Éva was born in a village called Hortobágy in 1917. In those years, her agriculturist father was the director of the Hortobágy branch of Fish Farming Plc. (Haltenyésztő Rt.). From 1922 he was working in Budapest, still at the same company as the chief administrator of pond farming. At first, the family settled in Nagytétény, then they moved to Budapest in 1924.

They rented their first apartment in Budapest on the mezzanine level of 40 Márvány Street. The house was originally commissioned by Róbert Hámos, an official of the Hungarian General Credit Bank, and his wife Margit Sturm, and was built in 1907 to the design of architect Zoltán Reiss. In 1924, Éva's family, which had grown to five members (and then reduced to three again in 1927 with the death of the younger siblings), moved into a two-room apartment in the Hertelendy Street wing of the house, which was still advertised as a modern tenement building in the 1930s.

Information about the layout and equipment of the apartment is only available from 1941, when the family already lived elsewhere: in addition to the two wooden-floored rooms facing the street, it had a maid's room with plank flooring, a bathroom, a flush toilet, a kitchen and a pantry. Water, electricity and gas were also installed.

After the detached house in Nagytétény, the "two-room prison flat" (HU BFL XIV.210 Éva's diary, 1931–1934) of the tenement house in Márvány street meant a radical change, with its bugs and "stuffy concrete courtyard" (HU BFL XIV.210 Éva's note, 18 September 1961). For the time being, the family members only dreamed of a better home: “We'll look at the villa raffled off to subscribers of the Új Idők [magazine], and see if we can win it.” (HU BFL XIV.210 Éva's note, 18 September 1961) Éva commuted to Pest, to the Girls' Grammar School of the Loreto Sisters, and it was only in 1935, the year of her graduation, that the family decided to move.

"At 10 o'clock there was already a viewing, and there were two yesterday, but they all find it too expensive as they want to rent it for 1,200 pengő per year. They also have the excuse that it's dark, damp and close to the basement, in a secluded spot. I'm not saying they're wrong." (HU BFL XIV.210 Letter from Éva to her grandmother, Mrs. Zsigmond Simonyi, [1935])

The apartment was eventually occupied by a lady clerk, who paid only 1,000 pengő in rent, according to the 1941 rent sheet.

In the letter quoted, Éva listed among the advantages of moving that they did not have to take care of the renovation of the Márvány Street flat, which was long overdue, since, contrary to the previous practice, the landlords had all the necessary work done before the new tenant moved in:

"If we had stayed here, we would have had to paint, and fix the stove in the autumn, because it didn't give us enough warmth anymore, and in the new place the landlady does everything, and that's the way it is everywhere now. Here our successor will have a completely renovated flat, unlike us, who moved on the last day possible, arrived dead as a doornail, and lived in the dirt and mess for 3 weeks, and paid for everything, about 250 P[engő]. Times have changed!" (HU BFL XIV.210 Letter from Éva to her grandmother, Mrs. Zsigmond Simonyi, [1935.])

The most important events of the period of apartment-hunting and moving were recorded in Éva's diary. She paints a picture of the ways they used to look for a flat: they went to the parts of the city where they could imagine living, looked at the advertisements posted on the doors, rang the janitor who showed them the flats for rent. The family found their new home quickly, but the terse entries show that Éva found these few days of roaming around a torture. Renting a new apartment was possible at the beginning of the so-called rental quarter, as in, the beginning of a quarter year, so the family only had a few days to find a new home. This time pressure explains the tension in Éva's words and the relief that followed their success:

7 May “In the afternoon, Vica and I went looking for an apartment in Lipótváros, and in the evening we went to Magda Rózsa's dance party."

9 May “Looking for an apartment in Buda today, we found one at 14 Hunyadi Road. I'm exhausted.”

10 May “Of course the flat is rubbish.”

11 May “Apartment-hunting. There is a nice but expensive one at 12 Hunyadi [Road]. I am completely exhausted; I cried a lot."

