Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics

By Edward Teller; Judith L. Shoolery | Go to book overview

42
HOMECOMING
1990-2000

IN THE FALL of 1988, I received a phone call from Budapest, from a man named George Marx, who introduced himself as the president of the Eótvós Society, Hungary's equivalent of the American Physical Society. He invited me to visit Hungary. 1 Like every other exile, I had dreamed of seeing my home again. Unlike many other exiles—my friend Eugene Wigner, for example, who visited after the liberalization of the Hungarian communist government—I had stayed in place on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

That was not simply by choice, as the following incident indicates. In 1975, the Minta Gymnasium in Hungary organized a reunion party of my graduating class. My childhood friend Nándi Keszthelyi and another acquaintance from my graduating class telephoned from Budapest to invite me to come, adding in jest, "If you don't accept our invitation, we shall tell Gröger and Martos how you are behaving." 2 We exchanged a few pleasantries, but I declined the invitation. A few days later, two security officers arrived at

____________________
1
Marx also told me the following story about János Kádár, the longtime communist premier of Hungary. It was glasnost time in the Soviet Union, and Mikhail Gorbachev called Kádár to Moscow and said, "Comrade Kádár, you are getting older. You should look for a smart young man to replace you." Kádár replied, "I tried, but they all turned out to be dull." Gorbachev said, "Let me show you an efficient technique for judging candidates." Gorbachev then called in Shevarnadze and asked him, "If someone is the son of your father and mother but is not your brother, who is he?" Shevarnadze answered, "He is me!" Kádár was impressed. He went back to Budapest, called in Miklos Nemeth, and asked, "If someone is the son of your father and your mother, but is not your brother, who is he?" Nemeth answered, "He is me." Kádár shook his head, "No, you are wrong. He is Comrade Shevarnadze."
2
Gröger and Martos were, respectively, the Latin and the physical education teacher at the Minta; both had been sticklers for discipline and occasionally meted out memorable punishment.

-551-

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