Eulogy by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the funeral of Gyula Tellér

24 June 2023, Budapest

Bereaved Family, Fellow Mourning Congregants,

I stand here with a heavy heart. It is as if I am a sailor who has suddenly realised that the star by which his ship has been guided for decades has vanished from the sky. We are bidding farewell to Gyula Tellér, a brilliant literary translator and an outstanding scholar. We are bidding farewell to Gyula Tellér, our friend and our master. That alone is something honourable and beautiful, but, above and before all that, Gyula Tellér was our brother-in-arms.

Fellow Mourners, 

When standing by the coffin of someone who passed away at the age of eighty-eight, one’s first thought is this: Did he live a full life? What, indeed, is a full life? To live, and to love life. To strive to make life beautiful and good for ourselves and those we love. To love and want to be loved. To rejoice. To enjoy the beauties of life. To experience deep joy, free of anxiety or worry. To rejoice at friends, to be happy about ourselves, and to be surprised that others are not happy. Well, this is what a full and fulfilled life can be like. This is what it can be like if you are not Hungarian. 

But if you are Hungarian, the situation is different. If you are Hungarian, a beautiful, joyful, happy and celebrated life is not the same as a full life. Something is missing. And that which is missing is precisely what gives life weight, gravity and true consequence. If you were born Hungarian, you belong to a unique and special nation. You speak a certain language, you use a certain frame of mind when placing yourself within the world and the world within you, and you organise your life according to certain truths and laws that are unique to us. If you were born Hungarian, you belong to an endangered species: one that so many people in so many ways and for so long have tried to eliminate – such that our very existence is a political statement. There are still some of us who understand this. There are some of us who not only understand it, but who also align our lives with it. And we fight. Our life is a fight. There are Hungarians, many millions of honest Hungarians, who do not know about the huge battles and massive grinding wheels within which they live their lives. And there are a few of us – perhaps more than we tend to think – who know and understand why they live the way they do, and the reason for what is happening to them and their country. Gyula Tellér belonged here, in this circle, among us, in “the fight club”. This is why he was our brother-in-arms.

Fellow Mourners, 

There are those who are weighed down by knowledge, by understanding the world the Hungarian way. With understanding comes responsibility. And this responsibility is heavy. It weighs down on one and makes one downcast. But Gyula Tellér was not weighed down nor made downcast by it. The greatest lesson he taught me, the greatest knowledge he gave me, the greatest secret he shared with me, was to understand the weight of life, to fight for the Hungarians’ truth, and meanwhile to see and enjoy the beauty of life. Because during the day we may be waist-deep in blood – our opponents’ and our own; but in the evening we translate lines of French poetry that pay soul-stirring homage to the beauty of the female body. And we will not drink bad wine, and we will not fall into melancholy under the weight of our burdens. We will not deprive ourselves of the joy of living, nor give our adversaries the joy of seeing us living dreary, sullen lives. Why should we? After all, the fight we are engaged in is a good fight. And although we do not know when this fighting will end, we can rejoice every day in the battles won, because we have done something good for others, or our friend has been touched by some joy, or we have brought to light some previously hidden interrelationship, or we have weakened the ranks of our opponent, or we have just won an election and formed a government – or simply another Hungarian has been born somewhere, and another outpost exists. And we are happy because we are successful, because we are here, and we are alive, and thus we are already on the verge of victory in the great historic battle for the survival of the Hungarians. Thank you, Brother Gyula, for teaching, explaining and showing us all this.

Dear Friend,

I have come here today to bid you farewell and, as Prime Minister of Hungary, to tell you once again how grateful we are for everything you have done for us, for our political community, and for our country. We became Members of Parliament together in 1990: thirty-three years ago. What journeys we had! What an adventure it was, My Dear Friend! What a wild, fantastic adventure of laughter and tears! And what a triumph! This is in no way devalued by the fact that this is not yet the final triumph, or by the fact that there may be no final triumph in this world. We shall see. In the meantime, we thank you for helping the broad national coalition to emerge after 1994 from the shattered heap of rubble that remained of the civic forces, the Right, the Christian side, the conservative side, the side of ordinary people. We thank you for the fact that in 1998 we were able to block the communist restoration. What a world it would be today if you had not stood with us there on that flood barrier. Thank you for helping to prevent us – after four years of government and defeat – from falling apart like a loose sheaf, as the first Christian, national camp did in 1994. Thank you for helping us, over the following eight years, to avoid being driven by the desire for sweet revenge, but instead to prepare ourselves intellectually and according to a programme for the tests that would await us after victory. Thank you for giving us a blueprint for dismantling the system that was in operation up until 2010, a blueprint which you called “the system for changing the system”. It was a plan for how to dismantle the economic and financing structures, for how to dismantle the usury circles that were plundering Hungary and keeping it in debt slavery. Thank you for always straightforwardly warning us that there is such a thing as the national interest – and that therefore it needed to be represented, because otherwise the moral decay would be unstoppable – and that we also had a responsibility to morally re-equip Hungarian society.

Our opponents declared you to be the “Orbán system’s” chief ideologist, and I considered this to be a great honour. To us you were even more than this and more important than this; but they did not know, because they could not know. You left us at the age of eighty-eight. There are some of us here who have passed the age of sixty. From here it is clear that sooner or later we will follow you. Now, once more, you can help us. May your memory and example help us not to descend into self-pity. Do not let us be overwhelmed by self-pity as a result of your death, which proves the finite nature of this life on earth. For if we were, how could we continue the fight? And if we could not, how could we remain worthy of your friendship and your memory? Do not let us forget that you were a fighter and that you departed as a fighter. Even when I stood by your bedside, you only wanted to talk about what must be done in relation to the war and what spiritual threats we must nip in the bud. Therefore our tears now are not tears of self-pity, but simply grief at the absence of this great warrior.

And so we bid you farewell. Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in the battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. “May God rebuke him”, we humbly pray. And thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. And strengthen Thy warriors who fight in Thy cause here on earth, and take to Thyself those who have passed away from us.

Brother Gyula, farewell!