My testimonial of love to my Hungarian cousin, Marika: in honour of Yom Ha Zikaron, in celebration of Yom Hatsmaut.

Not every Hero is an action figure.

As much as I love Wonder Woman (and who doesn’t?), I believe it is essential to recognize and acknowledge our every day heroes- people who live and endure and overcome whatever Life ‘s more challenging aspects present to them.

My cousin Marika is one of them.

Marika lives alone in Budapest, Hungary – and I mean alone.

By way of introduction, Marika is my father’s niece. Her mother, Poni, was my father’s sister.

The Holocaust wiped out most of my father’s family, and as far as I know, all who remain of his entire immediate family is Marika in Budapest, her niece, (the “other”) Vivianne in Switzerland, and in Toronto, Canada her two cousins- my “ex” brother, who is estranged from us both-and me.

Life is so much about Timing.

What is once Paradise can so quickly become Hell.

For my family, pre W.W.I Hungary was Paradise and after W.W.II – it became Hell.

Marika was born after WWII, into a Hungary that was destroyed by the war. The Hungarians had, once again, “chosen” the wrong side of history, just as they had in WWI. They sided with the Fascist Nazis and during the last year of the war, when the entire world knew that the Nazis and their Axis friends were already defeated, the Hungarian and German Nazis exterminated eighty per cent (80%!) of the Hungarian Jewish population.

At the end of the war, Hungary was badly bombed by the Allies and just as Hungary was crawling out of the hellhole that they had created for themselves by aligning with the Fascists, the iron grip of Stalin’s Soviet Union subjugated them and turned them into a subservient Soviet satellite state.

For the next forty years or so, Hungary lived in the grey, colourless drab fog that befell most of Eastern Europe. Gone were the “capitalist” cafes, the extraordinary desserts, haute-couture fashions and gorgeous women of a long ago Hungary that bubbled with music and dance and charm and style.

Gone.

As far as Timing was concerned, Marika was given a raw deal.

She was born into a time of mediocrity, of dullness, of proletarian uniformity, of ignorance and indifference that dominated and shaped Hungary into a gray, dull country of sleepwalkers; an era that favoured and promoted the unremarkable and the non achievers, from the “underprivileged” proletariat”.

Anyone whose background was “upper class’’ or bourgeoisie was chronically blocked from the opportunities given to those from the “proletariat”.

It was not a good time to have come from privilege, from beauty, from a world of art and culture- not a time that would look kindly upon Marika’s background.

Before the war, Marika’s family, on my father’s side was wealthy, established, “haute”bourgeois – nothing that would endear you to the ruling, Soviet- dominated Communist proletarian party.

Furthermore, between 1945, which was the end of the war and 1948, when the Soviets invaded Hungary, my father and mother resurrected the family’s lumber company and quickly grew it into a major and formidable business, – they were, unquestionably and undeniably “capitalists.”

When the Soviets “annexed” Hungary, my family’s company was the first family-owned business to be “nationalized” by the Soviets; it was the front -page news story in the Hungarian national newspaper- The Magyar Hirlap.

Not the sort of history that would ingratiate you to the Stalinist Communists.

To add insult to injury, Marika’s family were not just bourgeois; they were Jewish bourgeoisie – and that fact certainly did not help matters for Marika.

What’s fascinating is that Communism was of course, anti-religion and was inherently “atheist”. But this did not stop the good Hungarian “atheists” from still hating and discriminating against the Hungarian Jews- even though they were also no longer allowed to practice their religion.

Even after the Jews gave up their Judaism, took more “Hungarian” names, intermarried, assimilated, they were still discriminated against- in school, at jobs, everywhere throughout Hungarian society.

Even if they converted and assimilated, the “Hungarian” Hungarians never let them forget that they were still “budusz Zsidos”- stinky Jews.

When a little girl would not play with Marika at school because she was a “stinky Jew”, she told her mother, Poni. My aunt, who was an outrageous character said to Marika, “You go right back there and tell that little girl that her family are also all Jews and, worse than that, they were all Rabbis, so she better just shut her mouth”.

Life in Hungary at that time, for someone whose background was” Jewish bourgeois” certainly wasn’t easy.

After studying at Hotel School, Marika went into tourism and although she was very bright and spoke four or five languages, she was never given the opportunity of working at the four or five star hotels in Budapest, those that line the Danube;her background was never “forgiven” nor forgotten.

Marika had other issues to deal with, as well.

The feelings of abandonment must have been very real to her, as they would have been for any Hungarian Jews-and other Hungarians- during those trying times.

