Szekely People of Transylvania
Seeing as I am a Hungarian from Transylvania, I have to make my first “Light of Culture” about the Szekely people of Transylvania. I don’t exactly know if I have Szekely blood in me or not, but while growing up, I was often referred to as “egy szep Szekely fiu” (translation “a nice Szekely boy”). But Hungarians living in Transylvania are fairly often refereed to as Szekely by Hungarians living in Hungary, even if they aren’t.
In case you’re wondering about the current national location of Transylvania, it’s the biggest part of Romania, the North West section, from the Carpathian mountains to the borders of Hungary. Think of Transylvania kind of like Sicily. These states both have a strong ethnic heritage, they’re both valuable land, and both have been their own state, and part of other nations. Transylvania has very rich farming soil and is also rich in gold and has oil. It has been home to Attila the Hun and Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad the Impaler aka Dracula. If you’ve ever been to the Carpathian mountains, they are very steep, very beautiful and have (at least to me) a very creepy vibe about them, I even felt a this vibe when I traveled through there as a child and had no idea of the bloody history of the region.
Getting back to the Szekelys. There are about 1.5 million Hungarians living in today’s Romania, and most of them in Transylvania. Roughly about half of them are Szekely. The Szekelys are kind of a “sub-culture” in the Hungarian population. They seemed to appear sometime during the 12th century and according to their own folklore, they are direct descendents of the Huns. However, to the best of my knowledge no one has yet proven this to be true. But like the Huns, they have always been excellent horsemen, and even served the Hungarian Empire as light cavalry. They were very effective against nomad invaders from the East, and at least a number of times played major roles in thwarting Turkish invasions. Like the Huns, they attacked on horseback, struck quickly and disappeared before the enemy knew what hit them. There’ve been a number of times through out history were they pushed for a nation of their own, but always found themselves to be a minority, and were always denied.
Since my parents were both Hungarians who grew up in separate Hungarian villages in Transylvania (my mother in Szik and my father in Korispatak), I was raised with their values, which of course included going to a Hungarian school, and learning Hungarian dancing and music. Because of the fact that my parents were both in the symphony, I started my music career at a young age by learning the masters, Kodaly, Bartok and Liszt. Though Liszt came later. I also learned about Hungarian Gypsy and Szekely music. My mother was the folk singer in the family (besides the 2nd viola 1st chair in the Nagyvarad or Oradea in its Romanian name, orchestra), and she often sang Hungarian folk songs, again… including Gypsy and Szekely ones. Here’s an example of traditional SZekely music:
Though I don’t remember much about my dancing days (they didn’t last long before we left Romania to escape Nicolae Ceausescu’s regime) I did enjoy it. The pictures are of me, and the other with my dance partner, Marika.
Unfortunately I don’t have any video of myself dancing, but I did find this interesting video of Szekely dancing being used to help explain how to sort algorithms. I’m posting this because I noticed that the video was created by a university professor in the city of my birth, Marosvasarhely, or in its Romanian name Tirgu-Mures.
I hated having to learn all of these “traditional” things in my youth. All I wanted was to be like the cool neighborhood kids, and play soccer. I even found myself resenting my parents for forcing me to learn these “stupid things which didn’t matter in today’s world”, but you know what? I’m happy they forced it on me. I know my heritage… or at least the roots. I know where I come from, and it’s helped me better understand who I am, and knowing that gave me a huge advantage in life, when trying to figure out where I’m going.
Story by: Attila Domos