The first decade of the Hungarian Dance-House Movement in Transylvania
- a subjective history -
I became a folk musician by sheer chance in the summer of 1979 (nineteen-seventy-nine) on the stairs of the Kolozsvár Academy of Music. "Fate" greeted me in the person of András Tőtszegi ("Cucus"), a folk dancer from Méra, who, together with Alpár Kostyák, asked me to learn to play the viola, because there was nobody at the local dance-house who would play it. Their two former viola players, Alpár Kostyák and András Sinkó were both at their final year of studies at the Academy of Music, and were to graduate and leave soon. I was then just admitted to the Academy, thus felt rather euphoric. Happy as I was, I promised to learn to play the viola rightaway. Satisfied with the success of the recruitment, Cucus and Alpár immediately took me to Zoltán Kallós, who was to equip me with a viola, since I did not have one at the time. While "Uncle Zoli" - as everybody calls him - was looking for a viola, his mother offered me a salad soup. I finally got a huge, red, and quite roughly constructed "joiner's viola", which was too big to fit in a case, so Uncle Zoli gave me a haversack in which I could carry it. After this, I was to skip an entire year, doing my compulsory military service before entering the university. The summer after my year at the army, I went to the first folkdance camp to Gyimes, Eastern Transylvania, where I met all the key persons of the dance-house movement, like Zoltán Kallós, Ádám Könczei and Ádám Katona from Udvarhely, as well as several of my fellow musicians. After this, there was nothing to stop me: folk music has become a vital part of my life, all this to be thanked to the Transylvanian dance-house movement.
Having been born on the Transylvanian countryside, this might be a surprising statement of me to make. I was born into a traditional Székely peasant family, so I was in close contact with Transylvanian folk culture. My walk of life can be considered typical, since in that times many village kids were raised, like me, on the ruins of the disintegrating rural civilization, being suppressed by forced urbanization.
My grandparents lived in the traditional peasant culture, and wanted to pass this on to their descendants. But my parents already turned towards the new urban way of life. I grew up on this line of rupture: the generation of my grandparents wanted to live traditional culture in its entirety, but my parents' generation, though having inherited it, did not want to be part of the traditional culture any more.
My first musical instrument, at the age of four, was my grandfather's zither. My grandmother regularly took me to different social singing occasions. I was there with my first fiddle among my grandparents' friends, and tried to play some music as they were singing their traditional tunes. My parents on the other hand bought a record-player and listened to the newest pop songs on their friendly gatherings.
I grew up in the 1960's (nineteen-sixties), when, due to the forced urbanization and the creation of the kolkhoz system, many people saw it best to move to the large cities. They still regularly visited their home villages on greater holidays, but their children wanted to get rid of the "outdated" and "old-fashioned" tradition of their parents. (I experienced this as a child, since my father's sister had moved to Csíkszereda, a larger town. When her children came to visit us, they wore urban clothes and brought factory-made toys with them. They looked down on us, village kids, and thought we were high and dry.)
Many people chose commuting instead of moving to the cities. My father commuted to Csíkszereda. As a result of this, we had a chance to make a better living than most of our peers in the village community. We got a television set quite soon, as this was a measurement of urban civilization at that time. It was humorous and rather symbolic to once see aunt Rózsa, our eighty-year-old neighbor, yelling at the "little people" to come out of the television box.
I lived in this dual culture until my age of ten, when some teachers from the Marosvásárhely High School of Arts came talent-spotting to our village, and suggested my parents that I study music on a scholarship in Marosvásárhely. For a long time then I lived detached from peasant culture. I became "colonized" by classical music, and spent my holidays back in my home village as if I were some distinguished foreigner. This was not even changed by the fact that sometime in 1977 (nineteen-seventy-seven), a few guys at my high school class began to play some strange folk tunes, and the Hungarian division of the Romanian Television started to broadcast a program called "Kaláka", that focused on our local traditions.