The first loss would of course be all the people who died during the war. For the Jews, this would have been compounded by the mass organized extermination of their families in the last year of the war, along with the attrition of Jews throughout the war.

The numbers of Jews that had died while in “labour camps’’, or in the Ghetto, or who died at the Russian front when they were used as bomb fodder to spare the dogs from tripping hidden explosives, or had been starved to death in “work camps” or had just died of hunger and cold, or were just shot or thrown into the Danube,- cannot even be calculated.

For me, the most poignant and personal example is my father’s younger brother, Latsi (Leslie). A sculptor, an artist, a sportsman, he had been “outed’ to the Nazis by an ex-girlfriend of German heritage.

He was taken off to the Russian front and was never heard from again.

My grandmother, Clara, waited the rest of her life to get any news of her youngest child – to no avail. She never knew what happened to him, when and where he died- he just ceased to exist, as did so many other Jews at that time.

Then, of course, there were the Jews who were lucky enough to get out of Hungary, my parents amongst them.

Not that that was exactly a walk in the park.

After my parents resurrected my family’s lumber company and turned it into a huge success within three years, the Soviet Communists marched in and “expropriated” it. To justify their theft,they then accused my father of being a spy for the Americans in Brussels. When my father challenged them and stated that he had never even been to Brussels- they said that was a “detail “ and sentenced him to death by hanging.

(Therein lies a whole other story, which does not pertain to Marika, so it will have to wait.)

Ultimately, my parents went to jail and after quite some time,many bribes and many interventions, they managed to buy false passports for $100,000 American dollars- at that time! -and they left Hungary.

Once my parents were established in Canada, they repeatedly asked Marika’s parents to leave Hungary as well; they would have paid whatever was necessary to get them out, but Marika’s father was an avid and well known bridge player who didn’t want to start all over again in a foreign country and certainly didn’t want to learn English.

And so, Marika’s family stayed in Hungary.

But not all of them.

When the Communists took over, they unceremoniously threw my grandmother out of her elegant villa situated next to the Danube, expropriated it and expelled her to some little provincial town, where she lived with tens of people in a barn without even a floor.

This was my grandmother who was known throughout Budapest for her elegance and fastidiousness.

The Hungarian Communists were happy to allow “old, un-useful” people out of Hungary, (I think my grandmother was only in her late 50’s at this point- but they certainly didn’t mind “releasing” the older bourgeoisie) so my parents arranged for her to leave there and come to Canada as soon as possible.

My grandmother played an important role in Marika’s life.

In the turmoil of a Hungary newly under the domination of Soviet rules, everyone was assigned jobs, so when Marika’s mother began working, Marika spent time with our grandmother.

Marika remembers her so well, this very elegant and proper lady, so immaculate, with her beautiful home always spotless.

I can still see my grandmother in my minds’ eye, as she would go for tea with her émigré Hungarian friends, wearing her proper white gloves.

Once my grandmother left Hungary, Marika never saw her again.

My grandmother died before the restrictions on visiting a “capitalist country” were lifted.

Marika’s older sister, Zsuzi also left Hungary.

It’s not just that she left, -it’s how she left that is so fascinating.

Like out of a fairy tale princess story, Zsuzi met a handsome, debonair and very prosperous Swiss diplomat and businessman who was working in Hungary, who fell madly in love with her, married her and whisked her off to live in a fairy tale setting in Switzerland.

As wonderful as this was for Zsuzi, it certainly couldn’t have been so wonderful for Marika.

After their father died, the responsibility of caring for my aunt Poni on a day-to-day basis rested solely on Marika’s shoulders.

Furthermore, because of the ongoing housing shortage during the Communist era (which continues in Hungary to this day) Marika lived together with my aunt until my aunt died.

Even after Marika got married, she and her husband continued to live with my aunt, which could not have been easy.

Her husband, Rudy,was a truly good and kind man, from a noble family, a true aristocrat who was gentle, educated and a true gentleman.

They never had children.

He was a devout Hungarian Catholic and when, in later years, the restrictions on religious practice eased up in Hungary, Rudy and I would visit both St. Istvan’s Cathedral and the Dohanyi Synagogue –and pray together.

Rudy’s mother somehow managed to keep her extraordinary apartment overlooking the Danube, with its soaring 20 foot plus ceiling heights, even during the Communist regime, but her son and his Jewish-born wife did not move in there until after Rudy’s mother died.

Even though Rudy was nobility,intelligent and refined,as far as Marika’s family were concerned he had a serious strike against him.

