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EVA BARTOK: a biography
Copyright 2013 Omar Martinez


   Subud is the spiritual association that evolved around Indonesian mystic Mohammed Subuth who became its "Bapak" or "Pak" meaning "father." The name Subud itself is an abbreviation of the words "Susila", "Budhi", "Dharma" which contain the spiritual goals of the movement, total surrender to God. From its beginning in Java, Subud does not describe itself as a religion or sect and its diciples are not required to give up their religious backgrounds.  Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddists, etc. may use Subud to achieve a deeper understanding of their own religious beliefs, according to Subud´s principles.

In the days preceding Pak Subuh’s arrival in London, that  ray of hope in Eva‘s heart would turn on and off intermittently. She was moved to a little room at Coombe Springs were friends would alternate in caring for her. The pains got worse every passing day and she could not help it when doubts crept in. Eva had never believed in faith healers, gurus, yogis, nor in self suggestion or hypnosis preferring always a more scientific approach. They kept telling her that in Subud the "experience" comes before the "explanation" but she was not sure of what it all meant. Finally, Pak Subuh arrived but Eva was too weak to go to the airport. She was also disappointed when they informed her that he would not stay at the overcrowded Coombe Springs but at a house on Dartsmouth Road. However, the following day she received a visit from Pak Subuh’s wife Ibu and one of his disciples Imana. They inquired about her health and it seems like some chanting took place as well as prayers.
Eva remembered that Ibu asked if she believed in God and if she believed that God could heal her. She was also asked if she understood that first there should be healing of the soul before healing of the body. Eva replied yes to all the questions but her mind grew restless. Next she was asked to close her eyes and think of nothing.  - "Aha!"-she thought-, "so this is some kind of hypnotism or suggestion...! How can Mr. Bennett get involved in such schemes!"  Nevertheless, as minutes passed, her mind became less rebellious and she felt actually peaceful when her visitors left a mere forty five minutes later. Somehow it had seemed longer to her. A friend told her that she had just gone through "latihan" and when she asked why Mr. Subuh himself didn't participate, she was informed that, as a rule, he did not attend latihan with women.

  In the days that followed, Pak Subuh held conferences at the house on Dartsmouth Road and Eva was strong enough to attend. There was instant chemistry between the spiritual father and the actress. She was quite impressed by the beauty in his voice and the simplicity of his concepts but, most of all, by his concern for her, a love that irradiated from within the man. For Eva’s benefit he even attended latihan with her and the other women. The day before the scheduled surgery, Eva went into her worst crisis. The pains were stronger than ever along with her doubts. She rationalized that her faith had not been strong enough to achieve healing and prepared herself for the medical procedure to take place the following morning. She felt devastated by the illness and the inability to bring her child into the world. Then, suddenly, a message came from Pak Subuh stating that the surgery was no longer necessary.

Surprisingly, she believed the message and the surgery was "postponed indefinitely" much to her physician's dismay. However, what she accepted in faith did nothing to quiet down her ever active intellect. "If only Pak Subuh could come now and do the latihan with me one more time..." -she found herself thinking. Next thing she knew the arrival of Pak Subuh was announced. He had felt that Eva needed him now more than ever and had rushed to her side. His sole presence had the same calming effect as before except that this time the actress felt that the puzzle that had been her life was beginning to unravel. Every piece was falling into place and she understood now what she had learned in the past five years. Furthermore, she felt like the old Eva was dying and a new Eva was rising from the ashes.
John G. Bennett

Pak Subuh

As customary in Subud, Eva Bartok was given a new name. She was now Ilaina, a name chosen by Pak Subuh himself. This new Eva no longer needed the care and protection of Coombe Springs and set out to find a suitable place to live. She also felt that it was time to bring her mother from California and inform her of all the events. Eva knew that it was not going to be easy for the older woman to understand but it was something that had to be done sooner or later. She found a charming cottage in Kingston where she could settle with her mother and prepare for the most blessed event of her life: the birth of her child. As expected, Eva’s mother was horrified when she learned of her daughter’s ordeal of the past few weeks. Eva tried explaining the best she could and only asked her mother to accept it all in faith. However, faith was something that the older woman had lost since her days under nazism and communism.

