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"My father hates Jews - and my husband is Jewish"

Yalda Zarbakhch / mgr
November 13, 2014

Edit, a teacher from Hungary, got in touch with Life Links on Facebook. When she fell in love with a Jewish man more than 10 years ago, she didn't know how deeply that would affect her family.

Right-wing protesters in Budapest, Hungary (Photo: REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)
Image: Reuters/Laszlo Balogh

"I could tell you stories about Hungary, about life in Hungary. This is an upcoming dictatorship where you can get threatened if you are on the side of human rights - and all that in the middle of Europe! I have my experiences. :("

That's what Edit wrote on our Facebook page, a few days after Life Links was launched. Those few lines made us curious. So, while researching anti-Semitism in Hungary, our reporter Yalda got in touch with Edit to hear about her experiences. The 42-year-old works as a teacher in a small Hungarian city near Budapest. For 10 years, she's been married to a Jewish man. The marriage that has greatly affected the relationship with her father.

Edit, your husband is Jewish - something that has divided your family. Did you see that coming when you fell in love?

Yes, I expected it to be difficult. But I was in love and hoped that my father would accept him. I know another family in which the man is Jewish and the woman decided to convert to his faith, too. Her father fought against that but it didn't escalate like it did with my father, because in the end her father realized that his daughter's happiness is so much more important.

My father has been a pretty big anti-Semite ever since I was young. He read the book Hitler wrote, "Mein Kampf," and he's interested in far-right movements and the idea of Hungarian annexation based on ethnicity or history, and revision of what's been accepted before in Hungary.

We fought a lot back then because I don’t want to be a racist. I want to be open-minded and tolerant. When I was in the USA, in New York, I loved that so many different people lived together peacefully.

Burning EU flag in Hungary (Photo: EPA/SZILARD KOSZTICSAK)
"In 2010, when the far-right Jobbik party got into parliament, my father became more and more bold," Edit saysImage: picture-alliance/dpa

I teach German and history in school and organize commemorations for the victims of the Holocaust - a subject only very few teachers address in Hungary - as well as exhibitions. My father hated that so much that I sometimes never even told him about it.

So, how did he react when you introduced your husband to him?

When I met the man who would become my future husband, I was afraid of my father's reaction. What would he say? Would he accept him? In the beginning everything seemed to work out just fine. We didn't talk about politics at all because we didn’t want to get into a fight. But then my father started with these conspiracy theories that you hear about so much, that Jews have all the money, own the big banks, and so on. My husband didn't reply at all.

In 2010, when the far-right Jobbik party got into parliament, my father became more and more bold. We argued about even the tiniest things.

In our small city, the farmer's market is a main meeting place for old, right-wing men. They meet, exchange their views and theories, and work themselves up. My dad used to go there, too. One day he came to our house with a message from his friends: they said, that it could very well happen, that one day, two or three of our windows would be broken and that one day I would collect the bones of my husband on the street.

And then, on another day, he yelled: "A dirty Jew is not going to inherit anything from me!" He disinherited me because of my marriage. We’re not speaking anymore.

How are you dealing with this?

I tried to get in touch with him again. I sent pictures of our little daughter. She's seven years old and a real darling. Everyone is fond of her, but he never replied. So, after a while, I gave up.

If I were a prostitute or a murderer, my father might possibly be right to break off all communication. But I have done nothing wrong. His hatred is just so enormous, he doesn't even want to see his little granddaughter. It’s really sad.

And it happened solely because your husband is Jewish?

I know that my father hates Jews. Romanies, too, but not as much as Jews. My parents are divorced and my mother thinks, too, that what my father does is tragic.

My husband is liberal-minded. He works as a journalist. He has to write about what's going on in Hungary, the political developments here, the shift to the right.

For a little while now my husband keeps getting messages on Facebook from my father, in which he threatens him. He says: "You pig, you traitor, you anti-Hungarian," or, "Stop insulting the honest Hungarian people." My husband doesn’t do that. It's just that we're against extremism and racism and he writes about that.

How does your husband feel about this?

I notice that his heart beats faster, that he gets nervous. But he tries to soothe me and says I shouldn’t bother. We should let my father be and not care about what he says. But recently after he'd received yet another message on Facebook, my husband said: “My stomach is a huge knot” - that’s what we say in Hungarian when we're nervous.

Rembering the victims of the Holocaust in Budapest (Photo: EPA/NOEMI BRUZAK)
"My husband is liberal-minded. He works as a journalist. He has to write about what's going on in Hungary, the political developments here, the shift to the right."Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Do you think there’s more anti-Semitism in Hungary nowadays than there used to be?

Absolutely, even in schools. I had a Jewish kid in my class and in one of the breaks he came up to me and told me how is being bullied by his fellow students. According to him, one said: "Some of my money is gone. Where is it? Peter, you took it, you're a Jew after all!"

I live in a small city, and during the last elections, Jobbik got more than 30 percent of the votes. Many people agree with their ideas. These simplistic ideas that Jews and Romanies are the reason for our troubles and hardship are very widespread.

In one of the bigger cities, Jobbik got almost 70 percent of the votes. It's a poor part of Hungary. And many democrats are afraid that our next government might be a far-right government. If Jobbik becomes the ruling party, we'll leave Hungary.