He was not good looking.

Now, this might seem frivolous or superficial to some-but then, you do not understand the value of beauty for Hungarian Jews- and also, by extension,to many upper class Hungarians.

It is an obsession.

The truth is, if one was to research who actually contributed the most to the beauty, the art, the culture of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it would unquestionably be the Jews.

As the Jews were emancipated from the Ghettos,their dedication and discipline, their commitment to education, and to get involved in business and the professions propelled them to become the new bourgeoisie. Their love of music and art, combined with their desire to be “accepted” by the “haute bourgeoisie” and the nobility encouraged them to become patrons of art, music, architecture and literature. Their influence, both financial and artistic was a major contribution to the extraordinary beauty of 19th century Vienna- and Budapest.

The “Belle Epoque” was the quintessential apex of Beauty in Hungary, in every aspect.

The beautiful new boulevards and villas in Budapest, the Opera, the fashion houses, the Arts, the music…and, the women.

Hungarian women- most especially, Hungarian Jewish women -were considered the great beauties of Europe then.

From the time of the Emancipation of the Jews in Hungary, which was in the middle of the 19th century, Hungarian Jewish women, particularly from the 1st Arrondisement in the posh area called Lepoldvar, were famously beautiful.

I only learned about this when I was asked by the very staunchly “Hungarian” Hungarians at the very staunchly Magyar Haz (Hungarian House), in Toronto, to be their Mistress of Ceremonies when the famous Jewish Hungarian physicist, Edward Teller was invited to speak there.

I know that the invitation to be their Mistress of Ceremonies was not offered to me because of my incredible knowledge of physics- which was non existent, nor because of my exceptional mastery of the Hungarian language.

At that event, I was “informed” that my family must have come from Lepoldvar; I then asked my mother and-

It was affirmative.

This is not about hubris or vanity on my part. It is an understanding of a certain dynamic that is particular to a time and place.

Beauty was a heavy currency in my family.

My grandmother and my aunt Ponyi were considered so beautiful that they both graced the covers of the Opera magazines- a very serious kudo.

My aunt once had an Italian prince fall so madly in love with her that who begged her to leave her husband and marry him.

Beauty was an overwhelming factor in my cousin Zsuzsi’s ability to leave a dour morose Hungary and go to live in the luxury of upper class Switzerland.

In my family, we used to joke that if you were born “not good looking”(G-d forbid!), they would kill you at birth.

(Hungarians also inherently possess very bizarre, black humour.)

And the beauty thing wasn’t just about the women.

My father had a grand-relative who became an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army- unheard of for a Jew. Why? Because the Hungarian Honour Guard required for the visiting Prince of Wales demanded a handsome, six-foot-tall, blue –eyed, black haired Officer.

Only one soldier in the entire unit fit the bill – my relative.

Another male relative of mine became a Baron, because his charm, good looks and sexual abilities pleased a certain princess enough to ensure that he was thus rewarded.

So in my father’s family there was an actual value to their good looks which they took seriously.

Unfortunately, their obsession with looks didn’t stop at the face- it also included the figure.

My cousin Zsuzsi never had to worry- at 5’10” and with her background as a competitive swimmer, I don’t think she was ever larger than a size 2; Marika and I however, inherited the more “Zaftig” aspects of our family and at times, we would both be “assessed’’ accordingly.

Even though Marika was just as beautiful as Zsuzsi and had just as good a figure as a girl, she never had the same self confidence as her older sister, nor the same compulsion or obsession to stay svelte.

My immediate family had much more balance on this subject than did Marika’s.

Business, activism and politics were the mainstays of my family.

My mother was an exceptional businessperson, a committed, powerful and effective activist,a woman admired and respected by so many for her intelligence, common sense and social responsibility- as well as being so lovely.

My beautiful mother had little time for vanity and less for self -indulgence.

Her very strong influence gave me breadth and scope and duality.

I inherited that understanding of the value of myself from my mother, as well as her good -natured disposition.

This is a rare commodity indeed for Hungarians.

They are known for volatile tempers, intense emotions, a compulsive attraction for the dramatic and a strong tendency for depression, sadness and melancholy.

To be of Hungarian descent tends not to be easy.

There are different theories as to why Hungarians are so high strung and emotional. Whether it’s because they are from a land locked country or because they speak a language so different from everyone else’s- they actually have a psychological condition named after them.