I say all this because my personal view of the Transylvanian dance-house movement is rather typical. Many of my fellow musicians and ethnographers have life-stories quite similar to mine. Most of us have rural roots, but it was the Transylvanian dance-house movement that made us realize what a treasure our traditions are.
The origins of the Transylvanian dance-house movement
One of the vanguards of Transylvanian folklorism and the dance-house movement, Ádám Könczei, gives the following account of the origins:
"The birth of the dance-houses is closely connected with theater, and especially, with school performances. There was a growing demand for a truly authentic presentation of the local traditions on school stages, instead of the fake-folk shows that had often been presented on school cerebrations. It was a very sensible initiative of High School no 3 in Kolozsvár to establish a cultural exchange connection with the school of Szék, a nearby Central Transylvanian village. Even though this connection did not become a permanent one, it was still quite consequential. It was significant that stage performance was not the only purpose of studying the dances of Szék. Propagation and teaching of these dances in wider circles was also an aim.
However, the lack of a live musical accompaniment was a great hardship that eventually put an end to this initiative. This failure was in turn a factor that led to the formation of the dance-house music bands.
The high-school literature teacher Éva K. Tolna invited her music students to several school performances. As a result of this, the boys (Pál Havaletz, Botond Kostyák, and Árpád Könczei) formed a flute band, although none of them majored in flute playing. Their interest in authentic instrumental folk music gradually increased; partly due to the encouragement they got from their families. The band switched to a flute (Könczei), viola (Kálmán Urszuly) and cello (Havaletz) configuration, and kept it for quite a long time, but this also proved to be but a step towards the formation of an authentic folk band. In 1976 (nineteen-seventy-six) the band finally decided for the authentic representation of Transylvanian folk music. In order to carry out their plans, they began a thorough and meticulous study process. They consulted László Lajtha's notes of authentic village music, and frequently visited rural folk musicians to make recordings and to join them in playing.The actual dance-house opened on a Thursday in February of 1977 (nineteen-seventy-seven) at the club of the Kolozsvár Puppet Theater, due to the hospitality of Ildikó Kovács, director of the Puppet Theater, who, together with László Szabó, leader of the County Cultural Committee, was a constant and steadfast supporter of the dance-house movement through all the hardships it experienced. The first dance-house music band consisted of Levente Székely (fiddle), Árpád Könczei (flute, song- and dance master), Kálmán Urszuly (viola) and Antal Porzsolt (double bass).
From that time on, there was a dance-house on every Thursday. For a short time it was held in the Vasas Community Center, and later it moved to the Monostori Community Center. The first dance-house band struck its audience as something completely new, since their music was of a different quality than the popular music of cities. It was likened to the music of Ferenc Sebő and his folk band in Hungary. (Könczei, Ádám. "Tárt kapujú táncházakért."
["For dance-houses with gates open."] Művelődés 1977, 11/5)
The first music band later expanded, and eventually split into two. One consisted of Dezső Sepsi (fiddle, 3rd year college), András Sinkó (viola, 2nd year college), and Árpád Könczei (double bass, senior high school). The members of the other band were József Székely and István Papp (fiddle, senior high school), Alpár Kostyák, (viola, 1st year college), Antal Porzsolt (double bass, 1st year college).
The only person Ádám Könczei (1926 - 1982) left out from his article was himself, though he played a pivotal role in the formation of the Transylvanian dance-house. His devotedness as a folklorist, his uncompromising Protestant faith, his experience in team-building and his steadfast Hungarian ethnic identity all predestined him to the invaluable organizing activity he carried out in favor of the Transylvanian dance-house movement. He was fully devoted to the cause of the Transylvanian dance-house, published on it, organized it, and took part in dance-house occasions as frequently as he could. Through his children, he also played a decisive role in the development of the Kolozsvár dance-houses, and in the development of Transylvanian folklorism. It is no wonder that the Securitate (Departamentul Securităţii Statului), the secret police force of the Communist Romania held him, beside Zoltán Kallós, as a dangerous person. He was constantly being monitored. The secret reports of the Securitate on the leading figures the Transylvanian dance-house movement are now published on Csilla Könczei's (his daughter's blog.
