After Zsolt had finished recanting his history I felt what I expected through his oratory. Degrading. Annihilation. Persecution. Humiliation. Holocaust.
Somewhat paradoxically that did not surprise Zsolt, I asked him why.
“Janos came to me, he told me two things about you. He told me you were
smart. But only smart enough to be told it’s a vintage wine and not to challenge that”. Zsolt shrugged his shoulders, so did I. He continued, “But Janos also said you had a true heart, one wrapped in conscience”. “He did?” I asked, somewhat surprised. “You know so. The two of you spent many hours together during your recent visits. Janos saw the real you. He saw you could help”. This time I was surprised. “Help? How?”
Zsolt then started to get up and leave. As he did so, he said, “Those of is born and bred in Budapest – all Hungary in fact – have suffered greatly over many decades. But things change. We now have visitors…………..business and tourists like yourself. We also have mass communications, especially the internet. We have a thriving economy. But whilst we locals embrace our present and our future as a result, we always remember to look over our shoulder thinking about the next catastrophe that may try again to destroy us. Just look over our border with Ukraine. But if they do, they will fail”
“I sort of understand Zsolt, I can see your history and, without wanting to sound over patronising, feel some of your pain. And although I have never been part of any of this I feel I can empathise with the terrors of your country’s past. Truly”. Something I said caught Zsolt with relief, something noticeable. I continued, “But why me Zsolt, I still fail to see how I can help other than by talking to anyone I can find an interest in?”
Zsolt was standing and ready to leave but before he did he said one word. “Terror”.
I gave Zsolt a small but quizzical glance. “Terror?”
“Yes. You used that word a moment ago. Terror. So from you I can ask only one thing – commitment. Please, visit the ‘House of Terror”. That will help answer all of the questions you have not yet asked.
As Zsolt turned to leave he said two final things. “Janos will be back here on Monday, same time. And enjoy the wine, there’s plenty more. Goodbye”.
I sat back and mused over the remains of that wine. I readied myself to this ‘House of Terror’ place. My first weekend in Budapest was almost here and committed myself to visit; I had a good idea of what lay before me………terror. But as I prepared to retire for the evening just one word would not leave me alone.