Almost every day, we walk through our great city of Debrecen without knowing about the history of the people who made it what it is today.
To address this Tour guide, Nóra Erdei decided to created a very special walking tour of Debrecen, – talking about the life of women who often lived in the shadow of their husbands.
The tour started from the Old County Hall to the Déri Square. However, we did not walk far, we stopped at many points to learn interesting facts.
The first “lady” we heard about was “Zsuzsi” who is now 137 years old and to this day is celebrated, this particular “woman” is actually the famous train of the city, – Zsuzsi Forest Railway. Zsuzsi got her name from her driver who loved the locomotive so much that he named her after her sweetheart. He strokes her every morning and encourages her, “Come on, Zsuzsi!”
Our next stop was the Parish “Szent Anna” where we learnt more about the widow of Sándor Petőfi, Julia Szendrey. Even if she was not born in Debrecen, their son, Zoltan, was born here and was registered for his baptism at the Parish.
(Editors’ note: Sándor Petőfi was a Hungarian poet and liberal revolutionary. She is considered Hungary’s national poet, and was one of the key figures of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.)
Anna, Magda, Kornélia: School’s founders, writers and actors
Our next stop was the Svetits School, which was founded by the merchant Mihály Svetits, and his wife, Anna Kojanitz. The couple had a hard life. They lost all their three children, and later they decided to support the establishment of a girls’ school. After the death of Mihály Svetits, Anna Kojanitz decide to donate her fortune to the school. She invited five nuns to teach in the school that was a co-education institution at the beginning, but today it offers not only a high school but also a primary school and kindergarten education.
Only a few steps away for the School Svetits, we were standing in the front of the childhood residence of Magda Szabó, one of the most famous Hungarian novelists of all time.
We could hear a piece from her book called “Ókut”, that tells about the difficult childhood of Magda Szabó.
Walking from the novelist’s home, we stopped at a plaque at the street Batthyány 11. where we discovered that the building was a famous theater once. Many famous actors and poets including Sándor Petőfi, János Arany or Kornélia Prielle attended here.
At the end of her performance, Kornélia sang one poem of Sándor Petőfi and he fell in love with her. Even if she admired Petőfe, she did not accept his marriage proposal and Petőfi finally married Julia Szendrey. The heart of Kornélia Prielle was “stolen” by actor Kálmán Szerdahelyi.
The Holocaust, Lost Lovers and Famous Sculptures
Following our walking tour of Debrecen, we stopped at the Piac street, where we could admire the beautiful statues of the the Debrecen First Bank, while we learned about the story of Éva Fahidi, a survivor of the Holocaust, this was at the corner of Simonffy Street.
Stopping at the Kossuth Square, we learnt of Zsuzsanna Kossuth, the first Hungarian chief nurse; Kató Dienes, the first love of Lőrinc Szabó, and Eufrozina Józsa Mihályné Hegyi, who set the memorial status “Gályarabok” (galley slaves) in the Memorial Garden.
Last but not least, we visited a plaque at the Kálvin square that tells the story of Erzsébet Szilágyi, a tough woman and did everything to get her son, Matthew, onto the throne.
The walk ended at Déri Square, where we could admire different sculptures mainly made by Ferenc Medgyessy, Kossuth Prize-winning sculptor. Two of the four sculptors in the front of the museum are female figures: one is holding a small statue in her hands embodying Art; another is holding a stone ax, and she represents “Archaeology”.
It is hard to cover all the great moments from such a well organized and interesting tour. If you want to take part in a similar interesting walking tour of Debrecen, visit Explore Debrecen.