Speech of Katalin Novák at the presidential election of Hungary – 10.03.2022


“Dear Mr Presidents, Fellow-Representatives, Dear Guests!

A new President is elected today. For most Hungarians today is just another Thursday. People get up in the morning, send their children to the kindergarten or school, go out to earn a living, study, worry about the sick and the safety of their families. And it will be from the evening news that they learn, if they do, that Hungary is going to have a new President. It is through you, democratically elected members of parliament, vested with a decision-making power, that Hungary is electing a new head of state today.

You are entitled to know who the person, for whom you can vote, is, and what that person has to say to the Hungarian people. I would continue with that, had the war not broken out to the utmost surprise of all of us. A war launched by Russia, a war, which cannot be defended, or explained, at all.

We were just about to regain the safety and freedom of the life we used to live before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. While we have mourned our losses, we were able to be happy to have each other again. And then this other devastating virus broke loose.

There is a war raging in a neighbouring country for fourteen days now. In a country where over the border Hungarians are living in fear for their lives and future.

Last week as Goodwill Ambassador of the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid, I visited Transcarpathia accompanied by four Hungarian bishops. I travelled there to let local residents know that Hungarians deciding to remain are at least as important for us as those who have left and as any other refugee from Ukraine.

What we see in these times of trouble is people joining forces. That is something we need very much in times of peace as well. Many take a few days off to go to the border to volunteer, thousands open their homes to refugees, churches and charity organisations help those in need, with the love and care they have been learning how to provide, for hundreds of years now. Our government, with so much experience in crisis management, is providing all of the necessary human, financial and other resources for alleviating the consequences of this tragedy.

Teachers, engineers come and help, blue-collar workers, nurses come and help, soldiers, and police officers come and help, and so do the young and the elderly. We help each other in these troubled times. I thank everyone for this!

Nothing is worse than war. It wants to set everything that is of value to us in a blaze. It advances against tranquillity, the safety and security of our everyday lives, today’s predictability and tomorrow’s joy. As our National Avowal states “... after the decades of the twentieth century which led to a state of moral decay, we have an abiding need for spiritual and intellectual renewal”. The same is true now after the events of the early 21st century that have led to moral decay on a global scale. What we need now is a kind of a spiritual and intellectual renewal.

Hungarians want peace. We, women, do not want to win the war, we want to win the peace. Because it is only in peace that one can prosper, build, plan, smile at one another. As Mother Teresa said: “Peace begins with a smile.”

For the majority today is not much different from yesterday. But to me, dear fellow Representatives, this is a very special day indeed.

When, I said “Yes” to my husband István twenty years ago, I knew but only partly understood, what it meant to forge a lifelong alliance. In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, in abundance and in hardship. I have been learning, since the birth of our son who is now eighteen, what it means that we undertook to have and that I was able to give birth to our children: Ádám, Tamás and Kata. These were the most profound decisions of my life, of our shared life.

I also took important decisions when I chose to become an economist and then went on to diplomacy and on to public life.

I thank János Martonyi for letting me learn the ins and outs of classical diplomacy from him. I will need that knowledge. Let me thank Zoltán Balog for providing me with professional opportunities at his ministry and for teaching me that the most important resource is God’s creation, that is, the human.

That I was tasked for eight years with working on providing Hungarian families with a secure future was a special gift to me. I am grateful for the two hundred thousand children to whose birth we could provide additional assistance. And I am also grateful for the seven hundred thousand children who would have been born even without such assistance. Looking beyond our state borders we can see that we had the honour of welcoming more than a million newborn Hungarian lives to this world in the last ten years.

Mr. Prime Minister, I thank you for having me on board in the nation building efforts!

One of us will go home today carrying a heavy but sweet burden, having to spend the next five years showing the real and beautiful face of this country with her life, work, appearance, the power of her words, her actions and, when necessary, with her silence. To help us find in each other what is common in us and to learn to long for what is ours.

If I must answer the question of who Katalin Novák is, I have to talk first about where I am coming from.

I am from Szeged and I belong to Szeged even if I have been living in the 11th district of Budapest since I have been eighteen. Without my grandparents’ stories I would not be the person I am. I wish I could hear once again my grandmother talking about how she managed to bring some food for her half-year-old baby while a Russian soldier pointed his machine gun at her. How proudly the party-devotee official was sitting behind the desk confiscated from them! How they took away the fruit of a whole life’s work from our family. Their stories about being a prisoner of war, about escaping, about finding one another, live on with me. I keep the memory of the burning heat of sand in Dorozsma, the flavour of the freshly picked raspberries of Ágasegyháza, the safety and security in my grandfather’s strong arms. My brother and I learned from Mom and Dad what they had also learned from their parents: the ability of getting on one’s feet, as well as integrity and honesty. They added an entrepreneurial spirit, knowledge and hard work to their legacy.

Many of my family are here with me today. Thank you for being here with us!

