By Gizella Varga Sinai
TEHRAN -- Leaving home for another country is not something everyone should or could do. It was sure the right thing for me.
When I was growing up in Budapest, my father -- an opera singer who dreamed of becoming the next Caruso but never quite make it under the Communists -- would take me to museums and art shows every Sunday.
As a child, I wanted to become an artist. I liked drawing but literature was also very important to me and in high school I won a writing prize. I was drawn to acting and theater but my father discouraged me and told me there was no future in it.
When my father brought me to Vienna in 1964, I was a 19-year-old yearning to see the world beyond the Iron Curtain. My father looked for jobs in opera, but was told it was too late. He was too old. He went back to Budapest.
I got a room at a pension run by nuns. There were students there from all over the world, including, I remember, two from Iran. I thought I would be going back to Hungary too, but one of the nuns helped me to enroll in the university, where I began to study art history.
On the one hand, I was very confused. I didn't know what would become of me. I would write long letters home every week. But I was also having a great time. Vienna was such a different world compared to Budapest. I enjoyed being on my own. I felt free.
When I met my husband, (movie director) Khosrow Sinai, I used to paint occasionally. But he convinced me to take it up seriously and with his encouragement I enrolled at Vienna's art school, Academie fur Angewandte kunst Wien.
I was there for two years and then me and Khosrow decided to go to Iran. (By the way, Khosrow needed to get a special permission to marry me. I was from a Communist country and the Iranian government had put restrictions on marriage between Iranians and those of the Eastern Bloc.)
We weren't sure if we were going to stay in Iran. It was the height of the Hippy period and we were sort of care free. We thought, "We'll go and see. If we like it we'll stay. If not, we won't."
After all, I knew nothing about Iran. When I was going to school in Budapest, there was only five lines about Iran in my geography book. Plus, I remember, a picture of a carpet weaver.
Anyway, when we got to Iran, I bonded with Iranians very quickly. Everyone was so kind to me that I didn't feel at all like a stranger. I found out that Iranians and the people of my country had very similar manners.
Gradually, I was drawn more and more into Iranian culture. I became familiar with the existentialist poems of Hafez and Khayam and today I feel that, mentally, I have been greatly influenced by them.
In my frescoes you can see opposing forces and life's circular motion, where everything repeat's itself. In a way, they express ideas similar to eastern philosophy and Iranian mysticism.
I have become so immersed in Iranian culture that I can no longer express myself artistically as a Hungarian. When I'm in Budapest and they ask me to paint something "Hungarian," I can't. Not even a typical village man.
* Gizella Sinai's daughter, Samira
* Like mother like daughter -- Gizella and Samira Sinai
* THE IRANIAN Arts sections