The death of Hungary’s “Aunt Emma”

This week, a 71 year old double amputee called Mrs. Lajos Nagy, but much more commonly referred to as Emma néni (Aunt Emma), passed away, after surviving an endless cycle of evictions and homelessness. According to a community group called the Hungarian Social Forum (Magyar Szociális Fórum – MSZF), she was evicted from the homeless shelter where she was staying, mere days before dying of heart failure. The MSZF speaks of “state-sanctioned cruelty.”

Mrs. Nagy was first evicted from her subsidized home in 2012, where she was raising her 15 year old niece by herself in Budapest’s 15th District. For some time, one of her sons also lived with her, after he was released from jail. Tamás László, the 15th District’s Fidesz party mayor, claimed that Mrs. Nagy had to be evicted from the housing unit, because she and her relatives “did not respect the rules of co-existence.” Following her eviction, she was given a bed in a halfway house, but had to leave her granddaughter with other relatives. She was eventually evicted from the halfway house as well, and ended up on the street, despite the fact that her double amputation restricted her to a motorized wheelchair.

Paramedics picked her up off the streets, after she was found half-dead of hypothermia last winter. She was resuscitated and spent the rest of her life being transferred from one hospital to another, wherever they happened to have a bed, in order to avoid putting her back out on the street. She spent months living in a psychiatric ward and then ended up in a homeless shelter. It was here, four days before her death, that staff told her that she would not be able to stay any longer.

Mrs. Lajos Nagy (Emma néni): 1944-2015.

Mrs. Lajos Nagy (Emma néni): 1944-2015.

When Mrs. Nagy was first evicted in 2012, she was one of over 15,000 families who either had their homes repossessed or were forced to leave subsidized homes due to mounting debt and an inability to pay for basic utilities. As many of our readers will know, tens of thousands of Hungarians were badly indebted in foreign currencies, especially Swiss francs, and when the Hungarian forint slumped, their monthly payments to service these foreign currency loans increased astronomically.

Mrs. Nagy, a pensioner, lived on less than 75,000 forints (C$350) per month and had to raise her granddaughter on this amount as well.

Hungarian politics, however, are always more complicated than how they appear on the surface. The group that most actively tried to take up “Aunt Emma’s” cause and spare her from eviction was called the Koppány Csoport, a populist right-wing, rough-and-tumble activist group with some ties to the far-right and even to Jobbik. They took up Mrs. Nagy’s cause, despite the fact that the elderly woman facing eviction was a Gypsy.

The Koppány group tried to physically stop authorities and bailiffs from removing Mrs. Nagy from her home in 2012. They installed a hefty iron grid over the entrance to her home. When the authorities came, the Koppány activists surrounded Emma néni’s unit, both from the outside and the inside, and did not leave, until the police managed to climb in from above the iron barrier, and arrested the volunteers.

Most of the chaotic scenes in Mrs. Nagy’s home were recorded on video and shared on YouTube by the highly eccentric (or possibly mentally ill) Árpád F. Molnár. The group was led by a young man who explains on the video that he grew up in a state orphanage and many of the Koppány people live and struggle with deep poverty on a daily basis.

They showed up at this elderly Gypsy woman’s home with their signature Árpád shield, today a symbol largely associated with the Hungarian far-right, and took on the police.

I wondered why groups that are affiliated with the far-right would taken on this cause? Xenophobia towards the Roma (and the often demagogue call for better public safety) has been the central plank of Jobbik’s platform, especially in the 2010 election, and it was this that propelled it into parliament for the first time.

From what I have seen, Emma néni was always described as a kindly, deeply religious Christian woman and I think that her quite overt display of Christian faith and spirituality probably made her more sympathetic to these groups. The stinging irony, of course, is that Koppány,a tenth century Hungarian duke who the activist group is named after, was pre-Christian and was engaged in a legendary battle with Stephen, who had taken up western Christianity and intended to convert all of Hungary, in its journey towards medieval statehood. Koppány was eventually captured and killed by Stephen’s forces, after which point his body was quartered and put on public display.

Regardless of the Koppány group’s motivation for helping a poverty-stricken, ill and elderly woman on the periphery of society, it was a brave and admirable act. But this instance and many more that followed highlight the dismal state of public welfare in Hungary.