According to one of the founders of the Kolozsvár dance-house:
"That February saw the first Transylvanian dance-house ever. I remember this quite clearly, since I took part in it as a dance teacher. My mother is from Magyarszovát, a Central Transylvanian village, and as a child, I spent most of my school breaks with my mother's family there. My classmates and fellow musicians, Levente (József) Székely and Árpád Könczei, knew this, therefore, thinking that I have a certain background knowledge of Central Transylvanian dances, they asked me to learn the dances of the guys from Szék, whom we invited to the dance-house, and to teach their dances on the following occasions." (Papp, István "Gázsa". Gázsa. CD, preface, ABt 1998.)
Ádám Könczei's account does not mention a parallel initiative, carried out as a joint venture of the Visszhang [Echo] Radio and the Students' Union at the University of Kolozsvár. This endeavor in turn encouraged many other Transylvanian cities to join the dance-house movement. In István Pávai's opinion, these initiatives led to the later formation of the first dance-houses in Székely-land.
These occasions were organized by the editors of the Hungarian radio of the Kolozsvár Students' Union, led by Miklós Patrubány. First, these nights were held at the club of the Faculty of Philology, and later they moved to the clubs of other faculties. This was also the place where Katalin Panek sang Transylvanian folk ballads at that time, István Pávai, József Simó (who later became members of the "Barozda" folk music band) and Imre Kostyák (brother of the dance-house musicians Attila and Alpár Kostyák) held public debates about folk art and folk music, and Dezső Sepsi sang folk songs. The discussion went beyond the public occasions: it was going on even behind the scenes as to what band could be an authentic musical accompaniment to Katalin Panek. Eventually, a village band was taken to the TV shooting to Bucurest.
Harmat ensemble was soon joined by the fiddler Dezső Sepsi and Erzsébet Zakariás, who learned to play the gardon. In the fall of 1976 (nineteen-seventy-six), they performed their Gyimesi Csángó song suite. (Gagyi, József. "Tények és kérdőjelek. A táncházmozgalomról. [Facts and Question Marks. About the Dance-House Movement.]" Igaz Szó, 1980/8.)
This parallel initiative presents another folklorist dynasty in Kolozsvár: all the six sons of the Kostyák family became musicians and, together with the Könczei dynasty, they played a vital role in the formation and development of the Transylvanian dance-house movement. Naturally, some rivalry between the two dynasties was inevitable, but they always joined in co-operation if the cause of the dance-house was at stake.
As it can be seen from the above accounts, the dance-house movement initially centered around musicians, especially the students of the Kolozsvár Academy of Music.
The rise of dance-houses
There are several features of the Transylvanian dance-house movement that make it different from the parallel movement in Hungary. Naturally, the occasion to have a good night out and make new acquaintances was quite enjoyable. The dance-house also presented us with a sensible and valuable pastime. As I had only studied classical music before, learning the language of folk music meant a considerable challenge to me. Being a folk musician also posed the possibility of traveling abroad, which was otherwise impossible under Ceausescu's regime. These were all quite obvious advantages of our activity; however, the most vital feature of it was the maintenance and preservation of our Hungarian culture in the ethnic minority position we were living at.
