Remembering Márta Kosály

by Márta Boros Horváth

Marta Kosaly was a longtime member of the Hungarian American Association of Washington. She was also my friend, my dear girlfriend for many years.

Marta immigrated to the US, to Seattle in 1980 with her husband, Professor George Kosaly and their daughter Panni, who was in her early 20s. Even before they came to Seattle, Professor Kosaly was offered a position at the University of Washington as Professor of Nuclear Physics, so the Kosalys came to a job that was waiting for them. 

They were sponsored by a Christian family, even though the Kosalys were of Jewish faith and the two families remained good friends for many years. Marta liked to reminisce how they celebrated Christmas together and sang the traditional Christmas songs around the Christmas tree. She was one of the first among my family and friends each year to send me a Christmas card.  

Marta did not waste any time once they settled in Seattle. She enrolled at the university to fulfill her lifetime dream to become a psychologist, a therapist. She already had a degree from the Eötvös Lóránd University of Budapest (ELTE) as a Hungarian-Romanian language teacher. She worked as the Chief Editor at Panorama publishing company of travel guidebooks. But her dream was to become a therapist so she enrolled in Seattle Pacific University and earned her new degree, a master’s degree, for which she had to study in English, of course.

I met her in 1984 just after she received her new diploma. She attended the Hungarian folk-dance event that Sue Isely organized at the Kane Hall at the UW. Marta sought me out and introduced herself. I remember how impressed I was with that petite, bright-eyed woman and her accomplishment, how I admired her for her sharp mind. She wanted exposure for her new business and generously offered her services to the new Hungarian immigrants and members of our community. Eventually, she did free workshops for them on culture shock and how to adjust to life in America.  

This was the beginning of our personal friendship.  But before that, she offered to help with the Hungarian editing of our articles in our newsletter, the HÍREK. She accepted the opportunity for volunteer work without hesitation and continued to assist us for many years in our HÍREK work and in 1995-96 with the editing of our book “The First Ten Years”, published by the Association. Her knowledge of the Hungarian language was one that I could always trust without hesitation. 

I don’t remember when, but we got into the habit of going out to lunch. We frequented a Chinese restaurant on Aurora until Marta requested that we should meet in our homes instead of a restaurant because her hearing was giving her trouble in a public place. We both liked good food, we shared recipes and prepared fancy lunches for each other. She appreciated my cooking and baking to the very end. When she had difficulty eating, she still asked for my homemade Tiramisu. 

She and George were a great couple, they complemented each other so well. They came to my 50th birthday bash, given to me by my generous boyfriend of the time. I still remember her present to me on that occasion, as I still hang on to some of the gifts that she brought when she came to lunch to my home. I, in turn, was invited to her retirement party where her colleagues and family was celebrating her when her second carrier ended.

Marta was passionate. I recall an incident over an article, a story that someone submitted to the HÍREK for publication in our Christmas issue. Marta became very upset upon reading it. She felt that the author was racially prejudiced against Romanians; in the story against a young Romanian boy who resided with the author and his wife in Transylvania.  Marta was very adamant that we should not publish this story, which on her advice we didn’t. The author then felt upset with Sue and me as editors of the HÍREK for censoring his story, but we did not want to hurt any possible members whose spouses might have been Transylvanian Romanians. 

Eventually, I shared my most intimate secrets with her, and I knew that they were in good hands with her, that she would never use them against me. We also shared stories about our children and grandchildren. She never complained about her family or her co-workers in contrast to me, who poured out my problems to her freely. But we didn’t just talk of problems, we enjoyed each other’s company and laughed a lot, too.

When I worked at JC Penney at Northgate Mall, sometimes she would stop by the store and we visited at my desk on the sales floor, talking Hungarian and laughing so much that we made my colleagues jealous. It turned out, as one of my male colleagues shared with me, that he and his wife were patients of Marta when they experienced marital problems. 

She also came to give a talk to my Single Catholics group that I belonged to at one time, and for a year I was the coordinator and program planner. She was well received by my group.

Marta was an avid reader; she loved the Hungarian language and she read Hungarian books and magazines all the time. She prescribed to a Hungarian literary paper (Élet és Irodalom) until her passing. When she was unable to do much physically, she relied on reading and asked me to bring books to her from my Hungarian book collection. As her health declined, I would visit her regularly, and bring her 3-4 new books at every visit, along with some homemade goodies. She was so grateful for everything but would worry, what if I were to run out of books for her to read. I never did.

One of the humorous things that we both laughed about happened last fall, during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. I was supposed to come to visit her and realizing that my visit fell on the week of the Sukkot, I decided that I should prepare something “Jewish” for her. So, I set out to bake a challah, a sweet Jewish bread, like the Hungarian braided egg bread. I looked for authentic recipe online and set out to do the raised lightly sweet, braised bread. The recipe called for a kind of coarse crystal sugar, mixed with lemon peel to sprinkle on top that would not melt in the oven during baking. I had no such thing in my pantry, but I found some coarse crystal sugar that was for decorating Christmas cookies, and it was red. So, I sprinkled the red sugar, mixed with the lemon peel on top of my challah. It did not melt during baking but boy, it was VERY red in the end. I posted a photo of it on Facebook and a Jewish friend remarked that he’s never seen such red challah in his life! So, Marta and I had a reason for a good laugh, once again! 

Since her passing on December 2, 2022, I think of her often. Even my daughter mentions her often, especially when she wants to remind me of some of Marta’s advice to me.  

I will miss you my friend very much. I will miss your intelligent, sharp mind, your witty personality, your generous nature, our sharing of food, our culture, our language and your humor.

Her son-in law mentioned in his farewell to her that Marta wanted 3 Beatles songs played at her memorial. One of them was “All you need is love”. I loved you, Marta and always will!

On behalf of the HAAW and myself I would like to express our heartfelt condolences to her devoted daughter, son-in-law and her loving grandchildren. May she rest in peace and may her memory be a blessing. 

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