6 Comments

  1. Like a daily American story!…

    • Charlie London says:

      So that’s all right then?

      It happens elsewhere so it’s all right in Hungary?

      Yea right.

      (It’s got nothing to do with how Hungary pesecutes, ghettoises and discriminates against fellow Hungarians has it? Those who have Hungarian Roma ancestry? Oh no of course not.

      And in a so-called ‘Christian’ country with a very devout ‘Christian’ Dictator – defender of the ‘faith’. As the Established ‘Church’ – the opulent Roman Catholic church, looks on.)

      The only faith Fideszbbik and its leader has is corruption with hate as its ideology

      Oh yea. It happens elsewhere so it’s OK then.

      • We Christians are always delighted getting to know how we have to behave ourselves, especially when these advices come from ateists, or those knowing nothing about what the living is like along with most of the gypsys in Hungary.

        I wonder why did the Canadian government expel so many gypsy “refugees” arriving from Hungary? They are so nice people persecuted by the evil hungarians (who are cannibals according to reliable suoprces).

  2. Chris, please pull the plug on Chplot. No interest whatsoever is served by letting malign borderline personalities act out anonymously in public to their hearts’ content: not truth, not fairness, and certainly not information. His spoor is befouling a decent forum, at an important time. It can all be deleted and the orphaned non-sequiturs in reply will speak for themselves.

  3. “she was one of over 15,000 families who either had their homes repossessed or were forced to leave subsidized homes due to mounting debt and an inability to pay for basic utilities. ”

    15,000 !!!! Too many. And I’m afraid it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Beyond the dirty work of the banking cartel the theft, phony Fiat debt-notes loaned at pernicious usury that creates a never ending story for the indebted the government nonchalance is something that can lead to a national suicide if they allow this roll on i.e. the gov. doesn’t interfere to help the nation with social care and benefits.

    Without social care from the government not even a global financial reset can solve this problem.

    This is a personal tragedy but I know it happens to too many families and still too many dies silently in loneliness that we never get to know. Seeing Hungary’s yearly budget and financial manipulation and gambling that actually sends it budget to the red one might ask if it wouldn’t be better to spend more on social care, health service etc. It can lead to a national suicide.

  4. It’s not about aunt Emma only a remark about this discussion board. Please allow me to post this comment. But first I’d like to tell why I’m here. I have very little time for commenting even if I do, I do it simultaneously while on hangout with my business partners, friend and reply to emails in haste in many different languages and my grammar as well as my spelling goes annoyingly wrong. My apologies.

    Yet, I visit discussion boards (and sometimes I participate) only to see how democratic the blogger or the chief editor handling different posters and opinions.

    I saw many times that posters request Chris, the chief editor of HFP to remove messages or ban posters. This is not rare that posters try to influence the editor either by direct request, suggestions, or by gaining editor’s sympathy through overzealous, eager beaver super supporting comments.I believe it’s wrong. I believe it’s wrong that posters trying to influence the editor on who can participate. It’s the editor responsibility to run a site and whatever posters say they eventually will not share this responsibility anyhow, therefor they shouldn’t influence the editor. The editor is not responsible for the content of the posts but is responsible for the general image of his site. Let him decide on his own. What value a site have that in the end only accommodate a group of elite posters, a closed clique that agree in everything and has a hierarchic structure, like experienced, reputed posters.

    That’s all I wanted to say.

    Just for fun one more thing. A few years ago I visited a Chinese discussion bard and the basic moderation rule was there that posters are not allowed to call other posters their name, they cannot reply in a link window, they cannot criticize other posts and mostly posters, but had to reply in a new window, quote the sentence they wanted to react to or highlight a point and strictly discuss the point only.

    That really made me smile at that time, but seeing the intellectual level of some posters also the abuses when they are replying to posts using words like, “stupid, schitt, onanist, asshole, racist, xenophobic, prolix “ etc., sometimes I think the Chinese editors just did what they were forced to do.

    Recently there was an outrage about Orban’s speech on the necessity of illiberalism. Well, who are preparing the world for this?

    People who abuse free speech and liberalism!!!

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