Book Launch History

posted by Katalin Teller on 2009/06/10 14:46

[ Events ]

The Open Society Archives at Central European University and Bestsellers Bookstore in Budapest will present VERA AND THE AMBASSADOR: ESCAPE AND RETURN by Vera and Donald Blinken. Ambassador Andras Simonyi, former Hungarian ambassador to the United States, will introduce the book on Wednesday, 17 June 2009 at 4:00p.m. at the Open Society Archives at CEU, Arany János utca 32. Budapest 1051.

Hungary in all its cultural glory and historical anguish lies at the heart of this dramatic and deeply personal story. Vera, born in Budapest, describes how she and her mother managed to survive the atrocities of World War II, and in 1950, narrowly escaped Soviet occupied Hungary for the freedom and opportunity of America. She vowed to find a way to give back as a show of gratitude for her good fortune. That opportunity came in 1994 when her husband Donald Blinken, an investment banker, was appointed Ambassador to Hungary by President Clinton. Their dual memoir openly details the challenges, setbacks, and victories as they worked to tandem to advance America's interests in Central Europe and to help restore a former Soviet satellite from a command economy and totalitarian government into marked economy, and a republic based on democratic ideals.

"This book serves as a reminder of the critical role that ambassadors can play in advancing the interests of our country at the pivot points of history" - Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

About the Authors

Vera Blinken was born in Budapest and came to the United States in 1950. She graduated form Vassar College with a degree in art history and practiced interior design, first at the architectural firm of Edward Durell Stone, and later as the founder of Vera Evans Interiors. In 1996, while living in Hungary as the wife of the ambassador, she founded PRIMAVERA, the first mobile breast cancer screening program in Central and Eastern Europe. In 2002, for services to the Hungarian people, she was awarded the Middle Cross of the Republic of Hungary.


Donald Blinken, U.S. Ambassador to Hungary from 1994 to 1998, a native New Yorker. He graduated magna cum laude in economics at Harvard University and co-founded the investment banking/venture capital firm of E.M. Warburg, Pincus & Co. He is currently co-Chair of Columbia University's European Institute, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and an Emeritus Trustee of Central European University.



A picture from the heydays of liberal Budapest - when a whole (though short) underground line could be built within two years. And M1, the famous "Földalatti", Budapest's yellow line, still works. I have never seen this image of the construction on Andrássy before, so be full of admiration - and I am not telling your where it is from...

The M1-line so is a memento to both: a liberal mayor (for what Budapest was capable of) and the Siemens company, who more than a hundred years ago was capable of producing faultless underground trams (not like today's Combino crap...)

Budapest has – together with St. Petersburg and Vienna – one of the largest tramway networks of the world. The tramway type "UV" – standing for "Új villamos - New tramway" and pictured above – was designed in the early forties and is still a symbol for Hungary's once high-tech railway-carriage industry. With the arrival of the new low-floor-trams in spring 2006 – built by Siemens in Vienna and not too beautiful – this landmark of Budapest will vanish from the cityscape.
György Petri: Imre Nagy

Du warst unpersönlich wie die anderen bebrillten Führer
im Sakko, deine Stimme war nicht metallen,
denn du wußtest nicht, was du eigentlich sagen solltest,
so unvermittelt den vielen Versammelten. Gerade das Plötzliche
war ungewohnt für dich. Du alter Mann mit dem Zwicker,
ich hörte dich, ich war enttäuscht.
Ich wußte noch nichts

vom Betonhof, wo der Staatsanwalt
das Urteil gewiß heruntergeleiert hat,
ich wußte noch nichts von der groben Reibung des Stricks, von der letzten Schmach.

Wer will sagen, was sagbar gewesen wäre
von jenem Balkon aus, Möglichkeiten, unter Maschinengewehren
verfeuert, kehren nicht zurück. Gefängnis und Tod
wetzen die Schärfe des Augenblicks nicht aus,

wenn der eine Scharte bekommen hat. Aber wir dürfen uns erinnern
an den zögernden, verletzten, unentschlossenen Mann,
der gerade seinen Platz zu finden schien,

als wir davon aufwachten,
daß man unsere Stadt zerschoß.

Übersetzt von Hans-Henning Paetzke

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