12 May “We were looking at apartments today, too. Maybe we'll take the one at nr. 12. It’s time!”

13 May “We rented the apartment in the evening. I feel awfully relieved.”

19 May “In the morning, Dad and I were doing some measuring in the new apartment.”

4 June “Today we were at the apartment, then we went for a walk in the Castle [District] with Mum and Dad.”

22 July “Today they disconnected the electricity and gas. We did some packing.”

23 July “Moving, packing.”

(HU BFL XIV.210 Éva’s diary, 1935.)

Éva informed her grandmother, who lived in the countryside, in great detail about this period, the difficulties of finding a flat, the high prices, the poor housing stock and the spacious home they luckily found in a much more elegant neighbourhood, at 12 Hunyadi János Road, under the Fisherman's Bastion, built in 1911 according to the plans of architect József Riva. What attracted the young girl to the apartment were its good environment, its beautiful and panoramic views (the upper floors are no longer there, having been demolished after the Second World War), its spaciousness and brightness, and the renovation work undertaken by the owner:

"We spent all afternoon last Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday looking for a flat, a terrible ordeal I must say! We came home exhausted in the evenings, looked at 10 flats in total and inquired about 10 more, they were usually expensive, especially in Pest – I looked there too – e.g. on the beautiful Pest Danube promenade they asked 1,700 for a 2-bedroom one, and in one of the dirty Jewish streets of Lipótváros, 2,400 for 3 bedrooms. I fled, of course. And anything that would have been cheap enough, 1,200-1,300 pengő, was hiding something wrong. There was a beautiful 3-room apartment, but the kitchen and the hallway were the size of, say, a third of Grandma's pantry. Unbelievably tiny. Then there were damp flats, dirty, unkempt, bathroomless monstrosities, foul smells etc., they were bad even for a fantasy. But the main thing is the good outcome: the nice, big flat in a great location. The kitchen and hall look out over the Castle and Matthias Church, the balcony overlooks the Danube, the other windows look far over the rooftops, and the sun shines in, but there are no nasty people staring in from across the street, so we can do without curtains for the time being.

The apartment is situated high enough, but not higher than Aunt Margit's; 100 comfortable stairs, and the lack of an elevator is not so bad either. We have 3 good tiled stoves. The landlord will paint the flat, doors and windows for us and we can move in in July, no extra charge. Miklós Huzella (Uncle Pali's brother) lives with his family on the ground floor of the house opposite, they have a sweet little girl of about 4 years old, very nice family. And in the nearby Fő Street live Mici (Uncle Sanyi's daughter) and her family, you know them, how nice they are. Mum wants to settle Marcsi and her family in that area too, then there will be a whole circle of relatives there. When Grandma comes up to Pest, she'll be our guest now, won't she?"

The letter also captures the joy and anticipation of a young girl planning to move and furnish her first room:

"The street is quiet, the apartment is spacious, maybe even a little too spacious, but never mind, over time we will just get the necessary furniture, carpets etc., I will be busy with handicrafts (if I have time), I will enjoy furnishing the apartment! I am very happy. We've got some general clutter clearing to do, but I'm planning to use up all the usable little bits of fabric for colourful, fun sofa cushions for the future lunar (?) sofa. Aunt Rolla does it that way too and that's why her apartment is so lush. Of course, cleaning and dusting will be my job now, but I wouldn't let anyone else have ‘my room’. Mum says ‘it's just a phase’ for me, but I hope for my own sake that I'm getting a bit more grown-up." (HU BFL XIV.210. Letter from Éva to her grandmother, Mrs. Zsigmond Simonyi, [1935])

Rolla was the aunt of Éva, a bank clerk who lived with her husband and daughter in a three-room apartment with a maid’s room on the fourth floor of a tenement building in Ferencváros, in Mester Street. While the family’s apartment is a model in Éva's letter, her cousin Leila, a year older than her, was not happy with her own home. Her father had held important positions and had not earned badly, as a retired teacher he had been the manager and then liquidator of the Budapest Metropolitan Market Cashier Ltd., later secretary and then branch manager of the Budapest Metropolitan Municipal Savings Bank. But wealth was relative, the teenage girl longed for a better and carefree life, a nicer apartment, goods that her family could not provide. After a visit to her businessman uncle's villa in Kapy Street in the Rózsadomb district, at the age of seventeen, she wrote in her diary:

