Edit Frenyó: Refugee crisis in Hungary–A Hungarian eyewitness account

As I stared into the eyes of the thirteen-year-old Mohamed from Syria standing alone one August night at the Keleti railway station – one of the thousands of unaccompanied minors passing though Hungary during the summer – I realized that the world is far more ready to mourn the death of a three-year-old toddler and far less ready to embrace the living. Thousands of desperate migrants began pouring into Europe daily over the summer. Their numbers are in the tens of thousands by now, yet as a community of nations we seem to be as far from a humane and sustainable solution as ever. However, there may be hope within the ever growing, international community of civilian volunteers. Indeed, the despair over the massive scale of human suffering I’ve witnessed since I joined the volunteer efforts has been alleviated only by the equally massive scale of humanitarian activism. It has been one of the most compelling experiences of my life, both as a human rights lawyer and as a civilian activist.

The global scale of crisis regarding displaced populations is ever growing. A portion of this crisis has been directly affecting some European countries (especially Italy, Spain, and Greece) in recent years. Meanwhile both the EU and its member states have systematically narrowed safe and accessible avenues for asylum applications. By the spring of 2015, with the ongoing escalation of multiple armed conflicts in the Middle East, unbearable conditions in local refugee camps, and no hope for effective protection in nearby countries, thousands of migrants redirected their movements, propelled by multibillion dollar smuggling networks, to the relatively cheaper though longer West Balkan route, which includes a shorter though consistently deadly sea passage. Migration experts in the past years have functioned like canaries in the mines warning of the consequences of inaction, impending humanitarian disasters and of new migratory routes. Yet this either fell on deaf ears or triggered only one response: massive securitization, by the erection of physical and legal barriers.

An exclusive focus of securitization – when unmitigated by humanitarian objectives – provides only the illusion of safety and stability. It may be a valid objective, but it must not come at the expense of gross violations of basic human rights and international norms. Unfortunately many countries – including Hungary – followed this path. By spring, the Hungarian government’s national consultation campaign consistently conflated migration with terrorism; the enormously expensive billboard campaign doubled down on the narrative of the danger of illegal economic migrants. Government politicians consistently used the terms “illegal immigrants,” “invasion,” and “threat.” They carefully avoided using the term “refugee,” even during the summer when it was obvious that about 70% of the arrivals are coming from war torn regions, mainly Afghanistan and Syria, and would therefore likely qualify for some form of international protection. Unilaterally declaring that people who merely pass through Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia are no longer refugees is a fallacy inconsistent with appropriate application of international rules of asylum. Even before the crisis, Hungary had a poor record with regards to asylum procedures. Yet proper resources were not diverted to enhance the contingency and preparedness of holding centers and immigration authorities. Although by July the number of daily arrivals exceeded a thousand, the overall capacity of holding centers in Hungary stagnated at 3-4000.  Neither was there meaningful cooperation with local representatives of UNHCR, or real intention to work on a collaborative system of processing and settlement with other countries. Granted the general lack of coherence in the EU’s response to the crisis provided Hungary additional incentives to act alone, as it had no intention of becoming the “Ellis Island” of the EU. In part this is understandable; there should have been an EU-wide acknowledgement that the Dublin III processing system is defunct. But the notion that we are protecting Europe by fencing up a part of the corridor, rejecting any discussion on quotas and clinging to the notion that no form of settlement is acceptable is absurd. The argument that if all other EU countries would do the same – thereby pushing people back into death and misery – the problem would be solved is simply cruel. In fact it’s what we’ve been doing all these years.

Nevertheless the Hungarian plan was clear: stem the tide and wait for the remaining migrants to leave. The final step of the Hungarian “solution” was the rapid erection of the fence along our Eastern borders and the series of new immigration and criminal legislation enacted over the summer and fall, cementing the barriers by eviscerating the Hungarian asylum system and making it all but impossible for the vast majority of new arrivals to register, or claim asylum, let alone enter Hungary legally.

