9. The Family
Saturday 29th September
Well, just met the family! What an amazing feeling, sitting in the car with a group of strangers, knowing we are related to each other. Edit, her youngest son Zsolt, and Veronika were all squeezed into a tiny old Suzuki, double parked around the corner. We squashed in with them and drove around the ring road over to Buda to Edit’s apartment. We met Laci, Edit’s husband, Zsolt’s wife, Zsuzsi (just married in June. Met through an internet chat room), and a little later Lajos’ daughter, also called Zsuzsi arrived. Lajos was dad’s favourite cousin. While the entire family would gather together to play cards on a Sunday, they would disappear off together for a boys’ own adventure! I think dad was basically a pretty introverted but adventurous person who would rather choose to be outdoors than indoors playing a hand of cards! Zsuzsi can remember when he came to visit. She said 1993, but it was actually 1986. It was fascinating to hear their recollections of my father, and of the harrowing times they lived through during WW2 and the Soviet occupation. Lajos was drafted into the army and was shot at. This was apparently the reason dad left – he didn’t want to be drafted.

Edit is Vili’s cousin, and thus Lisa’s second cousin. Her 31 year old son Zsolt is a second cousin once removed, and her grand-daughter Veronica, 21 years and today’s translator a third cousin once removed). Veronica learnt English because as a child, watching television, it was all in English. It isn’t now. Everything is dubbed, even Blackadder, which made no sense to us at all (The Simpsons and The O.C. are dubbed in German). This is how the younger people speak some English. There’s something to be said for watching a lot of television after all.
Edit and Laci live in a flat on the tenth floor, pretty characterless on the outside, but quite nice on the inside. I felt almost embarrassed when showing them photos of our house, so opulent and big by the standards in these suburbs. I wonder if they felt envious of the good lifestyle we live? Things are pretty tough here. Prices are similar to Australia for most things – petrol is dearer, equal to about $1.80 per litre (Note: at the time it was $1.18 in Lismore). Basic food stuffs seem to be about the same, with fruit and veggies 20 to 30% cheaper. Taxation is high, yet things around the city (and a lot of the country) seem to be in a sad state of disrepair. They said services like health care cost the average person a lot of money. I felt really sad about the big gap in our living standards.
They asked us about what we’d seen in Budapest. We told them how we’d been to the Terror House, but none of them had, and neither did they want to go. As they said, they’d heard enough about the terror from their own experiences. I wondered what they had lived through, especially Edit and Laci. I wondered how they felt about dad leaving, then taking Mama, Papa and Piri to Australia. Thank God he did.
We looked at photos together. I was surprised to see photos of our family, sent by aunt Piri. They even had the Bollywood party photo from my fortieth of Indira Bartholomew and what’s-‘is-name. I’m really glad I took photos of the family to show them. They’re excited about Anna and family visiting next May, and suggested next time we come for longer, as Zsuzsi has a house at Lake Balaton where we can share a holiday. Lake Balaton is 80 kilometres long, and also said to be the largest body of fresh water in Europe, covering 600 square kilometers.
All the time we were at Edit’s and Laci’s, Veronica did a fantastic job of translating for us. I really wish I could have spoken a little more Hungarian, so that I could speak a bit more, especially with Zsuzsi. She was so nice.
Lunch was lovely; a hearty soup, rice salad, veggies, all sorts of croquettes, krumpli, potato salads, pickles, wine, which was mixed 50/50 with cola – doubly good actually! Duplo Jo!!

I had learnt from the excesses of Zsuzsa’s hospitality, and after the delicious soup I was wary, and had only tiny bits of rice and veggies and three different types of potato and fried cheese and fried zucchini and gherkin and . . . I was glad because, sure enough an enormous dessert arrived soon after – a cottage cheese cake with slithered almonds and peach squares. I asked, “where are the other twelve people?”
They taught me how to make potato sausages: cook the potatoes, add Liszt, add an egg and roll them. Fry. (I should explain that Liszt is Hungarian for flour. So Franz Liszt was actually Frank Flour. Doesn’t have the same ring to it!)
They had such a small place, and are obviously struggling working class people, but so generous. I really felt like family, and they seemed grateful that we’d gone to the trouble to go to Budapest to see them. I’m really glad I did – I’ve finally met the missing pieces of my family, and in a way it fills a bit of the hole that was left when dad died.
Edith’s husband Laci has lovely eyes. He explained through Veronica that Bruce was the equivalent name to Laci. We exchanged smiling eye contact several times. He seemed lovely, but he also had that grim look about him in repose. I sat there wondering what he had seen and what all of them had experienced. Veronica told me that probably over 60% of Hungarians are over fifty. But we were blessed, because now all the reticence and grimness are gone.
They are an everyday family, really happy together, and really happy to see us. There were seven of them, and from the banter and (universal) body language, are obviously very close.
As well as the meal, we shared photos and questions about all kinds of things. Their charm and friendliness and welcome made the whole country feel different. For us both.

After about five hours together, they drove us to the International train station, Keleti Palyaudvar, to arrange our Monday morning tickets to Becs/Wien. Tomorrow’s our last day here. We’ll do the river cruise up to the Danube Bend area at Esztergom. We’ll get a good look ‘round on the government ferry. It stops at every whistle stop and takes twice as long as the river cats. It leaves at 0800, so we’ll need to get up early.