"When we came home, I was in a strange mood. Well, that's it then. That's what money gets you. And at home I saw the shortcomings of our flat a hundred times more clearly [...] And now we've decided to spend everything on the flat on the first of the month ... The flat is important now, because I want to have a few parties in the winter and I want the flat to be in order by then. Because our flat is nice already, but my room has furniture in two different colours and in four different styles..." (HU BFL XIV.210 Diary of Leila Vozáb, 27 June 1933)

In the years after moving in, Éva's room was constantly being remodelled and beautified. After her graduation – due to her father's illness and the family's poor financial situation – she did not continue her studies, despite her earlier intentions, but took a job. First, she worked as a typist and stenographer for the weekly newspaper Nagy-Budapest, then as a secretary for András Csilléry, the chairman of the Hungarian Life Christian Municipality Party. From July 1940 she worked for the capital – in the presidential, then in the cultural department, in the mayor's office and finally at the National Council of Budapest. She started her career in the capital as a daily wage worker, and in addition to her daily salary of 4, 4.5 and then 5.76 pengő from August 1941, her poems, short stories and essays published in conservative newspapers in Budapest also provided her with some income, and she was able to spend a little on furnishing and decorating her room.

"I had a nice Christmas. [...] Daddy made a mood lamp out of a nice old petroleum lamp, together with Uncle Sanyi they made a bookcase – I did a big tidying up before the holiday. [...] With my salary I bought a vase and a crocheted tablecloth for the bookshelf.

My room is getting nicer – slowly but surely. I am so happy! The tulle curtains were washed by Mum, but the home ironing was unsuccessful, we had them dry cleaned and now they look better than ever. – I have a tiny but pretty little Christmas tree next to my recliner. If the good Lord helps me to get a job, I can continue to build my nest, buy a small table, a mirror and have one or two pictures framed. It is such a joy to have such a slowly beautifying place that I can call »mine«! Perhaps even happier would be a home with a husband and children!" (HU BFL XIV.210 Letter from Éva to her grandmother, Mrs. Zsigmond Simonyi, 23 December 1938)

The family lived in the apartment on Hunyadi János Road for only four years. The owner terminated the lease in 1939, after which the entire floor was rented by the command of the Royal Hungarian Air Force, so the 1941 census apartment data sheet does not contain any information about the apartment.

At 21, Éva was very concerned about getting married, starting a family and building her own little nest. She took the idea that appeared at the end of the previous part of the letter further in her diary entry, written shortly before, which testifies to the taste of a middle-class young girl with primarily conservative thinking and values, but also open to the trends and novelties of the time, and to the interior design trends of the era – she imagined a Hungarian-style dining room and an Empire-style living room in her future home.

Yesterday morning we were at the interior design fair with Deli and Bogyó. I bought a bijoux brooch for 1 pengő and a sausage. The fee I got for my poem published in Új Idők was gone. I saw a lot of nice things, like a Hungarian dining room for 680.

If I got married, I could furnish my flat for three thousand pengő. A Hungarian dining room – with Hungarian rustic tableware –, so I don't need silver. It costs one thousand. – And the main attraction would be an Empire-style room: designed and made to fit our glass cabinet. Greek, curved recamier, not heavy, but on slender legs. 2 armchairs in the same style, – in the colour yellow. Some kind of yellow. Table, pouf. – Wardrobe to match the display case, secretaire and bookcases. Persian rugs.

I was wondering about this – I planned, I counted at night, around 10-12pm sleeplessly.

I'm not getting married anyway. Three thousand pengő?" (HU BFL XIV.210 Eva's diary, 6 September 1938)

But Éva's journey has not yet led to her own home. In 1939, after they had to leave the apartment on Hunyadi János Road, she moved with her parents to the house of Gyula Blattner, a master glazier, and his wife at 2 Donáti Street. In the early 1910s and 1920s, the so-called Symposions, the ancient history-themed costume parties of Ervin Baktay and his artist friends, had taken place in the studio of the Blattners' son, puppeteer Géza Blattner, in the house. Éva's painter uncle and, from the mid-1920s, her father were also members of this group, and it was through this acquaintance that they came to the Donáti Street apartment during this period of housing shortage.

