…We’re somewhere near Temesvár (Timişoara). We left behind the Transylvanian snow and frost. Outside the white blanket gave way to a grey bundle of puddles…One of you will have to sit away. – mutters the bus-driver lady in an unintelligible mixture of English and German. Of course one becomes slightly angry knowing that his travel companion will be moved away. A family will sit behind you and they want to be together. You become quiet for a second, take your sit and look out the window bored like hell. Two small kids sit behind me, a middle-aged woman with a vale covering her face and a guy about my age sits next to me. By their language and appearance I quickly know that they’re somewhere from the Middle East… A couple of minutes pass and I break the silence. Where are you from? – I ask the one sitting next to me. From Eastern Turkey – answer the guy my age. We are Kurds and unfortunately the political situation back home just got worse. She is my mother and the two children are my brothers – and he points at the back sit. Life is good back home. There is money but unfortunately with the Iraqi situation everything is insecure. – continues the dark skinned lad. And where are you heading now? – I ask him with increasing curiosity. My father left to Rotterdam a couple of months ago and he will wait for us.
He continued their story. They arrived to Romania a couple of months ago seeking political asylum. They left everything behind… a family, customs, a religion and a language was all that they could carry with them. And for how long are you going to leave Kurdistan? – I continue on. Oh, we cannot know that yet…and he immersed into his thoughts. The two kids were happily playing around, looking here and there and sometime there mother yelled at them when they pushed my chair. I had a couple of cartoons on my laptop and batteries for two hours. Well let’s just get their attention away from the thirty hour long journey. Only the guy next to me spoke English and unfortunately the cartoons were all in English but it didn’t stop the kids laughing at the strange cartoon characters talking in a strange language. I asked if I could take a look at their documents and I curiously looked at the red booklet that only differed a little bit from my passport. Refugiat politic (Political refugee).
…And this is happening all around Europe. Many are forced to leave their homes; many look for a better life. Europe’s face is continuously changing and although this is a more tolerant world then where I come from, still many find tolerance hard to accept. It’s a natural process that already took place a couple of hundred years ago and in many cases the protagonists were the ancestors of modern day English-, Spanish-, German-, French- and Dutchmen. It’s a tolerant Europe but tolerance doesn’t necessarily imply that one likes the other. He just accepts him. Basically that’s it. Who knows for how long will they still except each other? Europe’s face is changing from each perspective and who knows if in a hundred years a blond guy will say Goedemiddag (Good day in Dutch) or maybe a darker skinned person will greet you on the streets. The wind of tolerance blows from each direction but sometimes you can find out a lot more sipping a beer with someone. Not everyone likes immigrants. And sometimes it’s visible…Integrate them. Maybe the state can handle it at the beginning but later on the numbers will decide. And this is happening all around Europe. Millions of people arrive each year and the numbers are increasing… Thousands of faces stare at you when you walk on the streets of Utrecht. You can meet to types of immigrants, if we can still classify the first group as immigrants. He was born in Holland, speaks Dutch, and is a fan of Ajax but his appearance tells that his parents came from somewhere else. Probably Turkish, Moroccan, Indonesian, or parents from Suriname wait for him back home or maybe his elders came from the Antilles. He in a way is already integrated; probably he still speaks in his mother tongue with his parents. The ever increasing group is who’s members keep arriving or arrived not so long ago, who speak a fragmented Dutch, put their flag on the wall and are the fans of maybe Beshiktas… It’s ever harder to integrate them because we are not talking about thousands but millions…The poor economic situation, the common culture, the immigrant destiny and relatives living there leads to the fact that at the edge of every Western city lie the ghettos. The frustration just increases. The new-born child goes to a Dutch school, speaks native Dutch but the frustration is in the background. Because he lives in a narrow street, his father probably carries boxes in a factory and then he looks at the one sitting next to him, whose father sits in an office and even in the crowded Holland has a fancy car on the considerable sized lawn.
When will the moment come when these millions will act? Not long ago riots took place in the cities of France, Turkish groups protested on the streets of the Netherlands and no matter how the government “struggles” to integrate them you still don’t see many Dutchies holding hands with Moroccans. Small states, secondary societies evolve in the Western countries. Second, third…who knows which one?
A lot of people say that they still don’t have political rights and all of the freedoms. But the new born is a citizen of that country; he can organize and has equal rights with the native. Back home many times he can hear his parents’ discontent. And maybe he will start thinking and organizing, maybe he sets up a party. He has few chances getting into Parliament- probably the native says. But a couple of million voters already back him up. Mobilizing them is a lot easier then the natives. We Transylvanian Hungarians could see this at the European Parliamentary elections. In all of Europe the voting tendencies are negative. Only forty, fifty percent of people go voting. It’s just simple mathematics and we already proved back home what a good mobilization can do (although the Hungarian percentage in Romania is 6.5 % at the EP elections almost 1O % went to HU candidates because of the better mobilization)… Now nothing happens but no one should be surprised in the future if a 5 % immigrant community obtains 1O % of the Parliamentary seats. And this is already something. Coalitions can be formed; they can have a word in governing and can protect their interests. The question is if the native will be able to handle appropriately the new political situation? Maybe he’ll get frustrated but let’s not forget that this process already took place in the time of his ancestors, but of course the other way around. Back home it’s still a distant idea, because the Romanian and the Hungarian feels equally native. But the level of daily existence is rising and maybe the Chinese or Pakistani worker will appeal better to the Multinational Company. The new western society is already being molded but back home it will take years for it to start.
