Lobbying for Women

It took a while before the new democracies of East-Central Europe acquired the trappings of a modern political system. One of the new features borrowed from the West was lobbying. To engage in lobbying, however, the new NGOs first had to overcome the perception of politics as “dirty,” since engaging with official political structures still carried a taint of “collaboration” from the Communist era.

Hungary was ahead of the pack, since it already had proto-parties like the Hungarian Democratic Forum in 1987 and a genuine independent political party like the Alliance of Free Democrats in 1988. One of the first major debates to feature modern lobbying, meanwhile, involved reproductive rights. In 1992, the new Hungarian parliament had to adopt a new bill on abortion. It was considering two versions, one that would essentially criminalize abortion (except under certain circumstances) and the other that would preserve access (but again with certain conditions such as a waiting period and mandatory counseling).

Activist Judit Hatfaludi took a position with Hungary’s Feminist Network to coordinate a campaign to lobby for the pro-choice bill. She had the advantage of having spent considerable time in the United States where she was familiar with U.S.-style NGO activities. The Network was able to deploy tactics that caught the Hungarian parliamentarians by surprise.

“We went to the European network on reproductive rights,” Hatfaludi told me in an interview in Visegrad in May 2013. “And I just jumped to the podium and made this whole forum on women sign a letter telling the parliamentary members that they can’t take away women’s rights. One of the women in the Feminist Network worked for the parliamentary office building. So we made copies of this letter, and we put them into every one of the parliamentary members’ mailboxes. This was 1992. I’m sure they weren’t getting many letters at the time.”

Hatfaludi also organized a public outreach campaign to put pressure on the parliamentarians. “We also did mass mailing campaigns,” she recalled. “We’d drop it into people’s mailboxes so they could take part of it and send it back to the members of parliament. One day a woman calls on the office phone and says she works at one of the offices of these members. She had one of these mass mailings in her hand, which had the Feminist Network phone number on it, and she said, ‘I want to sign one of these. Where can I get one?’ I asked, ‘So, are you getting a lot?’ ‘Tons!’ she said. ‘Every member is getting them. So, I was so curious who is doing this, and I want to get one too.’”

The campaign was successful. “They passed the liberal law on reproductive rights,” Hatfaludi said. “Since it was 1992, we really didn’t know where the cards were stacked. I think that our campaign must have made an impact because we were really pretty fierce. The letter-writing campaign was a totally new technique, and the parliamentary members got the idea that people were not going to support a restrictive law.”

Hatfaludi went on to work for the American Friends Service Committee on Roma issues and the war in Yugoslavia. She also continued to work as an activist on LGBT issues. We talked about the current state of women’s issues in Hungary, why the annual Pride marches are no longer like jubilees, and what she does now in her current work as a shaman.

 

The Interview

 

Do you remember where you were and what you were thinking when you heard about the fall of the Berlin Wall?

 

I was in the United States. I was 20 years old. For me, the bigger shock was the Ceausescu execution. We were staying with my friend Adrian in New York watching the video of the Ceausescu execution. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t believe what was happening. And it was strange that we were in the States so far away from something really significant happening back at home. What I missed here still feels like a white spot on my time map of events.

 

When did you come back to Hungary?

 

In 1991. The reburial of Imre Nagy had already taken place by that point. So had the taxi blockade that stopped the whole city. And the mobilization to deliver things to Transylvania after the Romanian revolution. I missed all of that. But it was still a very interesting time to come back.

 

What was the moment when you would say you became an activist or politically conscious?

 

I was in the States in 1990 and the beginning of 1991 when there was quite a recession, and I couldn’t find a job. At that point I was done with school and I didn’t want to take another semester. I already wanted to come home, but I wanted to work a little bit to bring home some money, and I couldn’t find a job. So I was at home all the time, and I started to listen to WBAI [a progressive radio station in New York]. I became an avid WBAI listener. That’s where I first heard about AIDS support groups and domestic violence, even health and food issues. That totally changed my thinking. I remember watching on PBS a program about Amnesty International and how they were stuffing envelopes for some issue. I saw those people stuffing envelopes and I thought, “This is what I want to do.”

