Celebratory speech at the opening ceremony of the “Transylvania Region” exhibit in the Village Museum of Szentendre
In the 1980s, long before the Regime Change, a tradition evolved. Hungarian tourists in Transylvania who made it as far as the Hargita Mountains had a pine branch tucked into the grill of their car, above the licence plate. This is how they let others know where they had been. They thought it important to signal to their compatriots in Transylvania and Hungary that they had visited Transylvania. It was important for them to make this trip and communicate this to others.
Your Excellency, the Most Reverend Archbishop,
Your Excellencies, the Most Reverend Bishops,
Dear Director General,
My dear compatriots in Transylvania and in the motherland,
Thirty years after the Regime Change, and after more than a decade of consistent work to strengthen the nation and enhance national consciousness, more and more people feel the urge to undertake the journey and even personally experience what it means that the borders of the Hungarian nation stretch further than the borders of Hungary. Although we no longer tuck a pine branch onto our car, we are proud to tell others that we have been to Transylvania. I trust that in ten years, no one will question the outstanding importance of supporting our compatriots torn away from the motherland.
More and more people know and understand: the umbilical cord between the mother country and Transylvania has been there and is still there in the heart of every Hungarian. It is there even in the heart of those who may not know about it. We had to go a long way to finally arrive here in the Village Museum, at the opening ceremony of the Transylvania Region Exhibit. We thank the conceptualist and the government officials who embraced and implemented the idea over several years to bring – symbolically speaking - a piece of Transylvania here in Szentendre, in the motherland.
In particular we thank Miklós Cseri, his colleagues and their families for their continued support through this time.
Today we celebrate the work of thousands of Hungarians in Transylvania and in the motherland. Some are no longer with us. We know and recognize many of them, but we also know there are many who toured Transylvania with no more than a backpack. They went when it was not fashionable to go. They helped when they could, and they also helped by simply crying with the crying and laughing with the laughing. They helped by their presence, by making their compatriots feel that nothing is more natural than us being together. It is also a time to say thank you to these nameless people. We thank the dancers who have not stopped dancing in the past one hundred years. We thank the mothers who have made their children feel the sweet taste of our mother tongue. We thank the young people who physically stayed at home in Transylvania, but we also thank those who – although they physically moved home, to Hungary – still have a part of their heart that beats for their homeland. We give thanks for the perseverance of the grandfathers, the community-building work of the pastors and the priests, we thank the teachers for their work. We thank the Hungarians in the motherland who in spite of the zeitgeist knew, understood and handed down what it means that we are all of the same blood. Many of them are here with us today. We thank you all, I thank you all!
The Transylvania Region Exhibit in the Village Museum of Szentendre is like a stargate. An opportunity to overcome the boundaries of space and time and feel that we are in Transylvania. The first step on a long journey, or perhaps the gate of return. This, however, is only a taste of the real thing, a teaser, a first step. It cannot take the place of a visit to Transylvania itself. One has to go there, to experience it in person, one has to be immersed up to the heart in what it feels like to be a Hungarian in Transylvania.
In these days and weeks, - thanks to the Without Borders Programme - thousands of students get out on the road to meet our communities living beyond our borders. If they, our youngest – whose hearts have not yet been infected by destructive fury, will feel what we feel, there is a good chance that when they grow up, they will protect and help the Hungarian nation to prosper.
I am grateful that from here in Szentendre, my trip takes me directly to Transylvania. I will visit Kolozsvár and celebrate the Day of Reformed Unity once again. The Reverend Bishops will come with me, I can participate in the consecration of one of the ten recently renovated churches in Magyarlapád, I can take a walk in the garden of the Boarding School of Nagyenyed established by Gábor Bethlen and visit its library. Then, in Gyulafehérvár we will unveil the statue of Prince of Transylvania Gábor Bethlen, and lay a wreath on the grave of Bishop Áron Márton – a saint for every Hungarian. I am especially pleased because my eldest son is accompanying us, and we can climb the Székelykő Peak together.
We are setting out with the Most Reverend Archbishop and Bishops already this afternoon, because it is better for everyone – as is illustrated by historical experiences – if the faithful in Transylvania are not left without their prelates!
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
A bloody war is raging at the gates of Europe. This war casts a shadow over all our celebrations. One would think that in war, the muses are silent. That war is no time to build, to enrich our culture.
I say that when there is war in our neighbourhood, it is even more important that we protect, safeguard and enrich our values. At times like this it is even more important for us to add to the treasures of our culture. In addition to strengthening our traditional defence forces, we need to strengthen our mother tongue and our cultural identity, because this is what unites us and fundamentally determines who we are. We are truly strong and resilient as a nation, able to defend ourselves if we know where we come from and with whom we belong together. That is what today is about.
Transylvanian Hungarian culture is not a piece of our past, but a part of our present and also a key to the Hungarian future. Because without Transylvania, Hungary would not be what it is. This is true today, and will be true in one hundred years. Our Hungarian mother tongue, our shared history and culture is the umbilical cord that ties Transylvania to Hungary.
The exhibition we are opening today is not a traditional exhibition, it is much more than that. It may become a point of orientation for its visitors. For young and old, it shows Transylvania’s diversity and treasures, allowing the visitor to have a personal experience, without romanticizing Transylvania. It unveils a part of the secret that made Transylvania the way we like it. Next to the Transylvanian village, it shows the life of the urban bourgeoisie and the scenes of urban community life.
Moreover, as usual, the whole family, including the youngest, the slightly older and even the more elderly can have a good time at the Village Museum.
Dear Celebrating Audience,
We have not gathered here today to remember, but to celebrate the living reality and our hope for a vibrant future.
The Village Museum brings Hungarian life in Transylvania closer to us, and thus we can learn about it, understand it and love it better. Today we received both an opportunity and a task. But should not just bring and show Transylvanian Hungarian culture here, but also enrich it. The Transylvania Region Exhibit at the Village Museum is not a memorial site, but a site of reproduction. If we take a branch from a plant to reproduce it elsewhere, the plant will not become less as a result. On the contrary. A professionally grafted tree will grow up with all the characteristics of the mother tree, and will bear almost the same fruit by almost the same time.
It will not be the same, but if we pay attention and give it all the care it needs, its fruits can be enjoyed by more people, for longer. Today we have received a chance to do so. If we graft the old Transylvanian fruit tree in this way, it will grow even here, will bear fruit and we can bring those fruits to many places.
Our key priority for the next decades is to grow our numbers, improve our livelihood and have a more beautiful life. To achieve the goal of a „more beautiful” life, beyond improving our numbers and livelihood, we must also nurture the values that contribute to the survival of Hungarians living in the Carpathian Basin and in the diaspora. We must preserve the Hungarian language and our shared cultural heritage, because this is the foundation for a sense of connectedness to the homeland.
“ When I say the word "Transylvania", it encompasses everything, my heart, my soul, the molecules of my brain cells, everything I was, am and will be, from my cradle decorated with tulips to my headstone. It's in my blood.”- writes Albert Wass. I wish more and more of us would feel like this when we experience the scent of Parád salt, the cool water of the River Maros, the feeling of being at home wherever we go, the moments of reception as old acquaintances also when meeting strangers, and when we hear or say the word “Transylvania”!
Thank you for listening to me!