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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 15 July 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 15 JULY 2017 23 WORLD Budapest, night view of Chain Bridge on the Danube river and the city of Pest PHOTO: GOTOHUNGARY.COM Greek Civil War. Many were children, many came involuntarily. Their connections with Greece were severed by the hard frontiers of the Cold War, but they did not forget Greece or their traditions. In the ’Greek’ village of Beloiannisz (Beloyiannis), which I visited, or in small communities in Budapest, Miskolc, Pecs, and Kesckemet, the Greeks kept their language and culture alive. In the communist period the church played little role as a guardian of faith and identity, in contrast with the first Greek diaspora in Hungary, or Greek diasporas today in the Americas or Australia. In the post- Communist era, the role of the Church has re-emerged. Other virtues we associate with the diaspora, hard work and study, also marked this post Civil War community. Greeks excelled in academia and professions well out of proportion to the small size of their community. All of the Greeks I met, including the second generation born in Hungary (often with only one Greek parent), spoke Greek with a precise fluency. A fair percentage of the Greek Hungarian community repatriated to Greece, particularly in the 1980s, but the community by that time was quite well established in Hun- gary, and many chose to remain. The Hungarian government recognises the Greeks as a distinct minority and co-fund cultural and educational activities. This support enables a diverse educational and cultural agenda, including a primary school, weekly cultural performances, and a growing literature about the community. When I arrived at the cultural centre, I was welcomed as a fellow diaspora Greek, and loaded down with books on the community. CLOSURE I spent an hour talking to Professor Nikosz Fokasz (Nikos Fokas), an eminent Hungar- ian sociologist and one of the Greek community's leading intellectuals. Son of a Pariseducated Cephalonian architect and a mother from a village in Evritania, Professor Fokas is an urbane academic at home in university circles throughout Europe and North America. He considers this postwar diaspora to be the keepers and the descendents of the first diaspora. After all, both generally descended from the same Macedonian and Epirote villages, a "diaspora of the mountains," as he calls it. Many long-assimilated Hungarians are now rediscovering their Greek roots, with the active help of this newer Greek diaspora. Professor Fokas noted, with a particular pride, that Baron Simon Sina, a Greek Hungarian, financed Budapest's most iconic Danube bridge, Lanc Hid (Chain Bridge), as well as a large part of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, another signature Budapest building. Honouring him, Greek-Hungarians have been instrumental in establishing the Sina Award, bestowed upon a member of the Hungarian business community for outstanding support of the arts and sciences. Fostering awareness of Hungary's Greek and Orthodox elements in its history has been a key contribution of this new diaspora, and in so doing, it has honoured, and in some cases, literally resurrected, the first diaspora. As always when I travel among diaspora Greeks, I felt a common bond with the Greek Hungarians in spite of our very different histories. There was that love of Greece, somehow less jaded, than that of Greeks in Greece. There is also a very clear consciousness among Greeks in Hungary that the history of Hellenism and orthodoxy is a long one in their country, and that custody of this tradition is an important role, which they assume with pride.
08 July 2017
22 July 2017