Dear Professor Kallós, Dear Citizens of Kolozsvár, Dear Guests from Transylvania and Hungary,
Why are so many of us here today? And why do we feel so affected by this? There are so many of us and we feel affected, Dear Friends, because we have among us a man of ninety years of age: a ninety-year-old Hungarian man who still has more life and energy in him than many of us; a ninety-year-old Hungarian who walks and works amongst us, who sets the benchmark and is an example to us day after day. We have here among us a ninety-year-old professor who for many decades has been travelling tirelessly, from village to village, from one soul to the next, in order to rescue, preserve and pass on the treasures of Hungarian culture.
Ninety years of age, with academic honours, intellectual vitality, full of the will to live, and full of energy: all this is enough to generate respect and gratitude, and prompt a bow of the head. Respect is due to all elderly people who have grown older in an honest life, and appreciation is also due to those who have achieved a great deal in their lives. But none of this explains why we feel as affected as we do now. In the old days, old soldiers always enjoyed a great deal of respect; people doffed their hats to them in the street, and young soldiers saluted them. This was particularly true here, in Transylvania – for the old soldiers of eighteen forty-eight, who fought for the true cause in Bem’s army, under the flag of Hungarian freedom. We ourselves serve under this flag. Our task, our mission and our goal are the same: with our lives to serve something greater, something that is higher than our mere existence, to serve an important cause. We should not be afraid of big words: our joint mission is to serve our country, to serve the Hungarian homeland. Ever since you stood under the unfurled flag within the traditional Hungarian scouts movement, you have always emerged in the front line, in the most dangerous places, at the most important times, and you have fought with all your strength, to the best of your abilities, with courage, to the last. You never fought against others, but always for us, for our survival, by holding out even in the most difficult situations – never retreating, often carrying the flag alone, victoriously, even in lost battles. You have conquered vast territories, and have kept them in our collective memory: territories which, without you, would have been washed away by a torrent of oblivion. To those who were there to listen to you, you have given astounding treasures – not only to academia, but to the most ordinary world of Hungarian people: songs, dances and stories which accompany us on the paths of our lives and which we pass on to our children as part of our heritage. We come to you like younger soldiers who used to come to a lion of the battlefields. It is true that you do not have a beard as white as snow, reaching down to your chest; but the light in your eyes is the same light as in the eyes of the old ones in photographs yellowed with age. Every minute we spend with you is important for us. It stands as proof that serving one’s country, serving it to the end of life, is a magnificent thing. You fulfil the words of the Scriptures: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
God bless you on your birthday! Stay with us, stay with us for long to come, in good health and happiness.