In the interim, however, having left society and social services so ill prepared for what was to come, the stage was set for social tension and the escalation of an unmitigated humanitarian crisis. But something unexpected happened in Hungary over the course of the summer that changed the playbook, not just for migrants, but perhaps for all of Hungarian society. Thousands of people began stepping up to donate their time, talent and money out of genuine concern for the wellbeing of refugees and their fellow citizens. They became guides and guardians, mediators between migrants and society, and vital aids to overwhelmed authorities.

There were the well-known groups like Migration Aid, Let’s Help Refugees in Hungary and MigSzol, and the thousands of nameless, spontaneous acts of kindness from those who donated an hour, or a day, or their entire summer vacation to help. To give an idea of the scope of operations: Migration Aid estimated that in July and August alone, they had 500 active regular street volunteers; about 8000 group members and tens of thousands of followers and supporters on Facebook. During these two months, their work totaled 70,000 volunteer hours. “Let’s Help Refugees in Hungary” – a group that worked out of a basement converted into a makeshift kitchen – was bold enough to disregard the lack of licensing and kept providing warm meals throughout the summer. In their first 71 days of operation they provided around 30,000 portions of warm meals and over 100,000 sandwiches to migrants stuck in Budapest. To this day these groups, much like their foreign counterparts, operate primarily within the relative informality of social media networks. Daily operations and communications are coordinated on Facebook and Google. The donations are almost exclusively in-kind, to avoid allegations of misuse of funds. They represent the best of Hungarian ingenuity by having created InfoAid, an android based app to aid migrants and volunteers with live updates in six languages (Urdu, Pashto, Farsi, English, Arabic, and Hungarian). Translators are recruited worldwide. On top of that, for weeks locally and internationally situated volunteer translators and editors of the online blog Refugee Crisis Hungary combed through the most relevant Hungarian language articles and translated them into English to make the often isolated discourse accessible to the world.

Thus from the beginning of the crisis, civil volunteers have taken on tasks of migration management that should have been organized, supervised, and largely performed by government agencies: guiding the arrival and internal transit of migrants; providing immediate medical assistance, information, clothes and food. They have continued to conduct their work in the shadow of informality, constant government critique, charges of aiding and abetting migrant illegality, and the looming danger of reprisals for cutting into the business of an enormous smuggling network, by sheltering and informing migrants of their rights and advocating for safe and legal accommodations and travel options.

The Hungarian obstacle course

Upon arrival during the summer months, migrants were apprehended at the border and detained for 24-48 hours before being released with a certificate from authorities stating their name, age, origin and that they are applying for asylum and designating the holding center they must report to, generally within 24 hours. The document was in Hungarian, accompanied by a blind map of Hungary highlighting the location of holding centers in Bicske, Vámosszabadi, Győr, and Debrecen. They were to make their way on their own on time or risk violating their “duty to cooperate” with Hungarian authorities, which could have a disastrous impact on their subsequent asylum procedures, including immediate expulsion to Serbia. With the exception of unaccompanied minors, no official effort was made to transport migrants or aid or supervise their transit to centers within Hungary. By early August, unaccompanied minors were no longer properly screened or transported to the designated holding center at Fót.

Given the structure of the Hungarian railway system, the vast majority of people had to pass through Budapest, transfer trains – most often change railway stations – and continue their journey from the capital. Never mind their unfamiliarity with the Hungarian language, most migrants came from countries where Latin letters are not used. It was obvious that they were put on an obstacle course that was all but impossible to navigate. Implicit expectations were that most would give up and make their way westward instead of checking into holding centers. This behavior would match the overwhelming narrative of the “illegal immigrant” who is “unwilling to cooperate.”

At Budapest's Keleti Station

At Budapest’s Keleti Station

It was in this daily management of flows and needs where the work of volunteers became essential. Task forces from the southern border city of Szeged would send an online or text message to the appropriate train station group in Budapest on the expected size, demographics, and needs of an arriving migrant group:

  • “Watch out for this woman in the picture, she is pregnant due to deliver any minute”; “there are three children with fever, they need medication”; “prepare size 40-42 shoes for about 10 barefoot guys”; “the man in the picture is looking for his family could you forward it to our family reunification group?”

