, nézik a csillagok.
My rough translation would sound like this:
My heart is sitting on the branch of nowhere,
its small body is shivering noiselessly,
stars are gathering around it gently
and look at it, look at it.