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Novák Katalin beszéde a Brusznyai-emlékhangversenyen 2024.01.13.

Novák Katalin's speech at the Brusznyai Memorial Concert in Veszprém

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

First and foremost, I want to express my gratitude for being here with you tonight. Thank you for allowing me to join you, and thank you for the opportunity to be here in Veszprém, almost exactly a year after we gathered together on the eve before the Day of Hungarian Culture to celebrate Veszprém-Balaton as the European Capital of Culture 2023. Now we have the opportunity to be together here in Veszprém again. Congratulations on the successful organization of the cultural year, and I wish to acknowledge the efforts of the Minister and the Mayor in particular. I hope that the beneficial effects of this cultural year in 2023 will be enjoyed for a long time to come. 

Today, we are gathered to pay tribute to a special individual's memory. We remember, celebrate, and most importantly, rejoice in being together once again. I would like to divide my thoughts into two parts. Firstly, I want to join those who, over the past three and a half decades, have praised our freedom fighter hero, Árpád Brusznyai, the heroic martyr of Veszprém. Secondly, I would like to share some personal thoughts with you.
It is an uplifting tradition that when we have important events and celebrations, we always begin with the national anthem, singing our national prayer together. This is what happened now, and I'm grateful for it. Just as the 33-year-old Christ addressed his father on the cross, saying, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" similarly, the 33-year-old Árpád Brusznyai's last words also address the Lord, uttering the words of our national prayer.

What does it take for someone to remain faithful until their last moment? Even in situations where most would collapse. Do you need to be a revolutionary for this? Do you need to come from a good family? Receive an exemplary upbringing, possess firm principles and values? Does talent and authority matter in such cases? Do one's past actions in life count? How much does faith in God matter at such times, and what does patriotism mean then? What does family provide in such moments? We often retroactively attribute extraordinary qualities to our heroes. Perhaps we do this to give something back from what was lost, as if we could rectify something in hindsight. Yet the greatness of the sacrifice of our heroes lies in the fact that they were not fundamentally different from us: they were sons or daughters, fathers or mothers, ordinary people grappling with the everyday challenges of life. What made them exceptional was that their hearts remained steadfast even when it was hardest to make the right decisions. They remained consistent in their yes and no, even when they knew they might pay with their lives for it. 

So, a hero is someone who turns ideals into life practices. Many imagine, or I can say many of us imagine, how we could fight for truth. There are also those who even say how brave they would be if the time came. And then, when the moment arrives, they prove to be weak, they give in, they retreat, they compromise. They are the heroes of words. And then there are the heroes of the heart, who hold on until the last moment, until the last minute. Árpád Brusznyai was a hero of the heart, the hero of Veszprém, of the Hungarians. Our hero of the heart. The last moments of the martyr are not glorious because he bears the imposed judgment more easily than we do, but because he does so with his head held high. Árpád Brusznyai probably didn't prepare to be a revolutionary. His chosen profession, classical philology, cannot be considered a revolutionary occupation. Árpád Brusznyai was a husband and a father, besides being an extraordinary intellect, a man of spirit, a promise for the future, with a good sense of humour, a cultured educator, the kind of person who would be remembered decades later, who provided inspiration, example, and guidance to hundreds of students. 

However, he spoke when he had to speak and acted when he had to act. This is why he found himself in the position of president of the National Revolutionary Council of Veszprém County instead of a university lectern. He made this decision at the age of 32, for which he was taken away from his family at 33. He did not flee when he could have, he did not abandon his country, his nation, because he knew he had done nothing wrong. He knew this, and the authorities knew it too, but revenge seeks no reasons. He was not supposed to die at first, not even his enemies sentenced him to death. If evil had nor demanded aggravation, he would likely have been freed with the 1963 amnesty. But those in power could not bear Brusznyai's generosity and humanity, because the guilty cannot bear the innocent. Indeed, the righteous always remind the wicked of their sins.
Brusznyai's execution exemplifies deceit, villainy, desingenuousness, and the distortion of human nature. It robbed a mother of her son, a wife of her beloved, a little girl of her father. Brusznyai would be 100 years old now, but he has been gone for 66 years. It would be just if we were now remembering an elderly grandfather who aged gracefully, or if we were praising a scholarly legacy. However, this was not granted to him, nor is it granted to us. 

Today, we must speak about the extinguishing of a young life, the shattering of a promising career, and the eternal silencing of an honourable, courageous man. 
The nation has lost a true human being, a genuine patriot. Hungarian science has lost a talented individual. Students have lost a fantastic teacher, Veszprém has lost an honest character, but the greatest loss has befallen the family, for in the family, we are irreplaceable. The absence of Árpád Brusznyai cannot be filled, even though we now know that his sacrifice was not in vain. A father can never be replaced. Neither can the absence of a grandfather be filled. 