Upon arrival, volunteers would check migrants’ documentation, explain the basic legal content, attend to the immediate needs, and arrange for their transfer to the appropriate train station. Sounds simple enough? Not in reality. Families were often separated and wanted to wait for lost members before moving on; some needed rest or medical aid, which was clearly going to result in people missing the last train out. Many were sent up to Budapest far too late to continue their journey and were consequently forced to spend the night on the streets. And within a month it was obvious that people would trickle back from holding centers due to lack of space, lack of clarity as to the legal procedures as well as the wish to move on towards Western Europe as soon as possible.

By August, the three main train stations of Budapest turned into make-shift refugee camps. Though the turnover rate was quite high (population usually changed within 3-4 days) it seemed like a permanent settlement, with an unending supply of new arrivals. Entire families, unaccompanied men and boys, elderly couples, pregnant women and hundreds of children ate, played, slept, and waited for deliverance on our streets. Yet volunteer groups operated without any official logistical support from the state for much of the summer. There was also a conspicuous absence of longstanding humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross and UNHCR, as most were denied authorization or remained reluctant to join street efforts, in lieu of government approval.

So Hungarians got “creative.”

Pubs and cafés donated their spaces for storage and food-prep. Others provided access to sanitation when migrants were banned from train station bathrooms. Private citizens showed up at night to gather families and take them to their homes for an overnight stay, regardless of the status of their papers. There were specialized groups for medical aid, family reunification, and the transportation of goods and donations to wherever they were needed, including state run holding centers. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee provided constant access to legal aid and information, as did those of us lawyers on the ground. Artists, teachers, social workers turned out in droves to organize play activities for children, photographers offered to take family portraits, hair dressers offered free haircuts, musicians held impromptu concerts, and doctors and nurses as well as lay volunteers put in thousands of hours to provide medical care, including cleaning and draining infected wounds and IV-drips set up on the street for dehydrated patients, thereby significantly reducing the burden on the Hungarian health care system.

But perhaps most importantly, people committed to bearing witness and taking part in the plight of others every single day. They gave names and faces to an otherwise dehumanized mass of “illegal aliens”; they acknowledged migrants’ dignity by listening to countless accounts of hardships endured and homelands left behind; they lent a voice to the voiceless with personal testimonies even if it meant losing the support of friends and family members; they created a system of transparency by posting images and video footage that travelled around the world; and they did all of this amidst their own early fears and prejudices.

With the willful negligence of authorities, social interaction with migrants was supposed to incite only anger and frustration, or worse: violence. Yet through the commitment and courage of civilians, interaction gave way to a collective recognition of humanity as best described by a migrant’s writing on the wall at Keleti station: “The umma (community of people) is like one body, if one part of the body is in pain the whole body will feel it” – or as we Christians would say “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26).

Finally advocacy and tenacity paid off, and in mid-August authorities in Budapest were compelled to allocate official “Transit Zones” at the Keleti, Nyugati, and Déli railway stations. This included indoor spaces for the volunteers and medical staff, a limited number of toilets and showers, as well as clean water supplies. The city also provided transit buses between the three stations. This alleviated some of the pressure volunteers faced having to pay out of pocket for the transportation of thousands of migrants who otherwise were not eligible to use the Budapest mass transit services. The transit zones represented a huge victory, the first formal recognition of the civilian efforts. The sign that perhaps Margaret Mead was right: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Upon the closing of the border on Sept 15th Budapest – and gradually the country – was mostly cleared of its migrants. The last days before the closure, with masses stuck out on open fields near Röszke waiting for processing, were unbearable. The sudden closure made the well-functioning civilian mediation between law enforcement and migrants briefly impossible, culminating in the otherwise unprecedented and traumatic incidence of violence at the Horgos-Röszke crossing between a group of asylum seekers and counter-terrorism police, leaving scores injured. Now, out of sight, but not out of mind, the volunteers continue their efforts. Groups reconfigured themselves, creating domestic and cross-border task forces. They are scaling the fences by finding new routes to accompany asylum seekers, setting up stations in Croatia and Slovenia. Migration Aid is even considering taking part in humanitarian and development efforts within the refugee camps of Turkey. The work is harder and perhaps more essential than ever as winter sets in. Having joined up with counterparts from other countries, we are witnessing one of the largest transnational humanitarian collaboration in Europe’s history. While governments are playing political dodge ball with the lives of thousands of migrants, civil volunteers from across Europe are stepping up to find solutions.

