“I've just received a message on the phone: our deputy bishop has received his summons” – with this dramatic announcement, Sándor Zán Fábián opened his report on the Ukrainian crisis at the General Convent’s presidency session of the Hungarian Reformed Church held on 7 March in Beregdaróc. Zán, the bishop in Subcarpathia, said that it is not only the pastor in Ungvár that this has happened to in the last few days. Fear and anxiety dwells in the hearts of the people, the women and mothers are worried about their husbands and sons.
“In my opinion there is no transition in Ukraine at the moment, but a shift of power between concerns. The situation is not black and white; we cannot expect anything good for the future. There is chaos, and we live in a society which can easily be manipulated. We do not know what the future holds,” Bishop Zán said when giving his account on the Ukrainian crisis and warning about the collapse of the economy as well as the political-military crisis. The high level of inflation worsens the already bad social situation, not to mention the problem of financing Church institutions. He added: “We just pray that the war can be avoided, because in that case the Hungarians would be used as bullet-shields.”
Bishop Zán stated that Ukrainian press is trying to set the majority against the minorities in the country, when it accuses them of cowardice. “Where the elephants are dancing, the mice should sit in the corner,” he said, referring to the fact that small nationalities are supposed to keep themselves out of the issues of the great powers. The church leader pointed out that the great powers should stay behind their borders and let the people decide how they would like to live. In connection with this, he reminded everyone of a Subcarpathian referendum from 1991, where the vast minority supported the autonomy of the region, but the decision had been avoided. In Zán’s opinion, the Hungarian minority of 150,000 people living in a Ukrainian country with a population of 1.2 million has no possibility to initiate anything, but they can support the efforts of the majority if they agree with that.
Concerning the Subcarpathian situation, Bishop Zán told us: apart from some Ukrainian officers no one else had to suffer atrocities from the Ukrainian nationalists in the county. Due to the unstable situation and the threat from nationalists in Beregszász and in the smaller villages, volunteer civil guard services are being organized, for which the community has asked help from the Reformed Church as well. The Subcarpathian Lay President added that fire extinguishers have been bought for the reformed institutions, their gates were shut and the guards were doubled in the last few weeks.
Threat of bayonets?
Although the Hungarians in Subcarpathia have not suffered any atrocities from the Ukrainian nationalists so far, Ferenc Taracközi, the pastor of Beregszász, has confirmed this news for the newspaper of the RCH (Reformátusok Lapja), according to which Ukrainian nationalists armed with baseball bats and clubs disturbed the general assembly session. Taracközi told us that members of the local government asked the disrupters, who obeyed in the end, to remove their weapons. The pastor has classified the report from one radical Hungarian news portal as intentional misinterpretation, reporting that the disturbers pressed a bayonet against the throat of one of the town’s elders, forcing him to sing the Ukrainian national anthem.
On the contrary, the truth is that nothing life-threatening has happened to anyone, but one trouble-maker was singing the national anthem, blaring it into the ear of one of the general assembly’s members who was a previous elder of the local reformed congregation. The pastor stated: at every session of the general assembly in Beregszász, both the Hungarian and the Ukrainian national anthems are played. It was no different this time either.
Statement from the Presidency Council of the Hungarian Reformed Church's General Convent on the situation in Ukraine
“The Reformed of the Carpathian Basin stand with the Hungarians in Subcarpathia”
As participants of the presidency session of the Hungarian Reformed Church’s General Convent held in Beregdaróc, we have listened to the report on the Ukrainian situation with great concern, especially its details about Hungarians in Subcarpathia. According to what we have heard, we assure the Reformed Church in Subcarpathia and the whole Hungarian community of our prayerful solidarity. We support the Hungarians in Subcarpathia striving for peace and are helping them by all means possible. In this recent unclear and unstable situation, we ask for the patience of Hungarian communities living in Subcarpathia, and ask them to wait, relying on the guardian God. Please do not leave your homeland, stay in your homes as long as it is possible. We hope that the draft of Ukrainian soldiers will not lay a disproportionately large burden on the Hungarians in Subcarpathia. We are still following the events in Ukraine, and besides remaining in contact with the Presidium of the Reformed Church in Subcarpathia, we are ready to ask for help if necessary from our partner churches abroad and from international church organizations as well.
8 March 2014, Beregdaróc
Written by Sándor Kiss; translated by Anita Polgári
Phots: Barcza János
Originally published in Reformátusok Lapja 2014/10