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Global Recession: Linda (31), Hungary

 INSP 26 July 2019

"I am Linda and I am 31 years old. I live in Budapest, Hungary with my husband and one-and-half-year-old son. At the moment, we can just about pay the bills and we still have food on the table, but soon we will have to decide which one is more important." (975 Words) - By Adam Horvath

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INSP_HUNGARY1

"Our son is my only happiness." Linda and her family, like many others in Hungary, have been severely affected by the global economic crisis.Photo: Adam Horvath

INSP_HUNGARY2

"Our son is my only happiness." Linda and her family, like many others in Hungary, have been severely affected by the global economic crisis.Photo: Adam Horvath

INSP_HUNGARY3

"Our son is my only happiness." Linda and her family, like many others in Hungary, have been severely affected by the global economic crisis.Photo: Adam Horvath

INSP_HUNGARY4

"Our son is my only happiness." Linda and her family, like many others in Hungary, have been severely affected by the global economic crisis.Photo: Adam Horvath


We, and every family I know, all getting poorer by the day.

Before the recession, we had perspectives and goals we thought were attainable. We wanted to buy an apartment and start a family. We thought we had safe jobs and salaries. We didn't understand a lot about international finances and we believed everything was all right.

Banks took advantage of this. They offered very cheap loans, enabling us to buy an apartment, along with several hundred-thousand other fellow citizens. But after a year, our lives became a nightmare.

We didn't know a lot about Swiss Franc-based loans - everybody said they were safe. So  when banks offered us such loans, which were more than 40% cheaper then Forint-based loans, we accepted. We believed the bank's ads, which said the loans were going to solve our problems - they were cheaper than renting a flat. Such loans were offered from 2006 until the summer of 2008, for homes, and even new cars.

We signed the contract with the bank and accepted the interest rate risk and currency risk, along with a few hundred other incomprehensible points of the 40-page contract. We bought an apartment for 17 million [forints], over a 20-year payback period. The bank told us verbally that only a 10 to 20 percent increase was possible, but we soon realised this was not the case.

The bank's initial monthly fee of 120,000 forints doubled due to a weak Hungarian currency, and a strong Swiss one. To add to this, the francs' federal interest rate was next to nothing, so the banks gave us money for the loan at a 7 to 8% interest rate.

In early 2009, my husband's salary became less because the Hungarian firm of a multinational company where he worked "had to to cut costs" - in the words of his boss. We could stand it for a while, but our son was born and I could no longer work.

We have slowly drawn on all of our savings to pay the bank fees. We are unable to sell our apartment because people are poor and nearly no one has the money to buy it. Housing prices are going down, while the loan - calculated in francs - is drastically escalating. Now, our loan amounts to 25 million forints. Yet, if we are unable to make the monthly payments, the bank will sell our home to a vulture in an auction for about 13 million forints, and we will still owe the remaining 12 million!

My husband's salary was reduced again in autumn 2011, something that was easily done, as no one protects the workers. As his job contract stated, "the employee accepts that in this workplace unions are not in place." And if you don't accept it, you can work elsewhere - this is how the whole employment market is going. The salaries are going down, while more and more people lose their jobs.

Trade unions are silent; the political leaders of the two similar side are bought . The Labour Code has been watered down in its latest version, in terms of workers' rights, yet nobody protests. Everyone is afraid. We are all blackmailed. We do not fear police beatings, but unemployment, and soon after, homelessness. My husband tries to act tough; work hard and do extra jobs on the side - but I see how the color of his hair changes from brown to gray. In the worst case scenario, our family can fortunately move to the country, to live with my parents but there are absolutely no jobs there.

Every day we hear about evictions. More and more people have to move to the streets, as so many people have already done over the last 20 to 22 years. It's completely hopeless; the crisis is only getting worse.

Our son is my only happiness. He does not sense our problems - at least we try hard not to let him see them. We went to the zoo today.  We try to give him everything and our relatives and friends also help with clothes and toys. Lorand is a wonderful little guy - one-and-a-half years old, running all day long and learning the world. Every two minutes, he runs to me for a hug. This ever-smiling, happy kid is the main joy of my life; he always makes me forget about the problems. We would like to have one more child but under these circumstances we do not dare. In the park, while the children play, I speak to other moms. I hear that everyone sees a bleak future, as more and more people leave the country.

If my husband - who has several degrees - moved to work in neighbouring Austria as a cleaner, or any job on minimal wages, he could earn twice as much as he does now. It's no wonder that half of all Hungarian young people think living abroad is the only way to prosper. The worst is that nobody can see any hope. Everybody knows politicians are corrupt and work on establishing a modern-day feudalism. The top 1% is becoming richer every day, while the remaining masses are drastically going under. Unemployment is up and the banks have gutted us all with ever-rising mortgage payments. The entire country is trapped in the same deep debt our family faces. Maybe we lose our apartment - but what more can be taken away from our country?

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