But one wonders what will take the place of the “migrant,” for better or worse, in Hungary?

Looking at the dominant government narrative, titles like “human rights activist” and “civilian volunteer” have become strangely tainted over the course of past months and perhaps years. Humanitarian efforts have become politicized. The pejorative overtones were most recently accentuated by the comments of Prime Minister Orban in his recent speech on “Signs of the Times” and in a recent radio address. At best, human rights activism is regarded as naïve; at worse, as a subversive political movement aimed at undermining the “nation state.”  It is viewed as criminally complicit, alongside smuggling networks, driven by some grand conspiracy to overwhelm and destroy “Christian Europe.”

Given this climate, I cannot overstate the level of courage, ingenuity and commitment that volunteering entails. And most importantly, the love and solidarity it represents, as foundational moral principles of the Christian Europe so many leaders claim to defend nowadays.

To call civilian volunteers or the human rights activists of this crisis pawns of some grand left-wing conspiracy is both insulting and inaccurate. They in fact represent every imaginable political or religious stance or social group, from the CEO to the homeless man who couldn’t bare the sight of children sleeping on the streets at night, even though it was his daily reality. Their commitment has little to do with partisan politics. Yet this form of activism is profoundly political insofar as it demonstrates the ability to act and effect changes in a society all too often paralyzed and fearful. As of yet, grass roots organizations, civilian volunteerism, or community activism have little space or prestige in post-soviet states like Hungary. During the soviet era, there was no room for such bottom-up civic action. The state was terrified of any collective initiative it did not have complete control of and mercilessly persecuted those that tried to self-organize. This resulted in the modern day passivity and a pervasive etatism in our society, leaving fertile ground for the growth of an overly centralized governing leadership, resulting in ever narrowing parameters of democracy.

Yet if we learn to continue to march, organize, use public spaces, and act on behalf of those in need and ourselves, with half as much vigor as we did this summer, the sky is the limit.

If any good comes out of the human suffering we have witnessed, it will perhaps be that we recognize that our humanitarian intervention was in a way opposition by proxy – as the recognition of disenfranchised and vulnerable masses provided a unique opportunity for a social movement to take off.  But this must continue as outreach on the home front. There are small signs of this already with domestic outreach efforts spurring from previous migration aid related groups. In this sense this is a subversive movement – though not more than Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s was – in the sense that many of us refuse to hold the nation state as a value above human beings; or to adopt a hollow, ethnically and real-politically ordered notion of Christianity as the future of Europe, or Hungary. Rather – for those of us so compelled by faith and practice – we should advocate for substantive Christianity as the future of our moral and social-economic ordering. It is mere Christianity – as C.S. Lewis puts it – which compels us to embrace our common humanity that transcends religious, ethnic and racial lines and extends our obligations beyond the boundaries of our own religion or society. Pope Francis warned us recently of the globalization of indifference, lest we should “become indifferent and withdraw into ourselves,” as isolationist politics would mandate. Indeed Europe’s humanity and Christianity are in danger. The threat is not external. It is corrupt indifference and the comfort of cowardice within.

We now see glimpses of an opposition to this indifference, when instead of appealing to the perceived Zeitgeist of fear and prejudice as the lowest common denominator, free thinkers decided to appeal to a higher common denominator: an over-arching moral responsibility to treat the “aliens” in need as equal members of our greater human society. In other words, recognizing the true essence of the Christian ethics of love and solidarity makes us inevitably each others’ keepers. Accepting this as our new European paradigm and guiding principle of integration would ensure our sustainable development and collective future.

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Gabegab
Guest

Kedves Éva! A hölgy neve helyesen Frenyó (és nem Fenyó). Ha lehet javítsa ki. Az írás nagyon érdekes. Kösz.

Mr.corvin
Guest

Kedves? Seinfeld Eva! How much are you paid by Mr. Szaros who decided that EU has to accept 1 million Muslims a year and pay them 4000Euro at arrival and after.
You are a rotten liar who escaped Hungary at the 56 revolution and ever since you lie and lie.

