In memoriam Zsuzsa Foltányi (1956-2023)

We try to fathom the unfathomable: Zsuzsa is not with us any more. She passed away unexpectedly but peacefully on 25 February.

It is no exaggeration to say that her death is a great loss for the entire Hungarian civil society. Without her, there would be no Ökotárs, at least not in the form we know it today. And the same can be said of more than one organisation.

After a study trip to the US, she was asked by the original founders of Ökotárs' predecessor to launch the Partnership Program in Hungary. The program, originally intended for three years, became the foundation with a three-decade history as a result of her work. She laid all the foundations - in operation, management, approach and methods - that have made Ökotárs into what it is today. Although in the last years she has taken a step back from the day-to-day work, she stood by and helped us all along as a trustee and advisor.

She could not suffer injustice, underhandedness and mindless bureaucracy - when confronted with these, she picked up the gauntlet and stopped at nothing, went to any lengths. Most of the time, she didn't seek justice for herself: she tried to help everyone who came to her, pulling out all the stops. Whether it was energy policy, civil society funding or community participation, she took ownership of every problem, dug in and acted. But she was also a sharp-eyed critic: she could see the rot behind the shiny facade and did not hesitate to point out the weaknesses - and sooner or later we always had to realise that she was right.

She was a mentor and a friend to us: just as we will never forget our times on the terrace of her house in Csobánka, we will miss her penetrating questions and comments in our working meetings alike. Who should we call next when we don’t find the answers to our questions?