To Survive, Above All Else

A young lady who can hardly be described as fragile works in the Audit Department of our company. She has a serious look, impressive muscles, and the discipline required for her job. She was recently showcased on a TV show, revealing a new side of her personality. It ended up changing a lot of things about her as well.

We spoke to Viktória Kiss, a participant on the 2023 season of the TV survival show. As revealed in the recently-aired final episode of the show, she was the one to emerge victorious from 18 contestants in a grueling competition that tested both body and soul.

Survivor is one of the world’s toughest and most popular reality shows, challenging players to do battle with themselves, with each other and with the harsh environment in isolated conditions. Civilian contestants demonstrate to millions of viewers that with perseverance and careful strategy, they are able to overcome climate, the hardships of nomadic life, hunger, wildlife, the many associated physical and mental trials, and even their very own selves.

Viki, how did you end up on TV as an internal auditor for Audi Hungaria and world champion natural bodybuilder?

Actually, it all started as a joke, I just registered for fun. Then, half an hour later, my phone rang – it was the show’s producers. I was sure it was a wrong number, so I just hung up on them. Later, it turned out that they were quite serious about considering me for the show, and just a few days later I found myself going through the selection process, participating in structured interviews. I had a signed contract by mid-May, and on 13 June I was already on a plane to the Philippines, lost in thought.

You didn’t have much time to prepare. How does one even prepare for such an adventure?

As an active bodybuilding competitor, I was preparing for the World Championship on 18 June. I had qualified at the top of the European rankings. I had to make a difficult decision, because taking part in the survival show meant I would have to miss the World Championship. I shifted into a different gear with my preparations. I had to adapt my training, as I knew that I would have to face physical hardships and deprivation in the jungle. I started concentrating on building mass and muscle, but what I focused on the most was mental training. I was confident that hunger wouldn’t be a problem for me, as I had already accustomed my body and mind to it through pre-competition dieting. I was more concerned with being away from my family, as I had never been away from my children for so long.


Your daughter’s graduation also coincided with your time away from her...

Jázmin and I have a very honest and open relationship with each other, almost like best friends, so we sat down and talked about whether we could handle this as a family. For me, it was very important to have the support of my children and my relatives throughout all of this. My daughter was preparing for university abroad, and we saw this competition as an opportunity to finance her education as well as an opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone, more than I had ever done before. I believe that these few weeks have taken me on a journey of personal development that will last me a lifetime.


38 days of self-awareness training with minimal supplies, learning to adapt flexibly to the harshest conditions, recognizing who you can and can’t trust. Trusting yourself and others, winning or losing battles and games with strangers, if necessary. But unfortunately, this is a game that can only end with a single victor. So eventually you have to make the hardest decision of all, to compete with the people you have been working alongside.

It’s particularly unusual in that you’re not an actor, yet it’s all happening in front of the cameras.

I’ve always been a goal-oriented person, but learning to focus on a task the way I did there is something that still helps me to this day, whenever I’m facing a new challenge. I believe that you can do anything if you can really make your goals your own, if you can find the one thing you are willing to sacrifice anything for, the one thing your heart compels you to do. And then the “how” and “what” will come naturally. It is essential to find fulfillment in the journey, to draw strength from it and to always live in the present, because if you are able to do that, then you will always find the “how”.


Looking back on the 38 days you spent in the Philippines, what was the worst experience or challenge you faced?

 It’s hard for me to describe the worst experience, because I went through so many unusual, unpredictable situations, and constantly had to push my own limits. From the very moment we arrived, it was obvious that we would be spending this time among deadly snakes, spiders and centipedes, and although professional first aid was available on site, the nearest hospital was six hours away. As a mother, I was shocked because I had a family waiting for me back home, and I wanted to be the one to raise my children... It was terrifying to wake up at night with no idea what was making the scary noises – whether it was a human or some unknown animal – but the worst was waking up with a massive rat in my lap. We quickly understood that we were completely on our own. If we didn’t think ahead and cooperate, we would be spending the night hungry and thirsty, without shelter, in the cold and rain. I’ve only ever seen typhoons in films, and I can tell you that to be in the midst of one is something else entirely – I was scared to death. I had no dry clothes left, the water just kept pouring down, we had no fire, and we were hungry. And I was counting down the seconds in the pitch darkness, to when the sun would finally rise...

Was there a point that you would call a turning point?

Definitely, the two times I received a letter from my family. The first time was 11 days in, when Jázmin graduated, and they gave me the opportunity to dive to the bottom of the sea to get her letter. It was a huge boost that kept me going, because I managed to overcome my panic during the dive. It took a long time to bring the key back up with my partner, but it was such immense joy to read Jázmin’s lines and to know that everything was okay at home. If they were doing their part at home, then I could face up to my own challenges here as well. Then when we got to the top 6, we were allowed to get another letter from our family. This broke a lot of people, but I decided there and then that I was going to win this game. When I started raising my little girl, I didn’t have much life experience. We learnt how to be mother and daughter together, and maybe that’s why she turned out to be a very tough, strong girl. When I read her letter saying that I was the strongest woman she knew, the one she looked up to, and that she considered me a role model, I had no choice but to keep going forward for her.


How much do you think you have benefited from your past and present as an athlete, and from the qualities and competences you have acquired through your job?

Winning required a combination of many different things. I think that because of my age, I have gained the necessary life experience, humility, and respect for others, while my time as an athlete has given me the perseverance and the understanding of my own physical limits that I needed to endure hunger. In the course of my work, I have gained a lot of useful experiences, including my communication skills – how to talk to others, how to be understood, how to listen, and how to understand the other person, as well as complex strategic thinking, examining situations from multiple perspectives when making decisions, considering all possible consequences, or even thinking several steps ahead. It was very important to be able to motivate others, to look for solutions instead of mistakes, and to approach problems with flexibility and agility. All of these were vital skills for working together as a team and adapting to others. And then, of course, my procurement and controller skills also came to the fore when I needed to negotiate, make offers, give ultimatums or assess all the possible outcomes of a situation.

Sometimes, life-changing events can happen in a person’s life, after which they will never be the same again. How has your time on the island changed you?

What I've learned most from this period is that I need to trust myself more. I used to want to please others, but now I am more able to own my own successes. My relationship with others has also fundamentally changed. This period of deprivation has brought me closer to people. I learned to hug people, to be happy for others, and to more honestly express my feelings.


How do you think this will affect your future career and work?

The kind of personal development I have gone through will continue to have an impact on my everyday life, my work and my career. Improving my relationship with people, my empathy, and my ability to persuade others will give me an extra boost on the road to becoming a leader. I hope that others will also find the 38 days I have experienced to be motivational and inspiring, and they will be able to set their own goals and push their own limits.

“Don’t wait for the storms to pass, learn to dance in the rain.” Véronique Maciejak



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