I wandered the streets of Budaörs one day, searching for something, something intangible from my past that might resonate with me. I visited places that resembled what they had once been but were modernized, with updated windows, new fences and restored brickwork. If you have just joined me, scroll down and read about my journey into my past and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. In my forthcoming book, I open with my visit to the cemetery. You can join me there, by reading the first chapter http://www.sheilabali.com/current.html.
Late on this day, my male cousin took me to a library that also served as a storage center for information and documents. I asked the receptionist if I could talk to the administrator. Speaking Hungarian, I apologized for arriving without an appointment, and explained that I had traveled from the United States and was looking for information about the city in 1956. She pushed herself away from her desk and disappeared through a set of sliding glass doors, to return a few minutes later with a man in his sixties.
The man was slightly rotund, with more salt than pepper in his hair. On seeing me, his face stiffened and he yanked his belt up under his sagging belly. By the way he cleared his throat I knew I had disturbed him. I apologized, and my cousin chimed in with apologies too. He took us into his office, where we sat in our coats fully buttoned up to our necks.
The administrator appeared annoyed when I asked him where I could find information on the city’s development before, during and after the revolution. Stone-faced, he addressed my cousin, not me, refusing to either look at me or speak to me. He talked about the book he had published on Budaörs going back to the time of the Celts, Romans and Turks. Not once during his long monologue did he acknowledge me.
I was very upset when I left the library, though I wasn’t sure why. What had that been about? Was it prejudice? Prejudice of what? Because I was a foreigner? A woman? Someone who did not speak his language very well? I have found it hard to write about this incident. It upsets me still—and still leaves me wondering.