Chapter 12 – Troubles at Home
Tales of a Teenage Spy - The Life and Times of Gábor Rimner
Chapter 12 – Troubles at Home
I've got a little ahead of myself here. I'd better go back a bit in time with some background, because it'll help you understand how things worked out later.
Things were not going well between my parents. My mother was not at all happy, and I found out later that in the 60s she had cheated on my father at least twice, once with a Sudanese fellow, and later with a Polish guy.
The tragedy was that Jan, the Pole, was working in the same faculty as my father, in the same building. It must have been awful for my dad. Jan was also a family man. He had a wife and two big daughters.
All this while my father was as faithful as a dog. He didn't even think of other women.
But, perhaps coming from his German-protestant heritage, he was rather strict in a lot of things. He represented the sort of husband that says: I earn enough to support my family, I bring home the money, and I expect my wife to stay at home, run the household and bring up the children.
Fact is, my mother, who was Catholic, had never agreed with this concept. She was a very emancipated woman, certainly for the 60s. So she was not what you might call a typical mother, she wanted to work, not spend her time at home, cooking and cleaning and pampering me.
She was, or at least tried to appear, like a society lady, a woman about town. And this just didn't fit in with my father's ideas about life.
Come 1970, she had trachoma or some tropical eye disease, and she went back to Hungary for an operation on her eyes.
And from Budapest, she filed for divorce. A lawyer sent the divorce papers to my father in Khartoum. I think she believed that the Polish guy, whom she'd got to know in Khartoum, would also divorce his wife, leave his family and marry her.
But, it seems that after her operation, she met Jan somewhere here in Europe, and he most probably told her that he would not divorce his wife.
So, she realised that her rush for a quick divorce was a bit too sudden. She was lucky, because my father didn't reply to the lawyer. In fact, he didn't even open the letter, I did that, after it had been on the table for weeks.
I asked him, do you realise this is from my mother's lawyer, and she wants a divorce?
He said, yes, I know your mother wants a divorce, but I don't want to reply. Let her do what she wants.
And something like a year and a half later, in 1971, she wrote that she wanted to come back, so please send an airline ticket. Just like that. And he'd been sending her money all this time, every month. I was very angry with her.
But I don't think my father had a good strategy in all this, because his tactic was not to talk about it, not to do anything, believing somehow time would solve the problem. It didn't. In fact, it didn't even paper over the cracks.
When she got back in Khartoum, we went out to the airport, and you could immediately feel the tension in the air. It was the start of a terrible year or so, in 71-72. Everyone in the family knew that the whole thing was like a landmine that you had stepped on and you don't dare lift your foot because the thing would go off.
They didn't row as such, they couldn't because my father's method was not to speak. So, whatever my mother did, whether she screamed, or cried, or broke all the dishes in the kitchen - yes, she did that once, every plate, cup and saucer - my father just looked out of the window, didn't say a word, and waited for her to stop.
If I was home, I would stand watching them. It was like a scene in a play, because I could not interfere. A couple of times, I tried to get them to sit down and talk about it. They wouldn't. I couldn't really understand why this was so important for my mother to divorce and for my father not to. And they just didn't consider me mature enough to tell me, or they didn't want to.
It was all pretty upsetting. It was probably one reason why I went out a lot in the evenings.