I deeply appreciate your review of the book “A Carpathian Folk Song: Freedom, Love, Gold” (“Family’s life never same after ’gold trains’”, The Budapest Times, 18-24 October 2013). I would like to add my personal experience that created the theme and gave me the insight to what the book is really about, and this is what lies beneath: the loss of identity of the Hungarian people today, as I mentioned in its Preface.
After leaving Hungary in 1945 at the age of four years, I returned in my retirement to live in the country for half of the last eight years, spending most of my time producing this book. During this time I realised what has really happened to my former country, and my initial feeling of elation on returning to my motherland to find my roots and culture fell into sorrow.
I saw a different country and people than what I perceived from my Hungarian parents. People were straining to find out who they are and they felt and acted foreign to their language.
I saw this in their faces and actions. So many black circled eyes and dejected looks, their youthful beauty prematurely aged and showing the ravages of the repressive times. People shrugging their shoulders as if to say ,”Oh well, that’s the way it is”.
They don’t smile because they never learned how, nor have they anything to smile about. They say “nem lehet” – it can’t be done – because they were taught by their “Little Red Book” to do only what they are told and not to think.
“What is yours is mine but what is mine is not yours” is what goes around. The inflection in speaking the language shows their insecurity, and their loss of self-esteem is only too obvious. The real Hungarian definitions of words such as respect and honesty no longer exist. This destructive cycle still continues and will continue with each generation because they don’t know the difference – they were born into it.
In the book US ambassador to the United Nations Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. told the president of the UN Security Council on 4 November 1956 in the midst of the Uprising: “We are seizing that moment and we will not fail you.” The failure of the UN to live up to this promise resulted in the tragedy Hungary is experiencing today.
History has now taught us that the 1956 revolution was the pivotal event that resulted in what today is the loss of Hungarians’ identity, culture and much of the meaning of their language.
If 1956 had been successful, Hungary would have rebounded from the devastating events of the two world wars, however 35 more years of the “Little Red Book” and the succeeding “born into” generations have stripped Hungary of its ability to regenerate and left it in limbo – a critically endangered unique culture and language on the path to extinction.
The book tells about the culture and values of a typical ordinary Hungarian family that is seldom seen today. This is why the book is dedicated to the future Hungarian generation. It is for them to find themselves, their roots and help them mold their own lives so they can be at peace with their language and culture.
Examples of plans and projects that can bring back some of this identity are a grandparent program and teacher exchange program of expats starting at the kindergarten and first-grade level. The early grades are the most impressionable and can best benefit from the preserving of the Hungarian culture of the grandparents and expat teachers.
The “Gold” in the title of the book symbolises the values and identity of the Hungarian people. The “gold train” in the book was really an exciting ghost train story of how the gold reserves of the country were saved. The gold was returned to Hungary in August 1946, however the glitter and its soul were safely tucked away with the Crown of St. Stephen in the vaults of Fort Knox in the US.
Maybe one day Hungarians can eliminate the EX- and we all can be just simply PATS.
Sincerely, Steve Tarnay