Ildikó Orosz: Unspoken Speech to Volodymyr Zelenskyy

On August 2, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy briefly visited Berehovo (Beregszász), where he met with representatives of the ethnic Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia, including Ildikó Orosz, president of the Hungarian language II Ferenc Rákóczi Transcarpathian Hungarian College. During the brief meeting, she was not given the floor, but did manage to give the President a written version of her speech, as well as an analysis of the Hungarian minority’s situation, documents containing recommendations, and the Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Alliance’s (KMPSZ) prior studies.

Below is Ildikó Orosz’s unspoken speech.

Dear Mr. President,

            I welcome you to Transcarpathia as the delegate of the Transcarpathian County
Council of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Cultural Association. It is an honor for me to also represent the II Ferenc Rákóczi Transcarpathian Hungarian College, as well as the educators of Hungarian language schools. 

            Our community, like all communities in the region, has done everything in our power on its own front since the first day of the Russian aggression. We have taken in refugees, our teachers and students have continued to provide assistance and translation services at the borders and in the various rest camps, and we have also taken an active role in the organization of the National Multidisciplinary Test in Hungary.

As an educator and now a sixth-time re-elected member of the Transcarpathian County Council, I have always worked in the Committee on Education and National Minorities. As a result, I am well acquainted with the opinions, positions, and problems of the national minorities in our region, especially in the field of education and use of languages in public life.

On behalf of the national minorities of the county, I would like to thank you for postponing the implementation of Article 7 of the Law of Ukraine on Education for one year. However, it is important to emphasis that this measure does not provide a permanent solution to the existing problem. The educational rights of national minorities in our region are still restricted. The current law on education restricts our right to choose the language of education in our county, a right with a 150 year tradition and which all states in power have guaranteed us.

Our colleagues, the teachers of the region, have repeatedly drawn attention to this problem and continually proposed solutions. I urge you to accept these ideas, which have already been presented in our previous evaluation. I will now take this opportunity to briefly outline the essence of the analysis, what we would like to achieve, and how we can make it happen.

Last week, I attended a forum on the Education of National Minorities in the European Union, where I learned about the new laws on public education and higher education in Romania. These laws in Romania give national minorities all the rights that we would ultimately be happy with.

According to the new law in Romania, Romanian as the state language will be taught in the same methodology as teaching a foreign language in the mother tongue educational institutions of national minorities. The Ministry of Education is to launch a special national program to help minority students learn the state language. The law also guarantees the functioning of minority schools, provided that if the number of students is less than 300, they will be provided with all the necessary resources.

Legislators have also taken into account the interests of national minority youth who wish to continue their studies in higher education. When applying for university admissions, students can use the language they studied in high school, with the exception of courses related to national security. In fields of study where there is no higher education in a minority language, students from national minorities receive a special quota.

Thus, following Slovakia, Hungary, and Serbia, the situation of minority language education has now also been resolved in Romania. However, Ukraine continues to remain on the sidelines. It is time to settle this issue. Our legislators should consider amending the Ukrainian Education Law or the Law on National Minorities (communities), as has already been done in Hungary. Hungary, in its National Minorities Act adopted in 2011, listed the officially recognized national minorities in Hungary, including Ukrainians, giving them the right to establish their own mother tongue education system with state funding and to delegate a representative or spokesperson of their choice to parliament.

We, the national minority communities of the region, want nothing more than what the Ukrainian people have for centuries been struggling: to learn in our mother tongue in the land where we have lived for more than a millennium. Therefore, we ask you to solve this problem, which is a source of international conflict for our country.

The representatives of our region’s national minorities – Hungarians, Romanians, Slovaks – are fighting and dying on the frontline for Ukraine, and they want nothing more than for them, their children, and their families to have the opportunity to live, speak and learn in their mother tongue in Ukraine.

I wish for peaceful skies over all of us.

August 2, 2023, Berehovo (Beregszász)

Ildikó Orosz

Translated from Hungarian as appeared in, August 4, 2023

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