Éva Deák Veress, 1922-2010
Obituary by István Deák
I am addressing this note to those who met my sister, Éva, or who heard so much of her as to feel that they knew her personally.
Éva Veress, née Deák, died yesterday, March 10, 2010, suddenly, while walking to a doctor’s office in the hospital where she had been staying. The stay had been necessitated by a fainting spell she had suffered two days earlier.
Éva was eighty-eight and, as befits a person born in Hungary, her life was not without its tragedies and setbacks, but it was also an active and highly worthwhile life. She grew up in Budapest, attended one of the best girls’ high-schools in the city and lived through the war years without any particular catastrophe. Yet, in the winter of 1944, her fiancé, Béla Stollár was killed in an exchange of fire with the Arrow Cross militia and Hungarian gendarmes. Béla had been one of the few genuine heroes of the Hungarian anti-Nazi resistance; he was subsequently recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the “Righteous among the Nations.”
Three years later, Éva married Pál Veress, journalist and painter, with whom she lived an almost incredibly happy existence for over fifty years. They had three daughters, of whom the youngest, lovely and bright Zsóka, died of a sudden onslaught of cancer at the age of eighteen in 1973. It was a trauma from which my sister never completely recovered. Of the other two children, Fruzsina lives near Boston, with a husband and three sons, whereas Anna/Panka is in Budapest, the mother of two young men. Éva had been a great-grandmother for three years.
My sister chose retirement at fifty-five so as to spend more time with her husband, who had chosen retirement from journalism to be free to paint. Éva used to be editor-in-chief at Corvina Press, the Hungarian foreign language publishing house that brought out beautiful art books and translations of Hungarian literature. She was, as she often mentioned to me, one of the few in the leadership of the Press who had never been a Party member, and who had not spent time in jail under the Stalinist Mátyás Rákosi. It was in Éva’s office that I met a member of her team, the Quaker-Communist-Soviet agent-alleged CIA agent Noel Field who, having spent many years in a Hungarian jail, chose Hungary as his place of refuge.
Following her retirement, Éva translated scientific, artistic, and fictional literature from English, French, and German into Hungarian; she also wrote several books, mostly for children, such as "I am Discovering Budapest" and "I am Discovering Lake Balaton" which became very popular and have seen many editions. Following her husband’s death in 1999, Éva made it her great task to preserve and to propagate his art, which led to many major exhibitions, a beautiful book on Pál’s life and art, and the creation of a small circle of devoted collectors of Pál Veress’s paintings. By the time of her death, my sister had completed a 350 page history of two families: her own and Pál’s which shows that, despite the great discrepancy of background and origin between the two families, they still evinced substantial similarities within the Central European tragedy. Theirs is not a story of great heroes but of talented people who succeeded in remaining decent under often harrowing circumstances.
For Éva, I was always the little brother who needed love and guidance. I sometimes chafed under her love and guidance; only now do I understand how enormously attached I was to her, and how through her loss, I am losing most of my past.