Max
Guest

According to the government mouthpiece Magyar Idők, Colleen Bell is called home for a talk down. Apparently, she’s been too weak and she will be warned to get tougher.

You see, the paper understands so from US government sources. The leak comes from Obama’s inside circle. Orban has no option but to resist the black man.

http://444.hu/2015/11/04/colleen-bell-meg-nem-eleg-kemeny

webber
Guest

Magyar Idők – Has that paper ever printed a true word about the US and American politics?

kúl
Guest

From hvg.hu to 24.hu news sites are reprinting the story without any change or checking.

Member

The “black man”? What’s wrong with you? What is Orban? The big white saviour of Hungary? Obama is the President of the United States. He is a President, he is a man. In fact he is a better man that Orban ever can be or inspire to be. Orban is the big white, macho man amongst the week, self-centred, uninformed, and/or uneducated.

exTor
Guest

I read Max’s piece, then some time later I read what you wrote, Some1, after which I reread Max.

You made a mistake here, Some1. Max was being sarcastic, ironic. When Max said “resist that black man”, he put those words inside the head (and mouth) of Viktor Orbán. Those words are not the true thoughts of Max.

Because English is not your first language, you miss a lot of linguistic subtleties, in the same manner that I miss a lot in Hungarian.

I commend you on your command of English, however, and I also commend you for your involvement with the electoral process.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Member

Thank you for the English lesson. When a post comes from someone who’s name I never read before on this forum, and just comes here to throw in some comments that contains “black man” in reference to Obama, I could care less about the sarcasm. People who fly by could be shills as far as I am concerned. How about a sarcastic joke about the chimneys and concentration camps? Sorry I am not into this and that has nothing to do with my English. I can take the joke from many people who I know where they stand but not from a stranger. So I appreciate you enjoying the sarcasm about the “black man” from a stranger, but I do not. Now if Max posted here before supporting western values, I would happily apologize.

Al
Guest

some1: “The leak comes from Obama’s inside circle.” Anybody who writes this must be insane himself or impersonate a deranged fidesznik. I actually found Max funny, though the text is a bit schizophrenic.

Richard Field
Guest

I think “Max” was being facetious. Obviously, Magyar Idok is not a reliable source. Furthermore, the article makes no sense. Why would Nuland reprimand Bell after delivering last week’s speech. Index.hu writes that Bell’s trip to the States is of a personal nature and was planned long in advance.

Live long and prosper
Guest

The only thing I would add, as a matter of fact, was that a significant percentage of those who became actively involved with the efforts to help the refugees were (and are) not Hungarian. This reflects a cultural remnant of the decades of repression under communism, and the success, if you can call it that, of the government’s poster campaigns aimed at fanning pre-existing xenophobic tendencies. From my experience it was and is the foreigners working with more worldly Hungarians, many of whom have lived at some time outside of Hungary, that formed the core of these spontaneous and altruistic aid donating and distributing groups.

webber
Guest

A school I know in Budapest collected clothing and blankets for refugees. This was not a govt. sponsored act, and nothing was published about it. It was just the spontaneous action of teachers and parents who wanted to help, in a rather poor district of the city. I was deeply touched by the action. Many people in this district, incl. people living on a teacher’s salary, have a hard time paying their heating bills in the winter.

Guest

Re: ‘that spontaneous action’…

Yes, where there is charity there is hope. Maybe the government will ‘get it’… perhaps one day in the future. But until that comes to pass it’s great to know people do care and can make a connection with those who have some things going against them. There’s something to be said about those who do think about ‘others’ in our hard times for narcissism arguably is the dress-up for our day.

Bowen
Guest

I would second this. Notably, Migration Aid always put up their daily post for donation help in both English and Hungarian. It was the expat Scottish pub, the Caledonian, in Mozsar utca which was acting as a collection point for mattresses and other donations. Those were IKEA blankets that were being distributed. It was CEU students who were visibly making themselves organised.

We can’t quite depict this whole event as an awakening of a Hungarian voluntary spirit, even though hundreds of Hungarians did good work. Too many locals just stayed away from the whole thing, or turned a blind eye, even if they didn’t like what was happening at Keleti.