The "Hungarian connection"
Even though it was not a thing to widely advertise, it was obvious that there is an analogy between the Transylvanian dance-house movement and the similar movement in Hungary, initiated by the musicians Ferenc Sebő and Béla Halmos. The connection is marked by the time-lag between the two, as well as by several references of Transylvanian folklorists to the leading figures of the Hungarian dance-house movement. Könczei's reference to Sebő's music has already been cited. In his book titled Barozda, István Pávai says: "Zoltán Hajdú participated in a dance-house camp in Székesfehérvár, Hungary in 1976 (nineteen-seventy-six), where he contacted Ferenc Sebő and Béla Halmos. Back at home, in his Csíkszereda high school, he and Erzsébet Győrfi listened to Sebő records to reproduce its songs, and also tried to launch a dance-house at the high school." Still, the connection between the Hungarian and Transylvanian dance-house movements was initially sporadic and occasional, since it was considerably hard to travel abroad from the Romania of the 70's (seventies), even though that was a period of thaw, compared to the system of the 1980's (nineteen-eighties).
The Hungarian connection was initially facilitated by the folk song collecting tours of Hungarian ethnographers in Transylvania in the 60's (sixties). The work of György Martin, Ferenc Pesovár, Bertalan Andrásfalvi, Tamás Hofer, Ferenc Novák or Sándor Tímár would have been impossible to carry out without the numerous local helpers they had. Zoltán Kallós was glad to take the role of a constant helper, and many ethnographers, especially György Martin, made friends with the villagers of Kalotaszeg region, Central Transylvania. These villagers had also helped Kallós to survive the years of hardship after his release from prison. These eminent Hungarian scholars thoroughly followed the development of the Transylvanian dance-houses, and helped with whatever they could: they gave advice, and also gave financial assistance (in the form of technical equipment and data media). After the onset of the Kolozsvár dance-house, they paid regular visits there, in the course of their collecting tours in Transylvania. They were followed by the representatives of the first generation that grew up in the Hungarian dance-houses. The musicians Péter Éri, Sándor Csoóri jr. (junior), László Porteleki, Csaba Ökrös, and the dancers Antal Fekete „Puma", László Diószegi, Zoltán Zsuráfszki, or Zoltán Varga all became regular visitors of Transylvanian dance-houses. Being younger, they obviously made friends with their peers who were brought up in Transylvanian dance-houses. This connection resulted in several persistent friendships and love relationships between the members of two dance-house movements. The Ceausescu regime did not weaken these strong personal bonds, but, in some cases, even strengthened them. Our friends from Hungary, especially György Martin, who worked at the Institute for Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, gave us invaluable assistance. We got a recorder, a continuity desk, regular raw material, which were all great treasures those times. In return, they regularly smuggled our folk song collections out of Romania and deposited them in the Archives of the Institute for Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
Unique Transylvanian features
Beside it similarities with the Hungarian dance-house movement, there were aspects that made the Transylvanian initiative highly different from that in the mother country.
Living in ethnic minority
The 2 - 2.5 million Hungarians living in Transylvania were the largest European ethnic minority group in those times. Their strong ethnic identity and organized system of cooperation was a constant annoyance to the antidemocratic communist regime in Romania. However, in the second half of the 60's (sixties) and all through the 70's (seventies), the former deep oppression slightly thawed for a time. After the forced collectivization of the village society, the abolition of the Hungarian ethnic and administrational autonomy, and the close-down of the only Hungarian University in Transylvania, the Romanian communist system had to justify itself and its unique management of foreign affairs with the introduction of a relative political laxness in its formerly rigid and highly oppressive system. Luckily, the dance-house movement emerged in this period. During its seventy years of existence as a minority, the Transylvanian Hungarian society had learned that the preserving and cultivation of its own cultural heritage is the only key to survival as a distinct ethnic group. Dance-house emerged as an opportunity for maintain the Hungarian cultural heritage, and as an original means of strengthening Hungarian ethnic identity. Just like in Hungary, the Transylvanian Hungarian cultural elite also welcomed this initiative, and highly supported it. We had a vivid connection with the opposition organization called "Ellenpontok" [Counterpoints], and there were dance-house occasions in László Tőkés's flat in Dés.
