Gloomy Sunday – a way to understand the Hungarian psych(os)e(s)

Ryder, whom I haven’t written about in a long time, posted a classic Hungarian declaration of love as chiseled into the plaque by the statue of a famous Hungarian poet, on social media. 

I replied with this: 
“I’m beginning to think / realize that some post-WWII-immigrants from Hungary passed on much more to their kids than we realized. Certainly my father did, and I’m beginning to see it in other descendants of Holocaust survivors as well.”

To clarify, I’m recognizing a lot of this in some of my Hungarian brethren when they become creative. One way or another, the message will always be that there is no happiness without sorrow. The most beautiful things can only be achieved through the greatest pain. Tears, and acknowledgement of sadness are what will ultimately cement a friendship.  You can sit at a table and share several jokes, but you will only be true friends when you have cried together. Of course, no one will say, “this is how we Hungarians spend our time,” because the understanding of this is implied. 

There’s a theory I heard from a Hungarian friend that those who escaped after the war never talk about it, but those who escaped in 1956 do. When I became serious about studying Hungarian, I made more attention. The Hungarian Revolution was a huge deal, but I’d never really heard it mentioned before, other than my father making a vague statement about this particular Hungarian friend or the other having come over in 1956. When I asked him about the Revolution he explained, but only then. 
But some cultural references and concepts would always seep into the conversation, no matter when anyone left. A phrase here or there, translated into the native language of the his country, a line from a poem, or a song. To this day I can’t remember if my dad telling me about a guy walking into a bar, requesting a certain song, and then shooting himself in the head because it was his late mother’s favorite was told to me as the plot to Gloomy Sunday (i.e. a movie I should definitely watch), or as a true event (which was later turned into a movie). 

Not much to add here, except that to me this song perfectly sums up the Hungarian spirit / essence. There is beauty in sadness, and sadness in beauty. 



  1. I cannot say whether this is an accurate description of the Hungarian psyche or not. However, the belief that there can be beauty in sadness is not necessarily negative. If tragedy is a constant in life, those able to find beauty despite it have a profound gift. Interestingly, Tom Brokaw in his book “The Greatest Generation” observes that those who lived through WWII did not often talk about their experiences. He was speaking about Americans from a large variety of ethnic backgrounds.


    • I totally agree with the tragedy angle. And they say that the best comedy comes from the deepest sadness. I haven’t mastered this gift yet, although I always attempt comedy again and again. I think the Cousin Fester posts here price that. 😆

      I remember that about Americans not talking about their experiences during the war. Might have mentioned this here, but I was trying to determine whether a fellow Hungarian’s parent was born in Hungary or abroad, and I was going on nothing. Except that my fellow Hungarian isn’t too keen on their heritage. A Hungarian acquaintance then told me that those who had left in 1956 were eager to talk. Those who’d left before were reluctant to talk. Pretty sure it’s a victim-hero thing. Even though I hate both descriptions at times. Interestingly, a girl on my course in college and I once compared notes. Her grandfather had been an SS guard, my father was a Holocaust survivor. It was interesting how many similarities there were in our fathers’ behavior. That stuff stays with you for generations (I believe the last verdict was three, but that was in the ’80s / ’90s.


  2. Hello HB! I love the below excerpt :

    “the message will always be that there is no happiness without sorrow. The most beautiful things can only be achieved through the greatest pain. Tears, and acknowledgement of sadness are what will ultimately cement a friendship. ”

    I love the way you truly define the highs and lows of life. Lots of love and smiles your way!

    Liked by 1 person

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