 

Stuff envelopes!

 

Well, not exactly. But this whole notion of being politically active and involved really appealed to me. When I returned to New York – on the tour you organized for AFSC on women and workplace – we went to WBAI and met with Amy Goodman. I was still in total awe of her and told her how much WBAI had changed my life.

 

So what was it like to return to Hungary having been politicized by WBAI?

 

I’d just gotten to the point before I came home where I applied to an AIDS social support/social service where you can walk the dog and take care of people with AIDS. I was very aware of the AIDS crisis because I lived in Chelsea, and it was so blatantly in your face at that point. I was very moved and felt like I wanted to do something. And so when I came home, I was getting enthusiastic but hadn’t gotten political yet. Then in the first year going to college here in Budapest, I had an American professor who was teaching gender studies and oral history, a wonderful anthropologist named Susan Gal from California. She was the one who did the consciousness-raising for me. I joined the feminist network, and the rest is history. That’s where my career as an activist began.

 

Tell me about your involvement in the Feminist Network.

 

The Feminist Network was one of the first-forming women’s organizations after the transition. Later, when I worked for MONA, the Hungarian women’s foundation, I was responsible for gathering representatives of different women’s organizations and there were quite a number. But the Feminist Network was the one specifically of feminists. There were about 25 or 30 women in it. When I joined there were American activists who came and helped the group with “group dynamics” and structure. There were a lot of formalized meetings, and I really enjoyed that. And I met really great women. I don’t know how long it took before I was actually employed by the Feminist Network, and they already started a pro-choice campaign when the government threatened to take away abortion rights. Zsusza Beres was leaving for London, and she was one of the people I felt one of the closest connections with. She wanted to leave things in the hands of someone she trusted. I felt so honored being just 23 and this older experienced woman was handing me the responsibilities.

So I became employed as the coordinator of this campaign, which was very successful. I think it was also partially because the parliamentary members weren’t used to non-profit lobbying techniques, and we were rather fierce.

 

Can you give me an example?

 

We went to the European network on reproductive rights. And I just jumped to the podium and made this whole forum on women sign a letter telling the parliamentary members that they can’t take away women’s rights. One of the women in the Feminist Network worked for the parliamentary office building. So we made copies of this letter, and we put them into every one of the parliamentary members’ mailboxes. This was 1992. I’m sure they weren’t getting many letters at the time. By now they wouldn’t give a fuck about it!

We also did mass mailing campaigns. We’d drop it into people’s mailboxes so they could take part of it and send it back to the members of parliament. One day a woman calls on the office phone and says she works at one of the offices of these members. She had one of these mass mailings in her hand, which had the Feminist Network phone number on it, and she said, “I want to sign one of these. Where can I get one?”

I asked, “So, are you getting a lot?”

“Tons!” she said. “Every member is getting them. So, I was so curious who is doing this, and I want to get one too.”

We were also in the parliament when the voting took place.

 

Tell me about that.

 

It was shocking for me to see our great members of parliament reading cartoons. We would sit up in the gallery or parliament and look down. The members were reading cartoons and doing crossword puzzles. I was just so disappointed. Later, when I was working for the SzDSz [Alliance of Free Democrats] Women’s Foundation – though at that time they called it the Hungarian Women’s Foundation to make it seem independent when it wasn’t – we were working with the SzDSz women members of Parliament, and one of them didn’t do anything in parliament except play on the computer. She was this great opposition member from the old opposition times, but every time I went to her office she was playing solitaire on the computer.

Anyway, they passed the liberal law on reproductive rights. Since it was 1992, we really didn’t know where the cards were stacked. I think that our campaign must have made an impact because we were really pretty fierce. The letter-writing campaign was a totally new technique, and the parliamentary members got the idea that people were not going to support a restrictive law. It was a very early and good sign in 1991 for the parliamentary members to see that you don’t fuck with women’s rights because women get enraged. Something similar is happening now on violence against women, which is great to see. The only people that the government seems to be afraid of now are women.