And will then everyone except that in the “country” of Napoleon and Rembrandt, in the “bastions of Christianity” the muezzin will call the believers from the minaret and a colored person will represent the country? A good part of society accepted it but in a strange way still the conservative Christian Democrats are the leading party in the Netherlands. And this way Europe turns into a threesome society. America should we say, already experienced it. The immigrant protecting his rights, the native protecting his “ancient rights” and the middle part, the more tolerant immigrants and natives not so concerned about their “rights”. How tolerant will Europe become? Until now the indicators show that it’s heading in a better direction than the “giant across the pond”. Hopefully we won’t witness the rise of extreme-right groups from both sides. The question is if the native will accept that the new comer has the same right to consider the country his home? It’s a difficult road because it’s a different culture, religion, history, language and customs…Or will we accept a totally multicultural society? If yes then many states should eradicate the “unitarian national state” phrase from their constitutions. Of course we Transylvanian Hungarians would happily accept it if this would happen back home but I ask the question. IS the szekely (szekler – member of ethnic Hungarian group leaving in Romania) from Csik (Ciuc) county ready to accept the new multicultural society if in his neighborhood a new industrial plant pops-up employing Chinese workers? Then it means that we should start being a little bit more tolerant to.
Of course one could ignorantly say that “why don’t they go back where they came from?”, but until this society creates the means for people to arrive, they should shush. Which westerner would go clean toilets, clean the street or maw the lawn and I could continue…Back home it is still not an everyday life fact, but as our society keeps evolving too and our expectations are higher, it’s a matter of time when we’ll have to face these problems. And we can still learn a lot about tolerance. Back home we still live in a society that just started opening its eyelids, but the eye itself is still sleepy. And if this happens maybe we Transylvanians should lead the way ‘cause a lot of nations live here. But the question is how tolerant are we? “Because our father Arpad (Hungarian national hero) and Iancu (Romanian national hero) fought for this land!!! What is a Chinese guy doing here?” It will be an interesting process but we’ll still have to wait for it.
Maybe Pierre and Joust already accepted the idea that they have to share their “father” Napoleon’s and Wilhelm’s land with other people too, or they have just begun to accept it. Nations have been merging since the beginning of history. In Europe it was easier because most of the people looked at the cross, but the poor Indian and aborigine found the cross a little bit strange just as Johnny (Jankó, Iancu) while visiting Brussels stares at the “half moon”.
…Wednesday night on the Utrecht taxi-platform…Slightly messy, it just rained and a couple of empty plastic bags play with the wind. Two cab-drivers talking in Arabic by my side. The fairly new Mercedes arrives. Are you heading to Nieuwegein? – I ask the driver. I’m lucky that the company pays for my journey to the factory. A good fifteen minutes later I get out of the car and take a glance at my new place of work. The Pally biscuit and cookie factory. Well I gotta’ experience this to. You gotta’ start low if you wanna’ get on top. – I say to myself. I ring the doorbell. A couple of minutes later a tall Dutch guy opens the door and slightly rood asks me if I’d worked there before and leads me to the cafeteria. A long table stood in the middle of the room. A coffee machine, a fridge, glasses, a sink and a couple of chairs by the table. The Dutch guy shoves a white coat and a hat in my arms. It’s mandatory to wear them. – and after finishing his long and kind phrase leaves the room. A quarter of an hour until I start. In the mean time workers started to arrive. It’s not a surprise that they’re not blond. Judging by their language I would say they are Turkish and later my hunch became true. I barely understand Dutch but I could sense that it’s not their native language. All of them middle-aged…After a couple of minutes a Czech student like me arrives…23 hours and the work begins… Millions of biscuits on the conveyer belts… Back home you work for a law firm, you got here with a scholarship but you are still an immigrant. Now you at least have a clue about what Big Ali thinks after working in this place for twenty something years. You’re gonna live here for only a few months and you just need extra spending money. But he had to raze a family out of this job…After two hours he looks at me. It’s time to take a break. Koffie, Koffie – he says it a few times…I take a sit in the cafeteria. I drink another coffee to get through the night and I look at Ali eating his sandwich. With my beginner’s Dutch I ask him simple questions like how old is he and where is he from… The break ends. The factory awaits us. The biscuits run on the conveyer belts, hands move quickly and the probably Indonesian supervisor checks that everything runs smoothly…7’clock in the morning, bus 65. Naar Utrecht Centraal ( To Utrecht Central) I say to the driver. Drie en twintig (Three euros twenty) he replies while I reached for my wallet. I already got used to the prices, but I look in the dark distance with a smile on my face knowing that with one day’s work I earned more than in two weeks back home. The bus moves and I continue my conversation about Dutch society with the new Czech friend… What makes me different from an immigrant? Not much. What makes me different from a native? Maybe that now I at least know how it feels like to be an immigrant. So Johnny (Jankó, Iancu) you better watch out how you’ll greet our friend Lee from Beijing!!!.
11th of January 2008 Utrecht