Dr. Katalin Kutrucz, a short, high-strung, bustling woman in a synthetic pants suit and wearing sort of open-toed Dr. Scholl's shoes with socks, ushers me into an oval-shaped room with high ceiling and intricate molding -- a room that seems suitable for an intimate musical evening. She plunks down next to me at a faux wood table. Blinking fast, she says, "It turns out that yours is one of our bigger files." Should I feel proud? I am terrified and eager to plunge into a growing mountain of manila files that clerks in white coats are wheeling in on shopping carts and unloading. Dr. Kutrucz does not smile, but the fact that she calls me Katika, the Hungarian diminutive of my name, only increases my agitation.
All my life, my parents' defiance of the Communists, their stubborn courage as the last independent journalists behind the Iron Curtain until their arrest, trial, and conviction as CIA spies, has been at the core of our family identity. On February 25, 1955, at two in the morning, following a game of bridge at the home of the United States military attaché, my father was abducted by six agents of the secret police. His arrest was front-page news in The New York Times. Four months later, they came for my mother. The following January, almost a year later, The New York Times, in another front-page story, reported that "Endre Marton, a correspondent for the Associated Press in communist ruled Hungary, has been sentenced to six years in prison on a charge of espionage. His wife, Ilona, who worked for United Press was sentenced to three years...The Martons have two young daughters, Kati and Juli." Accompanying the article was a photograph of a handsome, elegant couple and their smiling little girls, a happy family, self-contained and seemingly indestructible, on our last Christmas together in Hungary, before everything changed. Thus did I make my debut in the press, although I did not see the story until decades later.
My parents were forward-looking people. They looked back only selectively. When, toward the end of his life, my father was given Hungary's highest civilian award from the foreign minister of a free and democratic Hungary, he did not come to New York to receive it in person, leaving it to me to accept for him. That evening, the foreign minister surprised me with a large manila envelope containing AVO material on Papa. My father never opened that file; he was done with all that. To him, history -- at least his history -- was a burden. For me, it was the beginning of my search.