Hungarians have consistently had the highest suicide rates in Europe; at one point, the Hungarian government had to ban a popular song from the radio, “Gloomy Sunday” because the suicide rate would rise dramatically whenever it was heard.

I say this by way of explaining that Hungarians tend to embrace depression as a close personal friend.

The Hungarians have always been known for their mania and melancholia- can you imagine life for Hungarians living in the gloom, sadness, fear and apathy during the Soviet- Hungarian era?

Marika lived in this Hungary- collective despondency and fear, restrictions and shortages, mediocrity and staleness- and those were only the political pressure points she dealt with!

There were also the family dynamics and expectations and demands that could never have been met, by anyone, in that dark era. All the day-to-day responsibilities caring for sick and old parents ended up in her lap, because there was no one else left in Hungary to help her. It wasn’t anyone’s fault and it isn’t about blame- it was just the reality of the situation.

Marika lived in an atmosphere that was inherently saturated with drama and expectation and blame and guilt and fear.

My heart breaks for her.

What must it have been like for Marika-existing in Communist Hungary, caring for her sick mother on her own, while her cousins were young libertines in Canada and her sister lived in a villa in Zurich?

This is not about blame or guilt; it is about acknowledging the truth of the situation.

I first met Marika when I went to Hungary one Christmas vacation. I was away at school in Switzerland where my parents visited me and then from Zurich, off we went together to Hungary.

It was their first time back to Hungary since they had fled with false passports decades before.

We were very nervous, as Hungary was still under Communist rule and there were some serious considerations about whether or not they should risk going back.

As we boarded the plane, an extraordinarily gorgeous and dramatic woman, arriving at the last minute, breezed onto the plane. . Lavender -coloured eyes, jet black hair, white mink coat. My father, who loved beautiful women, was mesmorized by her. He went to look closer- it was his niece, Zsuszi.

We proceeded to drink champagne all the way to Budapest and get thoroughly drunk, and as my drunk-with-happiness father proceeded to inform all the army personnel carrying their loaded machine guns, and the boarder police and guards and anyone else who cared to listen that they should all move to the “Vonderful” country of Canada, we began fervently praying that we wouldn’t be immediately thrown into jail!

I have a vision of our family, all together in my aunt’s home, sitting around the table, drinking (of course!), and my parents reconnecting with their Hungarian relatives- such a bittersweet memory.

I think now- what was that reunion like for my cousin, Marika?

Here were her family from the Diaspora-her sister, so glamorous and wealthy, the epitome of chic, living in Switzerland and her Canadian cousin, in school in Switzerland, so secure with the confidence and attitude that comes from living in freedom?

How could she not have thought,” What about me”?

I also remember that it was snowing there, all the time, and there were these little old ladies, with babushkas on their heads, outside, sweeping the snow off the streets; certainly no snow plows nor trucks to remove the snow- just the little old ladies and their brooms, working non stop.

I juxtapose that memory with when Marika first came to Canada to visit us.

It was during the most gorgeous summer.

Toronto was becoming a cosmopolitan city, with cafes and boutiques and scores of festivals.

Marika had the most wonderful time.

She had arrived in a Toronto that was emerging, blooming into a wonderful place.

My parents had worked tirelessly, once again in the lumber business, and by then they had provided us with a large home situated in a virtual private park and our world was one of potential and promise.

When Marika came to Canada, my parents went on a mission.

They were going to get Marika married in Canada.

And so, a procession of young men began to arrive.

It is so strange how memory works; in my mind’s eye, I can see them arriving on our long driveway, coming to pick up Marika and off they would go.

It was a magical summer, with parties, and ladies’ teas and garden soirees and other happy events and young men, coming and going and Life was so good.

And then- Marika went back to Hungary.

Recently, I’ve been thinking- was that just about Timing… or was it Choice?

When I was younger, I believed it to be more about Timing- about Marika just not ‘finding’ that someone in Canada.

I realize now how that would not have even been a possibility for Marika .

Her sense of duty and of responsibility was so deeply ingrained in her that of course she would return to Hungary.

What must have that been like for Marika, watching us, her Canadian cousins who had such freedom, such opportunities, such possibilities?

How could it have made her feel, seeing me with my waist length hair, my skirts not much longer, jumping into my cool American boyfriend’s convertible, living with such ease and such laissez-faire?

What could that have felt like for her, living with such restrictions, imposed by a government, imposed by family, and truly, so self -imposed?

Marika was always so shocked at how easily I would express my opinions- without fear or censorship or sense of consequence.

That attitude also pertained to my sense of Judaism. I was so at ease in my Jewishness, always so proud of being Jewish, and such a strong Zionist.

