I didn’t tell anyone that everything I write about would be cheerful or limited to hardships that involve nothing worse than tiring train rides. I didn’t embark on this journey because I expected to find joy around every corner. As Javier said, “I go for the difference.”
For me, the most striking difference in Budapest are the many reminders that Hungary was occupied by the Nazis between 1944-45 and then by the Communists between 1945 and 1990. There are bullets in walls. There is a Museum of Terror. There is a memorial of shoes along the banks of the Danube to honor the thousands who were sent to their deaths in the river. The city’s largest temple displays placards of the names of those murdered in its courtyard. Daisy’s apartment building, like many in her neighborhood, sheltered Jewish families hiding from the Nazis.
During the time I have spent her with Daisy, she has shared many stories of her Jewish family and her early childhood that provide a very personal and tragic portrait of recent Hungarian history. The books I’ve read and the films I’ve seen didn’t prepare me emotionally for Daisy’s stories. In a small but significant way, they connect my abstract understanding of history with my life. Her stories bring me a little closer to my Armenian grandfather, who lost his family in an earlier holocaust but was never able to talk about it.
What I have learned here reminds me that the past, good and bad, remains with us individually and collectively long after we have experienced what we call change.
Daisy describes how Hungary is doing better but, like much of Eastern Europe, is still struggling with economic recovery, a complex political environment and social justice. Budapest has been a special place to visit partly because of its recognition of our humanity.
We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey. — Stephen Covery
The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.– Rainier Maria Rilke