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Elizabeth Brunner







Fairy Tales around

27th July 1996...

and always about Hungary



Saturday, the 27th July 1996...  

"May I change the subject, dearest Elizabeth?" Dagmar asked. "You talked about an exhibition in Hungary some time ago." Elizabeth replied, "you mean the one, when the Bishop came from Hungary and requested me?" Dagmar said, "yes."

            Elizabeth replied, "Mother had painted Christ. So I was asked to send that painting of Christ to Hungary. Also another forty paintings of mother and mine. The officers of the Hungarian Embassy and the Cultural Centre were very kind and helped me to pack the paintings and send them off to Hungary. The exhibition was in the 'Ráday Kollégium' in Budapest. I could not go, but I have photographs of that exhibition. Mother's Christ painting was hanging in the most beautiful place."

            Mary came with lovely tea for us and Elizabeth asked whether there were not some chocolates around. Mary went to the fridge and came back with a box of the most wonderful cherry chocolates from Hungary. Even I enjoyed them thoroughly, though I am not very keen on chocolates in general. But these were special. I watched Elizabeth relishing her piece. It was really magic (considering that these things generally where just not available in India.)

            After the tea Dagmar requested Elizabeth to speak a little more about her time in Hungary and she started, "at my time, German was the second language in Hungary. My grandfather did all his accounts in German. Perhaps not all the accounts, some very important things he must have done in Hungarian. But I remember that my grandfather spoke better German than Hungarian. Of course, this is not so any more." Dagmar put in, "I am sure this is no longer so. But I remember the lady, the Hungarian art historian, Dr. Lilla Szabó, who came for cataloguing your paintings, she could converse better in German than in English with me." Elizabeth said, "yes.

            The place where I grew up was not so Germanised as some other places in Hungary. And mother was a nationalist if at all she had any political inclinations. She was a painter, really, she painted in the villages and all over. Just as she later did here in India.

            My father studied in Munich under Simon Hollósy. Father knew German. And I suppose Hollósy choose Munich because the art scene was there then. Inspite of never having seen any of Hollósy's paintings, some of my own paintings resemble his, so said Lilla when she was working here.

            From about the age of four, I stayed in Budapest. Then the First World War broke out. They came back with the last train from East Hungary, where Hollósy had his school, to Budapest before the war broke out. And they stayed in that corner house in Budapest where the top floor was a studio.

            I was four-four and half, and I was sick several times. Once, I remember, I overate at the birthday party of another child, you know, overeating chocolate, and I got really sick." Dagmar remarked, "you remember that? You were only four?" Elizabeth retorted, "of course." Dagmar laughed, "they must have made you vomit it all out." Elizabeth replied, "I suppose so. But I was sick, brhrh ..."

            Dagmar asked, "and 1914 your father went into the war?" "No," answered Elizabeth, "my father never went into the war. He was in the revolutionary movements." Dagmar, "but he was so utterly upset, remember, you told me some weeks ago." Elizabeth answered, "yes of course, with the whole idea of people being able to have wars and all the killings. Only his younger brother went into the war as an officer.

            When the war escalated, grandfather wrote to us, 'during this time it is not good for a family to be scattered, so you should come home'. And so we went to Nagykanizsa." Dagmar asked, "and you and your mother left once again for Budapest?"

            "Yes, but much later, when I was fifteen. Then I enrolled at the Academy of Applied Arts, studying sculpture", answered Elizabeth. Dagmar, "so between four and fifteen you stayed in Nagykanizsa?" Elizabeth mused, "yes, I suppose so. I had my schooling in Nagykanizsa. And by the age of ten, after school I also went to father's art school in the afternoons. When the war was over, they again went to the countryside to paint. By then they both were already exhibiting artists. But my father was famous before he came to Nagykanizsa. Anyway, every summer we went to Lake Balaton."  

                After a short time in 1950 at 'Western Court' on Janpath, New Delhi, Elizabeth was given rooms at the 'Constitution House' on Curzon Road. No. 204, New Delhi. That was her accommodation for the next two to three years. I remember Elizabeth talking about the lovely old trees in the compound, some of them are still there. Curzon Road eventually was renamed Kasturba Gandhi Marg (Mahatma Gandhi's wife's name). And the old 'Constitution House' gave way to large multi-storied buildings which were originally build in the fifties for members fo the UNESCO conference (1956).

            Elizabeth then was allotted the accommodation in Rabindra Nagar (near Khan Market) by the Government of India. In memory of Rabindranath Tagore, she choose this flat when it was offered to her.  It is a spacious, pleasant flat, with servant's quarters and all. Many tall and beautiful trees are surrounding Elizabeth's ground floor flat, a corner house. And various birds have taken refuge around her quiet place. It is surprising to find these small quiet enclaves in the hustling, bustling city of Delhi.


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Copyright © Dagmar Barua 1997 Sass Brunner East West Trust, 75, Rabindra Nagar, New Delhi - 110 003