Thursday, 21 October 2010

‘So how does it feel to be home?’

We have been in Hungary for over three months now and countless times the question, in some form or other has came to me. Yes, really, how does it feel to be home? Well, I have a social network, friends among whom I feel comfortable to be myself. I am in no need to reorganise my life according to a new and unfamiliar environment. My kitchen feels mine and comfortable. I have established patterns of shopping and a regular and comfortable routine. I feel comfortable and I don’t feel a need or pressure to comply with norms that I long have forgotten or never even been familiar with. In a nutshell: I’m homesick… when I think about it. I say ‘It doesn’t feel like home here, not anymore’ thinking honesty is the best way forward but it offends others, or so I was told on one occasion. It is offending that I ‘don’t feel’ Hungarian anymore. Which I never said to anyone but apparently when Hungary does not feel like home really means that one is not Hungarian.
Polite, friendly, welcoming and inquiring conversations potentially turn disappointing when I am honest and virtual bloodbaths when I say another word. The nationalist attitude, discourse is overwhelmingly present in people’s thinking. I am Hungarian therefore I am at home now. Lili is my daughter therefore she is Hungarian and her lack of experience in using the local language is a defect to be concerned of. I know without much context these statements seem an overreaction but it would be impossible to sum up the last three months in a few words.
An old friend whom I met again during the summer has made a curious statement which at the time passed without much notice but recently it came into a different understanding when I read a brief article about an old man’s struggle with the authorities regarding his passport application. My friend told me our life was like one ‘you can read in the papers’ and there was this similar story in the papers.
Our story that could have been in the papers is the story about Lili’s passport.
Before coming here we though it might be a good idea for the kids to get their Hungarian passports, to make life easier. Now we know the can only immigrate as Hungarian citizens but at the times we were oblivious to this. We started the process in February, through the embassy in Helsinki. We moved late June and things were not looking good yet although Ernest was lucky to get his passport sometimes late July. Lili’s case is far more complicated because she is over 5 years old and her parents were not married for over 2 years when she was born. Why these two points make the process far more difficult I cannot know because the law states if one of a person’s parent is a Hungarian citizen he or she is automatically a citizen. All that is needed is a proof I thought of my citizenship, which a passport should be sufficient enough to do and a proof that Lili is my daughter.
Trying to settle down and register it is impossible for Lili to go through the administrative process for Hungarians because she doesn’t have papers proving she is Hungarian. I cannot issue a statement to help her obtain such papers because the office cannot understand a birth certificate issued in English therefore I have no proof of our family ties. Never mind the fact that the Republic of Hungary issued a birth certificate for Ernest written in three languages, one of them English. So Lili cannot be recognised as a Hungarian citizen.
At the immigration office where next we tried to register her living here as a British citizen we were told that as it is written on her – remember English language – birth certificate that her father is a Hungarian citizen she cannot immigrate here as she is a Hungarian citizen. Consequently they can do nothing for her.
Now we are awaiting a translation of her birth certificate, it seem to have disappeared somewhere in the machinery of bureaucracy. And consider ourselves lucky that she has social security and health care cover from Finland. Bless Kela! (Hah, this is something I never imagined saying.)
The above story illustrates the attitudes that live in people’s concepts of Hungariannes. It’s kind of an idea where there seem to be so many, many Hungarians. They are everywhere, across the borders, brothers and sisters and all this crap. Than comes the actual count. Quickly turns out that a Hungarian from over the borders is barely better than a none Hungarian if, better at all. Perhaps for language’ sake when employing them paying unfairly low wages.

I have intended to begin writing about Szeged long before we have even set foot here. I wasn’t sure about my intention, I played with some ideas of turning it into half-way fiction and I also thought of just keeping it simple, everyday. So far none of this has happened. Overcoming some long and lately developed fear of the keyboard now eventually started ranting. I am still unsure on the next step, maybe it will remain so for some time to come. Perhaps I shouldn’t intend to write what has led to this moment when the blog entry is written and I should just provide a snapshot.

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