She has travelled to and lived in several countries as a government official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, fell in love with South-America but it’s Hungary that keeps calling her back.
Since the Ministry has strict rules concerning the identity of its employees, my interviewee is not allowed to reveal herself but she could tell me about her adventurous life.
I was always dreaming about travelling and seeing the world, that’s for sure. I always had that in mind. I went to high school in Ponty Street and the Ministry always got new secretaries to work for them from our school. Our teacher suggested a few of us could work there and I’d already got accepted to university when I received a letter, telling me to go in for an interview. They hired me and that’s how I started working at the Ministry in 1980, when I was 18.
What was your first destination as a government official?
By the time I was 19, I had been working at the Ministry for only half a year and they wanted to send me to Leningrad. I was afraid of the Russian territories, but I couldn’t really say no to something like this back then but asked them if I could stay to learn more. Two years later, the state of emergency in Poland started and we, the younger generation who worked at the Ministry, organised a three-day-long conference. We invited experts, held lectures and discussed the matter. I must have been very enthusiastic during those three days because when I went to work on Monday, they told me that if I didn’t go to Leningrad, I could go to Warsaw instead. So I went to Warsaw.
How did it feel to move to Warsaw so young?
I was crying during the whole flight. I knew that they were waiting for me at the airport and I needed to pull myself together. So when the plane landed and I stepped on the stairs of the plane, I told myself that I needed to keep my head up and at that moment I felt that I grew up. My life has changed. I was also relieved in a way because my parents couldn’t tell me what to do, as they always did. Even though I couldn’t finish university, I wanted to make my own way. I didn’t want to depend on them. Depending on the Ministry, in connection with my work, is another matter.
For how long did you stay there?
Five years. I met my ex-husband there after half a year, we got married four years later and came home. That’s how the Poland story turned out.
After Poland how did the external services came?
I was working here, at home, for three years. Then an opportunity arose, a job in Uruguay, which was in Montevideo in South-America. I had been working really hard at the Ministry, plus studying Spanish, so it was like a reward that I could go. We stayed in Montevideo for a year and then we were relocated to Argentina, Buenos Aires. We stayed there for four years, that’s where my son was born after a reception for five hundred people at the embassy. It was probably thanks to the stress because I was due only a week later. (laughs) I really loved being in South-America and I’m looking forward to going there now, too. It’ll be strange now, though, since my son won’t be coming along. But he’s an adult now.
So that was Argentina. And then?
We came home from Argentina and I spent quite some time at the Ministry. We left for Brasília five years later, where we stayed for two years. Then we were relocated to Mexico city for another two years. We were very lucky to have the opportunity to see the world and visit countries like these.
Then you came home…?
Yes, we came home and stayed for seven years. I went to Madrid last October and now I’m about to go to Brasília again in June. I liked Madrid, it’s a beautiful city, but it’s really expensive. So when the opportunity arose because they needed someone who has worked in Brasília before and spoke the language, I thought I’d try it. The older I am, the less I enjoy the city. I like being close to nature and Brasília is going to be great in this sense as well.
Has culture shock ever affected you? It’s a different country, different continent after all.
It has. But I love South America. I love the people who live there. Their simplicity, honesty and the way they live. We have a lot to learn from them.
So it wasn’t a bad experience?
No, not at all. When someone gets to know South-America and the people living there, they either can’t stand it or, like me, can’t forget it. Everything is ‘mañana’ there (meaning tomorrow) or ‘amanhã’ in Portuguese. They always say that you can do everything later. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll have to work hard, that’s true, but I’d rather have a lot to do there than travel for hours every day in a huge city.
Are you ever homesick? Of course it’s going to be different now that your son is not going with you but what was it like back then, did you miss your parents?
Being homesick is something that has always accompanied me throughout my life. And now that I was in Madrid I missed my son terribly.
Doesn’t it get any better with time passing?
Oh no. Of course you get used to your surroundings but no matter where I am, even if I’m at the most beautiful part of the world, the banks of the Danube is where I love the most. Because it’s mine. It’s a strange thing because when you’re abroad and you’re working in a foreign atmosphere, it’ll just grow on you after a while and you’ll feel that it’s yours as well. And when you come home, in a way, you feel at home at both places.
What do you miss from home?
This feeling, that it’s mine. For example, Madrid is an incredibly beautiful city and Hungary is at least twenty years behind compared to the development Madrid went through and it was great living there in this respect. The museums, the transport there… but when I came home and got on bus number 29 I just felt that I didn’t care about Madrid at all, this is what is mine. To a certain extent, I feel sorry because I know what the country has to go through to reach the Spanish level of development. That’s the exact reason why we’re working abroad, no matter where in the world, to make this country a better place, so that it can develop, so that we can step forward.
So far which city is your favourite? Brasília?
Brasília for sure. And Mexico city. It’s always sunny, the people don’t have any money but they can still smile at me, even the maids are dancing whilst cleaning. It’s not like Hungary or Europe where everyone is stressed out and only concerned about work. They’re not like us. We should learn from them.
What’s the biggest thing that your job has given you?
The experiences. The Ministry provides you with plane tickets once a year so that you can come home and go back. We always took advantage of that and stopped somewhere on our way for a week so that we could get to know South-America. Meeting the locals and experiencing their way of life means the most to me.
Is there anything that you would do differently if you could start your life all over again?
No, there isn’t. I don’t regret anything. Everything was great the way it was.
What pieces of advice could you give to those who are planning to move abroad?
They are the ones going to another place so they should be the ones trying to assimilate, get to know the locals. Also, be open, have a positive attitude towards everything. This way they’ll get accepted very quickly.
Thank you very much for the interview and good luck in Brazil!
Thank you very much.
By: Anita Simon