October 28 is an important holiday not only in the life of the citizens of Greece but also, for the members of the Greek national community living in other countries of Europe, including Hungary. On this day, we remember the day of 78 years ago when the then Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas said no to the military ultimatum given to him by Mussolini, which would have equaled the occupation of Greece. It was in this way that Greece entered the World War on the Allies’ side. Although the firm and brave decision of the Greeks, then the Greek victory in the ensuing Greek-Italian war could not prevent the subsequent German occupation of the country, it still played a significant role in the victory of the Allied Powers in the Second World War and October 28 has ever since been a symbol of the Greek national consciousness, bravery and perseverance.
As the Deputy Commissioner for the Rights of National Minorities living in Hungary, I deem it important to recall the cornerstones of the Hungarian-Greek cohabitation that goes back to more than one thousand years. After Hungary’s Byzantine relations prior to the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin, the impact of Greek ecclesiastical culture, as well as the settlement of the Greek population fleeing the Turkish invasion in Hungary for several centuries, the relations between our nations reached a new level. This was the point when in the mid-20th century, the families that were fleeing the Greek military dictatorship were admitted to Hungary. It was 70 years ago, i.e. in 1948 that the first refugees arrived here, who were temporarily placed in Budapest. Then in 1950, the foundation of a new settlement began on the fields of the village Iváncsa in Fejér County. The village that was initially called Görögfalva (‘Village of the Greeks’) adopted the name Beloiannisz in 1952. In this village and in a high number of other settlements in Hungary, many Greek traditionalist groups exist: these find it important to cultivate their Greek identity, and to pass on their traditions to the new generations.
The Greeks living in Hungary can exercise and develop their rights of education and those of using their mother tongue, as well as cultivate fruitful relationships with the mother nation - which rights are granted to them by the Fundamental Law of Hungary and in the Nationalities Act alike - in a wide range, thanks to their strong identity and sense of solidarity.
Celebrating the national holiday of Greece, we should commemorate all those heroes who fought for freedom during our common history of a thousand years by building the friendship of our nations and fighting together against oppression.
Dr. Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay, Prof. HC
Deputy Commissioner for Fundamental Rights