Unlike in Hungary, where the Balkan, Greek and Gypsy dance-houses soon emerged as "mutations" of the Hungarian dance-house initiative, the Transylvanian dance-house movement remained unified, and concentrated fully on local Hungarian peasant culture. We chiefly learned and popularized traditional Hungarian folk music and dances, and incorporated only a little of Romanian, Gypsy and urbanized culture into our repertoire. As it is natural for minority initiatives, we soon attracted the suspicion of the governing bodies and of the Securitate. Our plan to encourage our Romanian friends to organize similar dance-houses based on their own culture also failed. What is more, we had often been accused of having stolen Romanian folklore...
Relationship with village musicians and dancers
The chance to have a close relationship with the last "great Generation" of village musicians and dancers is another feature that differentiates the Transylvanian dance-house movement from the one in Hungary. Even though dance-house occasions took place in the greater Transylvanian cities, folk culture was still vivid in the villages around. That provided us with a chance to learn the skills of the trade directly from the greatest masters of folk art. People from Szék, musicians from Palatka, and Sándor Fodor "Neti", the outstanding fiddler of the Kalotaszeg region were regular guests at our dance-houses in Kolozsvár. This connection worked vice-versa too: we also frequented village celebrations, where we had the chance to join the villagers in dancing and playing music. First we went as a band e.g. we played for a wedding party in Magyarszovát, together with the "Barozda" band. Later, we also went one-by-one. I personally had built a close musician companionship with Sándor Fodor "Neti". We played together on many wedding parties, balls and spring folk festivities. On these visits we also collected local music and dance. A wedding party in Szépkenyerűszentmárton stayed in my mind as especially memorable, as well as another in Bodonkút, where I had the only chance in my life to see a "ritka magyar" ("slow Hungarian") men's dance from the Kalotaszeg region. András Tőtszegi "Cucus" was the one who contacted the best village dancers and videotaped their dances.
Villagers frequented our dance-houses in Kolozsvár from the very beginnings. It was not only the youth of the nearby village Szék who came, but there were young dancers commuting to Kolozsvár from other surrounding places too. According to Ádám Könczei:
The dance-house in Kolozsvár boasts about an invaluable feature compared to the dance-houses in other Transylvanian cities: while most of the other dance-houses are detached from the culture they are rooted in, the Kolozsvár dance-house comprises both original village artists and their urban followers. These occasions therefore provide an opportunity for constant cultural exchange. Urban youth have the chance to see the breathtaking men's dances performed by István Filep or János Csorba, and can learn the dances directly from their clearest sources, as well as comparing the urban dance teacher's movements and style with its original version. However, the most significant effect of this cultural exchange between rural and urban youth is its democratic unifying power. Their frequent meeting at the Kolozsvár dance-house establishes a free and easy relationship between members of quite different social layers: university students, village youth and young workers made friends with each other as if they all came from the same place. [Könczei, Ádám. "Tárt kapujú táncházakért." ["For dance-houses with gates open."] Művelődés, 1977. 11/5]
The nearness of living folk culture was an advantage all newly-formed Transylvanian dance-houses wanted to utilize. In Csíkszereda for example, the nearby felcsíki music and dance was a constant program of all the dance-house occasions, similarly to local marosszéki dances in Marosvásárhely, and Gagy dances in Székelyudvarhely.
"The "Kaláka" programs of the Hungarian broadcast of the Bucharest television and the later dance-house festivals both played a significant role in popularizing the dance-house culture. Dance-houses and the "Kaláka" TV program were regular topics in the press too: opinions about them varied to both extremes." (Pávai, István. ibid.) Zoltán Csáky and Katalin Simonffy, the editors of the TV program, were efficient not only in popularizing the movement, but also in unifying it. As Simonffy put it:
Our aim is to create a healthy mass movement! Why can't we dance Széki and Szováti folkdances at our parties in the city? They could fit just as well with the modern dances, can't they?