For weeks, the mother’s protests threatened Eva’s newfound peace.  She insisted for Eva to receive proper medical care. She insisted on knowing the name of the man responsible for her pregnancy. She wanted to know why Eva wouldn't marry this man.  She kept worrying about their future now that her daughter was "ill" and on the verge of the biggest scandal of her life. "Your career which you loved so much will be destroyed"-she kept hammering at Eva’s head- "Everything you worked so hard for is gone!" There were times when all the complaining made Eva uneasy. After all, her mother’s concerns were not unfounded and Eva herself did not have all the answers. Her future as an actress was certainly in jeopardy but, by now, Eva’s only concern was to have a healthy baby and to leave everything else in God’s hands.
Ibu Subuh

Confident Eva...
Slowly, her mother’s complaints faded when Eva agreed to have her physicians examine her and they found, to their utter amazement, no trace of the tumor that had placed the actress’ life in danger. Eva also agreed to frequent visits to a gynecologist who would properly monitor her pregnancy . From then on, Eva’s mother was back in full support of her daughter and enchanted with her imminent role as a grandmother. Eva’s circle of friends were quite surprised that the actress was living and moving around London without any media attention. For Eva this was another proof that God was watching over her, making her "invisible" to the press, specially the tabloids which had always haunted her every move.

   The "scandal" didn't break out until way after she gave birth to a premature but beautiful baby girl on the 7th of October 1957. She named her Deana Grazia in thanksgiving and after a couple of weeks at the hospital, mother and daughter were able to go home. Eva was weak but totally delighted with Deana and she had her mother’s full support in caring for the baby. Surprisingly, Eva’s old beau David, the Marquess of Milford Haven, showed up at the cottage offering his unconditional support and making quite a fuss over little Deana. He stated quite clearly his desire of marrying Eva and giving the baby his prestigious last name.   Eva was moved by this show of affection but declined the generous offer thinking, perhaps, that the Marquess was part of a past she wanted to erase from her life forever.   

A similar proposal came from Curd Jürgens himself and this time Eva accepted, writing her ex-husband’s last name on Deana’s birth certificate while making it clear that there was no chance of reviving any relationship with the man. Years later she explained it was all done to preserve her daughter from the stigma of growing up without a father’s last name, a rare case of Eva giving in to social convention.
Eva the actress
Eva showing off her beautiful baby

These were days of joy, laughter and thanksgiving at the cottage. Shortly after, Eva received a proposal from Germany to star in "Doctor of Stalingrad" based on the best seller novel by Heinz G. Konsalik. Eva had read the book and was very excited about the offer but the doctors told her it was too soon to work; however Pak Subuh encouraged the actress to accept.

 Eva left Deana with her mother and reported to work in Munich and this is when all hell broke loose. The media somehow learned about her single motherhood and they surrounded the cottage fighting over who would get the first photographs of the baby. Eva’s mother barricaded herself inside and defended, like a lioness, the baby’s right to privacy. Undeterred, the press corps learned that Eva was in Munich and moved in on her with a vengeance.  At first Eva was tempted to keep silence and refused to share her story with the media. After all, it was her private business and she felt she did not owe anyone an explanation. However a call came from Mr. Bennett in London urging her to go public. Eva protested: "But they will drag the story through the mud! They’ll never understand and will ridicule the whole thing!" She added: " It could do great harm to Bapak and to Subud!" Mr. Bennett’s responded with a sentence that Eva would never forget: "Eva dear, nothing in this world can harm Subud!"

 After this exchange, Eva met with the media at a formal press conference. She was candid and honest in all her answers but, just as she had anticipated, when the reports were printed, her testimony had been embellished beyond recognition. The publicity was so sordid that Eva was concerned it would spell doom for "Doctor in Stalingrad" and she offered to quit the film. The producer’s reaction was moving and quite encouraging: "We are all behind you, Miss Bartok."

