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Elizabeth Brunner

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairy Tales around

19th May 1996... 

the story of her father's determination to become an artist 

 

 

Sunday, the 19th of May 1996 ...  

Elizabeth 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, "for education?"

            "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.'  -  My 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 happened.  -  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 with the 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 one."

            "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."  -  Dagmar remembered that her own most beloved god-mother's name was 'Tetta' (for Meredine). So now she knew where the name came from: Hungary!  -  "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 life."

            "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!"

 
     

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