I find it bittersweet that it is my cousin Marika, through all the trials and tribulations of her life, all the anti-Semitism, both pointed and general that she has endured, who has always identified strongly with being Jewish.
Even though she doesn’t know the prayers or the customs, she has always had such an affinity for,an interest in and a connection to Judaism.

Whenever we speak on Skype, I always tease her about her ever-so Jewish eyes, so soulful, so deep, so filled with so much –loss, pain, sadness- which can change in a nanosecond to joy and happiness, whenever my husky, Indigo, “sings” for her over the phone or whenever she speaks with my children, who love her.

It is during one of my most recent conversations with her that I really started thinking about her first trip to Canada.

It got me thinking and ruminating about Life and Opportunity and all those enormous topics we don’t tend to truly get into on a daily basis.

I thought about her relationship with my parents- and their relationship to her.

Marika adored my mother, as did most people. My mother was the Fixer,The Administrator, who ensured that all the people my wonderful parents undertook to help financially, very quietly and without fanfare, received their very needed assistance.

This wasn’t just for Marika’s family- it extended to my father’s friends who were enduring a life of hell in Hungary; my father’s ex-girlfriend who was Christian, and had hid Marika’s entire family throughout those darkest days, his childhood friends who couldn’t make ends meet,their relatives in Israel and Czechoslovakia and other places, many that I learn more about, throughout the years.

My mother was so good to and for Marika; her calm demeanour (certainly not a commodity on my father’s side!), her logical, rational and caring understanding,her common sense advice and her genuine interest in Marika’s welfare and wellbeing ensured their loving relationship.

But it is Marika’s relationship with my father, my interesting, exciting, intense father that, through the great mirror of hindsight, really fascinates me.

I now think back on that time through the lens that comes with age and maturity.

I think back to that magical summer and the two of them.

Being anywhere with my father was guaranteed to create some kind of interesting experience!

The two of them would go out and find such great adventures.

My father, who knew every opera aria and had an incredible voice, could break out in opera whenever and wherever he wanted- and he did.

He was perfectly capable of drinking scotch or eau-de-vie- or whatever was his fancy right then -along with breakfast- and sometimes, without the breakfast.

If someone asked him about drinking so early in the day, he would retort, in his thick Hungarian accent ”And vhy not? It is 11 somevhere in the vorld”!

It wasn’t that he was an alcoholic or that he had a drinking problem whatsoever- it was that he wanted to do what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it, and no one was going to tell him otherwise.

He and Marika would go to the most random ethnic neighbourhoods, where the two of them would eat anything and everything- the more unkosher, the better; they would drink and sing eat and cry and laugh, in a way that was so very Hungarian, so very them, so very full of life and also sorrow.

They would also go to Hungarian restaurants that were so popular in Toronto then and eat copious amounts of meat and and drink and and my father would pay the gypsies to play their favourite Hungarian songs on the violin and then they would sing and weep some more.

I loved being with them at those times.

Just recently, when I was speaking to Marika, she reminded me how she and my father went off to Montreal together, for a few days.

My father woke her up, with an enormous glass of Hungarian schnapps and, said “Marikam, drink this- ve are going to Montreal”-and then, just like that, off they went.

My father always drove fast, loving the freedom of driving, and when they arrived in Montreal, they had the best time; eating at the best French restaurants, visiting with my father’s friends, going with them to parties, drinking with them, hanging out at cafes.

It is when Marika and I had this conversation that I had an Epiphany.

I had always thought about what that summer in Toronto had meant for Marika; I had never truly thought about what it would have meant to my father.

He loved it. He loved Marika, no question- but it so much more than that.

It was about their communality of spirit, of understanding, of shared experience, of Life in a particular Time and Space that, no matter how I would have tried, I could never experience it “experientially” , like they did.

It wasn’t just that they shared D.N.A.-I shared that- it was their intrinsic “knowingness” that was theirs and theirs alone.
.
She knew his stories, his adventures, his triumphs and equally important, his tragedies.

They shared the pain of THEIR loss together, they shared the haunting sadness of their gypsy violin, their Eastern European sense of foreboding, of loss, of something that is so intangible, so unique, so undefinable.

They shared their crazy Hungarian spirit -soaring, crashing, then soaring again.

She shared his experiences, and even if they weren’t first hand, she would have been privy to all of the stories. She knew about his life before the Nazis, before the Communists, before the horrible tragedies that had befallen them all.

