Schengen History

Last night, at midnight, border controls were lifted as nine countries entered into the Schengen aggreement and into Europe’s border-free passport-free zone.  The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined the zone.

In a way, this was a final step for many people in the lowering of the iron curtain and the barrier between Eastern and Western Europe.  A big day with big celebrations along so many border towns and cities. 

The town of Sátoraljaújhely (literally “Tent Button New Place”) is on the border of Hungary and Slovakia and was split into two when borders were redrawn by the Trianon treaty in 1920.  As of midnight, residents can simply walk across and visit their neighbors without going through border guards and passport controls.  

velkeslemence.jpgHowever, there is another town on the Slovak Ukrainian border called Velké Slemence which is still split.  For decades the two halves of this town had no access to each other.  But at the strong appeal of the American Association of Hungarians, the governments set up a border passport control station so that friends and family members could once again visit one another.  As a result of the expansion of the Schengen countries, this border will become much much tighter along with those on the Eastern and Southern edges of Hungary. 

European Values and Family Trends

Recently I had the chance to meet with Vladislav Matej (Family Counselor with Socia) in Bratislava.  He outlined a set of recent sociological studies on European values and family trends.  Here are some of the highlights from Vladislav Matej.   

Prof. Jan Kerkhofs, University of Louwen, Belgium reported a longitudinal 20-year study of European values.  There were five primary shifts:

  • Ethics have entered the autonomous sphere (individually determined)
  • Ethical norms are influenced and created by parliaments and not by churches anymore (there are lots of examples of this)
  • There is a high tolerance to the actions of individuals
  • Individual ethics are limited by the freedom of other individuals

There has been a primary movement toward individualism, post-traditionalism, tolerance, and pessimism.

A report (D. Popeone, sociologist) shows correlating trends between the occurance of the sexual revolution, a rapid decrease of fertility, and a rapid increase of divorce.

A study by G.T. Stanton has found a rapid increase of cohabiting couples (not married) and several trends within these households: an increase in disturbing and painful relationships, an increase of interferance of the successful formation of follow-up partnerships (not sure what this means), an increase of conflict, an increase of domestic violence, and a strengthening of mistrust.

The following stats are taken from Eurostat.  The average age of men/women at first marriage in 1980 was 26/23.  In 2003 it was 30/28.  The percent of children born outside of marriage in 1980 was 8.8%.  In 2005 it was 33%.  In 1980 the number of divorces that occured in Europe was 672,917.  In 2005 it was 1,042,892.  Today, 2/3 of households in the EU live without children.  16% of families have one child, 13% have two children, and 4% have three children.  In the next fifty years, the population of the US is expected to increase by 150 million.  In Europe it is expected to decrease by 40 million.

Mikulás Nap

As you know, December 6th is Mikulás (Nicholas) day, and we had a very special visit from Mikulás and the krampusz.  We didn’t realize that St. Nick actually lives in our neighborhood here in Budapest!!!  Thankfully, the boys received candy in their shoes this year instead of sticks or coals.  Here’s some pictures:  Our neighborhood Mikulás, the boys digging into their candy from Mikulás, Jacob decorating the Christmas tree, Thanksgiving dinner with Dori, Joanna, Krisztina, & Péter.

Air Race!

Lately, there have been a few really awesome things happening here in Budapest.  For the second time, we saw the Red Bull Air Race which is one of the coolest things ever.  Check out the the website and video.  Whoa. 

We took the boys to see it, and we happened to find a great spot from which to watch.  For a 3, 4, and 6 year old, you just can’t get much better than this….sitting on mom or dad’s shoulder’s, hearing the roar of planes zooming and turning right in front of your face.

March 15th: Revolution Day

1848 Revolution Day – 1848-as Forradalom és Szabadságharc
The “Hungarian spring” – a bloodless fight for freedom against Habsburg domination which later led to war against Austria and its allies (at the time: the Croats and Romanians).
The main demands of Hungarians were: freedom of the press, and the establishing of a Hungarian parliament in Pest with its government. Revolutionists also demanded freedom of religion, a jury, a national bank, a Hungarian army, and the withdrawal of foreign military presence from the country.

In 1849 Russia intervened on the side of Austria, and won. The Austrian retorsion included the execution of 13 generals of the Hungarian revolutionary army and of 5 civilian leaders of the short-lived independent Hungary. One of them was the first prime-minister, count Lajos Batthyany.

Each year on March 15, the Hungarian tricolors of red, white, and green are prominently displayed all over the country.


Freedom, Love

Szabadság, Szerelem!

E kettő kell nekem

Szerelmemért föláldozom

Az életet,

Szabadságért föláldozom


-Petőfi Sandor, 1847

Freedom, Love!

These two I need

For my love I sacrifice life

For freedom I sacrifice my love.

Petőfi Sándor – 1848

Here is an English translation of Petőfi’s 1848 poem.  I think the translator took some liberty in order to make it rhyme in English, but it is a good translation. 

Rise up, Magyar, the country calls!
It’s ‘now or never’ what fate befalls…
Shall we live as slaves or free men?
That’s the question – choose your ‘Amen”!
God of Hungarians, we swear unto Thee,
We swear unto Thee – that slaves we shall no longer be!

For up till now we lived like slaves,
Damned lie our forefathers in their graves – 
They who lived and died in freedom
Cannot rest in dusts of thraldom.
God of Hungarians, we swear unto Thee,
We swear unto Thee – that slaves we shall no longer be!

A coward and a lowly bastard
Is he, who dares not raise the standard – 
He whose wretched life is dearer
Than the country’s sacred honor.
God of Hungarians, we swear unto Thee,
We swear unto Thee – that slaves we shall no longer be!

Sabers outshine chaine and fetters,
It’s the sword that one’s arm betters.
Yet we wear grim chains and shackles.
Swords, slash through damned manacles!
God of Hungarians, we swear unto Thee,
We swear unto Thee – that slaves we shall no longer be!

Magyar’s name will tell the story
Worthy of our erstwhile glory
we must wash off – fiercely cleansing
Centuries of shame and condensing.
God of Hungarians, we swear unto Thee,
We swear unto Thee – that slaves we shall no longer be!

Where our grave-mounds bulge and huddle
Our grandson will kneel and cuddle,
While in grateful prayer they mention
All our sainted names’ ascension.
God of Hungarians, we swear unto Thee,
We swear unto Thee – that slaves we shall no longer be!

(March 13. 1848)