14 February "Our lease is cancelled, the Aviation Authority is taking the apartment."

15 February "Apartment hunting in the morning, we ended up at the Blattner house at noon. He will call us back."

February 19 "Apartment check at the Blattner house. 1st floor. 3 rooms, 1320 P[engő]. Sunny, overlooking Hunyadi Road. I shall have a large room." (HU BFL XIV.210 Éva's diary, 1939.)

The two-storey Romantic tenement house on the corner of Donáti Street and Hunyadi János Road was built in 1859-1860, so it was not modern at all. The apartment was of a similar quality to the family's previous home: it consisted of three rooms facing the street, a kitchen, a pantry, a bathroom and an entrance hall, and the toilet was also in the apartment. They paid 1320 pengő a year. In a letter, Éva evocatively described the ambience of the apartment:

"The growing moon is looking through my window; by the way, it should be part of the site description that we live opposite the start of the steps leading up to the Fisherman's Bastion, behind the steps is a small park and the tree-covered side of Castle Hill, far up Hunyadi János Road (that's where our apartment is facing), with bus number 16 making a lot of noise. It's a bit different from Pest, so I like it." (HU BFL XIV.210 Letter from Éva to István Nemes, 28 August 1941)

Although she bought many furnishings and ornaments for her room on Hunyadi János Road, which she certainly took with her to their new home, the decoration of her living space was not completed even two years after the move:

"Did I tell you [...] that I am investing the P.H. [Pesti Hírlap] money in a chandelier? Or, more precisely, I am uphanging it. I bought a bronze, 6-armed Dutch piece, one of those candle things, you know; for Christmas I'll buy two more wall sconces. I can understand your antique sofa-buying inspiration, – I've been building my nest for 3 years, I often run out of patience, there's so much missing, and I've already spent so much." (HU BFL XIV.210 Éva's letter to István Nemes, 8 November 1941)

In 1941 Éva visited the exhibition of Debrecen painters in the National Salon. She reported her experiences in a letter, which contains further details about her tastes and interior design ideas, as well as the works of art that decorated her room:

“In the first exhibition hall, I was captivated by Kálmán Szabó Gáborjáni’s fresco-sized, colourful, brilliant canvases. [...] His woodcuts almost tempted me, for 15 pengő! But on the one hand I didn't have the money, and on the other hand [...] My brother Zsiga has a very good series of lead engravings. I have four of them on the wall. I like them. But it would be too much black if I bought woodcuts. I have 3 etchings from Zsiga from his best days in Paris, and a sweet Haranghy etching, I am generally a great lover of prints." (HU BFL XIV.210 Éva's letter to István Nemes, [1941.])

During these years, Éva was engaged twice. Although neither relationship ended in marriage, the months of engagement were spent planning a life and a home together. The homes on Hunyadi János Road and Donáti Street were in line with the earlier middle-class housing ideal, but in the 1930s and 1940s they were no longer considered modern. Although Éva liked the atmosphere of the neighbourhood near the Castle District and the spacious apartments in the old houses, she imagined her new life in early 1941 in a two-room apartment in a modern, centrally heated house in Buda. She did not want to give up her job, so she also wanted a domestic servant and a maid's room. She wanted to furnish the apartment at least partly with modern furniture and to decorate it with folk textiles in keeping with the Hungarian interior design of the period.

