Leaving Timisoara early in the morning, Oma and I traveled in one car with a driver and my parents in another. We drove to the Hungarian-Romanian border, where the topic of refugees came up. The driver started telling us that there’s a huge problem with refugees in Hungary, just like Mexicans with the United States and tried to “confirm” with us that Mexicans were bad, to which I immediately said no, and explained the Mexicans are welcome, and do tons for America. He also tried to confirm that Donald Trump is a good president, and Oma and I protested.
This was pure xenophobia, and while he didn’t use intense rhetoric, he understatedly said what he thought: refugees are bad and shouldn’t be in HIS country. He tried to get us agree, which I, as someone who knows that this sly rhetoric leads to bad things, argued.
We got over the border, and Oma asked about the standard of living in Hungary vs. Romania. He said that Hungary was better because of the politics and economics, but I’m well aware that Hungarian politics currently have xenophobic and fascist undertones. The Hungarian government is xenophobic and the prime minister, Viktor Orban, does not believe Muslim people should in his country. Further, he believes that the country should be an “illiberal democracy,” which is where people vote, but they don’t know what the government does. To me, this seems like a disaster and a complete invasion of civil liberties. To many, I assume, it may seem fine. His xenophobia is how genocide begins, it’s how leaders create an “us vs. them” mentality. In recent years, many European countries have seen a rise to their nationalist parties, which are far-right and anti-immigration. These parties are echoing the same rhetoric of WWII, and that’s how WWII will be repeated.
On August 17, 1947, my Oma was 9 years old. She and her brothers were at their grandmother’s house outside of Timisoara when two Russian soldiers (who lived in their house in Sinandrei) arrived at their door and asked everyone to come with them. At the time, Romania was in the Russia zone. She knew the soldiers and recognized them, so all of the children and their grandmother went to Sinandrei. There, they were told that Oma, her brothers, and her mother would be going to Austria to be with their father. Essentially, they were escaping. They took a few photos with their grandmothers and were packed into a truck with 17 other people and a guide. They brought two suitcases: a wicker suitcase and a wood suitcase. When they got to the border, the guide said they would have to run between the border guards. They hid in a cornfield until nightfall and dropped the wicker suitcase, as Oma’s mother had to carry one of her younger brothers who was sick. They ran over the border and were taken to a farmhouse. They slept in the barn that night, Oma remembers sleeping on the straw. The next morning they sneaked through the streets of Szeged, Hungary and took a train to Budapest. Oma thinks the train was a train for German soldiers, who were still trying to get back to Germany two years after WWII had ended. Then, they got to Budapest.
Then, we got to Budapest.