Speech by Rector Ildikó Orosz at the Master’s degree Graduation Ceremony of Ferenc Rákóczi II Transcarpathian Hungarian College of Higher Education
Eminent Delegate, Churchmen and Officials!
Dear colleagues, students and our guests!
We have approached the final event of the graduation ceremony. This academic year 228 graduate students were awarded degrees: 58− vocational, 104− bachelor’s and today 56 graduates are awarded a master’s degree. 11 students earned a bachelor’s degree at the BA/BSc level in two different majors simultaneously.
In 2018/19 academic year 1210 students were enrolled in Ferenc Rákóczi II Transcarpathian Hungarian College of Higher Education: of these 451 were full-time students, 248−correspondent students, 213 students attended non-accredited programmes by Ukraine, 298 students participated in vocational training. Owing to the efforts of the Adult Education Center 186 persons attended English, German and Russian language courses at our College. As many as 3110 persons learnt the Hungarian language in 3 regions, 12 districts, 37 settlements at 49 locations, who were provided with an opportunity of acquiring the language under the supervision of 77 experienced language specialists in 206 learner groups in 160 course hours. There were 565 applicants for the Ukrainian language courses from 4 districts, 12 settlements, who with the support of 12 language teachers had a chance to master Ukrainian in 120 learning sessions. 24 testees took language examinations in the Russian, English, Hungarian and German languages at elementary, intermediate and advanced levels at the International Language Examination Center. 676 testees’ Hungarian language acquisition level was assessed at the aforementioned center. In addition, medical training for 2443 applicants was organized by The Adult Education Center. An intensive Hungarian professional language course was given to doctors in 30 hours, and two different editions of Ukrainian-Hungarian specialized language dictionaries for medical professionals were published. There is a pressing need for these courses and it is our intention to continue with them. In the future some people will have to concentrate more on grammar and spelling as evidenced in the election leaflets which demonstrate poor language command.
Our departments’ faculty members have also taken their share of work, especially those whose students are eligible for a master’s degree today, among which I would like to emphasize those whose graduates are awarded master’s degree for the first time, namely the Biology-Chemistry, History and Social Sciences, and Philology Departments. I would like to thank all faculty members and the deputy heads of departments Katalin Lizák, Erzsébet Kohut, Imre Szakál for their hard consistent work, which has borne fruit. Thank You!
The outgoing academic year was shaped not only by our internal work, but also by the external factors, the ever-changing world around us, the social environment and its atmosphere. Our research institutes took an accurate snapshot of evolving events, which fact caused dissatisfaction of numerous government figures because it reflected the truth and the real state of affairs, which diverged from what they desired to see and show to the public. It is not our mirror that distorts, but the actions of those who designed and implemented it.
Researchers of the Antal Hodinka Linguistics Research Centre István Csernicskó and Mihály Tóth summed up the blatant, drastic human rights violation of the Transcarpathian minorities, especially of the Hungarian community brought about by the new law on education. Adoption of the notorious education law deprived us of the right to education in the native language which had been in effect for 150 years. Should the Hungarian authorities have adhered to such language policy for a thousand years, over a time span of 40 generations all neighbouring nations would speak only Hungarian at present. Although speakers of other languages have been able to preserve their identities and use their mother tongue for centuries, some scholars, journalists, and textbook writers label their language policy as most oppressive, fascist, while today’s national politics is described as democratic, though it is very reminiscent of the red and brown plague era.
We are accused of law violation, meanwhile our constitutional rights are constantly being violated. Our historical memorials, plaques are damaged, our history is rewritten. At a scientific conference one professor classifies the Hungarian community as mentally feeble and compares it to dogs. The headquarters of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Cultural Association (in Hungarian: Kárpátaljai Magyar Kulturális Szövetség – KMKSZ) was blown up. In the cities young people with blazing torches covering their faces organize marches chanting, “Knock the Hungarians out!” All these are reminiscent of the demonstrations against Jews 100–150 years ago. Recently, the personal data of dual citizenship owners has been revealed on a website considered as a death list, while on the parliamentary website signatures were collected to put the issue of our deportation on the agenda.