We can continue and we can start afresh at any time. We can build up and strengthen what is ours. As long as we have our hands and free will, we cannot be subdued. This is the very basis of our sovereignty. And family is the cradle of sovereignty.

I will never surrender sovereignty as regards our nation.

I can give up sovereignty only in my family and even there only some of it – to István Veres, who I am told should be referred to as First Gentleman in the coming years. But he remains István Veres.

We, women, raise children, tend to the sick, cook and work for two, if necessary, earn money, teach, receive Nobel prizes and clean windows. We know the power of words but are able to remain in the background and remain silent when it comes to that. And we protect our families even more fiercely than men, when it is threatened.

I wish to be a good President of Hungary not despite, but rather because of, being a woman.

I am preparing for actions. I am ready to take on any and all of the burdens coming with this position. Meanwhile, we will preserve the peace of our marriage and the security of our family.

As a mother and as a wife I will strive for this peace, understanding and security. I also wish to stand for peace as president.

I am a member of a generation that inherited a national autonomy ready to use, a generation that grew up in peace in Hungary. We did not have to risk our lives and futures for principles, for the freedom of thought and action. We will not allow anyone to play Russian roulette with our dearly obtained sovereignty.

We, patriotic men and women in our forties, view the world with Hungarian eyes, standing on Hungarian soil. We have a Hungarian worldview, even when we view the world as a whole.

Ours is a proud generation. We dare to walk holding our heads high. We are not impressed by anyone just because they speak English, and we can make it in foreign languages, and make it even abroad. And when abroad and being drawn home by our hearts, we have the courage to return.

We did not have to learn what it was like to live under Russian occupation but were given an opportunity what it means to be part of Europe “in instinct, blood, pain and passion”. Many of us have studied and lived in Western Europe. We do not wish to mimic that world but they have some good things that we should adapt. It is worth deciphering the secret of the English turf, even if the Hungarian meadow full of flowers is dearer to our hearts.

Hungary will never be another Switzerland. For us Lake Balaton is the Riviera, Mount Kékes is the ultimate summit, water is the mineral resource, educated people is the natural resource, Hungarian is our secret language and Bartók and Kodály are our brands in music, while our neighbours are our neighbours. We belong to Europe and Europe belongs to us. We cannot, and so will not, change this.

This is the home of the Hungarians. Because this is the only place where all good recipes start by “dice an onion and sauté it gently until golden”.

Dear Fellow Representatives,

Here I am, standing before the Hungarian nation. I know where I come from, who I am and what my job is. I have prepared for the daunting tasks ahead of me.

I have had enough time to think over what I am about to undertake.

I thank János Áder and his wife, Anita Hercegh for selflessly sharing with me their experience of the past ten years and even more, to help me.

Mr. Speaker, Dear (Kövér) László, Mr. Minister, Dear (Gulyás) Gergő, thank you for your friendship and all you have given me.

My job will be to elevate my fellow-Hungarians to the level where the self-evident cohesion among Hungarians exists. There, at that height, there is understanding, peace and security. I know, I will have to demonstrate that cohesion primarily, before everyone else. Primarily, but not alone.

I will have to represent every Hungarian. But how could I be every Hungarian? One cannot be everything and everyone. I will also remain who I am and I will use my talents for reaching out to those who need a message of peace and understanding.

And removing the cross from my necklace is not the way for me to represent those of other faiths; it is by holding it tightly to my heart and drawing strength from my belief for understanding others.

This is how I will visit families, including those with only one parent and those raising children with health problems.

I will support those who are protecting life from the moment of conception. As a true Christian I am, and will be, present in religious communities.

I will visit talented young people, Hungarians beyond the borders and those living in diaspora, and I will also be there in New York and Brussels, and any other capital city when we have to stand up for our interests.

I will take part in the lives of ethnic minorities in Hungary.

I will visit Roma Hungarians in settlements outside villages and I will be there in towns and villages.

I am not gearing up for a road show. I will simply be where I belong. I will be with those to whom I belong: the Hungarians.

Where will my first trip take me? Home, to our family.

And of course, as soon as I can, I would like to visit Warsaw, our Polish friends. There will be parliamentary elections and a referendum on 3 April. That will be crucial moment. For you too, for me as well, for all Hungarians. I am sure that neither those voting for the first time, nor those who have already voted many times, will lose sight of the nation’s interests and the future of our children.

One thing is sure: I will, if elected, stand on the foundations constituted by the Fundamental Law. I will observe its provisions and will have them observed by others too.

I will work not on bringing down the effective legal system but on maintaining it, as a guardian of constitutionality.

I regard the admonitions of our first king, Saint Stephen, as a benchmark. “Be merciful to all those who suffer violence. Be patient with everyone, not only with the mighty, but also with those who have no access to power. Be humble, gentle and honourable and chaste.”

Thank you for your attention!

Let there be peace, freedom and understanding.”