Chapter 3 Pride Cometh ...
Updated: Jul 24, 2020
Tales of a Teenage Spy - The Life and Times of Gábor Rimner
For a brief moment, I glimpsed my mother's face as she opened the door: next thing, I was flying across the hall. Two slaps, that was all it took. My parents didn't need to read the missing page from my index, they already knew it all.
It was my father, a senior lecturer at the Technical University of Budapest, who had felt the full force of Party opprobrium.
A phone call from the school, a summons from the dean's office, and he was standing, as we say in Hungarian, “at the edge of the carpet”.
“How, in a Socialist country, where a teacher at a university shows how to behave in a manner that is worthy of genuinely good, Socialist citizens,” thundered the dean, “How is it possible that the son of such a tutor uses words and expressions like this?
And, moreover, at the commemoration of the country's liberation from fascism?”
I guess my father almost collapsed with shock. The conclusion was as short as it was blunt: another incident like this, and he would be fired.
My mother, a near-native speaker of German, worked at Ibusz, the state travel agency. As such, she enjoyed the privilege (especially for those days) of travelling to Germany every two or three months as a tour guide.
She was similarly upbraided.
“Comrade Mrs Rimner, if your son speaks like this, how on earth can we trust you to show your visiting groups the glorious Socialist achievements of Hungary?” intoned the head of personnel.
It might soon be the occasion for the comrade lady to spend more time attending to her children's education than to tour groups.
That was my first encounter with what adults called politics. My smugness had been (very) short lived.
Perhaps I should have learned the lesson, and, like almost everyone else in the country, henceforth shut my mouth and kept my head down.
But if I had, dear reader, then you wouldn't be reading this today.