Photo: Lenke Szilágyi

Ferenc Kőszeg – I was born in Budapest, 0n April 26, 1939 in a middle-class Jewish family. My parents were both medical doctors, specialized in dentistry. In 1942, my father was drafted into an unarmed unit of the Hungarian military because according to Nazi rules Jewish men were not allowed bear arms. During the Great Russian breakthrough, in January 1943, my father was captured. He got seriously ill and died on the train moving slowly to a POW camp. After the German occupation in 1944, my mother obtaiend fake documents certifying to our Aryan background, so we could escape the Holocaust. We spent the most dangerous months in a Catholic nunnery hiding with several other Jews. After finishing university, I worked as an editor for two state publishing houses. Almost none of my colleagues liked Communism, but they were convinced that in the shadow of the Soviet empire, the activities of a small democratic opposition would be hopeless. So, I was happy to meet others already involved in the opposition. In 1980, due to my politics, I lost my job as an editor and for two years I worked as a clerk in a book store. I subsequently taught German to support our three children. From 1981, I was one of the editors of the underground Samizdat periodical Beszélő (Speaker). In 1989, communism collapsed and I became an MP for a new liberal party, Alliance of Free Democrats in 1990. I served two terms, but my party merged into a coalition government with the former Communist party and so I left politics to focus on human rights work.  I became founder and president of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a civic organization providing free legal aid to immigrants and other victims of injustice. Since my retirement, I write on politics, literature and stories from my life. I published three essay collections.