 

Did the media cover the network at that time as one of the responsible actors?

 

I was on TV several times and in the newspapers. So, there was coverage but not a great amount of coverage.

 

How would you characterize the way average Hungarians felt about feminism in those days?

 

They were absolutely anti-feminist in their talk and absolutely pro-feminist in their behavior. Since during socialism most women were employed – and the state provided childcare and women had abortion rights that were not questioned — there were quite a number of women in power positions in the Party and the state. The council head here in Visegrad was a woman. She was a much-hated woman, but still, the head was a woman. So, those things were not questioned. Domestic violence wasn’t brought up as an issue at all. But after 1991, with the changes, there was an increase in conservative rhetoric about woman’s place in the house, about family values, and all that stuff, particularly with the Christian Democrats.

 

Is there an expression in Hungarian that’s comparable to the German expression “children and kitchen” — Kinder und Kuchen?

 

There’s an expression like “women with the wooden spoon,” a spoon you cook with.

 

Women should just stick with the wooden spoon.

 

Something like that. But there was a very negative view of feminism, of the word “feminism.” But once you started talking about it and what you meant by it, the whole pro-choice approach was so much less questioned than it is now.

 

In what ways is it questioned now?

 

Well, perhaps not necessarily questioned, but the conservative argument was much less vocal at that point. It only came from male Christian Democratic parliamentary members. I’m sure now you would get really vocal women’s organizations who would start to voice the other side. Given how things are going with Fidesz, I wouldn’t be surprised if they start meddling with the abortion issue. But I don’t think they’ll dare try anything yet this year.

 

Jumping to the present, do you think that the perception of feminists has changed or the gap between people’s rhetoric and their actual behavior?

 

Unfortunately not. There was much more awareness on certain issues, such as domestic violence. The women’s movement of Hungary was really strong until 1945. This consciousness in the society about women’s issues and feminism never came back. I don’t know what it would take, how much more consciousness-raising it would take for this to happen.

 

What about average sexism: has that changed in 20 years?

 

This is a hard question for me is because I don’t live in the average society. The circles I move in are so un-average.

 

But you go to town meetings here in Visegrad.

 

I think average sexism has decreased. That’s certainly the case with the men who come to our drumming circles. There’s quite a strong male presence, even though it’s two women running this group. With these two women leaders, we probably deter the kind of macho men from the start. But we have really amazing guys who come to join the group.

If the town meeting here is a sort of litmus test, then I guess sexism has decreased. But if the national parliament is the litmus test, it’s probably gotten worse.

 

Let’s go back to the 1990s. You won a victory preserving the abortion law. What were the other issues that you were working on in those days?

 

I was only hired for that. And my job ended when we were done with the voting. Right after that I was hired at MONA, which was the Hungarian Women’s Foundation of the SzDSz. Our affiliation continued with the Network on reproductive rights issues. Not much later the Feminist Network’s activism resulted in the formation of NANE, the battered women’s hotline. And at that point, I felt like I didn’t want to go on to that. I particularly didn’t like one of the women who was the main organizer behind it, and my relationship was very conflicted with her. I didn’t like the way that she was running things. She was very power-controlling. Also, I was working for MONA. But I was part of the circle for a long time. At MONA, I got involved with mapping all the women’s organizations. We were very surprised when we got like 30 or so at that point. That’s how I met the Gypsy Mothers’ Association. I was also translating stuff for the women parliamentary members. I went on a British tour of feminist women’s organizations where we met the 300 group, which was lobbying for 300 women in parliament.

Not much later I was hired by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Through the Feminist Network affiliation, I was invited to a summer school that the New School for Social Research did in Krakow. Ann Snitow did a gender studies course there, and we could also go into the other courses. It was a good mix of activists and academics. I learned a lot. And that was where I met Yugoslav women’s activists, and that’s how my affiliation with the Yugoslav peace groups started.

