The People’s Poet and the Wife of Wives: Sándor Petőfi and Júlia Szendrey

As I write this on the 15th day of March, 2017, Hungary is commemorating one of the most significant events in the history of the nation: the Revolution and Freedom Fight of 1848-1849. On this day, meetings and processions are organized throughout the country, patriotic citizens gather around memorials to listen to speeches and sing Hungary’s national anthem (Himnusz) and the nation’s revered and inspiring poem set to music, the ‘Szózat’. People young and old wear cockades in the national colours of red, white and green. It is a national holiday, not so much a celebration as a time to remember our heroes of the past, and to reflect on how in all societies there will always be aims and ideals to strive for. Hungarian rosette
On this special occasion one of the central figures we remember is Sándor Petőfi, known as the People’s Poet, who came from an ordinary background, but with his genius as a poet and keen insight regarding the political scene, was able to champion his nation during the turbulent years of the mid-19th century. The Hungarians were fighting for independence from the Habsburg monarchy, for as part of Austria-Hungary they were oppressed, and Austria did not consider Hungary to be an equal in the partnership. Unrest led to revolution and a fight for freedom that lasted from 1848-1849. Sándor Petőfi rallied the Hungarians with his famous poem ‘Nemzeti dal’ (National Song), which he wrote on March 15th and recited that very day at the Pilvax Coffeehouse in Pest. Petőfi continued to write pamphlets and rousing poems, which led to the Austrian authorities accusing him of incitement, and he became a wanted man. He served as aide-de-camp to General Bem during the battles that took place throughout that year of revolution. He was lost on the battlefield, and although his body was never officially identified, reports heard at the time and research during subsequent years have resulted in it being generally accepted that Sándor Petőfi died during the war, most likely at the Battle of Segesvár near Fehéregyháza on July 31st, 1849. He was 26 years old.
Petőfi Sándor by Barabás Miklós
Sándor Petőfi had been married for only two years when he died. His wife was Júlia Szendrey, and no novelist could have come up with a plot more dramatic or romantic than the true story of their relationship. Often it is the case that immediate accounts re-colour and transform events in a way that can be misleading, and it is only years after, thanks to historical research, that a clearer and truer understanding of events can be gained. So it is with Júlia Szendrey, who, as the widow of Hungary’s great national hero, was greatly criticised when she married again, barely a year after her beloved Sándor’s death. Today we understand her reasons, one of which was that she was left on her own to care for and protect their little son Zoltán, who had been born on December 15th, 1848.
Júlia Szendrey was as remarkable as her husband. Her life after meeting Petőfi was troubled and turbulent, but she would not have called it tragic, for it was illuminated by the two years she spent in matrimony with Sándor. Szendrey Júlia by Barabás Miklós
Júlia Szendrey is one of Hungary’s most inspiring women, being herself a fervent champion of social and political justice, a woman who stood by her husband through all the threatening and dangerous events of the Freedom Fight, who has become known as ‘the Wife of Wives’. Despite the hardships she bore during the years following her husband’s death, Júlia went on to produce several literary works; among her publications are her poems and diaries, short stories, and a diary that was discovered after her death. In 1856 the Tales of Hans Christian Andersen were published for the first time in Hungary, translated by Júlia Szendrey.
A contemporary of Júlia’s was George Sand, whom she greatly admired for her literary prowess and her unconcern for social conventions. Júlia herself – even while her husband was alive – was one of the first Hungarian women to wear a trouser – which was considered to be quite scandalous behaviour at the time! – and she had her hair cut short. This side of Júlia’s character was not approved of by society at that time, and illustrations and statues of Júlia from that era usually present her as a demure, modest little woman.
Sándor Petőfi and Júlia Szendrey were the perfect couple, in the sense that they both were passionate and strong-willed, that they complemented each other, and seem to have been what today we would define as the perfect Yin and Yang.

RESZKET A BOKOR, MERT…                                                                                                                                       By Sándor Petőfi

Reszket a bokor, mert
Madárka szállott rá.
Reszket a lelkem, mert
Eszembe jutottál,
Eszembe jutottál,
Kicsiny kis leányka,
Te a nagy világnak
Legnagyobb gyémántja!

Teli van a Duna,
Tán még ki is szalad.
Szívemben is alig
Fér meg az indulat.
Szeretsz, rózsaszálam?
Én ugyan szeretlek,
Apád-anyád nálam
Jobban nem szerethet.

Mikor együtt voltunk,
Tudom, hogy szerettél.
Akkor meleg nyár volt,
Most tél van, hideg tél.
Hogyha már nem szeretsz,
Az isten áldjon meg,
De ha még szeretsz, úgy
Ezerszer áldjon meg!

