Tuesday, 4 July 2017

DÉVÉNY ANNA (1935-2017)

A personal reminiscence

When I first went to Hungary in search of Conductive Education, in 1984, I took with me the essential comparative-educational understanding that there is no chance of understanding the an educational system without a degree of appreciation of its social and and historical context. From that first visit Mária Hári accepted this aspect of my quest and actively helped me broaden my wider awareness. She went of her way to make sure that I met significant figures and it soon very it clear to me that the tradition of András Pető was not the only significant and original approach to motor disorders in that small country.

Among others, therefore, I met Anna Dévény:

Anna Dévény, a gifted and empathetic lady, trained both as a physiotherapist and an artistic gymnast, who runs classes in a small gym in a converted shop near the Parliament building in the fifth arrondissement of Budapest. Her approach is that children with movement problems (not just motor disorders but a wide range of physical conditions) should learn not just to move but to move beautifully, which she seeks to bring about by a combination of her own brand of physiotherapy and by teaching them artistic gymnastics...

(Cottam and Sutton, 1985 p. 25)

Mária also introduced me to Ferenz Katona.

Mária respected the work of both of them, critically, and they respected hers, in the same way. But none of the three appeared to have much contact with each other, plough their own furrows.

I do not think that I ever met either again. I did, however, try to persuade others to take interest and at least two further reports of their work did appear in UK. Later, in the nineties I invited Anna Dévény, to come to the UK and to present about her work, but she misunderstood my motives and did not come.

She created her own foundation and moved her operation to the Moszkva tér end of Szilágyi Erzsébet fasor, on a line between the Pető Institute's two sites in Buda, but I do not know whether other foreign visitors (families and professionals) to Budapest went to see her. I do hope that some did.

Now she has died, receiving widespread, warm and highly respectful acclaim in the Hungarian media. One cannot imagine seeing a headline like this in the UK:

Deveny Anna has died, the legendary physiotherapist

In Hungary this seems just what one might expect


Cottam, P., Sutton, A. (eds) Conductive Education, London, Croom Helm

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