Even though she was very young at the time, she still vaguely remembers when he and my mother drove around Budapest together, he on his motorcycle, she in the sidecar, wearing their matching long brown leather coats.

My parents were then the gorgeous and oh-so-cool couple rising out of the ashes of a city and a peoples that were destroyed and desperate and sad; my parents were like the phoenix rising; they epitomized the brief flame of hope, of resurrection, of potential re-birth that was extinguished as soon as the Communists took over.

Marika knows the songs of my father’s childhood,his culture, his intrinsic pain and his crazy language; she knew how unbelievably kind and good he was,how he had arranged and paid so that her entire family was hidden as Christians throughout the war and, unlike so many others, she was always so grateful to him for his generosity.

She knows, really knows, what he went through not knowing what had happened to his brother and how his mother never stopped hoping and praying for her youngest child.

She knows what happened when, after he survived the Nazis and while he was still emaciated and so weak, my father’s determination, brilliance and sheer force of will, energized him to rebuild his father’s legacy, manifesting into an incredibly successful enterprise–and the chaos and deep seated pain that resulted when the Communists expropriated his business.

She knows his hurt and humiliation when the Communists put him in shackles and chains, when they wrote lies about himand when they threw him and my mother into prison.

She knows what it meant to him and to his entire family when my parents lived in exile for years, while they waited for a government and country- any government, any country – to give them asylum, and how my parents couldn’t even send letters to Hungary for fear of jeopardizing the situation for Marika’s family.

When my parents’ letters did finally go to Hungary, they would be censored and tampered with- even their loneliness and anxiety had no privacy from the State’s ever-present intrusions and omnipresent interference.

She knows what my parents went through when they came to Canada-finally!- as a butler and a maid and were treated with derision and snobbery.

She knows how proud my father was of the successful business that, once again, he and my mother created in Canada and how proud he was to be a Canadian,and of their remarkable achievements in and for this country.

And she knows how heartbroken and devastated he was at the betrayal- twice!- by the country of his birth, the country that he both loved and hated- and how it never really let him go.

It wasn’t just that she knows it- it’s that she inherently, intrinsically, emotionally understands it.

So, Marika and my father would laugh and cry, eat and drink, sing and share extraordinary stories and jokes so funny that people listening would double over from laughter.

They shared a culture and a time and a place that was so unique, so particular, so special.

I am so glad for them both that they shared such an incredible and happy time together.

My father is gone now. He has been dead for almost twenty -one years.

Today would have been my mother’s birthday. She would be so delighted to know that this year, according to the Jewish calendar, her birthday and Israel’s birthday are on the same day.

The ten year anniversary of her death is next week.

They are all gone now- all those of our communal past-all those we loved- our parents, our grandparents, her sister.

Marika lives alone in Budapest.

She is The Custodian.

She knows my family’s secrets, she knows their stories, she knows who all the players were, she knows the locations of where they lived, even if she doesn’t know where they all died.

She is the last one of my relatives who lives in Hungary and she lives in an apartment filled with momentos from the past- oriental rugs, and paintings, and silver, some from her mother, some from her mother-in-law, some from my family when they fled- and, in the photographs hanging on the wall, our beautiful lost relatives from a time and a place and an era long long gone.

Their gaze is always on you, Marika, and I believe that they are looking at you with gratitude for your sacrifices.

Marika, I don’t know if your parents ever thanked you themselves, but I thank you on their behalf.

You have never had it easy, my dearest Marika.

And in the spinning circle of History, once again,the political situation in Hungary is volatile and uneasy.

Marika, you have endured much heartache, much sadness, much loneliness.

Somehow, through no fault of your own, the opportunities and possibilities that were granted to your Canadian cousins and to your sister weren’t made available to you.

I know that you are ill, that you have your struggles and that to deal with your day-to-day life on your own is difficult.

But you are strong- stronger than you know or think.

You come from strong stock-albeit not exactly the most normal- and you have a determination and a will and a resilience that perseveres.

You are a true survivor- in the best sense of the word.

Yesterday was Yom HaZikaron- the Day of Remembrance in Israel.

Today is Yom Hatzmaut- Israel’s birthday.

Between the happy and the sad, the unfathomable and the realized, the insane and the sublime, we live and do our best.

I love you, Marikam.

You are my true Hero.

Szerettelek mindig a Vivi’d.

About the Author
Vivienne Grace Ziner is a vociferous and outspoken activist, advocate, writer and speaker for international human rights, the global advancement of human dignity and the cause of Israel and the Jewish people.
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