(Written in Pest, after November 20th, 1846)


The rosebush shakes because
A bird on its twig flew,
My own soul shakes because
I think, my dear, of you!
I think, my dear, of you,
My darling, charming maid,
Thou art the richest gem
My God has ever made.

Swollen the Danube is
So that it may o’erflow,
My heart, with love replete,
Is now for thee even so.
Tell me, my fairest rose,
Art thou to me still true?
Not even thy parents dear
Can love thee as I do.

I know thy love was mine
In last year’s summer weather;
But winter came since then
When we sojourned together.
And should’st thou love no more,
I pray God bless thee still, –
But, if thou lov’st me yet,
A thousandfold he will!

(Translated by WM. N. LOEW)

Hungry for more Hungarian? Let’s make 2016 a good year!

As we start the new year here at Hungarian Language Solutions, we can’t help looking back at 2015 and think of the amazing people we worked with and the goals we helped achieve. We worked hard and completed several important translating projects, as well as having continued our usual translation work involving official documents and specialised texts. Because we can provide certified translations that are endorsed by the Embassy, we are able to offer this translation service to those of our clients who are studying on our language courses in preparation for the Hungarian Citizenship Interview. Feedback from our clients shows that they are impressed with the flexibility with which we work, and it is convenient to have the whole package available from one service provider.
Since Hungarian Language Solutions began in 2009, we have helped numerous individuals prepare for successful citizenship interviews, which are part of the naturalization procedure. Hungarian citizenship is very close to our hearts: both of us have dual, British-Hungarian citizenships.       Hungry for more Hungarian - architecture
During a Hungarian Citizenship Interview, the applicant is required to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency in the Hungarian language. Understandably, we are very proud of our clients when they clear this hurdle, for they have worked very hard at their language learning in order to be able to declare that they “understand and speak the Hungarian language”. For this reason, our Hungarian language courses are built on the communicative approach to language learning. Our aim is for our learners to be able to understand and respond to the questions or inquiries posed to them, and to be relaxed and confident enough to show that they are friendly, open individuals. All of them are excited about the possibility of gaining Hungarian citizenship, and of course very proud of their Hungarian origin and fond of the cultural ties. We want these things to be evident at the interview, and this is what we aim for as we work with our learners.    Hungry for more Hungarian - cakes
We have a number of learners who passed their Citizenship Interviews in 2015 and are now sitting tight waiting to be granted citizenship. 2016 started well: two of our lovely learners have just received invitations to attend their oath ceremonies and we couldn’t be more excited for them.

Hungry for more Hungarian - Christmas markets


Stepping into 2016, we are full of plans for developments, but one thing won’t change: we treat every single client as we would like to be treated ourselves. With translation projects we produce high-qualitiy translations that read like originals, always meet the agreed deadlines and it goes without saying that we adhere to strict confidentiality. When it comes to delivering Hungarian language lessons, we treat every learner as they were our only client and feel privileged to be able to join them on this very important, special journey. We carry on offering a first, free lesson to each new learner so that people can see what they get for their money before they commit themselves.
In 2016, we continue to build our bridge between cultures.


2012: A great year for Hungarian Language Solutions!

 Sometimes I feel I’m just running around focusing on the present and immediate future and forget to look back at the things I have achieved and be grateful for them. Today, even though preparing and filing my self-assessment is at the top of my to-do list, I decided to sit down and look back at 2012: I felt it was a special year for Hungarian Language Solutions and wanted to make a list of the things I have achieved.

First of all, I translated a lot and through translation, I contributed to the success of several businesses. This year, my main areas of work were foreign trade, aviation and orthopaedics. I have also translated a number of certificates from English to Hungarian and Hungarian to English, e.g. birth and marriage certificates and police checks.

But most importantly I had the chance to teach Hungarian and work with some amazing people: I have helped people prepare for their citizenship interviews, translated Hungarian citizenship application forms and helped writing biographies. Hungarian citizenship has a special place in my heart: I always feel those people shouldn’t have had to leave the country in the first place so it’s only fair if their children and grandchildren can become Hungarian citizens now.

I have also worked with people who learn Hungarian for a variety of other reasons: again, these guys truly inspire me and in 2013 I’d like to continue doing my very best to help them enhancing their lives.

In 2012 I was also lucky enough to have been awarded a grant by City&Guilds that enabled me to take a course in PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector). As part of the course I had the chance to familiarise myself with the theoretical and practical knowledge of teaching in the lifelong learning sector. I have enjoyed this course and hope to be able to put the knowledge to good use in 2013!

Thank you to You for reading and following my blog posts and getting in touch with me throughout the year. Please stay tuned for more to come in 2013!