 

This brings us up to 1993. What were you feeling at that time about what was going on in Hungary?

 

I was very upset about women’s issues, particularly the media portrayal of women’s issues. I don’t remember being so affected at that point yet about the Roma issue. And I was very worked up and very emotionally involved with what was going on in Yugoslavia, so my focus started to go there a lot.

 

Did you find like-minded people here in Hungary on the Yugoslav issue?

 

I started going there first with an American friend who was working here at a business firm. He wanted to do something. We went a few times to a Hungarian border town and to Belgrade. The changes were still so new here, and the lives of people had changed so much, so their focus and attention was on what was going on with their own lives. Even in my circle of friends, I didn’t find anybody who was so involved.

My own interest — not consciously since I only thought about this later – probably came from the fact that my mother’s family was from what is now Yugoslavia. Both my great grandmother and my grandmothers spoke Serbo-Croatian. My grandmother’s sister was the Serbo-Croatian translator for Janos Kadar. She was completely paranoid about that. She insisted on going to church while she was doing the translation for him. The big black car would take her to the church and wait for her to finish and then take her to the hairdresser. She told me that once she had to translate a film, a Yugoslav film, and there were some anti-regime sentences in the film. She refused to translate them because she thought that there could be a chance of somebody taping that one sentence and saying that she’d been the one to say it. And that was very possible in those days. That’s why I was much more deeply involved and connected than maybe others were.

 

Did people’s interest here ever change?

 

No. There was a really interesting film festival put on once by some artists affiliated with the Sarajevo filmmakers. That was the only thing I remember. The network I was in was all foreigners with different women of different nationality. We formed this network of taking things down to Yugoslavia and arranging for visas, and the hub of it being Budapest.

 

Was there a chapter here of Women in Black?

 

Not in Budapest, no. And it’s interesting it never occurred to me to form one here because I really saw my role more as a traveling activist who could respond to whatever was needed at that point. AFSC played a great role. At first I started this on my own, but then AFSC really started to play a great role by supporting and formalizing this network work.

 

And hiring people to work down there.

 

That was much, much later. Fortunately we were able to respond to the situation very flexibly on a day-by-day basis. For instance, most of the peace organizations in Yugoslavia kept their money in our bank account in Budapest. The rates down there were so bad, and they could just lose the money. So we kept a separate sub-account for them. Someone would call up and say, “We need 12,000 Marks in Zagreb tomorrow,” and I got the 12,000 in there. I had really good relationships with the bank people in order to get this done. We’d take out the money and then hop on a train to bring them their money. We also served as the guest center for all the activists that were coming and going. They would always need visas to attend conferences or human rights meetings, so they’d just stay in our AFSC office, and I’d help them sort out their visas. We did other things, like bringing yarn to one of the refugee women’s projects, but the money and the guest center were the two fundamental ways we helped.

 

What do you think were the big successes and the big challenges of your Roma work?

 

We did two things. The first was to connect Roma organizations with other organizations in the region. So, the Gypsy Mother’s Association was very groundbreaking in the region at that point and definitely in Hungary. As an advocacy group, their mere existence meant a lot. Accompanying them, traveling with them, translating for them, and having their contributions translated for different UN documents and reports were all part of the work. We also went to Prague to meet with the Roma Theatre Group. And we came up with this idea of an organized meeting with African American activists and Roma leaders. That should have turned into a more on-going network involving mentorship, maybe African American interns working over here. Anyway, that was a historic first moment.