Therefore, I warmly greet the descendants of Árpád Brusznyai, and I thank them for allowing me to be here with them tonight. Árpád Brusznyai did not extinguish life; he saved lives. He was a promise, and he fulfilled that promise. Not by growing old with his wife, not by raising his daughter, not by embarking on a dazzling scholarly career, but by forever setting an example for Hungarian youth. The martyr's daughter, Margit Brusznyai, often recalled that her mother told her, "Your father died for freedom, but we must not speak of it." Today, it is not only permissible but also our duty, and we fulfil it, year after year. Today, Árpád Brusznyai's name is surrounded by glory and respect, while those of the communists are met with disdain. Thus, victory belongs to those who are faithful, steadfast, and true. 

This is as far as the formal tribute to the memory of Árpád Brusznyai would go, and now, if you will allow me, I would like to add a few personal thoughts. On 11 August 1944, Judit Novák was born, the first child of my grandparents, my father's sister, my aunt. She was not yet six months old when my grandfather was taken to Soviet captivity, where he spent two years. He was not there when his daughter took her first steps. He was not there when she spoke her first words. It was only through continuous storytelling and reports from Granny Jutka that she even knew she had a father. She had a father who loved her, who they were waiting for, who would come home to them. My 23-year-old grandmother didn't know if she would ever see her husband again, to whom she had been married for two years. Then Grandfather Zoli came home. He came home and became part of his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter's life, and then a few years later, my father was born, thanks to whom me and my children are alive as well. This is the story of our family. A drop in the ocean, in the history of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian families. 

Just as it is present in the history of the Brusznyai family. The history of their family also contains the stories of many Hungarian families. Margit Brusznyai didn't have the same luck as my aunt. She had to draw upon those memories her whole life, shaping her father's image from what she remembered from her early years and the portrait her mother painted for her. 

As I read Ilona Honti's diary, I pondered whether it provides comfort to the family, to the children, grandchildren, descendants, the wife, the mother, knowing that Árpád Brusznyai was a hero, that others remember him this way today. Can they forgive, knowing that the nation gained a hero, but they lost love, their life partner, the daughter her father? 

I imagined myself in the place of the three-year-old girl. I imagined that my father is strong, brave, loves me, and it cannot be that he'll leave because they said he will come back. I imagined what a three-year-old, then a five-year-old, ten-year-old girl might think, why isn't her father there when she cries, when she's scared. Why isn't he there when her mother needs comforting? Where is he when she gets married, when someone should walk her down the aisle? Where is he when she gives birth, when she's sick, when she learns to ride a bike, when she falls, when she gets back up, when she falls in love? 

I imagined myself in the place of Árpád Brusznyai's mother. I didn't give birth to my son to lose him at the age of 33. There was no mention of having to stand by my son's coffin someday. And I also imagined myself in the place of his wife, Ilona. There was no mention about this, no mention at all. Till death do us part, but I thought it was my own death, not yours. For better or worse, but why does the bad come so quickly after the good? In sickness and in health... I was there with you in sickness, why can't I be there with you in health too? Why can't we be together in the good days? And then perhaps the thought of hope, that at least Margit is there, the child is there, at least she is here for me. 

The question I posed to myself is how our hero can simultaneously be their hero too? Indeed, what's remarkable about Árpád Brusznyai is that he is both the hero of the nation and at the same time, the hero of his family. He didn't sacrifice his loyalty to his family on the altar of loyalty to the nation, nor did he sacrifice his loyalty to the nation on the altar of loyalty to his family. 

According to the book, Margitka asked Baby Jesus for Christmas to put her father under the Christmas tree as well. She didn't receive this Christmas gift. In her life, she had to keep the other one, her father, alive with love, and as I see it, she succeeded. Then I thought that this also teaches us to learn to yearn for what is ours - as Simone Weil says in my favourite quote. To not only appreciate what has been granted to us but also learn to long for what is already ours. 

When I think about my own family, and how I grew up seeing all four of my grandparents every day, or when I think about how I still frequently get to spend time with my healthy parents, for example, today we celebrated our eldest son's birthday together, or when I think about the fact that I've had a partner for 25 years, and that we can live together with our three children, then I thank Árpád Brusznyai too, for teaching me to long for what is ours, what is mine. I wish for you all to also yearn for what is yours! 

I would also like to congratulate tonight's awardees, and I would like to contribute to your activities by providing a sum of an additional one million forints, as presidential support to tonight's one-million-forints of funds raised, thus aiding the work of the Brusznyai Foundation, as I personally see value in all that you do.
Once again, thank you very much for inviting me to Veszprém today, thank you for celebrating together, and thank you for listening!