The Prime Minister stressed that Zoltán Kallós still has more life and energy in him than many of those gathered there, and that he “sets the benchmark and is an example to us day after day”. In the same vein he continued: “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”, but this still did not fully explain why the audience at the gala was so moved.
Mr. Orbán pointed out that long ago elderly veterans of the 1848 Revolution – who had fought in General József Bem’s army for the true cause under the flag of Hungarian freedom – were highly respected.
“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 […] our joint mission is to serve our country, to serve the Hungarian homeland”, the Prime Minister declared.
Mr. Orbán stressed that Zoltán Kallós never worked against others: he only worked for his nation, for its survival. He has conquered huge territories, and he has succeeded in keeping them in our shared memory: “territories which, without you, would have been washed away by a torrent of oblivion”, he said.
“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 […] Dear Zoltán, God bless you on your birthday! Stay with us, stay with us for long to come, in good health and happiness”, Mr. Orbán said at the end of his speech.
President of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania Hunor Kelemen presented Mr. Kallós with the Statue of Liberty Medal. In his speech, he stressed that Mr. Kallós had secured a safe place for the folklore treasures of Hungarians in Transylvania at a time when the dictatorship was trying to destroy them. He noted that the ethnographer’s life’s work could have been quite different if he had had the chance to use his creative energies in a free world, and not in the clutches of dictatorship.
Balázs Gergely, President of the Kincses Kolozsvár Association – which organises the Hungarian Cultural Days of Cluj – recalled that at the time of the dictatorship, Mr. Kallós’s apartment in Cluj was the “university of comprehensive folklore knowledge”, where the ethnographer collected and transferred these treasures “between house searches”.
At the gala event, Transylvanian folklore groups performed folk songs and dances from regions, based on materials which Mr. Kallós had collected. At the end of the gala performers and the audience sang Mr. Kallós’s favourite songs together with him.