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  • Claudia Nagyivan

“This is paradise”

What my Grandmother (1910-2003) thinks about our Covid-Year



My Hungarian Grandmother was born in the small town Kunszentmárton in year 1910.

She was the only girl in a family of 4 brothers. And this was for a reason: Her mother had a passionate affair with a well educated handsome Jewish man- whilst being mistreated by her own husband- and the result of this love story was Marika. My Grandma lived through 2 world wars. She got married to a postman in Szeged and had 2 daughters herself, my mother and my aunt.

During worldwar 2 she saved the lives of several Jewish kids by pretending they were her own children. War stories include horrifying moments in the cellar during bomb attacks, hunger and fleeing through fields and forests in midwinter.

After the Nazis came the communists. My mother and my aunt both wanted to study music, but their father was against it. So my Grandmother left him and moved to Budapest on her own with her 2 daughters. They were living in one small room for many years, sharing the kitchen and toilet with other flatmates. But her daughters were able to study at the famous Liszt Ferenc Conservatorium.

Eventually in 1956 the civil war started. My Grandmother has heard of the possibility to go to Argentina. She had a restless bum, as you may have concluded already, and of course she could not resist of another adventure. So she took her daughters on the big boat crossing the Atlantic over to South America, where they arrived in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately they had to spend the first year in a refugee camp, and my mother started to become very homesick. She wanted to go back to Budapest and continue her studies, just as my aunt. In Argentina, their professional future jobs would have been limited to being servants or babysitters for the rich.

So they moved back to Budapest and finished their studies. In the meantime, my Grandma earned some extra money by sewing clothes. She was rather popular, very beautiful and had many admirors who wanted to marry her, but she would prefer to stay single. “I don´t want to have any master”, she once said to me. Indepence and freedom have been very important to her, and despite of living in a socialist country, she would always remain a free spirit- it is a matter of your own mind set, I believe.

She died of old age in 2003. I inherited her little apartment in Budapest. I felt always very proud of her, being such an independent, adventurous and strong woman in the middle of a chaotic century.

Covid? She would laugh about the histeria. “What is so bad about staying home for a while as long as you are healthy and alive? You have enough to eat, the supermarkets are filled with all kinds of foods and drinks, you have running water and electricity, you can heat your house and make it really cosy. This is Paradise. You may have lost a job but as long as you are alive, you can always find another one. In the end, everything will be fine. You have to stay positive and enjoy the small things in life. I have so much enjoyed travelling and perhaps that is what I would miss most if I were still alive now in 2020. But it will all come back to you eventually. For now, keep travelling inside your soul. There is so much to discover. And most importantly: Don´t ever be guided by fear. Fear is always a bad counselor. Trust your gut feeling and follow your dreams, for life is short but full of amazing adventures that want to be lived.”



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