One. The circumstances of her birth
She was supposed to be a Christmas child. Her sister, older than her by 6 years, kept wishing for a live doll to play with. Much later, she found out that her mother cried when she first heard she was pregnant, all the way from the hospital to the house. Apparently, she had considered an abortion, but under the communist regime, it was illegal and also a very dangerous endeavour. In the end, her mother's mother, in her wisdom, convinced her to welcome the child that was to be born.
During the months of pregnancy, everyone expected her to be a boy. The shape of her belly, as well as other old wives tales, made the whole family believe that. A revolution passed by, and her mother spent the last month of pregnancy in bed. Eventually, she got sick of that, drove to the hospital in an old Skoda with her husband, and apparently said to the doctor she would give birth today, thank you very much.
She ended up being a quiet, round-faced and big-eared girl, who loved helping her dad in his handyman jobs around the house and got along better with boys rather than girls for most of her childhood.
And her six-year-old sister, when she first saw her in the hospital, burst out crying. Apparently, newborn babies, all red and squished up, are ugly little monsters.
Four. Mother Tongue
Her grandmother, who lived with them and took care of her while her parents were at work, taught her Hungarian. She was an old, kind lady, and also a very good cook. She remembers learning from her how to make homemade chocolate.
The whole household would talk Hungarian, but she didn't want to learn Romanian. Which was quite a problem, considering that they were living in Romania. So after her first year of kindergarten, they moved her from the Hungarian speaking group to that of the Romanian speakers. She cried the whole day, the first time she was left with them.
Afterwards, so they say, she didn't say a word for three months. She switched to Romanian eventually, and would not speak one word in Hungarian. Even now, Hungarian comes awkwardly to her tongue, even if it could be considered her mother tongue.
But she also remembers watching cartoons, animes, on a German channel. She cannot remember the moment the language made click in her brain and she could understand it. But she does remember learning about friendship, and heroes, and adventure, and the value of sacrifice and love from Japanese stories dubbed in German. Somehow, while her parents were busy teaching her a mother tongue, she found her soul language in a completely unusual way. She still thinks German is the prettiest language out there.
Five. His Story
She has little context for this memory. There was the kindergarten classroom, and the teacher a kind lady in her thirties had gathered them around her in a circle. And she began telling them a story of a god who loved this world, and how his son was sent to be born human. She remembers listening to stories of that son's kindness, and his miracles, and how in the end, he was caught and killed. How he ended up dying for the people he loved so very much. She remembers the other children getting up, and wanting to play after hearing a good story, but she just sat there unmoving and felt like crying.
Even now, she feels it's more important to her to be with Him on the Friday of His death, and not the Sunday of His resurrection. And she still believes the God she'll meet when she dies is as old as eternity, handsome, with warm eyes and huge hands, and so so very kind.
Her grandmother, the one who raised her, fell ill on Valentine's Day. She had a stroke and died a few days afterwards in the hospital.
She hadn't gone to the funeral, as her mother hadn't allowed it. Her mother wouldn't even let her wear black clothes. But even ignoring such traditions of grief, she doesn't remember her mother ever being so very upset, or crying.
She ended up being very silent in her grief, never shedding a tear. And she was surprised by all the comfort and support she received. To her, what happened felt natural, inevitable, a tad bit sad and lonely. But the world kept seeing death as a tragedy. She couldn't understand that.
Fourteen. The Math Teachers
Her middle school math teacher, who taught her for three years, was a bear of a man, and always good-humoured. He was kind and fatherly, and she remembers: when her grandmother died, she missed a few days of coming to school. Then, at the first class with him, the teacher came to her, took hold of her elbows and lifted her a scrawny kid at that time up in the air. She remembers how he studied her, a few silent moments, and then asked her if she was alright. She could only smile kindly, say 'Of course', and treasure his regard.
That man also taught her real teamwork, and how to take care of your own people, and how reward (a pizza after every Mathematics Olympic contest season) and recognition (naming a specific methodology of solving an exercise after her) worked. He was the kind of man who would shed tears when he felt truly appreciated and loved (which happened at least once a year, during the get together party of the math team, when school ended).
Her high school math professor, on the other hand, was a short, blue-eyed man. He was painfully professional, to the brink of coldness. She had feared him and hated him. She thought he was missing most of the fun of being a teacher. But she also realized he was exceedingly patient and brilliant in his own way. By the time she finished high school, she felt respect for him (and was also grateful to him for the list of things she would not do in the future).
The year she turned fifteen, she ended up doing a peculiar journey. Four days away from home, of which two were spent on the road, and the other two visiting Krakow and its surroundings. Also Auschwitz and Birkenau.
She still remembers the iron gate with its welcoming words: Arbeit macht frei. It was late spring, but the camp seemed to be stuck in time in mid autumn. She remembers the grey of the gravel roads, the brown of the trees, the red of the brick buildings.
She's still angry at herself for not being able to buy one white rose and leave it in the cremating rooms. She remembers the brown of the dried blood on the floors near the sinks. Sometimes, the soldiers would shoot prisoners while they were washing themselves. She remembers the textured concrete wall of the execution spot. Surely, there were still bullets embedded there.
She remembers the one meter square cells, with a little door like that of a heater, where four 'high security' prisoners would be closed during the night. They still had to work during the day, no matter how tired. She remembers the tall chimney of the cremating halls. The dark rooms where the showers were.
And Birkenau was probably the setting of every Holocaust movie. It looked just like that. The wooden sheds, the crowded beds, the lack of hygiene. She remembers the railway tracks that entered deep in the camp and ended there. There is no going back, they seemed to say.