It is the noble responsibility of the directors of community centers and youth clubs, as well as of dance teachers and musicians to shape the image of the new-born Transylvanian dance-house movement. We, at the Hungarian broadcast of the Romanian TV, want to contribute to this activity by showing this phenomenon to wider circles, and by shaking up the ones who are reluctant to move. [Simonffy, Katalin. „Néptánc a képernyőn" [Folkdance on Screen"]. Művelődés 1977/11.]
Beside the Hungarian broadcast that took place once in a week in the only Romanian TV channel, the radio and the press also were significant and efficient means of publicizing the dance-house movement. The Hungarian press in Kolozsvár took a leading role in this, with special respect to the journal Korunk [Our Age] where Ádám Könczei worked, and Utunk [Our Way] the only Hungarian weekly paper in Kolozsvár those times. The weekly Hungarian edition of Ifjúmunkás [Young Worker], the paper of the Communist Youth League is also worthy of mentioning. Beside widely publishing about dance-houses, the Youth League organized poetry readings called "Young workers' matinees", and regularly invited dance-house groups to perform on these occasions.
Thanks to Piroska Demény and Zoltán Borbély, we were able to record demos at the local offices of the Kolozsvár and Marosvásárhely regional radios. Electrecord, the only Romanian record producer company, initially allowed us to make recordings of original folk performers and dance-house musicians.
The outplacement system
The spreading of the dance-house movement was not only aided by the media and an encouraging Hungarian intellectual atmosphere, but - against its own will - by the Romanian administration system itself. Right after their graduation from the university, young professionals were placed out to serve a three-year internship on a location prescribed by the Romanian administration. This system enhanced the exchange of intellectuals on a national level: Hungarians were moved out of Transylvania to all-Romanian territories, while Romanian intellectuals were forced to move to the Hungarian-inhabited parts of Transylvania. This however had a positive effect on the dance-house movement: since there were two other music academies in the country, both in the Romanian parts, graduates of the Kolozsvár Academy were allowed to stay inside Transylvania, where they could carry on with their dance-house activity. This is how István Pávai, József Simó, Alpár Kostyák, and Zoltán Szalay all ended up in Csíkszereda to form the "Barozda" folk music band. András Sinkó got to Marosvásárhely, and Attila Kostyák to Szatmárnémeti, where they both continued to play dance-house music.
This in turn meant that the Kolozsvár dance-house needed more and more new musicians every year to substitute the ones who had graduated and left. This is how I became part of the "recruitment scene" that was described in the beginning of my lecture.
Compared to the situation in Hungary, the attitude of high schools and universities towards the growth of the dance-house movement in Transylvania was quite different and much more favorable. While at Budapest universities, especially at the Department of Ethnography, dance-house activity was not quite welcome; we in Transylvania met with our teachers' most thorough support. Hungarian and Romanian folklore was a part of our core curriculum, and our teachers always welcomed questions on these topics. Professor Ilona Szenik even organized folklore collecting trips for us.
We tried to use our connections with high schools in order to promote dance-house culture there. The Hungarian high school system was so developed and well-organized in Transylvania that Romanian educational politics were not able to strangle it, though they kept a close eye on Hungarian high schools. Therefore, we cautiously disguised our dance-house occasions as tea parties, quiz nights and club meetings. Our centers were the Ady High School in Nagyvárad, High School no. 3 and Brassai Sámuel High School in Kolozsvár, Bolyai High School and the High School of Arts in Marosvásárhely, the Teacher-Training College in Székelyudvarhely and several high schools in Csíkszereda and Sepsiszentgyörgy. Students of these schools were regular participants of the Kaláka TV program, and formed the core of the dance-houses in their local communities.
