the 19th of May 1996
eventually continued, "in my father's family the habit
was that the first son was given to the church, and the
second male child to the army." "That was a
European custom," put in Dagmar. "Yes,"
continued Elizabeth. "So when the family said he should
go and be educated as a priest, my father said he would not
do this. This annoyed the family very much and he broke with
his family. His mother died when he was nine years old and
there was a small brother who was a few months old at that
time. The father lost his interest for life after his wife's
death, he loved her so much. He came home late very often.
So this little baby brother my father brought up more or
less. I suppose he had to go to school also but he cared for
his little brother. But his mother had left a thousand
golden crowns for each of the sons." Dagmar asked,
"Yes," Elizabeth continued, "so until
he was 21 years old, he could not touch that money. At 21 he
went up to Budapest and joined the academy. And with his
artist friends he finished all the money from his mother.
Well, you know how artists live? Play and drink. Though
father never drank. He took an oath never to touch alcohol,
as his father had gone such sad way because of
alcohol." "So his money went?" Asked Dagmar
incredulous. "Went 'chooiik'!" Elizabeth blew that
typical gesture into the air.
"And one day, the five boys (i.e. my father and
his friends) had nothing to eat. So, they said, 'Ferry (that
is what they called him) now you show us what you can do.'
'Well,' Ferenc said thinking, 'I have a very rich uncle near
Budapest, I will go down to him and ask him for some food.'
So he went on the train (a few hours away from Budapest) and
he arrived in the nice time of the morning about ten
o'clock. When he arrived, his uncle was sitting like this in
the chair (pointing at herself), a doctor and a nurse were
tending him. 'O my nephew,' he burst out, 'how sweet of you
to have come to see me.'
father never dared to say what he had come for. By the
evening he went back on foot to Budapest, (yes, he walked
all the way) as he had to be back at the academy,"
Elizabeth laughed into herself.
The telephone was ringing. It took some time to get
Mary from her afternoon siesta and for her to finish the
call. Then Elizabeth and I could carry on peacefully again.
"How did your father and your mother first
meet?" asked Dagmar. "I'll come to that,"
Elizabeth carried on. "Those five darling friends of
his, asked Ferry, when he eventually arrived back in
Budapest, what have you brought? Then Ferenc told them what
Then I don't know what happened. By
chance," Elizabeth mused, "I heard this story.
But my father was really without money. Then he
received a letter from 'Mishi Batshi' (his younger brother,
you know), that he was transferred from Vienna to
Nagykanizsa. And it would be very nice if Ferenc came to
visit him. So Ferry thought it over seriously. Because to
write to his younger brother that he had nothing and still
would like to come, for an elder brother, that would not
have been very stylish. So Ferry decided to go anyway, go
somehow to Nagykanizsa, anyway. And he started walking
again. He took to the road and during the day he walked and
during the nights he slept in the dry grass of farms (it was
summer time) you know?" Elizabeth asked and Dagmar came
forward with "hay, hay-lofts on farms, super, hay
smells good ... so he walked all the way from Budapest to
Nagykanizsa? But that is very far!" (The distance is
about 200 kilometer) "Yes," confirmed Elizabeth.
"That younger brother of my father (my uncle)
when he was grown up he always had their father staying with
him. He looked after the old man. This grand-father of mine,
he always had dogs. And he smoked the pipe, you know the one
long handle?" Elizabeth asked. "Yes, I know, my
grand-father had one like that," Dagmar answered.
"There is the picture in my mind which I
remember," Elizabeth continued, "I would love to
draw it! When coming back from school, I often used to drop
in at my uncle's house and visit grand-father. At least as
long as my uncle was posted in Nagykanizsa. The old
gentleman used to sit in his big easy-chair. Next to him his
dog with a Turkish cap on his head and a pipe in his
mouth." Elizabeth grinned and Dagmar bursted out
laughing, "that gentleman had a sense of humor!"
Elizabeth carried on, "this was the picture every day,
really. Even when he was in bed, all the cushions were put
for the dog and he had the same Turkish cap on and a pipe in
his mouth. The dog had a small pipe, grand-father a long
"So when your father visited your uncle, his
younger brother, in Nagykanizsa," Dagmar asked again,
"your father got stuck there, he met your mother?"
Elizabeth carried on, "he reached there. But he
must have asked for some money after all from my uncle and
immediately opened an art-school. Because he was requested
and instructed by his 'guru'. The very famous artist Simon
Hollósy, who had his own school in Munich. But he also had
an open-air studio in Nagybánya and Técsö (beautiful
places) with at least forty students. He instructed my
father saying, now you carry on with my work, and as you are
going to a small town, you open a school. See for three or
six months, then you can detect gifted students and
encourage them to study further in Budapest or Munich. So,
my father was instructed by his 'guru' you see. Hollósy was
the man to give importance not to studio painting but to
outdoors painting. And so we are all his students. Mother
also and me, too.
From the age of fourteen my mother wanted to study
art. After my father had opened the studio, there were
already big dicussions and co-discussions in the family and
among friends but especially in my mother's family, whether
they could let her go and study art or not. Because mother
had no mother. My aunt was bringing up the children. My
mother lost her mother at the age of three." Dagmar
queried sadly, "at the age of three?"
Elizabeth continued, "then till the age of
eleven she had her grand-mother, whom she loved. She was
also an intelligent
woman." Dagmar repeated, "your mother's mother
died when your mother was three. That means there were four
children without a mother." Elizabeth, "yes and
the fifth child died when she was only three months
old." Dagmar asked, "so there was a fifth child.
Your mother was one of five children." "Yes.
Tettara ... Tettara," remembered Elizabeth, "Tettara
was that baby's name."
remembered that her own most beloved god-mother's name was 'Tetta'
(for Meredine). So now she knew where the name came from:
"When mother was nine her grand-mother also
died. And even what I hold precious and strongly in my heart
is from that grand-mother, and mother remembered her all her
"So your grandmother from your mother's side
was that lady," Dagmar mused, "who was such a
staunch Hungarian national, but still she married against
the will of her family that military gentleman from the
Hungarian-Austrian side, and was eventually stationed as
wife of police commissioner at Nagykanizsa." Elizabeth
confirmed, "yes, yes!"