The chanteuse, the soccer player, and their tragic love story

Sándor Szűcs was a top prospect for the Hungarian national soccer team, while Erzsi Kovács was a famous chanteuse whose most famous song was “Tűzpiros virág volt minden csókod kedvesem” (My Dear, All Your Kisses Were Like Fire-Red Flowers). Sándor and Erzsi met in 1948 and fell in love immediately. Since both were married at the time, the state guardians of socialist mores did not look approvingly on their relationship. At the time, fidelity in marriage was demanded and the dictatorship had no qualms about getting into people’s personal lives. The manager for Sándor’s soccer club, Dózsa, which belonged to the Ministry of the Interior, had a chat with him and ordered him to end the relationship.

The two distraught lovers decided in 1950 to escape to the West. Since the border was closed, crossing to Austria was only possible with the aid of smugglers. Unfortunately for the pair, the smuggler they encountered worked for the ÁVH secret police, and thus they were caught at Nagytilaj in western Hungary. The authorities had wanted to make an example out of them, consequently the smuggler convinced Sándor to take his service weapon with him so that he would have it in his possession, and on May 26, 1950 Sándor was sentenced to death after an appeal. “When they announced for the second time that he would be hung, I lost my mind and ran up to the judge and begged him to speak with him. They took me outside into the hallway and I begged him to ask for mercy, but he did not. He said if they were going to execute him for this, then so be it. “If I cannot live with you Erzsi, then I don’t need to live at all,” as Erzsi recalled Sándor’s words.

Despite soccer legend Ferenc Puskás also asking for clemency in the case, the authorities would not bend, and Sándor Szűcs was executed at the age of 30. The authorities decided to make an example out of him, so that other Hungarian soccer players and athletes would not dare to escape to the West. Not a single player attempted to defect until 1956, when Puskás along with other players for Honvéd did not return home after the revolution was crushed.

Erzsi Kovács was 21 at the time. She was sentenced to four years in prison, where she transported bricks and mixed cement each day.

The tragic love story of Erzsi Kovács and Sándor Szűcs was depicted in the 2006 film Miért? Egy tragikus szerelem története (Why? A tragic love story), while Erzsi herself wrote of the story in her book Rejtély (Mystery).

Eszter Zsófia Tóth