Out of this work with Roma grew the Roma Youth Project work, a small group created by Hungarian Roma university students. The university students were going into Hungarian elementary schools and talking about Roma culture and history. There was also a great emphasis on training them in antiracism and group dynamics. That was really an amazing process for me – to be the a mediator between these two cultures. I knew a little bit more about Quaker culture than the Roma did, and a little bit more about Roma culture than the AFSC did. For instance, many of the Roma complained that the food was not good at the various meetings we organized. I spent all this time trying to get good food for the trainings. Only after a year did we figure out that “the food was not good” just meant that there wasn’t enough meat. When we went to Pendle Hill, the Quaker retreat center outside of Philadelphia that serves mostly vegetarian food, I specifically said, “This a group that eats meat, and we want to eat meat.” By this time, I was really vocal, and they appreciated that I actually learned and understood what that meant, cross-culturally.

 

How long did that youth project last?

 

It started in 1996 or 1997 and lasted for about five years. And we keep in touch. It was a very interesting process because I was seen as the power that needed to be distrusted at the beginning. We really had to negotiate the relationship and the boundaries. I was horrible at negotiating money issues. They were getting a stipend. It was probably this stupid white guilt. But they could manipulate me for money all the time. We were at this youth conference, and they were getting one of the highest daily stipend rates there. And they wanted more money! I told Carol [an African-American colleague] that I couldn’t handle it and didn’t know what to do. And Carol just totally gave them shit. She told them, “You guys are getting the highest rates, and this is what the other groups are getting, so just shut up.” She was so great.

So it was a process of learning. And by the end it became really good. We became really good friends, and it was a good working relationship.

 

What are some of them doing now?

 

Two of them went on to work at the ministry. At one point, in one of the Socialist-SzDSz governments, every ministry had to have a person responsible for outreach to the Roma community. Two of them worked on IT issues and had to get the computers to Roma communities. One of them remained in the employment ministry. Two of them now live in England. One got married and went there. The other one couldn’t find a job here after he was fired when the new government came in, and so now he’s a truck driver to support his family. One woman just got a Master’s degree at CEU in Roma politics or policies hat. These five were the starting core group of people.

 

In terms of Roma content in the school system…

 

There’s nothing. That’s why we wanted to put something in there. I think I would do it differently now than how we were doing it then. There was such a big scope of issues that we needed to address. Number one, there’s no information on Roma history or language or culture, which should be integrated into the curriculum. But it shouldn’t be our job providing that. Number two, we had this idea of providing anti-racism education, mostly for non-Roma students about their prejudices – about why Roma don’t work, is it true that you can raise your children only on state support, do they steal and why do they steal, are they smelly, that sort of thing. But there was such a huge need and such a lack of information in the school. We started working with the history teacher to try to integrate into the curriculum more stuff about history and literature and art. We started down that road. But looking back, I would have started with the anti-racism work and how to confront stereotypes.

 

When you were working at ASFC, did you do any LGBT issues?

 

Not as part of my job. That was my activist work. The Hungarian LGBT movement is quite strong by now. It started with three major organizations as the backbone of the whole movement. One of them is a hotline for gays and lesbians, and they also run a legal service. They have been working on AIDS issues too, so it’s not just a hotline. The other is Pride. And there’s a very strong lesbian organization, which has been very vocal and speaking out on a range of other issues including women’s rights and Roma rights. We had support from abroad the same way with the Feminist Network. The London hotline people trained us to do the telephone hotline. And there was an American filmmaker who was really fundamental in starting the Pride marches here.

By the time the Nazi right-wing attacks started happening, the Pride marches were already established. It’s had a continuous record of 13 or so years. There’s no way that the government can cancel it like in so many other countries around us. The police have been providing double cordons, and the riot police have been there for the past four or five years as well. I think it was 2010 when the first Molotov cocktails and attacks happened. Until then, it was this jubilee. There was no police, and it was great, just like in any other part of the world. Since then, it’s like you’re walking in this prison. But it’s really important that you actually do march because of this backlash.

 

Is there a legislative effort at the moment?

 

There are groups of people in the LGBT movement who are working on legislation or proposing legislation. During the previous Socialist-Liberal government, the right of same sex couples became parallel with those of unmarried civil unions. And Prime Minister Bajnai at some big national holiday meeting actually did talk about the rights of gays and lesbians for the first time ever publically. It was just a gesture, but for me as a lesbian, it meant the world. It was so weird for this political speech to actually affect me! Gyurcsany came to one or two of the Prides when it was already under attack. And Bajnai voiced his support. So, the Socialist-Liberal government was supportive.