Centers, exoduses, festivals
Due to its favorable location, its central role in education, and due to the presence of talented and devoted leaders (such as Kallós and Könczei), Kolozsvár was the cradle of the Transylvanian dance-house movement. It was soon joined by other big Transylvanian cities such as Csíkszereda, Marosvásárhely, Székelyudvarhely, and later Sepsiszentgyörgy. Being placed out after graduation, young Hungarian professionals tried to establish dance-houses in several other cities too, but the local conditions, the gradually increasing state prohibition, and people's fear and indifference all acted against their plans. Dance-house goers of the central cities were happy to take all invitations and charged no fee for their visits. The complete dance-house movement operated on a non-profit basis anyway; everybody did their work out of goodwill and for no money. We, from Kolozsvár went to hold dance-houses in Dés, Torda, Bánffyhunyad and Nagyvárad, while our fellows in Csíkszereda visited to Sepsiszentgyörgy and Székelyudvarhely, and occasionally went as far as Gyergyószentmiklós.
From the very beginnings we were keen on organizing dance-house festivals, where the dance-house communities of different cities can meet. Our festivals between 1978 (nineteen-seventy-eight) and 1982 (nineteen-eighty-two) were hosted by Székelyudvarhely, and once there was a festival in Kolozsvár too. We initially managed to win the benevolence of the Communist Youth League of the Hungarian-inhabited Hargita County, where Székelyudvarhely also belonged. As a result of our initial cooperation (that was later ruined due to political manipulations), we organized our first and only folkdance-camp in Gyimesfelsőlok, Hargita County.
Transylvanian dance houses go underground
Dance-houses and the "Secu"
Zoltán Kallós, Ádám Könczei, and Ádám Katona, the founding fathers of the Transylvanian dance-house movement had unclear records at the "Securitate", so their activity around the dance-houses soon raised the suspicion of the Romanian secret police. The espionage was present in the dance-houses from the very beginnings; all our moves were being monitored, and a lot of reports were compiled. Under these circumstances it was a miracle that there was even a period when we could organize dance-houses relatively freely. Pressure was initially exerted upon our leaders. Then it gradually spread to all of us who made some contribution to the dance-house movement, leading to the never-ending, humiliating process of fear generating: summons - declaration - roping in - refusing it and being punished. All of us had their personal stories of harassment by the Secu. Sometimes, to release the anxiety that had accumulated in us, we told our stories to each other in small circles.
The following true story is going to be told in order to illustrate the situation we had live in.
On New Year's Day in 1982 (nineteen-eighty-two) three dance-house goers set off from Kolozsvár to go on a collecting trip to Moldva, where the easternmost groups of Hungarians live. On their way they were joined by a Hungarian girl who was an American citizen. They obtained some gas (it was impossible to get it at gas stations) and traveled East to Moldva. On the second day of their collection trip, they were raided on and were taken to the nearest office of the Secu in Bákó. They were deprived of all their official documents, recorders and cameras, and were interrogated separately for the whole day, then sent off to sleep in a local hostel without their documents. The same thing continued the next day. On the morning of the third day it occurred to one of them, that he has a spare key to their car. They decided to flee. They set off, but chose a long and complicated way, since they knew the roads were being monitored too. They stopped on their way to put the American girl on a train to Bucharest, where she hoped to ask for refuge on the American Embassy. After making several loops on their way, the others finally got to Marosvásárhely, where they first called an acquaintance who was a lawyer, then visited the Hungarian writer András Sütő to ask for his advice. As they said goodbye to Sütő, they were arrested by the Secu officials who were waiting for them outside the writer's house. They were taken to the commander-in-chief of the Marovásárhely Securitate rightaway. There they were first asked about where their American companion was. On learning that she was planning to seek refuge at the American Embassy, the officers became infuriated. A series of lengthy telephoning began, which strangely calmed the officers down. They - in a much more civil manner - told the three young people to go back to Bákó for their documents and to "kindly forget about" this whole affair. They even got gas in their car for the ride. Being escorted by police cars, they drove to Bákó in the constant fear of being pushed into the abyss by the accompanying police cars. It was later that they learned that the American girl saved their lives. She made it to the embassy where she met Tom Lantos, who was to meet Ceausescu the next day. Learning what happened with the girl and her companions, he strongly protested against such a dealing. It was on his intervention that the three young people were released without any major repercussions. However, from that time on, these people never got a passport, and their activity was closely observed.
