I’m not ethnically pure

Some say our country is ethnically pure, and that this is a value. But it’s a deception of the nation-state, and it’s neither true nor good.

I have counted: in myself alone, I’ve found four different ethnicities and four different identities.

On my father’s side, I’m Jewish. Some members of his family moved to Budapest in the early twentieth century, others had stellar careers in the army of the Austro-Hungarian empire. They had fully integrated into the mainstream culture of the time, and lived as ordinary townspeople. Until… but let’s wait for the next post with that.

My mother’s side is a bit more colorful. Her father had Hungarian and Slovak lineage, while her mother had Swabian origins – the latter is a German populace who first arrived in Eastern Europe in the 12th century, but settled in larger numbers in the 18th century, during Maria Theresa’s repopulation campaign of Hungary, which was left quite desolate after the Turkish occupation.

Concerning my identities, well, I was raised Hungarian, so that’s what I would call my native identity. But in my teens, as I learned about my Jewish origins and anti-semitism, I discovered that I could identify with my Jewishness, too.

In my twenties, I’ve learned about democracy and the European Union – that was when I realized that an European identity also exists, and I felt – and I still feel – very strongly about it.

In my mid-thirties, I was baptized Catholic – that seemed a plausible answer to the mystical experiences I had in my earlier years. And I still stand by the truth of it.

I sense no conflict between these. My ethnicities form a colorful patchwork, and my identities a layered cake. As it happens, I’m not alone with this – call it good fortune, or a predicament, if you will:

My mother was Cumanian, my father
Half-Szekler, half-Rumanian or whole.
From my mother’s lips sweet was every morsel,
And from my father’s lips the truth was gold. […]

(Attila József: By the Danube, translation by Vernon Watkins)

So tell me – what good is there in cleansing that?

Note: The image above shows St Martin of Tours baptizing his mother. St Martin originated in Savaria, today Szombathely, Hungary.

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