You asked earlier about what has changed in Hungarian society. There’s certainly more awareness about women’s issues, at least on domestic violence. There is now quite a strong network of women’s groups, and there is some kind of legislation on the violence against women issue. Unfortunately it doesn’t overlap with the home-birth issue, which is another major women’s issue right now. The only doctor who legally and outspokenly provided home birth in Hungary was imprisoned, and she has been imprisoned for two years now because one baby died in the several thousand deliveries that she did. But she did what she could, and even the parents said that she did what she could. She has been under house arrest for the past year. Unfortunately, the violence-against-women activists, who are the gutsier activists, are not the same people who are working on her case. I think that kind of fiercer activism is needed on her case, but it’s not overlapping for some reason.

So there’s been a lot of change in consciousness in the past 20 years on women’s issues. Also definitely on LGBT issues. People are much more tolerant, much more aware that there are gays and lesbians. And there’s more visibility because of Pride, even though it’s very controversial, and the Pride march is viewed very negatively in society. We also didn’t do a very good job in voicing what it is. But the media has become not just used to but friendly towards gays and lesbians now. There was even a public figure, a young TV star kind of guy who talked about having children on one of the big nightly shows the other week.

 

He came out of the closet?

 

Oh, he came out of the closet a long time ago. Now he came out of the closet as a gay father wanting to have children. There are quite a number of lesbian families now with children and I think a couple of gay parents with children. They’re not very visible, and they don’t talk a lot. I think they’re very afraid of the stigma or making their children vulnerable. So, they don’t come out, which is definitely what I’ll do if I’m going to have children because you can’t just sit around and pretend like it’s going to be…

And anti-Roma sentiment, that’s gotten worse. It’s just horrible. And also anti-Semitism has gotten worse.

 

What about in a small place like this?

 

The only anti-lesbian slur I’ve ever gotten in my life was here from the neighbors two doors down. But there’s a gay couple who lives here, and there’s another woman who’s an out activist, much more out than we are now because Esti doesn’t like to be very out, and so I’ve became much quieter since we moved here. You can’t force somebody who’s not ready to make that kind of step or who’s not that kind of person. But obviously I’m not going to be very quiet. We haven’t had any really negative remarks made to our faces, that’s all I can say. People are kind of nice to us by now. But I’m not out talking to the locals here a lot, so I don’t talk about us as a couple necessarily. But I always mention my girlfriend. In Hungarian, however, my “girlfriend” could be just my friend.

 

Why did you decide to do shamanism? Were you tired of political activism? Or were you attracted by something particular in shamanism?

 

Neither of those scenarios. By the time I left AFSC, I was so burnt out that I was getting energy from the refugee women who were here from Serbia instead of my giving them support. Also I felt like if I had to read one more human rights report, for instance about a newborn baby put in the oven in Kosovo and killed in front of the parents, I was just going to die. I was so emotionally burnt out that I just decided I needed to just go.

I know what your question’s going to be: whether there’s anything that changed my mind. But it has always been the same issues that I’ve been passionate about. When I first started out with a grassroots Hungarian group, I felt that I needed to do something with more scope and where I could be more effective. Then I was working with the parliamentary members, and I felt that it was too much, that I need to go back. Then I was perfectly positioned at AFSC where I was connected with grassroots groups but I could also take their views to a higher level at UN conferences and so on. So I felt that was a good place for me to be on this vertical axis.

