Distorted mirrors

February 10 was the day of a wonderfully peaceful Hungarian demonstration, where people carrying candles and books stood in silent witness to the Hungarian community’s grievances.

The resolution concerning the organisation of such a rally had been passed at a committee meeting of the RMDSZ in Bucharest on February 6.

The RMDSZ received permission for the rally the next day, February 7. Consequently the Romanian charge that the Hungarian rally of the 10th was in response to the Romanian schools protest rally of the 9th, described above, is untrue.

Further, the Romanian demonstration of February 9 was supposed to be “spontaneous”, and had not been advertised or authorised.

According to estimates, more than 100,000 people took part in the Hungarian demonstration, where, with dignity, they silently advocated defence of “our sweet mother tongue” and our schools. András Sütő spoke four times to the multitude in front of the sports palace. For it was organised so that four large groups listened in turn to his words before dispersing to be replaced by the next. They also prayed under the leadership of the Catholic priest, Gábor Köllő.

I quote a line from Sütő’s address at the demonstration: “Brothers, countrymen! A hundred thousand of us have assembled silently, but this silence has been audible further away than anything else!”

The mood of the demonstration was so exceptional and peaceful that the police, and even Colonel Judea, called it exemplary, and thanked us for it in the local press.

But after its own correct and professional reporting of our silent demonstration of candles and books, the local Transylvania channel of Târgu Mureş Television was banned. Unequivocally, I believe this was because of its honest and unbiased reports, which were considered to be an impediment to the effective dissemination of the inciting propaganda of other local and central media. In vain did we subsequently ask for this channel’s restoration.

It caused us great distress that Bucharest Television falsified the pictures of the two demonstrations I mention here. Perhaps one should regard this as a rehearsal for coverage of the March 20 pogrom.

First of all, it was made to appear as if both demonstrations had been peaceful and of the same size. In truth, the Romanian demonstrators manhandled 17 Hungarians and nearly gouged out the eyes of Hungarian TV cameraman István Farkas (the piercing tool hurt the skin under one eye). István Farkas was beaten up at a later Vatra meeting. And following the March pogrom (where he also filmed), he received such threats that he fled to Sweden with his family.

(At the beginning of February he also filmed a Vatra meeting in the sports palace from a secret hide-out, after which he came to me and said: “Előd, I want to find the grave of the Ceauşescus and put two flowers on it, because in them we have lost two great friends of the Hungarians.”)

Further, concerning televised distortions, I was shown on Romanian Television as an enthusiastically acclaimed speaker at the February 9 demonstration of Romanians, even while the microphone was being wrenched from me. Neither Romanian Television nor the Adevărul were willing to broadcast or publish our protests about that incident.

In mid-February, the National Salvation Front was extended to become the Provisional Council of National Unity. Two or three representatives nominated by other parties and organisations were also included in the leadership.

At this meeting, I explained that the National Salvation Front had “forgotten” about the proportional representation of the nationalities. I said that since the law says nothing about the way in which the mayoral office should be reorganised, we are entitled to correct this omission of the legislature and can ourselves maintain in the mayoral office the 50-50 percent representational proportion that would reflect the nationality composition of the town.

I also reminded colleagues that in a democratic state the military must be free of politics. I therefore proposed that in place of Colonel Judea, a civilian (Emil Tîrnăveanu) should be elected to head of the town Provisional Council of National Unity. I added that the first vice-president of the county, Scrieciu, is also a military officer.

Judea answered by threatening that he would have me put before a military court.

The atmosphere of the meeting was typical. One month had seen a tremendous change in the attitude of the Romanian representatives. When, in mid-January, the Bolyai issue was discussed, they accepted the compromise solution which envisaged the school becoming Hungarian from September. Now the Romanians unanimously rejected it, and the Hungarians unanimously supported it. I thought that throwing fuel on the fire made no sense, and I preferred to withdraw my proposal concerning the future of our military friends.

To these discouraging signals was added the warning from Károly Király, who in the courtyard of his home asked me in mid-February whether I had my passport. I said I had. Király said that we might need them. He said Sütő and I should be very careful; we should not walk around alone, we should think about our own protection and should bear in mind that we may have to flee. He added that – unfortunately – some leading circles did not want to overcome the extreme hate-mongering going on, and would even try to encourage it.

After their peaceful demonstration, the Hungarians saw that the matter of the Bolyai Lyceum was at an impasse and decided to wait and see. But the local and central media were now fully engaged in the incitement campaign and needed ever newer ammunition. They no longer considered the rehashing of old established “sins” to be sufficient.