After Pope’s May 31 Romanian Visit, Region Has Erupted in Ethnic Tensions, Attacks and Violation of Rights
This article is an editorial by my dear friend and family member Eszter Kaganovskiy. She is a Transylvanian, Romanian born concert violist, artist manager, rare violin investment consultant and humanitarian. Here is her story:
Recently, anxiety between Romanians and minority Hungarians has erupted over a WWI and WWII era Austro-Hungarian military cemetery in Valea Uzului/Úzvölgye, Transylvania, Romania. The conflicts resulted in violent clashes on June 6 and have continued to escalate since.
In a NYT OpEd on January 3rd, 2019, Béla Lipták noted the alienation and anger Hungarians feel toward Western Europe and the European Union. A case in point is Transylvania, one of Europe’s largest minorities. The West, he observes, is seemingly unaware they exist.
One of the causes, he notes, is the “terrible injustice that occurred at the end of World War I through the Treaty of Trianon, when this kingdom, over a thousand years old, was dismembered.”
“President Woodrow Wilson rightly opposed the Trianon Treaty,” Lipták said. “He felt that strangers should not be allowed to redraw the borders in Central Europe and overnight turn millions of Hungarians into foreigners in the towns that were built by their fathers.”
Romanian authorities promised that all rights of minorities would be respected after the war’s end in 1920. The commitments, however, were soon forgotten, with one atrocity following another in the century since, as witnessed by the violent events of June 6th.
The Úz Valley military cemetery in Transylvania was established by Austrians and Hungarians in 1917. It serves as the resting place for the fallen heroes of WWI and WWII battles from seven nationalities including Hungarians, Austrians, Russians and as identifiable by name a single Romanian soldier. The cemetery falls under the jurisdiction of the small Transylvanian village of Csíkszentmárton/Sanmartin Ciuc, Transylvania, Romania, in Hargita/Harghita County. Recently, however, the local council in Dormănești/Dormánfalva/Romania–a small town of 8,600 in Bacău/Bákó county, Romania–have entered the cemetery to set up new concrete crosses and a memorial to only one ethnicity — the Romanian war heroes in the cemetery (of which there exists, as far as can be identified only one).
The Romanian Ministries of Culture and Defense and the Bacău County building authority have declared the new crosses and memorial to be a violation of law. Since this illegal occupation began, The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) has appealed repeatedly to national and international authorities to require the conflict be resolved immediately by state authorities and in accordance with the national and international laws and covenants in force.
Until the legal dispute is resolved, they have asked that no one enter the cemetery. Despite the official requirement, however, the council of Dormănești declared that an inauguration of the Romanian war memorial would take place on June 6th. Some 1,000 ethnic Hungarians, in silent prayer, formed a human chain around the cemetery to prevent the arriving Romanian crowd from entering. Despite police presence, however, several in the Romanian crowd shouted ethnic slurs at the Hungarian community and broke through the police cordon, crashing through the fence and breaking open the gate. Some of the Hungarian group were physically attacked. At least several serious injuries occurred. The Romanian crowd then proceeded to tear down a portion of the Hungarian crosses and began a Romanian Orthodox service to consecrate the Romanian war memorial, laying wreaths at the base of the new crosses. And what about the police presence? According to press reports that included extensive video/media coverage on hotnews.roand TransylvaniaNOW.com, Romanian police officers were seen laying wreaths at the Romanian war memorials as well.
Since its founding, the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ), has struggled for peace and stability in Romania, interethnic harmony and respect for the rights of national minorities. Their hard work and contributions have been essential to Romania’s accession to the EU and NATO. They believe, together with all Hungarians in the region, that mutual respect and cooperation will benefit all communities and serve the interests of all Romanian citizens. After the recent incidents, however, the leader of the RMDSZ, Kelemen Hunor, has said, “The Romanian state has showed its real face through the events of the Úz Valley.”
Hungarian can only hope Romanian authorities will take all measures necessary to prevent further atrocities against their community, and by doing so, avoid further communications breakdowns, clashes and violence, or even an escalation to war. While RMDSZ will continue to work with the Romanian state to seek solutions and prevent escalation, it is vital that national and international authorities be on high alert and able to intervene in the protection of human and legal rights for not only the Hungarian community of Transylvania, but for all.