Member

Yes, but likely in the universe of Orban they are traitors, and terrorists. Didn’t you read that anyone who helps refugees are helping terrorists, that giving food to refugees is a sin, etc….

Guest

And there is also Iványi Gábor, Methodist minister in district III, who is working round the clock, sending truckloads of necessary goods to the refugees, responding to wherever there is need, even across the border.

D7 Democrat (@D7Democrat)
Guest
The majority of those who vote in Hungary do so for Fidesz/Jobbik- these are two deeply racist parties-that, in my book, makes the vast majority of their voters also racist criminals. These people (Fidesz/Jobbik voters) are the direct, spiritual descendants of those who loaded their Jewish neighbours onto the deathcamp trains in WW2 or who, equally sinfully, looked away when the Arro Cross (Fidesz/Jobbik activists of their day) did their dirty work. Hungary is run on hate. To prosper in politics here you need to keep delivering more targets for the igniorant electorate to hate. Orban is the king of this because he knows the typical Hungarian voter doesn’t want to be faced with reality or even positivity- they simply want targets to be continually delivered up to them. That’s why the socialists andl liberals struggle- they simply cannot comprehend the evil darkness lurking at the depths of the collective Hungarian soul. Is that a weakness? In the context of Hungarian politics, probably. In the context of what it means to be a normally functioning member of the human race, then not. So…. that is what makes the work of the volunteers here so much more remarkable and gives us… Read more »
gaston9898
Guest
I agree with many of your points. I also agree that many liberals or leftists are still, in 2015, seem to be surprised by the viciousness of politics and how such politics could bring out the worst from ordinary people. However, you have to understand that what’s happening is basic human psychology. I would even say that decent, rational, well-meaning politics simply cannot defeat the politics of hate because the instincts invoked by the propagators of hate are much more fundamental. In Rwanda or Indonesia in 1965-1966, to name just two examples, totally decent people literally chopped their neighbors, former girlfriends, schoolmates into pieces. What’s even more interesting is that the survivors still live side by side, knowing for example that the jovial neigbor across the street disemboweled his/her grandfather and nobody even denies the acts. De-humanization, in Rwanda the Tutsies were deemed cockroaches in need of extermination, in Nazi times the figure of the Jew in movies was likened to filthy rats lurking in the dark, does work, it’s a well-documented psychological phenomenon. So I don’t totally blame the followers of Fidesz-Jobbik (I agree it’s one political conglomerate, for strategic reasons they are separate for the time being), average… Read more »
Guest

@gaston9898 (November 4, 2015 at 6:14 am)

There is a considerable amount of racism between the lines in the comments on HS. Many commenters expess the opinion that Hungarians – implicite as a race – are morally inferior to other people and deserve no better fate than what the corrupt politicians they have elected are meeting out for them. I disagree with such comments.

My opinion is that the Hungarians are not better nor worse than any other people, but their politicians are far worse than other Western people’s politicians. They deliberately encourage instincts that ought to be discouraged. Instincts that are present in all people.

I cannot say it better than you did in the sentence: “In Western Europe people and politicians try to behave in a decent manner and there exists a kind of political cartel not to use certain methods. In Hungary there’s no such agreement, there’s no “nemzeti minnimum”.

Member
webber
Guest

OT –
If the new draft of the media law is not modified, the Interior Min. will have the right to place a reviewer from the secret services into the editorial offices of the media – t.v. station, internet news service, radio, and newspaper alike.
So, when the Hungarian government said it was modifying the media law because of EU objections, this is what it meant?
News here:
http://index.hu/belfold/2015/11/04/ugy_tunik_pinter_beultetne_a_titkosszolgalatot_a_mediumokhoz/

cinki
Guest

Are you kidding? These people are already there, the few places were there aren’t anybody, their emails, text messages, phones are being monitored.

This is just the diligent fidesznik “lepapírozás”, creating the paperwork which makes the deal legit.

I would add that there are various Hungarian media which are effectively owned and operated by intelligence people.

For Fidesz the total control of the media has always been paramount.

