The most faithful wife in Hungarian literature

Today would be 110e birthday of Fanni Gyarmati. Her husband was one of Hungary’s most famous poets, Miklós Radnóti. Their love has inspired generations through his poems.

Fanni was born in 1912 in Budapest. She was studying to be a teacher and she met Miklós Radnóti when they were only 14 years old. They went to the same tutor for math lessons. The boy would have exchanged his pencils to invent a reason to start a conversation. They fell in love during their student years, and she became the muse of the young man’s poetry.
He did his doctorate in Szeged, and it was during this time that they first exchanged love letters, to bridge the distance between them. They married in 1935, nine years after they first met. The young couple moved into a small apartment on Pozsonyi Street in Budapest.

All was not pink and butterfly

The couple’s life was full of trials and distress. Mik, as Fanni called the poet, was a full-time artist, but his poems were barely published, and with his few side jobs and Fanni’s salary as a teacher, they struggled to make ends meet. From her diary, which was published after her death, in 2018, we discovered that the two had feelings for others. But only Miklós cheated on his wife, who knew about it, and blamed herself. She also thought she was the reason her husband was having trouble at work. Fanni tried to please the poet in every way to make things easier.

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The beginning of the deportations

Despite all their difficulties, the couple stayed together. Their lives became even more difficult after the start of World War II. Given the Jewish origins of Miklós Radnóti, in September 1940 they drafted him into a Jewish labor battalion of the Hungarian army, from where he returned. However, in 1942 he had to leave for the second time. Fanni helped him in every way possible – bought him clothes before leaving and visited him whenever she was allowed. Through his works, we can understand their suffering. Fanni was the only stable element in his life and his thoughts. Half of Radnóti’s poems were about the camps and the darkness around and within him. The other half was still light, centered around her and their love.

their last days

When Miklós Radnóti was finally able to return in 1943, he and his wife converted from Judaism to the Roman Catholic faith. However, this was not enough to protect him from a second deportation in May 1944. His battalion was transferred to Serbia, where Hungarian Jewish forced laborers were imprisoned near the copper mines. In September, they receive the order to leave the camp and their forced march begins. The poet, who reached complete mental and physical exhaustion, was shot in a mass grave in November 1944.

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After his death

Fanni Gyarmati waited for news from her husband until 1946. After his death, she led a quiet and discreet life. She continued her studies and her work by teaching French at the University of Theater and Cinema Arts. Fanni curated her husband’s legacy, donating all the manuscripts of his works in 2008. She never showed up to opening ceremonies for schools named after Miklós Radnóti and only spoke to reporters. once, in 1962, saying

Fascism has swallowed our lives.

She is considered the most faithful wife in Hungarian history, she never remarried after Miklós’ death. Fanni Gyarmati lived in the apartment on Pozsonyi Street until her death and never removed her late husband’s name from their formerly shared mailbox.

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