Appealing to the Slovene Heart

The celebration of the 5th meeting of the Slovenes living in Hungary


Szentgotthárd, 13.08.2005

In the early morning, Slovenes living in Hungary, who had arrived by bus coming from Budapest, Mosonmagyaróvár and Szombathely, gathered to celebrate a day dedidated to Slovene culture and policy. Together with numerous manifold cultural performances one also commemorated Pável Ágoston (1886-1945), the Slovene author who is of great significance for the inhabitants living in Porabje. A central aspect of the meeting was the promotion of Slovene identity shaping.

In front of the Slovenski Dom, (The House of the Slovenes), which is located in a Slovene hotel building in Szentgotthárd (Hungary), about 300 guests attended a jovial apéritif. They were welcomed by the members of the various organization committees of the meeting, such as The Organization of the Hungarian Slovenes and the Slovene Self-administration.

Bilingual worship

At 11am the guests moved on to the Roman-Catholic church of Szentgotthárd to attend worship. One priest delivered an emotional sermon in Slovene, another in Hungarian. The former emphasized the importance of the perpetuation of the Slovene identity, a crucial topic of the whole meeting.

Slovene dance and singing

After the worship, a cultural presentation in the theatre of Szentgotthárd was on the program. The performance was launched by the Destrinki Folklore Dance Group from Slovenia. Dressed in Slovene liveries the musician played some songs on their traditional instruments and accompanied the music with tunes sang in Slovene, which is often interrupted by loud cries of joy, which can remind you of Austrian folk music.

Remembering their Slovene roots

Subsequent to this folkloristic part the audience was welcomed by representatives of the states Slovenia and the Raba Region Slovenes. The politicians made speeches on Slovene identity. In his speech, Andrej Gerencer, the Slovene ambassador in Hungary, put emphasis on the importance of parents and schools in perpetuating the Slovene language. Gerencer pointed out that with his policy, he pleaded for the introduction of bilingual classes within the Raba Region. The president of the Slovenes living abroad, Franc Puksic, depicted to the audience the status law for the ethnic Slovenes abroad, which was under way at that time (it is being verified by the Hungarian government and will be forwarded to the Parliament for acclamation soon). According to Puksic, the Slovenes who do not live in their motherland will take advantages of this very law. Furthermore, he explained that the 5th meeting of the Slovenes living in Hungary was a great success, because the Slovenes were a strong ethnic group, also outside their motherland.

The relations to the EU and Hungary

What is more, the present politicians accentuated that Slovenia was a member of the EU but that one expected a lot from Brussels. Regarding the partnership with Hungary it was pointed out that a lot had been achieved but that many developments progressed too slowly. It was proposed among other things that one should also build Slovene schools in Hungarian cities where Slovenes lived. For the mother tongue was the language of the heart, and only by it one was able to express adequately what one thought and felt. In addition, the mother tongue represented an easier way to perpetuate Slovene identity.

Extensive support by the Slovene state

Another topical stress in the speeches of the politicians was the role of the motherland Slovenia for the Slovene inhabitants of the Raba Region. Slovenia provided funds for events such as the meeting of the Slovenes living in Hungary. The present politicians expressed their gratitude for this aid and they said that with their work, the Slovene politicians attracted the attention of the politicians of the countries where Slovenes lived as ethnic minorities. Furthermore, Slovenia cared about the funding of the reorganization of the Slovene self-administration and of the establishment of a new minority office.

The situation of the Slovenes living in the Raba Region

Concerning the Slovene Raba Region not only positive aspects were mentioned but one also discussed problems appearing in today's Porabje, such as deficits in the system of education and in economic development and complained about the small range of media in Slovene. In reference to the coming Hungarian elections in 2006 it was postulated that only those representatives of the numerous ethnic groups living in Hungary who pleaded for the sake of these ethnic minorities with full dedication should be elected to the government. With gratification it was said that the Slovene self-administration had won a good seat in the government.

The aged and the young united in tradition

Another cultural intermezzo followed policy. The Goricki Lajkosi Folklore Music Group and the Pável Ágoston Folklore Group from Felsöszölnök/Gornij Senik showed Slovene dances and accompanied their performances with Slovene singing. A women's choir, whose members, except the conductor, were dressed in striking pink, sang traditional Slovene tunes. However, also the young did not miss out that afternoon. The Children Folklore Dance Group from Apátistvánfalva/Stevanovci, who were accompanied by two musicians, entered the stage to present their rehearsed choreography. The boys and girls who were dressed in the liveries of the Slovene Raba Region sang and danced with visible joy and infantile enthusiasm. At the beginning of their presentation they gathered around a basked, in which they were shelling corncobs. Then they danced a kind of ring-a-ring-a-roses and along with their dance they sang. The finale of the cultural program consisted of a short play in Windish and of Slovene dances.

In search of Pável Ágoston

After the play, the guests spread in the numerous buses, which had been provided for the meeting, and drove to Cankova (Slovenia), where Pável Ágostons, the famous Slovene author was born. In front of the municipal house the most important episodes in the life of Ágoston were explained to the audience. Not only can interested parties see the writer's birthplace in Cankova but also visit a school he used to go to. Furthermore, in the municipal park a stone bust commemorates the artist. The journey into the world of Pável Ágoston was rounded off by a short sermon on his work in the church of Sv. Jozef.

The meeting of the Slovenes living in Hungary - a seminal event

The 5th meeting of the Slovenes living in Hungary enabled them to get together with their peers, to form new bonds and to revive old friendships. There was a lot of laughing and discussing going on, and as an outsider you did not get the impression that local distance could separate people, on the contrary. The guests of the meeting formed a tied community who visibly enjoyed celebrating their culture and traditions. This very meeting is a seminal event because it brings together the Slovenes living in Hungary and promotes and preserves their rich culture heritage. It acts as the preserver of the Slovene identity and reminds the Slovenes living in Hungary to deal with their culture and tradition. Or, as quoted saying by the politicians in Szentgotthárd: How did the situation in the Raba Region look like in the past? Where do the Slovenes living in Hungary belong to and which plans for the future do they have? One thing seems to be clear-cut: See you again soon, on the 6th meeting of the Slovenes living in Hungary.

           Pictures                                                                          Joël Gerber