He was in state care, Roma, and in addition to his own mother, two other families gave up on him. As a child, he was “raised” for discipline with a leash. According to statistics, such a past increases the chance of missing out by 90 percent, yet Melinda Zsiga belongs to the remaining ten. He recovered from his severe trauma with the help of kick-boxing, and did not stop until the third place on the world championship podium.
She arrives in a pink, Barbie-style sweater, speaks softly and little, maybe even a little embarrassed. In the first few minutes, he says: unfortunately, he won’t be able to do it for long, he’s rushing to the hall after our interview, because he has a match next week. In this case, he does 10-12 training sessions a week and is on a special diet – his joints and thyroid gland have already submitted the bill due to consumption, food deprivation and physical training, but he cannot give up kickboxing for the time being.
If I hadn’t done a little research before our meeting, the Roma genes and my kind character would have easily guided me: I would rather see Melcsi as a 22-year-old kindergarten teacher of Brazilian origin than as a 36-year-old real Roma wrestler – even though he belongs to the latter category, he would easily pack up a double-door wardrobe also has a security guard.
I also note to him that I would not like to receive saller from him. He smiles submissively and quickly declares: he only wrestles in the ring, in everyday life he prefers to resolve conflicts with kindness. He’s not a fan of violence, he’s had too much of it anyway: his childhood was about constant rejection and physical and verbal terror, so if possible, he uses his hands for hugs rather than punches.
Slap and starvation as child rearing tools
In the first 9 years of Melcsi’s life, he experienced that if he entered a door, it would be quickly closed in his face. First, his mother left him alone in the hospital, after which he was returned to state care by the first host family. The exact reason for the decision is not known, but they probably adopted the little girl because they could not have children of their own, and when the mother did get pregnant, they no longer needed the adopted girl. This is how he ended up in his second home, of which he already has sharper memories – for a long time he thought they were his biological parents. However, Melcsi could not rest here either: his alcoholic foster father “raised” him with ignorance, his foster mother with beatings and starvation. If he soiled his new clothes, or if he broke a pot from the soup, the trouser belt would be found, and it was not uncommon for him to be pinned against the wall by his limbs.
“I know that my brain blocks many memories, but there are some images that flash by that I don’t like to recall.
When I got a new warmer and messed it up in kindergarten, I was badly beaten, and then I had to wear it for a week without washing it, to my shame.
There was a time when my foster mother hit me in front of my schoolmate, which was very humiliating. In addition, they often punished me with food deprivation – I sneaked into the kitchen at night for dry bread to have something in my stomach.” In any case, the family did not treat its own children differently, no one was exempt from physical and mental abuse.
I remember when we arrived home late with the parents’ blood son, we both got it.
I felt terribly sorry for the guy, he was crying a lot, and I thought, surely I can do everything.” He adds: he tried his best to be a good kid and not get his peers into trouble, but he couldn’t perform well enough.
These are serious stories, yet they roll out of Melcsi’s mouth as if he were just talking about his breakfast. His face is unflappable, there is no taboo for him, and as a child the treatment he received seemed natural. Although he was very afraid of his foster mother, he was not aware that he was living in a toxic atmosphere, and it did not even occur to him to show the scars covering his body to his guardian. And the guardian had no idea about Melcsi’s life. When she visited the family once a month, the little girl dressed in nice clothes and played with her baby, as if everything was perfectly fine.
After a few years of living together, this family also got bored of the child, and citing his bad behavior (which means the broken bed and the dirty heater), they told him that he would be moved to a new home from the following year. Although Melcsi felt that what he was experiencing with his family was not true love, due to the bond he had developed and his longing for home, he experienced the farewell as another break.
The place where you can finally reach into the fridge
The following summer, Melcsi was dressed in a sky-blue, glittering dress, had her hair neatly combed, and was ceremoniously handed over to the third family, the Csoszós. The little girl came here as the sixth, next to two older, already fledged sweet children, and three adopted little ones. The sudden, incomprehensible change overwhelmed him, and it took many months for him to feel at home with the new family. Especially since he couldn’t even take his plushies and personal belongings with him, saying that the new family would surely only harm them.
“In the previous family I was the smallest, here I was the largest among the adopted children.
I had no idea to call my new mom and dad, to tell them what to do and how to do it.
At the age of 9, you’re not so small anymore, so it’s harder to get really close to each other.”
At Csoszó’s, he encountered a previously unknown level of care. Although the relationship with the older, more grandparents, parents remained formal, they let him study, questioned him about his lessons, took him to sports, and what was most surprising – they allowed him to reach into the refrigerator when he was hungry.
“It took me a long time to get used to being able to go to the fridge and eat whatever I want.
My mom repeatedly told me that she would not submit a separate request for me to eat, that I should not ask for permission for everything, that I should be more independent.”
Just as now, at the coffee table, he could finally sit back in the Csoszóek’s home. He received real education and guidance, “Mom and Uncle Pista” also weaned him from swearing from the previous family. Thanks to them, he learned what it means to be a gypsy, and through them he also understood that he has to do more than average children in all areas of life if he wants to succeed. He got better and better results at school. He balanced between stable average and good, and although he had trouble with math, Tesi and the Hungarian language found their way into his heart. At the age of 18, he was admitted to ELTE’s Teacher’s Academy, from where he was on a straight path to coaching, a career as a fitness model, and then to kick-boxing matches.