Eva and her mentor Pak Subuh

Eva concentrated on her work and ignored the bad publicity which surrounded her. She was no longer concerned since, in spite of it all, thousands of requests about the truth from all over the world started pouring in at Coombe Springs. The bad reports had struck a cord in the public consciousness and people wanted to know more about Pak Subuh and Subud.

"Doctor in Stalingrad" opened in theaters everywhere and was quite successful. Critics praised Eva’s performance and she won the "best actress" award at the Vichy Film Festival. Meanwhile she was receiving more offers for films than she had ever received before. She took it all in with humility and gratefulness recalling that just a few months before she was convinced that her career and her life were over. God had taught her a valuable lesson: to trust in Him and put everything under His care. Eva Bartok would live the rest of her life firmly anchored on this Faith.

 "Doctor in Stalingrad"

It is easy to understand how the events of 1957 changed Eva's life forever. However, it would take a few more years before the consequences were clearly manifested. The actual transformation between the old Eva Bartok and the new Ilaina was still in the future. For now, the woman concentrated on her duties as a mother and as a successful film star while the media, "her own Gestapo," as she liked to call them, followed the proceedings closely behind. We can say that , on the outside, everything remained the same, while inside things were totally new or changing fast.

With Deana and the guidance of the Subuhs, Eva felt no longer alone nor lost and, for the first time she was certain that life was worth living for. Between 1958 and 1959, she starred in four films including two suspense thrillers for the Rank Organization: "SOS Pacific" and "Operation Amsterdam" which did very well at the box office, and it was during this time that she felt an inner motivation to put down her story in writing. These initial notes became the basis for her autobiography published in 1959 and aptly titled "Worth Living For," an instant best seller.

   With those accomplishments under her belt, Eva could look ahead with optimism and new resolve. In her late twenties, she was more beautiful than ever and continued attracting the interest of many would-be suitors from the international jet set. At least one of those admirers caught Eva's heart.  He was Prince Shiv of Palitana, a handsome, wealthy playboy who became infatuated with the actress and promised to marry her.
 From the beginning Eva tried to keep this developing relationship away from the media, but one of Shiv’s ex-girlfriends, in a jealousy rage, went straight to the London Daily Sketch with her embellished story of how the actress "had stolen the love of her life." This was all the media needed to launch an all-out persecution on the couple making "Eva and the Prince" front page news everywhere.
 For the tabloids, it was like returning to the old days of "Eva and the Marquis."  Here was another "nobleman-in-love-with-screen-siren story" everyone could have fun with, except that this time, tragedy struck. Shiv's jealous ex-girlfriend boarded an airplane in London announcing her intentions to confront Eva in Naples but a midair collision with another plane ended her plans. She was killed instantly along all passengers aboard including members of the press and paparazzi who had jumped at the opportunity to document a real life cat fight.
Suddenly, Eva was perceived as some kind of witch who could destroy enemies at will. The fact is she was really affected by the accident and sorry for her rival's tragic end.

   The saga of Eva and the Prince continued for a while although reading all the press reports it is hard to determine what really went on in that relationship. Maybe they were really in love but, after a year of living a fish bowl existence, the affair was over. Eva might have been referring to the Prince when, many years later, she wrote: "In 1959 I asked Bapak a question by telegram regarding getting married to someone but I phrased the question in the wrong way... Bapak cabled back in a way that could have meant approval and I could have married a man who was absolutely wrong for me.  However, Bapak left an unfinished sentence in his message and left it up to me to interpret it. This made clear to me that marrying this man would be a serious mistake and it also taught me how not to ask a question ever again."