What is it if not racial discrimination, also called fascism having caused condemnation all over the world in the twentieth century? We ask for nothing more than what is stipulated by constitution, because as Ukrainian taxpayers we only want to get our constitutional right back and everything that belongs to us from our tax payments in relation to education, social health care, our cultural life, and our road network. We want to remain here in the land of our ancestors and we are not going to pack our suitcases for anybody’s sake, despite the thousands of calls. The culmination came on April 25 in the form of language law, which ordered a complete mouth lock. This law resembles the era of the red plague and Tsarism. I am sorry for the Ukrainian compatriots, who resort to the negative experience of their people in the exercise of power. What they are doing to minorities now had been done twice in the course of their history: banning their language, or what Stalin did in the 1930s when their schools were Russianized. This was accompanied by a period of personal persecution. Over a year almost every Hungarian public figure has been subjected to an in-depth investigation at the border. What are you looking for? Allegedly they are searching for a foreign passport, but most of the minutes have not been produced. Moreover, having another state’s passport it is not illegal, otherwise it would be impossible for some foreign ministers to work in our country. This was proved by our colleague, Karolina Darcsi, who won a lawsuit against her for having a Hungarian passport. What is it if not double standards? What ministers are allowed to do, the grassroots are forbidden, as if they were not subject to the same law.
The outgoing year is best depicted by József Attila’s poem “Air”.
“You can keep track of whom I called and when, why.
They keep files of what I dreamed of and who understands it.
And I can’t guess when there’s enough reason
to retrieve the file
which violates my rights… ”
In the relevant academic literature one can come across the following lines about the poem written in 1935: “… there is no one who could better understand the prevailing atmosphere of the time than the poet. Fascism grew and flourished then … The poem strives at illuminating the true nature of affairs: let’s face our thoughts, sort our lines. … They give you an accurate picture of intercepted phones, suspicions, accusations, gazes of guilt, of the atmosphere in which everyone is being watched and whose deeds are recorded in files to make them vulnerable and addicted. … .The sneaky ones live easier, but that’s how the world works. They give sneaky answers when asked, slyly averting their eyes, and malignantly enjoy the troubles of others.”
The poem perfectly befits the social atmosphere of the years 2016–2018 of the Transcarpathian Hungarians. Therefore, in order to secure its functioning, the college had to hire guardians to avoid harassment of provocateurs. Our teachers and students were summoned by the Security Service of Ukraine (in Ukrainian: Служба безпеки України – СБУ), as they said, for “prophylaxis”. There were people who were “visited” at their workplace. “Prophylaxis” also means prevention, and the Security Service of Ukraine (СБУ) have met with these people because they have not yet committed any violations of law, but are on the verge of doing it, because they are believed to foment conflict in their scientific work and publications, conference presentations, speeches or interviews. This is clear projection; the actions of others are projected on us. It is interpreted as the freedom of speech when certain people march in our streets chanting the phrase “Knock the Hungarians out!”, when minorities are referred to as hounds at international conferences, and when they threaten with deportation; however, if we, the concerned party, are writing about this, or commenting on it, it is already breaking the boundaries of the infringement.
The press wrote about the fact that I was questioned on such a pretext, but it did not mention who else from our institution was besides me. Let their names be pronounced: István Csernicskó, Gyula Fodor, Karolina Darcsi, Béla Rácz, Katalin Soós, and Erzsébet Bárány. Lajos Szilágyi, who has repeatedly represented our position in Kyiv, Brussels, at the OSCE, has done a lot to preserve our mother tongue education. Andrea Kozák, our legal advisor, accompanied our summoned students and edited petitions. Iván Szilágyi, and our other lawyer, Andrij Moca, represented the interests of the college at various accreditation forums in Kyiv. I thank them and all the staff who have done their jobs in such circumstances.
It is a sad fact that nobody besides Hungary has protested because of our grievances. The world and its mouthpieces, the otherwise loud NGOs, minority, personality and individual rights protectors, seem not to see and hear what is happening in Ukraine, this does not reach their stimulus-threshold. Would they have behaved in the same way if it had happened in a different country where the rights of other minorities are trampled on, there are similar events of intimidation that violate international conventions and bilateral treaties? Definitely not!