Those who are paranoid will survive, those who are clueless will disappear.

exTor
Guest

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/world/americas/new-crop-of-immigrants-in-parliament-is-seen-as-reflection-of-canada.html

Great article on what it means to be an immigrant in Canada. One of the Liberal MPs who landslided the Conservatives of Stephen Harper (a milder version of Viktor Orbán) is a SomaliCanadian who, 22 years earlier, was himself a refugee from wartorn Africa. He was then a 17-year-old.

There is a lesson here for Hungary.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Member

It is so fantastic! The only thing I would like to add that even conservatives never took such a hard stance as the Hungarian “conservatives” take. I have been working on the Canadian elections for a long time, and I can tell you that even in polls where the conservatives were winning, the voters have a a very liberal stance on race and religion. I have overheard conversations at various locations between family members entering the polls regarding race issues, and it was so refreshing. In one poll a “very white” woman asked the officials to carry up the ballot to one of her neighbours who is from “one of those refugee countries” (her words). Apparently the neighbour broke her leg and could not go to the poll. She said “I know she will vote for the darn Liberals, but it is her right!” I almost fall over. I though that was the best, and sweetest example what Canada is, and what democracy should be about.

Member
I think it may depend where you live Some1. I live in Southern Alberta and seriously am experiencing a terrible turn to racism. I cannot say it is worse than Hungary, but my goodness it is getting harder and harder to deal with here. Of course it is Conservative country here and everyone is freaking out thinking that only the Conservatives could do something about the Oil fields. They are terribly confused and believe all the Brietbart, Right wing news and UKIP facebooks posts as though they are the bible and seriously don’t seem to separate what may be happening in Europe, USA from what Canada might experience. Last night I posted a Remembrance Day post remembering Sikh, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu soldiers from WW1 and WW2. My neighbor, who is also the owner of our neighborhood pub responded with “FAKE! If you were a soldier, you would have never been out of sinc (didn’t get that one) ” No movies of history ever included this race fighting for our country. Lets get real!” The she proceeded to tell me “Are we going to let refugees in???”What could they do to better our country?”Keep faking history before you make it!”… Read more »
Member

Oh my… I honestly had no idea. I really did not know. I was thinking of Naheed Nenshi, and his great success. I know that Alberta is conservative but I had no idea that is so “backward”. I guess it just proves that generalization does not work. Thanks Liz for sharing this with me.

Member
Guest

Not too much OT and fitting in well with some of the latest comments:
We just got the latest edition of the free Jobbik “newspaper” Hazai Pálya and I saved it from my wife who wanted to throw it in the bin directly … 🙂

Essentially it contains two stories:

1) Those bad, bad refugees and their stupid handling by stupid Mrs Merkel – including references to gay people …
2) The corruption of the Fidesz government, from the tobacco shops to Vajna’s empire …

And it also contains “nice” pictures of Rogan, Lazar and several others …

Really interesting and funny in a way – try to get hold of it if you’re in Hungary!

exTor
Guest

The scumbags of Jobbik can be useful idiots. They can come up with evidence of new corruption that we’re not yet aware of. The dissemination of this information by Jobbik can serve to drive a wedge between Fidesz and its constituency. The point then is to draw the disaffected leftward.

MAGYARKOZÓ

exTor
Guest

Sometimes garbage can be gold.

You’ve got the write idea, wolfi. I would never throw that shit away. It’s a keeper, something to look back on. Actually, I would be starting a filefolder of this kind of stuff. Be sure to date it as to when you received it.

Jobbik must be feeling the pressure of Fidesz’s rising popularity, which VO will ride as long as possible. Still a lot of time between now and 2018. A lot can happen.

Not that I think that Gyurcsány can do anything, but he’s starting to make a move politically. He’s basically all there is to the left of center. Nobody else has (or seems to have) much street cred west of Fidesz.

The only problem is that Gyurcsány is damaged goods, as I see him. He suicided with his ‘secret’ Balatonőszöd speech. Not sure he can revivify himself. Too bad, he’s sort of likable.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Gardonista
Guest

The main takeaway I got from this post: There are warm-hearted people in Hungary. I am super glad to celebrate them. Especially since there is little to celebrate in the Hungarian government, though I do share their love of folk music/népzene.

I weary of sharing bad news about Hungary, and my friends are bored of my outrage. This post celebrates the best that is happening in Hungary.

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