Magyar Szó

"Documenting the life of the Hungarian community in New Zealand"
- Az új-zélandi magyar közösség lapja.

Issue 82 - December 2005

Expectations and Promises

People often ask me how things are now, since Hungary joined the EU (European Union). The outside world perceives it pretty much as Hungarians within the borders perceived things at the time of the fall of communism: full of expectations that the hope of a better life will be fulfilled sooner rather than later. Sixteen years ago it was the victims of 40 years' Soviet occupation suddenly set free, who believed that things would improve overnight. Eighteen months ago it was the majority of outside observers who expected life to get better for the acceding ex-Eastern Bloc countries from one day to the next.

But what the change of system brought to Hungary back in 1989 was Freedom. Freedom is a human right which we all expect, and if we're lucky enough to live in a country where we enjoy freedom of thought, freedom of speech and of movement, if we are born into it, it doesn't even occur to us, that this most precious of life's values is a feature of how we live. But if we don't have it, we'll even sacrifice our lives in the fight for it. Hungarians don't have to reach far back into the past to find examples of this. Freedom was the immediate reward of the fall of communism, the rest of the intrinsic changes are coming about through patient and consistent perseverance.

When Hungary joined the EU it wasn't the sceptics who tempered people's expectations, it was their experience of the fall of communism which taught them that significant changes that withstand the test of time take time. But joining the EU had its own immediate reward: the assurance of Peace. The very idea of a united Europe which formed back in 1950 and in spite of the strong differences within the region, was motivated by an overwhelming desire to prevent any repeat of what had happened twice within three decades.

Here in New Zealand we tend to take peace for granted. Freedom and peace are attributes of this country that go without saying. Indeed, many Hungarians who ended up coming to New Zealand as refugees chose this land because of its very distance, not because they couldn't stand things Hungarian or European, but because they wanted to secure a free and peaceful future for their children and grandchildren. Those who lived through that experience won't ever forget the value of Freedom or Peace – they know full well why the two most recent milestones in Hungary's history are so important. But this is not what comes to mind for most New Zealanders. They think primarily of the economic benefits: if the EU family takes in their poor cousin, then it makes sense that the poor cousin will also get to enjoy the wealth of the large family.

In practice all ten acceding countries are witness to the fact that it is not quite so simple. After all it took them years to prepare for accession, and since May 2004 all of them continuously strive to meet requirements. The road to "catching up" is a long and hard one. But what is assured for all of them is the security of Peace. Just as in the message of Christmas.

Klara Szentirmay

Magyar Szó Issue 82 - December 2005