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One Woman in the War

Alaine Polcz


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1We cannot even find where our weekend house on the bank of the Szamos was located. A residential district has been built there, panel houses. They are all look the same, you get lost among them. The trees and the soil have also vanished.

2They not only removed the graves and the grave markers from the Hászsongárd cemetery, they chopped down the trees in the church grave-yard, too. A world has vanished. It has vanished inside me, too.

  • 1 Lajos Veress – see notes 14 note 15. Géza Lakatos (1890–1967) – Hungarian colonel-general and prim (...)

3After the battles blew over in 1945, I escaped from Transylvania across the border to go and see János. He was under house arrest as a political prisoner with Lajos Veress and Géza Lakatos,1 who, for the sake of the nation, had attempted to pull out of the cataclysm.

4Then, as soon as he was set free, I had János slipped into Transylvania, but our desire to remain there was futile, we had to flee. They would not grant a work permit to Hungarians or a passport to go to Hungary. It would never have occurred to me to leave Transylvania; I crossed the border because of János. In Hungary he kept on behaving the same way. He closed himself off from me, chased women, did not hand any money over at home, and hardly spoke to me. It was as if I did not exist at all.

5One winter night we were walking along Ráday Street to our sublet room, where we were living with Mami. It was snowing in large flakes, as it had so often in the last year of the war. An iron rod protruded from the corner of one of the buildings. (I can see it now when I close my eyes, it was like the corner of the stove.) “Do you see that? If you leave me, I will hang myself on that,” he said.

6I left him because I loved him, and I knew it would be the end of me if I stayed with him. It was like extending half an arm, saying, “Cut it off, because if you don’t, my whole body will become gangrenous.”

7And truly, when I left him, I felt relieved. Miklós appeared, but within me was that mortal disease from which he pulled me back, back to life. I was bedridden for three years. I forgot about János. He vanished, sank within me.

8He was never able to link himself to someone else. He lived with his next wife for only a couple of weeks.

9When he died, his family and Mamika surrounded me as if I were still his wife. Then I learned he had written his last poem to me. But late, in vain. He had ceased to exist within me; he had sunk so deep that his death did not change this situation. I did not understand what became of our great love.

10Twenty years later, I dreamt he was coming and wanted to take me with him. I protested that I am another man’s wife. I could not go and did not want to. He came anyway, and he appeared in my dreams for days, making demands. We finally scuffled. Then at this moment something within me split apart—as when the ice cracks and water breaks free. He was present again when I was awake—in a different way, of course, but I recalled everything, not the years of our marriage but what had preceded them: Love. The result: Now I no longer dare leave anyone.

11But others are leaving me: Auntie Anna, Mamika, Uncle Gábor, my mother, my father, Egon—they all have died. Now, after fifty years, as dictatorships are also perishing, Transylvania is again in travail, and I look upon my wartime marriage as a personal fresco painted on the wall of history.


1 Lajos Veress – see notes 14 note 15. Géza Lakatos (1890–1967) – Hungarian colonel-general and prime minister (1944) who had, attempted to engineer a separate peace with the Allies before the German occupation of the country, while continuing to fight the Soviet forces. He was put under house arrest by Szálasi’s Arrow-Cross Party (Nyilas Keresztes Párt) in December 1944 in Sopron. He left Hungary and died in Adelaide, Australia.

© Central European University Press, 2002

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