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Elizabeth Brunner







Fairy Tales around

16th February 1997

Elizabeth tells stories again about Hungary



Sunday, 16th February 1997


In-between I had been with Elizabeth but not often. I had fallen seriously ill in autumn the year before and then 'the long winter working days' had started in the Embassy, so I had little or no time to record Elizabeth's tales. But this Sunday I went with my tape-recorder once again and, to my delight, Elizabeth had nothing against carrying on our 'verbal walk through her life'.

            She was warmly packed-up, as always in winters. She needed special quilts, cushions and blankets to wrap her up, only sitting. And, of course, her woolen headscarf. Elizabeth's puppies, newly born on Christmas day, created a racket. We eventually calmed all of them (mother and four puppies) and were able to talk.

            I asked her once again to tell me how it came about that she and her mother went to India and how Tagore was involved in their coming to this country.

            "You see there was no plan. Mother was painting near Lake Balaton the different lights, different parts of the days and the nights, different moods you know, like very soothing moments, very rough and nerve-racking moments. She had thoroughly solved the various aspects of this Lake. This probably gave a soothing effect to her own mind. Because, remember, the War had shattered all their ideals, naturally she was fed-up. ... But during the day, she could not get the effect of the storm so dramatic as she had seen it at night.

            Where we stayed, we were surrounded by high mountains with some roads but mainly small rough ways, and narrow paths only. So one evening we saw her collecting all her painting utensils, brushes and saying nothing to us (my aunt, grandfather and my father) she went away. My father ran after her to find out where she was going. But she did not reply to him. So he was giving her a coat, as it was rather cold. And he wanted to accompany her. But she refused. She wanted to go alone. She just left. The whole family was feeling upset. What is happening. Where is she going. Is she doing something violent to herself because this was always hanging in the air.

            So she went.   -   And finally in her writings  - many years later -  I found the answer to this in her diaries.   -   Mother had started on the trail up the Csúcshegy Mountain [Elizabeth pronounced it Tshutshhedy]. But she did not reach the top of the hill, when the rain started with the terrible storm. There was a little light left and she saw on her left hand side something slightly higher coming out of the mountain. So she walked towards it and discovered that it was a cave. And she could go in, fix her easel and quietly sit, and face the storm from inside the cave. In that terrifying darkness she painted. She finished the painting, and the storm stopped. She walked down the hill in dry weather."

            After Mary's nice lunch, the talk continued. Dagmar started, "You told me once, dearest Elizabeth, that your mother was already deeply involved in the spiritual world with like-minded friends around herself. She had also read books by Tagore you mentioned."

            "Yes", started Elizabeth, "mother must have had some special experiences there in that cave in the hills, but she never used to diclose it.

            A few years passed. Every summer we went to Lake Balaton. Among their friends, some were very spiritual. And also two friends were practicing fasting. One of them, Imre Simay, Director of the Graphics Department of the Iparmüveszeti Föiskola (School of Applied Arts), in Budapest, was a good friend of the family. He used to be with us at Lake Balaton. I knew him from the age of four. In the West there was this big movement of realisation through fasting and doing yoga. And Imre Simay was very much advanced and he would talk sincerely about his experiences. He had fasted for forty-one days and cured himself from his illness (I have forgotten what it was).

            Mother was fascinated. She was having migraine from quite young age onwards, starting with half an hour and then one hour. And by the time she put me into the Academy at Budapest, she had sometimes three days migraine.

            So mother decided it all by herself. And she fasted for twenty-eight days without disclosing it to anyone. One day when I came back from my classes, she could not speak anymore. She was just lying on the sofa. So I rushed to Simay and told him about mother. She had told me when she started to fast, 'can you promise me something?' And of course I answered, 'yes, yes, yes'. She said, 'even if your father comes, you don't open the door.' Because father was in Nagykanizsa and we were in Budapest. She did not want her friends to see her grow thinner and thinner. She had decided, 'either I will kill myself or I will get well with this exercise'.

            Simay was very upset and said 'why did she not tell me that she would start. You don't fast like that. You fast for three days, keep two days normally, then you fast for five days, and slowly like this you go up. She must eat something immediately. Some fruit or some raw things.'   -   So I went to the market and bought all sorts of things. There were some fruits from Italy, and other fruits and vegetables.

            And the shopkeeper put also garlic into the bag. But my mother never ate garlic because she thought she got her migraine from garlic. And garlic was never permitted to be brought to the house. So I washed all the things (carrots, apples, and the garlic ...) and laid them on a tray. And this I put on the table beside the sofa where she was lying. She did not see and took something from the tray   -   which happened to be the garlic, put it into her mouth, slowly chewed and swallowed it. Then she opened her eyes again. I don't know whether she knew what she had been eating. She had gone too far." Dagmar said incredulously, "so, by chance, she picked the garlic, ate it, and got well?" Elizabeth nodded, "yes, eventually she became alright again." Dagmar asked, "she never had any more headaches?" And Elizabeth said, "no."

            Elizabeth continued, "her vision became clear again. She did that great Christ painting. And through all the discussions with her interesting friends, who were almost all influenced by the Orient, she must have decided to go to India. She continued painting those visionary motives. That means she was totally pure, physically and mentally."

            Dagmar asked, "what were you doing then at that time and after your mother got well again?" Elizabeth answered, "I was still at that Academy of Fine Arts, wanting to become a sculptor.

            You see, I never asked mother what she painted and what she was doing, but sometimes I watched her work. Yes, and then I got also very much affected by all the talk of her friends, because her friends were automatically my friends, no?

            And perhaps I became a little like her. In those days  - this was the time after the war -  I saw horrible sights. I had to cross the bridge to go to the classes. We lived in Buda, the Academy was on the Pest side. Alway I saw those miserable people. So my heart is very soft and I started not be able to bear the world any more.

            One day when I came back, I saw a gentleman, artist like, he had the usual beard, he was coming in front of me with bare feet in that cold weather.   -   Now this will look to you like the same action of my mother.   -   I went home after passing that gentleman and told my mother that from this day onwards, I would only walk bare-foot.

            Then I collected all the collectable things in the house, went outside Budapest, where I had never been before, where all the poor people lived and distributed all the things to them. I thought if this man can do it, I can also do it.

            But then I saw I cannot do it. Because I had only a handful and there were so many needy people. It was just like a drop in the ocean. So this shocked me terribly. Because I was hoping to feel happier after giving away all those things.



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Copyright © Dagmar Barua 1997 Sass Brunner East West Trust, 75, Rabindra Nagar, New Delhi - 110 003