Being Hungarian is a way of life, a state of soul, and comprises a set of ancestral roots that connect even those whose parents were born abroad already—confessed the individuals featured in the first and second parts of the Remigrates (Visszidensek) series, four of whom came to the Danube Institute to speak about what being Hungarian means to them on the occasion of the second part’s release. John O’Sullivan, president of the Danube Institute, honored the work of the Friends of Hungary Foundation in initiating the project and publishing the books.
There have been waves of Hungarians leaving the country over the past 150 years, said Gábor Gyuricza, both the innovator behind the Remigrates series and a Hungarian born in Brazil. Many Hungarians left their homes under the Habsburgs, in the 30s, in 1945, in 1956 and continued to depart even after joining the EU— usually because of political or economic reasons. However, most left with the intention of returning when circumstances improved. As a result, they strived to preserve their culture and national identity.
Gábor Gyuricza. photo by Miklós Hajósi
After being born as the second or even third generation of Hungarians abroad, others became inspired to return and experience their motherland. The two parts of the Remigrates series contain two sets of 12 detailed, personal and unique interviews with journalist Péter Gyuricza. Those interviewed reveal how they or their predecessors lived in Hungary, why they left, how they stayed Hungarian so far away from the country and how they came to return.
Baron Antal Lipthay. Photo by Miklós Hajósi
Baron Antal Lipthay descends from a longstanding line of nobility: their title was bestowed upon them by none other than Béla IV., “the second founder of the state,” in the middle of the XIII. Century. However, the family of nobility was persecuted once the Soviet troops arrived. Some of his relatives were forcibly relocated while others were murdered. Antal Lipthay’s parents escaped to Holland where he was later born, and the family later moved to Chile. After leaving the marketing industry, Lipthay became a Chilean diplomat, working in both Austria and Romania. After the communist regime change, he decided to return to Hungary, especially bearing in mind that his ties to the country dated back 800 years. He only began learning Hungarian at age 44 from his Slovenian secretary. His Hungarian citizenship was returned to him after it was taken by the communists while he was very young. He helps Hungary through philanthropy and societal organizations and is certain that the time of Hungary’s rebirth has arrived.
Árpád Szőczi. Photo by Miklós Hajósi
Ever since he was a child, journalist Árpád Szőczi has hated unfairness—attributable to his father who often told him about the tragedy of Trianon and the oppression of the Hungarians living there. His father was able to escape a work-camp under the Rákosi regime and began a new life in Canada. He married an Austrian woman, so Árpád Szőczi grew up learning both German and English—only learning Hungarian later on in early adulthood using sports magazines. In the 80s, he organized multiple demonstrations in Canada in the name of Transylvanian and Upland (Slovakian) Hungarians. Later on, he had a key role in arranging an interview between two Canadian journalists and Lászlő Tőkes, Temesvár’s (Timisoara) Reformed pastor, on Ceausescu’s oppression of Hungarians in Romania. Months later, the uprising broke out. He would later document the event in a book and film. Árpád Szőczi works at the MTVA English news programming and lives two weeks at a time in Berlin and Budapest. He is thankful to Canada for accepting his family, but he has no desire to return. He inherited his father’s patriotic spirit, and once he retires, he will settle in Hungary.
Keve Papp. Photo by Miklós Hajósi
He did not return to Hungary because he never actually left—declares Keve Papp, who was born in Washington but moved to France a few years later. As a child, his father told him he was allowed to fight in school only when classmates made fun of his mother or his homeland. When he questioned where his homeland was, “Hungary” was the definitive answer. In America, he organized a Hungarian scout troop and then went on to attend the Naval Academy. In the 80s, he worked as a journalist for the Economist, often writing about changes in Hungary because he was able to speak the language. He remembers what they thought: if the Soviet troops leave, Hungary will rise to Switzerland’s level. Although his grandparents left Hungary upon the arrival of the communist Soviets, his grandchildren will be born there. With this, he feels the cycle has been completed. His children speak Hungarian at home because this is the beloved language.
Frido Diepeveen and his band. Photo by Miklós Hajósi
Though his name may not be Hungarian, Frido Diepeveen is all the more proud that he can be featured in the Remigrates series. His family also comes from Transylvania: his grandmother had to escape the new Romanian land following the Treaty of Trianon. After a few months spent in Budapest as a teenager, she ended up in Holland taken in by a local family. She married a Dutchman and did not teach her children to speak Hungarian. However, her grandchild Frido fell in love with gypsy music one summer while on vacation in Lake Balaton. Around the age of seven or eight, he began learning to play the violin. By the time he turned 15, he was studying from Hungarian Gypsy violin maestros. While he was studying law in Amsterdam, he frequently traveled to Hungary, continuing his violin studies. After a while, he took the advice of one of his mentors: he can only master gypsy music if he understands what the songs are truly about. He found work at a Hungarian insurance company and nearly mastered the language within 6 months. He has lived in Hungary since, and to attest to his love of Hungary, its music and its language, he performed with his gypsy band at the Danube Institute. Though he may only be “25%” Hungarian, this is where he feels most at home. He sees Hungary as the land of opportunity and if he is away for more than two days he begins to feel homesick.
Translation by Katrina Hier
featured photo by Miklós Hajósi