The place was crowded with visitors. She remembers one particular group of Jews. They carried the flag of Israel. She remembers how one of the girls had burst in tears, crying in the arms of her mother. So many people milling about, but the place seemed frozen in time: the blood, the tears, the suffering... it was all imprinted in the walls and the earth and the dust.
She remembers walking around by herself, half listening to the tour guide, touching everything she could, and thinking to herself: 'Verzeihung, Verzeihung, Verzeihung
Forgiveness, in the language of her soul.
She cried a long time when she returned home.
Sixteen. The Doctor
That year, she stayed in the hospital almost 2 months. Two weeks in her hometown, being treated for an infection she didn't actually have. When her mother saw that she wouldn't get any better, she arranged for her to be moved to the infectious diseases hospital in the capital. She stayed another week there, while they looked for every possible virus or bacteria in her bloodstream. They didn't find it. In the end, she was moved to the Neurology ward, in his care. Her diagnostic was vein thrombosis, situated in her brain.
There was actually no virus eating her brain cells. There were just her antibodies that were betraying her body and clotting her blood in the completely wrong places.
She stayed in the Neurology ward for a whole month, time in which she had to learn to use her right hand again. She had to learn to walk again, as well. During that time, if she wasn't having her own bonding time with her sister, she would watch her doctor at his work. Always patient and kind, and so so very smart, she feels a part of her had loved him dearly.
He would underhandedly watch out for her (are the nurses careful with those needles?), and teach her a bit of medicine, and maybe give her a bit of career counseling. She'll never forget the evening he came in his suit to check up on her, smelling of tobacco smoke and with his glasses on the top of her head, just because he had promised. He was very handsome in dark colors. Nor would she forget the note she had left him, the first time she could go home for half a day, and the look in his eyes the next day she saw him.
But the moment she'll most treasure (and this is a secret, so don't go telling it around) is the evening she came to visit him, after she was released. She was copying the list of foods she was to avoid in the future. It was quiet in the ward. Somehow they ended up being alone in the consulting room. He came to stand behind her and started ruffling her hair, over and over, and in the moment she wanted to speak up, tell him to cut it off, he kissed the top of her head.
She was struck speechless. He never said a word.
But she decided, most likely in the moment their eyes met again: 'I will become the kind of person you can be proud of. I promise to change the world.'
Seventeen. The Exchange
Her seventeenth birthday was something she truly treasured. Maybe because for a moment she had feared not being able to live and see it. So she made sure to gather all her friends and tell them how very much she loved them all.
That year was also the first time she won something in her life. The German Embassy had organized a creative writing contest and she had participated. The thrill of reading the mail telling her she would be going in an exchange in the summer, was one of a kind and something she'll always remember. But mostly, she would be grateful that someone, without knowing her as she was a bit broken, naive and without a set future - had judged her work and found her deserving.
The exchange started with a 26-hour long train ride, new friends from all over the country and a German art and literature teacher who would watch out for them.
Those three weeks, in which she had spoken and listened and breathed German, were like discovering a long lost part of her life.
The day she became legally adult found her in select company her closest friends in a select place - they had the best desserts. She received underwear signed by all her male friends, who felt sorry for her future, yet unknown, husband. She also received a silver star-like necklace from her best girlfriends. She still wears it in the days she needs moral support.
Soon afterwards, she was swept off her feet by a 21-year-old boy. He asked her out on Women's Day and brought her a white rose and chocolate. He was a bit shy and clumsy, but they ended up talking for most of the evening. Then he walked her home, both under the same umbrella. She received her first kiss in the dark, hidden by the umbrella. She still remembers the butterflies she felt and the long nights they would spend chatting about everything under the sun. Having him by her side helped her grow up a bit. But when the rush of her first love passed, she started feeling annoyed with his lack of ambition and dreams. Eventually, after being away for a week in Italy visiting her sister, she broke their relationship off.
They had their last meeting in the place it all started. They had hot chocolate, talked awkwardly about their relationship and what went wrong and then she left. He still felt the need to give her one last kiss. She left him sitting at that table and thinking to herself she had to be careful with her heart: she was the kind who, once truly head over heels in love, would have a hard time letting go. She wished she'd end up falling for the man that was meant for her.
Twenty. The future
Her twentieth birthday marked a period when she felt a little closer to being all grown up and out on her own. She had moved to another city to continue her studies in Communication and PR, but she spent more time working as an intern at the Center of Health Policy and Public Health. Her boss was a bit of a maniac, but smart and capable, and the people he had gathered around him all had something special and endearing.
She was still trying to figure out when it was that she fell in love with public health. But she was happy, as she was doing the kind of work her doctor would be proud of. The kind of work that would make his job a bit easier.
She had made a handful of new friends and had many workmates she enjoyed having by her side. She also started watching this young man, with whom she had to work for a short time at the Center. He was smart and ambitious, and would watch out for her, but also push her to do better. They were busy because of the exams, yet somehow still ended up chatting a lot on the internet.
On her birthday a freezing January evening she got together with her girlfriends and went out for drinks and food. They had chosen a place close to the student campus. She loved the atmosphere in that particular pub. She ended up texting him and somehow he promised he'd come deliver a birthday hug. She still remembers how he came thinly dressed (he lived nearby), in shorts and a furry Eskimo hat (fondly nicknamed bunny hat). She went out to meet him, and he swept her up in a hug and held her a long time. She remembers being surprised by his height. Afterwards, he entered the pub and spent some time with the girls. She remembers, between all the chatting and laughing, how she caught this smiling look on his face, while he was watching her. He looked content and kind and a tad bit proud. His eyes were warm behind black rimmed glasses.
She thinks that was the moment she fell head over heels in love with him.