Then with the shaman work, I found a different place on a horizontal access, closer in. It wasn’t like I wanted to do shamanism. I was doing shamanism as my own spiritual path all throughout the time I was with AFSC. After I quit AFSC, I went on a long trip to Asia, which was my gift to myself after eight and a half years of working for AFSC. Afterwards I was doing film translations, that kind of stuff. Then, long story short, people started coming to me for healing. I didn’t plan on doing this. It just started happening. Maybe it was two years later when I was told by the spirits that I needed to teach with this woman with whom I’ve studied. That’s when we started teaching. We’re not formalized as a business, but we really have created a quite sound and stable structure for our work. We do about four courses a year. We also organize courses for my teacher who comes here. We do individual healing and individual counseling and also run this drumming circle, which is a practice group for people who have studied shamanism and use it as their own spiritual path and as an opportunity to consult with the spirits in a group form and ask them what’s going on. We have a newsletter, and I send out all the information to about 100 people on the list.

In the meanwhile, in the past four or five years, the spirits have been telling me that I need to go out in front again, that I need to make myself more visible than before. Every single astrologist I’ve gone to — there’s been only three but all three of them independent of each other said the same thing — that I need to do more speaking.

And I was like, “What do you mean ‘speak?’ What does that mean? I speak all the time.”

“No, no, no,” they said, “You have to speak.”

“You mean public speaking?”

And they said, yes! I got very frightened when the spirits said this. I was completely covered up in this little dark house in my little cave, and I was seeing individual clients. I had no intention being in the front doing anything. But I have been very interested in figuring out how to merge the human rights work with the healing work where I could be doing healing work at a community level. I’ve yet to see how this will turn out, but I think this is going to be my next phase in life. And the spirits have been very interestingly preparing me for this stepping out. Every single month this year I had a public speaking engagement. So I did speak, and it was on different topics, but they were all topics that were dear to me, and I felt that they were like tests or practice opportunities from the spirits.

I also feel like that at this point in time in Hungarian history, you cannot remain silent. And being silent in the past ten years, even though I was very safe in my little garden here, has been incredibly oppressive. I wasn’t at a place where I could be doing activism as a way of changing the system. Being an activist in the forefront and doing the mail campaigns or whatever: it’s not my role anymore. It has to be something else. So, maybe one of the ways will be for me to speak out on issues. When you come back in five years, I’ll let you know. Or perhaps next year you’ll see me on TV.

 

As you contemplate this new change in your work and life, have you thought about how you think about things differently today as compared to 20 years ago?

 

I wouldn’t do anything differently now because whatever I did then was appropriate at that point. The folks you are meeting now, for instance the homeless activism group, one part of me is totally envious that they are so brave and full of energy and protest. And it’s important that somebody does that kind of work. It’s just that it’s not my thing any more. If I were 25, that’s what I’d be doing. So I don’t think differently, I just think that for who I am and with all the experience I have as a healer, I have a different role. And maybe there is a place where I can give more than if I were sitting with a protest sign on the steps of the parliament. I’m not devaluing that at all.

I wish that everything that we did in the AFSC Roma work could have been continued. That’s the only regret that I have. But I think I only see that now. I wish that I could have left a more concrete structure in order to continue those things. But at that point I didn’t see it, so I couldn’t have.

 

When you think about everything that has changed in Hungary since 1989-90, how would you evaluate that on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 most dissatisfied and 10 most satisfied?

 

I was up at 3 in the morning the other night, and I was thinking about this. I completely had a number and a complete reasoning behind it, and I have no idea what it was.

 

You’re going to have to abandon that and go with your gut. Because you had an unfair advantage anyway, since you knew what the questions were.

 

But it didn’t do me any good since I forgot. A four, and I don’t know why.

 

Same scale, same period of time: your own personal life?

 

That would be a five. And the reason for that is that the time I was working for AFSC would’ve been an eight or a nine. But this past ten years have been, particularly since we moved down here, very difficult. I think it’s because I’m going through some change that I don’t yet understand. So for that, I would give a two or something. So, the average would be five.

 

And how would you evaluate the prospects for Hungary over the next 2-3 years?

 

For Hungary? Unfortunately, I think that Fidesz will remain in power. So, a three.

 

Visegrad, May 12, 2013

 


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