(Photo: Szabolcs Prem's grave site)
Dora Schwendtner, 16, is remembered for her boundless vitality and idealism befitting her age. An only child dearly loved by her family and the extended family of her town of Mosonmagyarovar in northwestern Hungary, Dora embraced and was guided by her abiding faith. She excelled through hard work as a student at Kossuth Gimnazium, mastering as a young teenager German, Spanish and English in addition to her native Hungarian. As skilled on the field and court as in the classroom, Dora excelled at basketball and also enjoyed swimming and soccer. She had a positive view of all things around her, seeing good in all people, and it was no surprise that she dreamed of being a doctor. Not just any doctor, Dora wanted to work with the mentally challenged, for whom she spent much of her time and energy putting on plays in local hospitals.
Following local tradition, Dora loved America; she planned her visit hoping to find a place that mirrored her own vision of life, a land of youthful optimism and infinite possibility. She saved her earnings to be able to afford the Atlantic Bridge International program, a Dutch organization that connects international students with American host churches. Her family, on its meager wages, helped with new clothes for the trip, so that she wouldn’t stand out among the American kids. Dora's mother, Aniko, said in a published report, "We thought there was so much possibility in America. I sent my daughter there because I thought it was safe. I didn't trust her in Ukraine or any other Eastern European country. I trusted her in America".
Dora’s funeral, attended by her whole community, took place Thursday, July 22.
Szeb, as he was called affectionately by his friends and family, was a happy young man, full of life and vigor. A gifted student, he attended the prestigious Lajos Kossuth Secondary School in Mosonmagyarovar, about a 30-minute drive from his hometown of Janossomorja. In addition to his commitment to academic excellence, Szeb earned several medals in track-and-field and loved soccer with a single-minded passion, particularly his favorite team, FC Bayern Munich.
In 2009, on St. Nicholas Day, Szeb, then 19, dressed up like Santa Claus, and his best friend Tibor and Tibor’s little brother dressed up as elves — as had become a tradition among the young men. The three of them would organize an annual party for the village children, and for many it was the highlight of their holiday season.
Szeb, like so many of the young men and women from this part of Hungary, longed to visit America. He was strongly encouraged by his father, Sandor Prem, a hard-working stone mason, to travel and experience the world for himself and for everyone else in the family who would likely never have the same opportunity. Szeb made his family proud by being the first in his family ever to travel overseas. He saved and through Atlantic Bridge International realized a dream that had once seemed unreachable. His close-knit family and friends remember and mourn a fun-loving child and wonderful friend.
Szabolcs’ funeral was held Friday, July 23.
"We have come today to mourn their deaths and, more importantly, celebrate their lives. May God bless their young lives and unfilled potential."
-Mayor Michael Nutter
"Words mean little in these moments. We may find technical explanation, but that doesn't make it easier to accept."
-Bela Szombati, Hungarian Ambassador
"They wanted to come to America to experience culture, meet American young people, and understand the lifestyle of Christians and American churches."
-John Oostdyk, Director of Atlantic Bridge