Yet, Ukrainian legislation has adopted an education law and a language law that contradict the Ukrainian Constitution, other previously adopted laws, ratified international and bilateral conventions, such as the Ukrainian-Hungarian cooperation treaty signed in 1992. In this treaty, Hungary acknowledges the borders of Ukraine, while Ukraine guarantees ensuring and enriching the obtained rights of the Hungarian minority living on its territory. The new laws have violated the convention: our rights have been severely restricted, so we can even interpret this step as politically terminating the agreement between the two countries.
Separatism is the latest insult to us. In this connection, we, the Hungarian community, are pestered. They do everything so that we leave our homeland behind. The other day this badgering was because of the use of our national colours, although it is also a constitutional right. It happened so that in the Hungarian newspaper, which is not financially supported by the Ukrainian state, and that called on the Hungarians of Transcarpathia to go to vote as a civic duty, those districts where the Hungarian candidates are involved were painted red, white, and green, the colours symbolizing faith, hope and charity. Therefore, the newspaper was accused of separatism by the SSU. When the Electoral Commission (EC) rejected the petition in which the Transcarpathian Hungarians asked for their constitutional right to have an electoral district for a minority living in a block in which they have majority in order to delegate their own representative to the Ukrainian Parliament, nobody reported any minority rights violations or provocation of conflict. The EC gave a cynical reply to the petitions claiming that they do not know where the Hungarians in Transcarpathia live. So theoretically it would be our right, but practically it is not, as if we were second-class citizens of this country. The reported newspaper did nothing but respond to the cynical response of EC. On the one hand, they indicated with three colours where the Hungarians in Transcarpathia live; on the other hand, it would have been enough to use the green colour of hope if the EC restored the previous electoral district with the centre of Berehove.
We, Transcarpathian Hungarians, are at home in the three-colour country and we will stay here because we want to live, work and prosper where our ancestors rest. From here I am telling everyone who does not understand: we are indigenous in this country, like the Indians in America, and we demand protection for ourselves and our culture according to international standards.
We would be pleased if the Ukrainian state would take care of us and the region, if we did not need the support of the Hungarian state. As taxpaying Ukrainian citizens we hardly get anything to maintain our culture, but separatism is seen in all forms of support of our homeland’s survival if it comes from Hungary. However, these benefits enrich the country as well as donations and foundation grants from the Czech Republic, Finland, America, Canada and other countries. Every penny (in Ukrainian: копійка) is officially taxed, so it pays off for the state several times, and the money also covers the Ukrainian population, and it is enough to think about the medical treatment in Hungary of soldiers returning from the front, and the organized holiday of their children in Hungary. In the absence of subsidies, Transcarpathia would have gone bankrupt long ago, especially the Hungarian regions. The biggest taxpayer in the town of Berehove is the Ferenc Rákóczi II Transcarpathian Hungarian College of Higher Education, which is supported only by the Hungarian state, and we do not receive a penny from the Ukrainian state, only regular checks and frequent due diligence. Thank you for sharing our destiny with brotherly affection!
In such years and circumstances, what shall I wish you as a provision for your life journey, graduate students, dear colleagues? Take strength from the spirit of the institution which is defined by the character of the great prince Ferenc Rákóczi II. Never give up and always strive for making the world better, do not resign yourselves to the bad situations, have as a guiding idea what Attila József defined at the end of his previously cited poem:
“My leader guides me from my inside!
People we are, not wild animals –
We are minds! Our heart, until it lusts for something,
Is not simply index data.
Come, freedom! You create order for me,
Teach your beautiful, serious son
With good words and also let him play!”
I could finish here, but I already hear the question of how to endure such a lifetime pressure. To this question I also found one of my guiding ideas of my life in poetry. Allow me to share it with you in the hope that it will provide you with support.
If… by Rudyard Kipling
“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt-you,
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies.
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master
If you can think – and not make thougts youraim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors Just the same,
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and- toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss,
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it
And – which is more – you will be a Man my son!”
Berehove, 19th July 2019
Ildikó Orosz, PhD, rector