   By the early 1960s the world was changing rapidly. The film industry was finally overcome by a crisis that had been in the making for years. Television had triumphed as the favorite entertainment option of the masses and Hollywood, now a "ghost town", was no longer an option for Eva or for any other actor. On the other hand, Italy was showing major film activity at this point and Eva went there to star in a couple of movies that turned out to be her last films for a long time. One of them, Mario Bava’s "Blood and Black Lace" (1964) was a big hit for horror film fans and has remained a classic of the genre ever since. That same year Eva took part in "The Night of the Hundred Stars", a benefit held at the London Palladium, for the Combined Theatrical Charities Appeals Council. On that remarkable night she shared the stage with Lawrence Oliver, Frankie Vaughan, Eve Arden, Chita Rivera, Michael Redgrave, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Douglas Fairbanks, Maggie Smith, Judy Garland and many others including newcomers The Beatles.
Eva and Prince Shiv ....
in love?
Circa 1960

   There was a cultural revolution going on and we can say that Eva Bartok was changing with the times. At some point during this period she lost interest in films and appeared occasionally on London stages. She also devoted more time to painting which was something she had done, on and off, for many years now. A 1964 exhibit of her work made quite a splash in British art circles but in spite of it all Eva seemed disoriented again. She turned to her beloved mentors, Pak and Ibu Subuh for guidance, and they suggested she take a holiday with them in Tjilandak (now renamed Cilandak) located in South Jakarta in the island of Java, Indonesia which was then the spiritual center for Subud. It is hard to determine the exact date in which Eva, with Deana and mother in tow, reached Indonesia in answer to the Subuhs invitation but some evidence points to late 1967 after she finished "Sabina" her last well documented film.

 Eva settled at the paradisiacal island with her family, very close to the beloved Bapak and his wife. Years later she would write for a Subud publication about that period in her life.
"He (Bapak) -Eva wrote- told me to come to live in Tjilandak (Cilandak) for good. He let me live there in a way that I never imagined could be possible. With the mind in utter ignorance of any future, so that surrender had to be renewed each day, so that even despair could not win over patience. Patience for what? - What are you going to do with your life? -I was often asked. And I had no answers." "Go ask Bapak"- I was told again and again. But although I knew nothing, I knew that it was not the time for asking questions. Those were  times for one thing only:  for as much surrender as I was capable of. "  She never revealed what her financial arrangements were at the island nor how she managed to support herself and her family. One thing is certain: Eva/Ilaina was very happy and hoped this would last forever.
   As the saying goes "nothing good lasts forever." By 1971, Eva and her family felt very much at home in Jakarta when, without warning, came an exhortation from Bapak: "Eva, go out into the world. Go now and help those whose minds are confused, those who are lost. The time is now.
Go and repair them, the way you have been repaired."  

Eva accepted the challenge without hesitation. She had learned all these years to trust Bapak's instincts. However, acceptance and trust did not make the issue easier for her. Going back "into the world" meant leaving behind everything she loved, including her family. Deana was blossoming into a beautiful teenager and Eva felt that her place was by her daughter's side. Nevertheless Eva knew that it was her duty to go even if it meant total surrender all over again. Everything she received was not for her to keep but to share.

   Another issue that startled her was Bapak's decision that she had to start her work in Los Angeles.  Eva would have felt more comfortable going to London but kept her thoughts to herself. It took several months to prepare for the move and overcome all the obstacles that came out of nowhere on a daily basis.  
Eva and Deana
For Eva it meant that the "dark forces" were trying to prevent her going to America and this strengthened her resolve. At the same time, the thought of leaving her daughter and her mother behind filled her with apprehension. She found herself praying for more time even on the day of her departure. "All I need is one more day. Please let me stay one more day"-she ached all the way to the airport. It was her daughter who set her straight. Deana had grown in Subud and was now named Roberta, She looked firmly into her mother's eyes and said: -"Mommy, you know you must go now. Be strong. We'll be together. Nothing can separate us." Eva felt like the proudest mother in the universe and was able to board the plane that would take her to a new life. But she knew that it was more than that. It was the end of an era.


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