"Do you know I'm also looking for a 2-bedroom apartment? And somewhere in Buda. For the time being, since it will only be relevant in the autumn, I'll get my information from the newspapers. For example, at Horthy Circus, a modern 2-bedroom apartment with heating and a hall for 2,650 p[engő]. Nice, eh? That's 220 a month. You will turn crazy if you really start to think about it. And old ones are hard to come by. But I thought about the Tomcsányi's flat, because they're looking for a bigger one. It's 3 bedrooms, nice and spacious, but I don't think it's very sunny. They pay about 1,400. I think they'll be out of there by spring. You can ask Klári for the time being. Then I heard that there are modern houses in Biblia Street (District 11, opposite the ev.[angelical] church, very nice place!), public heating only in the bathroom (this is silly!), and relatively not too expensive, at least for us. A flat that would be suitable for us is about 1,500 p[engő]. It is true that you still have to count the heating, so it goes up a lot. The cheapest modern area is Thököly Road, Amerikai Road, where the number 7 bus takes you. I can't say it's very sympathetic to me, but after all, it's close to the Liget, and one just has to bite the bullet. There the prices of the aforementioned apartments are around 1,400. Of course, there are expensive places too, I've heard that in Retek Street, at Széna Square, they pay 2,200 for 2 bedrooms with heating. Don't call me stupid or boring for returning to the tought of Marica [Kundt Marica], who lives opposite Sashegy, on Budaörsi Road, in a 1-room flat with a maid's room. The hall is so large, and has a glass wall that opens all the way, that it counts as two rooms. The maid's room is also large, sunny and beautiful. She pays 108 pengő a month for it, with heating and everything. There is no maid, she gets up at 6 a.m. and cleans up before going to the office. They always order food, so they spare a lot of money. – I could do this myself, but I hate takeaway food, and such hard work is not for my physique. On the other hand, the servant options are terrible. I'd like to seduce Aunt Margit's good old helper Magda, but that's not fair. She could offer her as a wedding present, though, since she, being an old housewife, could train a new ‘donna’ more easily than I, young and inexperienced. [...] Mum has to sell some of the common family land to provide me with 1 room. [...] My mother also got married in the war, that's why she couldn't get a proper trousseau. There was no silver or proper tableware, so I had to accumulate everything from scratch. And today, furniture prices are also rising fantastically. We had planned on Dénes receiving some payments until September, and I would save what I could until then. In any case, I can't marry without bringing any money, for his family's sake, and for Dénes' sake, because I know our marriage will be rubbed in his face a lot, especially if they see that I have a shortage of money. [...]

Last year I fell in love with the style of the New Hungarian Home exhibition, the furniture, it was absolutely modern, I want something like that. Most young couples nowadays buy the so-called "modern biedermeier" – light cherry wood, colourful upholstery. It's nice, and at first, I was crazy about it, but since I can suddenly think of at least 5 places that all have it, almost off the rack, without individuality, I don't want it anymore. But it would suit my Empire dining room. I want unique furniture, sleek, practical, modern. Another disadvantage of a colourful upholstery is that it doesn't match any kind of needlework. But I'm in love with Transylvanian and folk embroidery in general. I have a red inscription-embroidered wall hanging, a Kalocsa cushion and an embroidered one with inscription. I'd like Dénes’s room to be brown, dark, and have something with upholstery, but not fabric, in a solid colour. Like green or tobacco brown. In fact, a cheap solution would be an uncovered sofa bed, with a bed linen holder, covered with a colourful Transylvanian rug instead of a cover, Transylvanian rugs, wrought iron lamps, here and there beautiful, serious ceramics. His tastes are not overdeveloped, but he is cautiously accepting of my wildly innovative intentions. For example, at Marica's, whom I have talked about at length above, there are only Torontál rugs, including, for example, ones made of rags. They did not have the funds for Persian rugs. I would like to have some of those, I saw some beautiful ones from the Gödöllő carpet weaving workshop at the Christmas craft exhibition, Hungarian, really Hungarian Persian rugs. [...] D. insists on sleeping next to each other, I mean in my room I'm designing the divan to be convertible, like the one in your green salon –- tell me, is that comfortable and practical enough?” (HU BFL XIV.210 Éva’s letter to Éva Paleta, 15 January 1941)

Éva finally got married in 1944. Her husband worked in the film industry in the 1940s, preparing to become a director. Their life together in the last months of the war began under very different circumstances than she had previously imagined. She followed her husband to his duty station in Pécs, and as the front approached, they fled together, becoming prisoners of war in Yugoslavia. From there they returned to Budapest in 1945, a few months apart. They moved into the three-room apartment, equipped with a maid’s room, of the husband's mother, who had died in 1945, at 12 Fadrusz Street, and soon afterwards they took Éva's mother, who had been widowed, with them.

