A picturesque, far-away Hungarian village draws attention by representing the power of peace.
THE TINY HAMLET OF MAGYARFÖLD lies in Zala county, at the Szentgyörgyvölgy National Park, just a stone's throw from Slovenia, and 260 km away from Budapest. In the northern part of the village streams the River Kerka, while near by the settlement plough lands, fields and forests run along. In this small village with only a few streets and just 34 residents, life started fermenting recently.
80 % of the population is elderly. Conventionally residents here earned their livings by forestry, and the young went to work to the settlements and villages nearby until most of the work-places shut down. However, instead of quietly disappearing, the village of Magyarföld seems now to blossom. This place exemplifies that a small parish is also capable to win foreign investors and to attract tourists; but most importantly, it shows how it can remain or will become more and more a 'heaven on earth' due to the mere diligence of the locals. To accomplish such an achievement, at least one person is required, someone who can make the rest believe, that the process of change can be and has to be carried out. In this particular case, that someone is Zoltán Rátóti, the Jászai Award winner actor of the Budapest National Theatre.
Though Rátóti was not born here, he thinks of this village as the hub of the universe. “It's been a decade since I first visited the place as a hiker”, he reveals. “It was a love at first sight when I took a glance at this peaceful place surrounded by forests, hills and fields. I purchased a parcel and a friend of mine helped me to build a clog-house with our own bare hands.” Following that, he spent more and more time down the village and gradually the occasional vacationer from Budapest became an honorary citizen of Magyarföld.
When the former mayor announced her leaving due to family matters, some of the villagers had an idea: what if Rátóti became the mayor, as he is well known and has good connections, so he could do more for the village than anyone else. Rátóti finally agreed. He promised he would have the settlement joined to several cultural festivals at Õrség and last but not least he would have a wooden church built, as the hill rising above the village almost called for one. "For this latter, biggest goal of ours, we managed to win the Hungarian Volksbank as major sponsor. Thus the Foundation for the Village of Magyarföld, which proposed to beautify and blossom the image of the village, to protect its traditions and customs, furthermore to have a church built, was given a subsidy of several million forints. This provided a safe and secure base for us to start our work.
However it is still not enough to cover the total expenditure of the church building, that's why we have already held wine and painting auctions, also a charity gala-show at the Hungarian National Theatre, and step by step, the building procedures progresses nicely. Somehow people have opened their souls for our cause and their purses too. We have goodwill and responsibility, the population looks into the future with hope, the wooden church will hopefully be done by next Pentecost.”
"We are also planning to have a bay garden on the church hill, with ancient, persistent fruit trees and herbs; by doing so, we mainly lean on the locals' knowledge about the area and on their professional advice”, Rátóti goes on. "The climate and the soil of Orseg are suitable, even on the world-wide scale, to grow the most important herbs necessary to preserve our health. Even those in the European market which are currently only imported from South America, South Africa and Asia. Why not to put the cheaper, fresher herbs grown in the gardens of Orseg on the European bio-markets?” asks Rátóti, adding that this would provide independent and respectable livings to the families of Magyarfold. The fortunate relief of Magyarfold could also create further workplaces. They have wrought plans for a gravitational water-management system with a lake locatable in the catchments basin of Kerka. The first element of this project is going to be a tear-drop shape like pond locatable in the alluring area of the wooden church which will catch the rain pouring down the roof of both the shed-theatre and the church itself.
The community house of the village has also been groomed, just as the ruined barn house has been renovated which now serves as a parish house and where several cultural performances were held last year. Films can also be shown here, theatrical, musical events, exhibitions, forums can be organized and thus it has become the locale of social intercourse. Moreover, they organize bicycle power-tours every May, and this summer they had posy festival and village day as well. The Horse Days held in August is also a significant event, organized annually along with the neighboring village of Kerkáskápolna. In addition, the village has a constantly up-dated, exquisite web-site where the church building process can be kept track of too. “I believe that anything can be achieved, if we have huge collaboration, persistency, ideas, braveness and last but not least belief”, says the mayor.
“It is phenomenal to experience and feel how a small community begins to find itself and how their old traditions start to revive. Anyone who comes down here may get inspired to achieve something similar in his own environment, in his own soul.”
Rátóti is trying to solve the local problems with excellent expertise, he handles the troubles of the villagers with huge empathy, he makes them interested in blooming their residence and in ensuring the necessary conditions of their living. “To manage the village is bigger task than I expected, especially if you live nearly 300 km away from it. Mostly I'm only able to handle the matters and issues of the village on phone or e-mail: during the theater season I can only make it there to my 'chosen home' at the weekends.” According to Rátóti, the revival of the villages borderline is a pan-social interest, the beautiful natural richness of this land is yet to be exploited.
“Creating new work places is a serious problem, keeping animals is vanishing”, says the mayor who is happy for those who looks to him with the idea of bio-farming. He believes that for the village, only the revival of family enterprises and the pursuit of self-independence can be the solution to step further. “If the local governments were able to grant the conditions of ‘village tourism’ through EU support, there would be more opportunities of earnings for locals, new workplaces would be established and more people could expect season labor to supplement their income. I feel Magyarföld carries the alternative of a life of high-standard by developing village tourism.”