This story is meant to illustrate the circumstances among which we had to work those times. Even simple dance-house goers were monitored. The enormous intimidating mechanism started to grind up the enthusiasm, nerves and personal relationships of those who wanted promote a living Hungarian folk culture in Transylvania. This process ended in the ultimate ban on all dance-house activity and in the intimidation and sanctioning of its devotees.
In her blog (http://konczeicsilla.egologo.transindex.ro/) Csilla Könczei, has published one of the plans on the abolishment of dance-houses. We have no reason to doubt that the systematic obliteration of the Transylvanian dance-houses between 1984-1986 (nineteen-eighty-four and eighty-six) was carried out on quite similar plans.
In order to "finalize the dance-house issue", captain Ghiuruţan outlined the necessary course of action in seven points.
"Regarding the virulence and extent of the case, we find it necessary to launch an informative-operative action. We wish to carry it out in cooperation with respective institutions of education, and as a result, wish to neutralize the harmful activity of the persons concerned. Therefore, in accordance with the 000875/15.o5/1976 decree of the Ministry of Home Affairs,
we recommend that
- The local party and CYL (Communist Youth League) bodies be informed in order to induce the necessary action of the Socialist Cultural and Educational Committee of Kolozs County. Necessary action means the obliteration of this movement, and the creation of an appropriate political atmosphere at the dance-houses on Monostori út/road and in the CFR/Vasutas Community Center.
- Persons concerned (Könczei, Kallós) be warned (= intimidated) in our offices.
- The behavior of the students listed in Appendix 1. be subject of a discussion at their educational intuitions, on faculty, departmental and study group levels. This process is to be aided by the CYL (Communist Youth League). (= These students should be discredited in the eyes of their professional community.)
In order to make this method more effective, we see it necessary to ask the faculties for permission about the preliminary interrogation of 2 or 3 students. These students may later be used as negative examples in further actions.
- Other students who participated in dance-house activity are to be positively influenced by the deanery, professors and the CYL (Communist Youth League).
- The Passport Office of the Ministry of Home Affairs in Kolozs County is to be informed about the deed of ____ person living in ____, who hosted a Hungarian citizen without permission. Action should be taken according to the 225/1975. decree.
- ____ [Kallós] is to be warned in form of interrogations and by action taken by the Socialist Cultural and Educational Committee of Kolozs County. He is to be discredited and isolated from his followers.
- Incorporation of those who display their willingness to cooperate with us. (= Roping in those dance-house goers who are willing to cooperate with the Securitate.)"
The first dance house to be banned in Kolozsvár was the one on Monostori út/road. Later, in the spring of 1984 (nineteen-eighty-four), we were expelled from the Vasutas community center, on the excuse of a redecoration. We could never return to any of these places any more.
From that time on, the Kolozsvár dance-house was forced into illegality: we held our meetings in private flats, only to be followed by the Secu's regular interrogations, rope-in attempts and other repercussions. With the outplacement of the first dance-house generation, and the intimidation of prospective supporters, it became impossible to hold dance-house occasions on a regular basis in Transylvania. The horrifying "deep dictatorship" and agony of the Ceausescu regime had begun. In these years, a high percent of the Transylvanian Hungarian intellectuals (including numerous members of the dance-house movement) left their home to settle in foreign countries, from the U. S. to Israel, in the hope of a better and freer life.
In 1984 (nineteen-eighty-four), I was placed out to Nagyenyed, from where, due to the continuous denunciations, harassment and the practical ban on my professional activity, I moved to Hungary in 1986 (nineteen-eighty-six).
After the Changes of 1989 (nineteen-eighty-nine), the Transylvanian dance-houses, much like many other things, had to be re-built from their ruins. But this is yet a new story.
Translated by Rita Mallász
Indiana University 2008 April
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