Juke on a mission in Budapest Part 4: one fine summer’s day
After having been a human rights educator at Amnesty the Netherlands for nine years, our colleague Juke Fluitsma joined the team of Amnesty Hungary to support their student activisme and human rights education programme. This past year, she kept a series of blogs on her experiences in Hungary. In this fourth and final blog she shares her main take-aways and reflects on a thought-provoking photograph she took just before moving back to the Netherlands.
Men in black
Monday evening, I was on my way to a restaurant, trying to cross crowded Kalvin Tér, when my way got blocked by a small group of people watching a demo. When they finally let me and my bike pass, two men in black shirts, holding a banner, appeared. As I was still not able to decipher the text on their banner, in spite of all the language lessons, I took a picture of the sturdy looking men in black to show to colleagues. I was already late, so I jumped back on my bike and rushed to the pretty, sun-drenched terrace where my dinner date was already waiting for me.
Summer in the city
I love summer in Budapest: outdoor bars everywhere, swimming pools and the cool Danube at my feet. Tuesday evening, making the most of a warm summer day before heading back to Amsterdam, I got together with some people in one of the gardens in the centre for a couple of drinks. When Ádám and Timi arrived, they immediately got me up to speed about what happened to our colleague Andi the other day: the meeting she hosted as a volunteer for the lesbian organisation Labrisz got disrupted by a right-winged crowd. They vandalised the place and harassed Andi. What’s more, it had taken the police almost an hour to arrive and at first they refused to file a report against the perpetrators.
While you’re having fun…
Suddenly, the picture I had taken earlier came to mind. I showed it to Timi and Ádám to learn what it said on the banner. “Ban all LGTB propaganda from schools,” it read. I was shocked and appalled and I realised that I had taken a picture of the very spot were the meeting had been, and of the very men and women that, moments earlier, had attacked Andi. I know I should have known better after having lived in Hungary for nine months: repression, violence and discrimination are taken place right when you’re having fun, on your way to dinner. The sun will not just stop shining when injustice is taken place.
Under the skin
This schizophrenic state of Hungary, were repression is lingering beneath the surface while lángos and gulyás are served without interruption at busy bars, gradually got under my skin. Now that I moved back to Amsterdam, sitting at my comfy desk on the canals, it took me a while to shake the tension. My colleagues in Budapest have a great sense of humour about it all, laughing off the absurdity of the situation as much as possible. Their resilience is truly awesome. I have come to realise throughout my time in Budapest how humour and optimism are not frivolous and amusing character trades but part and parcel of any activist’s skillset. I am proud I was part of developing Freedom Clubs and human rights education trainings throughout Hungary. But the examples of my Hungarian colleagues on how to be brave, I appreciate most of all and are lessons I will never forget.
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Read more about Juke’s year in Hungary on her personal Dutch blog http://boedapestblog.blogspot.com/