Walking past your mother on the street
A few painful memories and a total of 10 photos – that’s all that remains from Melcsi’s childhood, many of whose details are still unknown to this day. That’s why he decided a few years ago to search for answers, to visit his mother and siblings, as well as his former foster mother. He is especially grateful for his visit to his mother in retrospect, as she died shortly after.
“I was very curious about what he looked like, how much I looked like him. We visited him in a shantytown, and when we were on our way to his house, he passed me on the street. He allegedly recognized me, but still didn’t address me,” he begins. “When we met at his house, I had no idea how to behave. Although I expected to be very happy, I didn’t feel like hugging her.
I’m not angry with him, in fact: seeing the putrid house, I’m grateful to him for leaving me in the hospital in the hope of a better fate.”
His mother received him without surprise, with direct kindness, modesty and benevolence. In the end, he never gave a deeper answer as to why he left him to his fate, although the circumstances spoke for themselves: it is clear that if Melcsi was born in this shanty town, we would not be sitting on this sofa and talking about his amazing successes. Later, after the mother’s death, it turned out that the woman had a total of ten children, some of whom are in state care, others in foster care – and no one has any information about the fathers. He grew up in a city with one of his blood brothers, and he met a half-brother in a camp organized for those in state care, but the identity of the others is unknown.
“When one of my half-brothers was introduced to the camp, I was immediately hooked, I really wanted to belong to him. But I think I was a bit much for him at first, so I wore him down. Regardless, we still talk sometimes, he reads articles about me, which is very nice.
Maybe I should put more energy into nurturing our relationship, but I have a hard time letting people get close.”
When I ask who is closest to him, he says it without hesitation: his best friend and his adopted sister, Gabi – but apart from them, he doesn’t talk about his personal life to others, he doesn’t go out for coffee or to parties, he just commutes between the gym and his home. Although most of his childhood wounds are already scarred, he has trouble building trust. It is difficult for him to meet new people, and he prefers to spend his rest days with his cats and the cast of Jóbarátok.
A hobby is a profession, a team is a family
Even in elementary school, it was obvious that Melcsi stood out among his peers in physical education: his physical skills and sense of rhythm were noticed by the physical education teacher, and he was awarded the school’s best athlete several times. He did athletics and then played in the NB.I/B national handball team, but due to sports injuries, he eventually left the league. After that, she was photographed as a fitness and bikini model, and in her first year of college, she was also introduced to boxing. As we talk, it can be seen without words: individual boxing, in which the athlete relies solely on himself and his performance, suits his personality much better than team sports. Although his knee ligaments have given up on him several times, there is nothing that can deter him from boxing. In addition to the physical education major, he also obtained a coaching certificate, and then the famous kick-boxing coach, dr. He ended up working as a boxer in Zoltán Bene’s gym. This was the first place where, in addition to being able to assert himself as an athlete, he also found a real community; his colleagues and bosses look down on his skin color – which was otherwise a problem when getting a job in the past – and support Melcsi as their brother.
When I got here, I found my medium. My bosses quickly trusted me, they like my training.
For years they knew nothing about my past. When I first spoke to them, they convinced me to take up my story and go public.”
The professional support, a lot of training and perseverance finally flew Melcsi to the world championship, who is now a multiple Hungarian champion, 3rd place in the European Cup and world champion bronze medalist kick-boxer. Although, according to her own statement, she never wanted to become a role model, her Instagram is flooded with fan letters and, among other things, she appeared on the cover of ELLE. When I ask him what is the reason for the amazing strength and endurance that helped him through the difficulties, he shrugs.
“I have a lot of mental strength. Other than that, I can’t say what I do well.
Most of the people in state care will be traumatized by the lack of love and abuse, but somehow I always shook myself”
– tell me. “When I’m preparing for a competition and want to motivate myself, I always think about how far I have to go. Where I come from, it’s unbelievable that I’ve achieved this, that I was able to participate in the World Cup, that I’m surrounded by an environment where everyone loves me.”
At this point in our conversation, he is looking at his watch more and more often, I know he should have left for training ten minutes ago. There will be a national championship next week, so he trains twice a day, eats himself constantly, and refuses to even look at the cakes. I would also like to ask him about whether his private life can be reconciled with this lifestyle, but he kindly makes me feel that he is no longer willing to allow insight into this part of his life. He would rather talk about how important it is for him to embrace small children with a fate similar to his own.
“I would prefer to advise every young child to play sports, play an instrument, or create something. Sports give you a lot, whether you are a member of the state or not. You can get into a good community, your self-esteem and self-image improve, you can belong to others, and you can put your unnecessary thoughts to rest. And who knows? If you are talented, you may achieve amazing success.
In addition to sports, it is very important that you study! There is nothing prettier than a must spelled with a ly and a garlic spelled with a g!”
he adds with a laugh.