Bereaved Family, Jolán and Zsuzsa, Fellow Mourners,
It’s difficult. It’s difficult like this – with this stabbing pain in the chest – to bid farewell to a mayor, a brother in arms and a good friend.
My Dear Friend,
You were younger than me, yet you are leaving this world before me. You are not the one bidding farewell to me, as would be the right and normal order of life: I am the one bidding farewell to you. But perhaps the situation is, in reality, different: I think that, after all, you were somehow older than me – or at least lived more than I did. In fact you may well have lived more than anyone present here – including your own parents. As I see it, if one lives for fifteen years with an illness, an incurable illness, in the daily shadow of thoughts of mortal danger and the transience of life, one’s days are more intense, consequential and precious. I also believe that the days of such a life are filled with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that is greater than any of us feel in our own lives. At first sight, it seems that Fate was cruel in summoning you from this vale of tears at the age of 55. But perhaps the opposite is true: the Lord showed mercy by warning you in good time. He warned you fifteen years ago to set your life in order, because you became host to an illness which could fell you at any moment. Fifteen years ago He told you that you must live differently, you must allocate your time and energies differently, you must love differently, you must hug your wife, your children and your parents differently. And you must work differently, you must differentiate between that which is important and unimportant. This is why we may think that you lived a longer and more profound life than we, who, according to the calendar, started out before you. You surely understood the old teaching: “If morning passes without the thought of death, that morning is wasted. If noon passes without that thought, noon, too, is wasted. And if the evening, too, passes without the thought of death, the whole day is in vain.” There are many who run from life’s passing. There are many who would hardly have been able to bear the massive weight of the ever-recurring thought of life’s passing. You, Dear Friend did not run away, you did not collapse, you did not crave the compassion and pity that is due to a victim. Instead you faced it with the courage of a soldier on the front, weapon at the ready. You did so as a Hungarian man must. You were given fifteen years: an extraordinary period of grace, during which you could see the precise importance of every day, every hour and every minute. And you did not waste a single moment. In this fight you understood and accepted the opportunity received from God. This could be the worldview of the Torockó miner going underground day in, day out; or the man of God who will stand firm to the very last. The worldview of your Transylvanian forebears.
Fellow Mourners, Dear Ákos,
As Prime Minister of Hungary I stand here today to bid you farewell, and on behalf of the Hungarian government to tell you once more how grateful we are for everything you did for us, and for the City – for Miskolc. As a professional healer, you knew better than anyone the trial of helping the recovery of our brothers and sisters in distress. Yet in 2010 you took upon yourself the woes of an entire city, of the home that welcomed you thirty years ago. As a citizen of Miskolc in the nineties, you already saw how the city was turning from a proud steel town into a cemetery of rust which people sought to escape. You saw the size of the task. You also saw that what could work elsewhere would here fall short, because Miskolc is a difficult place. Here, one can earn trust only through hard work. You knew that here the need was for someone at the helm who would not only be a good master for the city, but also its manager, doctor and healer. And for nine long years, you were a good master, a good manager, a good doctor and a good healer. You gave Miskolc back its future. In our world, the world of politics, there is no greater success than that. Today Miskolc has a future once again. And we know that this would not have been possible without you, without your work. We still do not know whether that heavy burden weighing on your shoulders for nine years accelerated the progress of the deadly disease or slowed it: whether the sense of duty with which you served Miskolc shortened your life or extended it. Neither did we know how difficult it must have been for you to lead a city like this; at most we could only guess. We only saw that the “Castle of Queens” [Castle of Diósgyőr] was rebuilt from its ruins, the Tapolca bathing complex was renovated, and a new industrial park was finally created, with new factories giving work to thousands. You renovated almost all the city’s doctor’s surgeries, and developed the country’s most modern public transport system. We saw you battle onwards, even in the teeth of the strongest opposition. Amidst a constant hail of criticism and slander, you achieved what those before you dared not even contemplate: you brought order to the Avas Housing Estate and cleared the slums.
I’ve also come here to you so that I can bid farewell to you on behalf of Fidesz and the Christian Democratic People’s Party – not only our shared political home, but also our shared family. In that family you were the one who never for a second could be shaken out of his firm composure; you were the one who – even in the gun smoke of daily battles – focused only on what would strengthen Miskolc, and what would make our Carpathian Basin homeland great again. We do not know what it was like for you as a child and a young man to live the bitter life of an oppressed Hungarian under Romanian dictatorship. Neither can we ever imagine what it was like to run the city’s affairs with the thorns of serious illness embedded in your body, never knowing what tomorrow would bring. In you we saw a tough, resilient, reserved but sensitive and determined man, who would go through fire and water to accomplish what he had set his mind to. You were among us, you were with us, but we saw that you already knew something that we did not yet know. Our incomprehension must have irritated you, and at times it must even have hurt that we did not see things the way you did: what was crucial, what was important, and what was fake and insignificant. In recent decades there have been disputes in our community, as there are in every family. Sometimes they were rather serious. Thank you for your resolve, which so often enabled us to overcome these and create the unity which is the foundation for all further work. Although at times you may have been hit by stray shrapnel, we thank you for the fact that you always met any undignified and unfair attacks with calm endurance. You never complained, but marched forward, bringing us along with you.
We are bidding farewell to our mayor and our Fidesz brother in arms. And now I am also bidding farewell to my friend. For the bonds between us for a quarter of a century were not only those of brothers in arms, but also those of friendship. I believed that one day we could together rejoice at everything that you created in this disadvantaged city. I feel the deepest pain at your leaving us, and at the impossibility of realising that hope. This is why we stand here so bereft and overwhelmed. We have no idea what life will be like without you, but we do know that we are proud of having had the privilege of fighting alongside you. Now we bid you farewell, until we meet again.
God be with you, our dear friend, Ákos. God be with you, bereaved family. God be with us all, fellow mourners.