BUDAPEST, HUNGARY — Em Jzsa always planned to make something of herself. Even before Hungary's Communist regime fell in 1989, she had worked her way up from a secretarial position in a travel agency to a lucrative stint writing how-to manuals for newly free Hungarians to buy cars in the West.
But only when the Iron Curtain was drawn back did she really get her chance. In 1989, she won a place on the first American-taught MBA course in Hungary, sponsored by Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros. "That changed my life," she says. "My mind was just switched to an American way of thinking," she recalls. "I began to think in a market-oriented way, more open to the world."
When foreign investors flooded into the country, newspapers were among their first pickings. Ms. Jzsa found herself the marketing director for one of Hungary's biggest dailies. "This whole process threw people into places where they had no experience," she smiles. "But the MBA course had taught me to be aggressive and successful."
She won a Fulbright scholarship to finish her MBA in America, then returned home. She launched two mass-market magazines in quick succession for a Swiss-owned publisher.
And then she learned about the dark side of success, Western-capitalist style. Working 14 hours a day was all very well, but hard. She had a miscarriage, then became ill and wasn't able to work for a year.
Her husband, a theater director, wanted nothing to do with her new commercially driven lifestyle. "We couldn't make a home, or a good relationship," she rues.
Today, Jzsa lives alone with her black cocker spaniel, Boris, and handles marketing and sales for a Budapest film studio. In her spare time she's directed a play, assisted in producing a film, and manages a young violinist who is beginning to make a mark.
She does not regret the twists and turns her life has taken. "The opening helped me use my skills to the maximum," she says. "Under communism, your life was a protected life. The peaks would not have been so high. But the troughs would not have been so low."
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society