Founded by Centrum House Building and Real Estate Company, the four-storey Napudvar (lit. ‘sun court’) was built in 1927-1928 by the Napudvar Housing Cooperative on two plots at the corner of Fadrusz Street and Bartók Béla Road, with a front garden and a landscaped courtyard. It was designed by István Medgyaszay, whose distinctively Hungarian style can also be seen on this house, which is decorated with folk art-inspired sgraffito. As luck would have it, Éva was able to move into a relatively new, modern home in a district of the capital that was being built up shortly before the war. But in the second half of the 1940s, she was already pining for something different.

Éva’s father spent the early, formative years of his childhood in Megyer, belonging to the noble estate of Fót, where, as her sister Janka recalls, they lived in an idyllic rural setting surrounded by animals and plants. It is a testimony to his longing for a life close to nature that, while he was still active, towards the end of his life, in 1941, he and his wife bought a small orchard in Óbuda, which was the only item in his estate inventory. Éva spent her earliest years in Hortobágy and Nagytétény. Later, in adulthood, although her work and lifestyle kept her tied to the city, she longed for a garden and animals. The family only lived in Fadrusz Street for a few years, and in 1949 they moved to a house with a garden in a settlement, which was then still in the Buda area, but was annexed to Budapest the following year, and which they bought a few years later. In a letter written two decades later, she took a biblical story and, using old-fashioned language, elevated their last move to the level of myth, presenting it as a divine miracle that not only gave them the garden they had longed for, but also saved them from forced displacement:

"We lived in a large apartment on the third floor of Fadrusz Street in the 11th district, with my widowed mother and I helping each other. I was pregnant with my second son in the summer of '49. We were on holiday in my brother-in-law's ex-mansion ‘out of mercy’, [...] My son was 2 years old at the time, standing in the tall grass, unable to move for astonishment. Then [G.], still in my womb, told me that he didn't want to be born in an apartment upstairs, to have rushed walks, to mould in the corner – he wanted to be a child of nature. I started to look for a new flat /at that time it was still possible to sell the old one and buy a new one/. Nobody understood my vehemence, my obsession – this flat in Buda is so beautiful, they said ... I need a garden, I said uncompromisingly. Well, we had already missed out on several possibilities, my spouse was already on my back, scolding me for my stubbornness, I could look at one more address, and then we'd stay! –- such was his ultimatum. That last address was in [...]. Someone persuaded me not to be afraid, it was 10 minutes from the [...] terminus. Next year it will be part of Greater Budapest, they said. –- Nice, unique, 4-bedroom, large detached house with a garden... We moved there in October of ‘49. We ceased to be residents of the capital for a short time. Years later, I learned that this was what saved me from the fate that, for example, Ficsu had to endure. – Those who moved to the countryside voluntarily, were spared by the authorities; since the Fadrusz Street apartment was in the name of my late father-in-law, being a ministerial adviser, we would have been in the category [of people chosen for forced displacement]. Tell me, is this not a story like that [Biblical] dream: ‘rise, take the child...’?

It's an eerie thought, what if? – Such things only strengthen one's inner resolve and faith. – Then there was the time when we took in a lodger because we were afraid of arbitrary resettlement [...] and then for a few years we were always moving house in our sleep because the landlord wanted to sell the house, and you can't give notice, but the uncertainty was nerve-wracking. Finally, in the summer of 1965, we came to an agreement, we, the residents, bought the whole thing. – It was a tough business, but at least it solved the children's future housing problem." (HU BFL XIV.210 Éva’s letter to Nadine Szilassy, 15 February 1967)

Éva lived in this house until her death in the 1980s. She began her life in a detached house and ended her life in a detached house.

Anikó Lukács (Translation from Hungarian: Barbara Szij)