“Egészségedre!”                                                                                                 

“Cheers!”

With an evergreen wooden shed, the most detailed painted pottery bonded to the wall, and sour cherry Palinka rum sitting on the table, two cultures opened up their souls to an enriching connection.

Albert, a man of his 60s, unveiled his home to American strangers – sharing his craft, family, and faith in the most humble way.

Encircling the lavender table cloth of delicacies sat Albert with his wife, son in law, granddaughter and three eager Americans. Our director, the architect of this connection, is poised in the middle ready to translate just the unfamiliar words. The rest of the communication, through the eyes, have been speaking since first contact.

Albert stands around 5’10” with grey caterpillar eyebrows and a long nose pointed towards his giddy smile. He shuffles around with classic Birkenstock style double strap shoes and a leather vest covering his white and blue striped button down. His eyes uncover a young spirited boy trapped inside years of experience and wisdom.

Refilling Palinka like Oprah on her favorite things episode, glasses filled to the brim in the blink of an eye and no hand can be caught without a cheesy bread.

The Backstory

A land once theirs, Hungarians have not always been accepted in Romania. Before the First World War, the Hungarian territory stretched into present day Romania and Croatia. When the peace was negotiated, Hungarians lost their land. While certain villages still contain Hungarian groups in a region called Transylvania, their history has been lost within Romania.

In school, Romanians are taught that Hungarians are homeless. A highly offensive slang word, Boregore is used to describe them – a man without a home. They have no idea of the true history of Romania.

A local Romanian policeman serving over 50 years came to knowledge after retirement. He stopped at Albert’s shop to buy some art and spotted an old Hungarian territory map on the wall; he couldn’t believe his eyes.

Albert traces his family back to 750 years living on the same property he inhabits today. The Hungarians have roots in this Transylvanian soil, and nothing can take that away.

The Craft

In a small room overlooking the central lawn in the middle of Albert’s property sat his workshop, a true man’s cave. A mounted television blared Hungarian soap opera, boxes of work sat on the couch behind him, and a sink to his left showcased a toothbrush for those late nights.

Albert resides on a wooden stool with a cushion for support. Although it doesn’t offer much without a back rest.

The Hazelnut block is placed, a switch turns on the lathe, and Albert begins carving intuitively. With 50 years of experience, his craft is second nature. Yet, as one mistake turns Albert’s cheeks blush, he blames that an audience is not normally apart of his routine.

Chess making is not for every one of Albert’s descendants, yet the family tradition of art is continuing to the passed down.

The youngest grandchild, Able, dreamed of voice school. Albert’s wife sang Psalms to his sister and him every night, inspiring Able. But, he was told to keep his grandfather’s craft. This idea is not a new one considering this family has lived in their home for over 750 years.

Kimcha, the sister, graduated just this year at the top of her school. She speaks clear English and excels in math and drawing. A large mural in the family’s living room showcases some of Kimcha’s sketches. While she has both a mathematic and artistic brain, she chooses to attend an art college to carry on the family name in a new, innovative way without chess sets.

The Future

Albert and his wife, Margaret, are both Christians; Margaret practicing more often than her husband. They see this world changing and are unsure of what it is to become after they pass.

Margaret had cancer years back and has fully recovered since. We asked her what her idea is of the future and if she believes in life after death.

To her, every day is a blessing and she wants to use her days left to create a better world. Defeating cancer has made her realize how grateful it is to live and is less worried about what the future entails. With a strong faith, she knows their is life after death.

Husband Albert on the other hand, is ambiguous. He is unsure about the afterlife and what the future entails.

Family is important to Albert and the Hungarians as a whole. To be accepted into a home and become cherished guests as strangers is a special gift this culture has displayed. Elizabeth, our Hungarian director that organized this connection, and Albert’s family have blessed us students and a flame is lit within me.

Gifts are wonderful to receive, but even better to give to others. Using those gifts to better our community and world around us is an immeasurable joy that lasts a lifetime. Now that a precious gift has been shared, I am eager to continue it’s chain.

These Hungarians have impacted the lives of everyone sitting around that lavender tablecloth. On behalf of us blessed Americans, I thank you.