András Oplatka, renowned Swiss-Hungarian journalist, historian, and translator, passed away on Wednesday morning at the age of 78 in his home in Zollikon near Zurich after a long, serious illness. He was one of the founders of the ‘Friends of Hungary Foundation’, publisher of news portals ‘Hungary Today’ and ‘Ungarn Heute.’
András Oplatka was born in Budapest in 1942. He was only fourteen when he left Hungary with his parents in 1956. His family was of foreign origin, with Czech roots from his father’s side and German from his mother’s.
Oplatka studied German language and literature, pedagogy, and history in Zurich and Vienna. Although he wrote his dissertation on the Austrian writer Franz Grillparzer (“Structure and Style Changes in Grillparzer Dramas,” Lang Publishing, Bern 1970), he did not focus on literature because he was more interested in Central Europe, in the memory of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and in the present and future of the divided Europe.
From 1968 to 2006, he was the foreign policy editor of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and worked as a correspondent in Stockholm, Paris, Moscow, and Budapest.
He loved Budapest very much, and was a well-known participant of the lively intellectual meetings and discussions that accompanied and followed the regime change. He marvellously retained his Hungarian skills, wrote and read German on a native level, and was fluent in numerous other languages (e.g. Hungarian, English, French, Swedish, Italian, Russian).
He wrote numerous books focusing on the history of Hungary, the regime change, and the border opening. He also translated many Hungarian writers’ works into German including Kálmán Mikszáth, Mór Jókai, and Frigyes Karinthy.
Oplatka’s work has received several awards:
- Imre Nagy Memorial Plaque (1994)
- Swiss Baltic Net Prize (2001)
- Eötvös Press Award (2003)
- Hungarian Humboldt Prize in Budapest (2005)
- Lánchíd Prize (2012)
- Prima Primissima Prize (2016)
- Röpke Prize for Civil Society (2016)
András Oplatka was an external member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences since 2014, and also a member of the University Council of the Andrássy University Budapest.
Featured photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI