1095 Budapest, Bajor Gizi park 1. +361/476-6800
Written and compiled by György Lukácsy


A mystery play about the life of Count János Esterházy

Count, politician, father and martyr – János Esterházy is one of the few 20th century statesmen who set an example for us, despite his tragic life. The National Theatre presents the trajectory of the 'Star of the Uplands' (present-day Southern Slovakia) to mark the Memorial Year commemorating the 120th anniversary of the birth of 'God's Servant János Esterházy'.

What nourishes the faith of a man who loses everything – career, family, liberty – because of his principles, and yet is never heard complaining, even when he realises he will perish far from home in a Czechoslovak prison? János Esterházy was the most consistent advocate for the Hungarian cause in the post-Trianon Uplands. He stood up for Hungarian interests and equally for Slovak minority rights. When Governor Miklós Horthy entered Kassa (Kosice) following the First Vienna Award in 1938, he was welcomed by a jubilant crowd in the flower-adorned main square. János Esterházy lent dignity to the jubilation by calling for self-restraint: 'We Hungarians who stayed here promise to extend a hand to our Slovak brothers and sisters and to work with them for a better future. I ask the Hungarians to treat the national sentiments of the Slovaks annexed here with the utmost respect and to grant them the sort of life that we demand to be granted over there.'

He remained loyal to his conscience and walked the straight path, standing up to Nazi ideology. He would be duly punished for his good deeds. In 1942, he was the only member of the Slovak Parliament to say no to the law on the deportation of Jews, 'because as a Hungarian, as a Christian, and as a Catholic, I consider this bill to be godless and inhumane'. He personally saved Jewish families in the unfolding Holocaust, and stated publicly that 'our sign is the cross, as opposed to the swastika'. Obviously, he was persecuted by the Gestapo for this position, but less obviously, he would also be persecuted and arrested by the occupying Soviets, and sent to the gulags for two years of forced labour. Upon his return, he was first sentenced to death for no stated reason by communist Czechoslovakia, then 'as a clemency gesture', his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He died in prison.

The outdoor premiere of the biographical drama Homecoming was presented by the National Theatre Company on 18 September 2020 at the János Esterházy Pilgrimage Centre of Alsóbodok.

Premiere: October 2022 * Attila Kaszás Hall

28 October 2022