Hungarian Edina Spisák shares how a childhood toy became a family heirloom and how her faith became a lifeline in the face of immense loss.
My father bought Morzsi for my mum when they were on a date. They kept him for years. When I was born, and I was big enough to carry a stuffed animal, I just picked up that one and he became my favourite toy. I carried him everywhere and never slept without him. Come to think of it, Morzsi has become the most consistent reminder of those I have loved and lost.
My life was a kind of simple one. My parents worked really hard because we didn't have a lot of money, but they provided for my needs. I had everything that was necessary and they even paid for my education as well, so I am just so grateful for my parents and for their examples. For that reason, I picked Morzsi as the object of my affection. Morzsi is an almost 40-year-old stuffed dog with years of stories surrounding him, and they’re all about my family.
My name is Edina Spisák. I am from Hungary, and right now I'm serving there as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I really love my country, even if it’s a kind of poor country and there is a huge difference between the poor and the rich classes. Actually, the middle class doesn't exist here. So that's why it's kind of hard. And a lot of people are struggling with financial issues and they just don't know how to be happy. But, there is one saying about us: Hungarians are kind to everyone who are not Hungarians. It means that we are not kind to each other, actually. I have felt that during my mission time here. And most of my friends just told me that I should leave the country because I cannot earn enough money. I am educated and I can speak the language, so I should move to somewhere else or I should leave at least my city. It is kind of a poor city, even if it’s a huge and big city with a lot of factories and with beautiful surroundings. I just always felt that I love my country and I love my people. It was so amazing when I received my mission call to serve in Hungary, to serve my own people.
In Hungary, most families are struggling a lot and…it was the same with my family. They taught me so many things. For example, my father had three kinds of different jobs. He was a house painter and, uh, he was a mechanic at the factory. And we had a kind of farm, but not that kind of huge one. He raised animals and he grew vegetables and fruits for us. And he was the best example for me of being hardworking. His example taught me a lot. Parents actually are the best, even if they have some flaws or weaknesses.
I had such a deep love for Morzsi as a kid, and as I’ve grown older I’ve found comfort in the love and connection to my family that he represents. Not only does Morzsi connect me to my parents, but he also reminds me of one of my amazing great-grandmothers who has served as a perfect example of Christ-like love to me in my life. When I was in kindergarten, one of my classmates was jealous of Morzsi and grabbed him and was pulling so hard that Morzsi tore. I was devastated. When I went home, my great-grandmother sewed him back up for me. So I like to think that Morzsi is part of my family history in a way because he is a connection between all of us and a great reminder of the heritage shared between generations.
I was raised in a Catholic family where going to church was just a part of our family tradition. I can remember when we kneeled down together at the end of the bed in front of a picture of Jesus Christ and his mother, and I still remember that it was a special moment for me. Even if we just repeated words, I felt something. I am so grateful to my parents and all of my relatives because they taught me how to trust in God even if I couldn't see Him. I would come to rely on this trust, as well as on my Morzsi, in later years.
After I graduated from university, my life crashed. I couldn’t find a job, my father thought I was a failure and my grandma was diagnosed with cancer. I was in my room when I said one of my first real prayers on my own. I prayed to know what the purpose of my life was. As a child, I was saved from choking to death by my grandma’s inspired action. This story, told to me by my family, made me feel like I needed to know what my purpose was. In my prayer, I just asked the Lord why He gave me a second chance to be alive when my life was in ruins. Then, a few months later, I was doing some errands in my city when I saw two young girls offering free books and English classes. I just passed by them without stopping. When I came out of the store, I felt something like a spiritual lasso pulling me back to the table. I couldn’t deny it, so I went back. They were missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I began to learn with them. Because of my strong Catholic background, I didn’t really want to hear or accept most of the invitations from the missionaries. I felt I would deny my family’s faith if I did that. I worked so hard to prove that their church was not true. But, I was touched by the teachings of this new church and the biggest factor in my conversion was my realisation that I needed Christ’s light in my life.
This realisation came when I went through a traumatic time of immense loss and pain that began in 2017. I lost my grandfather, and a couple of months later I lost my grandmother. Around that time, my sister had also gotten married only to find out a few months later that her husband was diagnosed with cancer. We loved him and it was so hard to see someone’s suffering when you love that person so much. They unfortunately divorced, which was very hard, and right after that, I lost my father. In that same year, right before Christmas, my mum had to have surgery and we were afraid we were going to lose her as well. In addition to all of this, my sister gave birth to a baby that suffered from severe medical conditions. My niece can't hear, she can't eat (she has a feeding tube) and she can't walk. On top of all these challenges, I also lost my job at this time.
What helped me keep going was the feeling that angels had been sent to strengthen me during this rough period of my life. As a child, my Morzsi made me feel protected and like I wasn’t alone. During this time in my life, I relied on that love and connection more than ever, especially around the time of my father's death. It was during Easter and the missionaries from my church had invited me to help teach someone about the Church. I didn't want to go because I felt tired and had just finished my family lunch, but I had a strong feeling that I should go. So I went. We had just barely started the lesson when my grandma called. I answered at once. She said that the ambulance was there at our house, and they were trying to save my father's life. It was only a few minutes later that my mum called back and told me that he had passed away. I was shocked. I couldn't stand up because of the pain.
Soon after my father’s death, I was at home with my mum and I literally felt my father’s presence there in our room. That was the moment when I took Morzsi out of the closet and thought, “Okay, now it's time to take Morzsi with me and bring him to my house.” I hadn’t kept him with me as an adult, but after my father’s death, I appreciated and loved him more than ever before because of my father’s connection to him and all the stories surrounding him. So that's where Morzsi is right now. I keep him in my home so he can remind me of all of the precious things he represents in my life. He reminds me of my father, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, my mother and the heritage and love that they have given me.
I was afraid to bring Morzsi with me on this mission for my church, as I can be disorganised and might have lost him. Instead, I brought a photograph with Morzsi in it that holds a lot of value to me. In it, it’s my birthday (I am quite young in the photo) and I have my birthday cake with candles in front of me. Morzsi is sitting next to me. My father is just right behind me, holding me while I try to blow out the candles. I love this photograph because it symbolises that we can't survive without having family help us in these hard times. The candles in the photo are like my trials, and I can't blow them out without help.
The photo reminds me that we, in general, are not alone. You are not alone. You have family all around you, including those who have passed on. So that's why the photograph and Morzsi are so precious to me because when I have hard times, I always feel my father’s love and his presence. Even if I can’t see him, I know that he's standing right behind me.
Pre-production: Krischelle Joseph & Louise Paulsen
Interview: Krischelle Joseph & Emma Reyelts
Assistant interviewer: Louise Paulsen & Amy Epps
Transcription: Clare Hamn & Amy Epps
Writing: Krischelle Joseph & Amy Epps
Editing: Martsie Webb & Clare Hamn & Louise Paulsen
Audio: Emma Reyelts
Photography: Edina Spisák