Outreach and politics

or When politics hit close to home

Everything is a matter of perspective.

Without the "Sz" and an accent on the a, my home village, Szirák tuned into a country ravaged by war and insurgency.

Without the “Sz” and an accent on the a, my home village, Szirák transformed into a country ravaged by war and insurgency.

On a hot summers night back in 2013 some – to my knowledge still unknown – hooligans committed crime. They thieved and vandalized public property. Alternatively, one might say they made a statement. By stealing two letters and an accent they turned my small Hungarian home village, unknown to the majority of the global population, into a country suffering from poverty and war and violence: they changed Szirák into Irak (the Hungarian spelling of Iraq). And while, obviously, my village does not have to deal with insurgency and fighting, by many other criteria one might see the likeness: Szirák is a tiny village with less than 2000 inhabitants in a poor rural area of Hungary. Unemployment rates are incredibly high (60% in 2011) and the roads leading to and from the village are so bad you don’t drive there, you slalom your way around ankle-deep potholes. While there’s clean water, electricity, telephone and internet, a centralized sewage system is only now being introduced in the area. The village has seen its share of senseless vandalism and violence, the roma (gypsy) and non-roma population are at constant odds with each other, and there are large social differences: standing proudly next to half-built houses and dilapidated ruins is a 4-star wellness hotel in an old chateau, where well-off tourists can book a “classic package” for 55.000Forints/person – that’s about half of what most villagers, working for minimal wages, earn. So, by and large, things are pretty grim. Continue reading