Friday, March 07, 2008

Life as a blogger

Every now and then for my pains I get a tirade of abuse from some rabid nationalist psycho. This can appear in the form of a comment on the blog, an email to me, or in some occasions a post on another blog which I have to discover by accident. These come from both Romanian nationalists and Hungarian nationalists, which to my mind means I'm getting it just about right (I recognise that this is not a very scientific way of deciding that, but it'll do).

A couple of months ago, for example, I received the following email from someone called "Radu B". I did try to engage Domnul B in debate but he didn't respond, so I feel that it's OK to taunt him here. The italicised bits are Radu, and the non-italicised bits are my sneering response. In the interests of fairness I have quoted the entire email just so you know not I'm not taking any of this out of context.

Dear Mr. Andy H, while I have no idea about your ethnic(I'm assuming you're British), social or professional background (and quite frankly I don't care about either), I have stumbled upon your blog. I appreciate you have chosen my country to work in and I do hope you are having a good time there.

This is a fair enough opening. I don't really care much about Radu's background either. Not quite sure why he needed to say this however. But there you go. Interesting use of the word "there" which implies that while he is obviously Romanian, he's not actually living here. This is somewhat interesting given what comes later.

However, I do know that Mc. Ciuc is a Romanian city, in a Romanian county, in a Romanian province, and guess what! The official language of Romania, regardless of the ethnic make-up of the area in which you find yourself is - you guessed it!- Romanian.

He's clever, is that Radu. Again I'm not sure why he is quoting undisputed facts at me, but once again, who can ever really know the mind of another.

For that reason, I find the URL of your blog (szekely) and the fact that you keep calling the city by its equivalent name in Hungarian and the fact that you chose to learn Hungarian first and then Romanian, highly offensive.

Highly offensive! It is highly offensive to actually use the word "Szekely"! Not quite sure how Radu would like to proceed with this ethnic group - deny their existence totally? Now I do recognise that it bothers some people that I call this town Csikszereda more frequently than I call it Miercurea Ciuc, and while I think they're being a bit over sensitive, I at least see where they're coming from (and I hope that in turn they understand why I choose one over the other for the most part). It's also highly offensive that I chose, on arrival in Romania (yes Radu, I know I am in Romania) to attempt to learn the language of my wife and (especially) step daughter first. Very odd. (In fact I kind of wish I had had the opportunity to learn Romanian first since it seems so much easier than Hungarian, but I think my reasons for choosing the option I did are clear - and in fact 100% correct)

You are not only offending some Transylvanian (myself) through your actions, but also our forefathers and the sacrifices made to liberate the province from Hungarian occupation.

We'll gloss over the whole "Hungarian occcupation" thing since we're never going to resolve that here. As for offending someone, well whatever I do I will offend someone. So, I think I can live with myself on that one too.

I remind you once more that you are living in Romania, not Hungary.

Thanks Radu. I have to confess I keep forgetting which country I live in. That's why I wrote "A small town in the Ciuc Depression, Romania" at the top of this blog just in case it escapes my attention and I suddenly imagine myself living in Hungary.

I'm convinced your ethnic Hungarian friends are absolutely extatic about your choices,

What choices? The one to live here? I hope some of them are vaguely happy about it, yes. I like to think my wife is very happy, and even possibly ecstatic, but I don't think most people really care that much what I call my blog, to be honest.

and that they add fuel to their erotic dreams regarding autonomy for that part of Romania,

Those dreams are erotic? Wow, no wonder people like them. I'm not sure if I want an erotic dream involving Marko Bela though.

but if you like their language and culture so much, I cordially invite you to cross the border and immerse yourself in the culture Attila's heirs have created in the Pannonic Plains.

And so it closes, with the traditional "Why don't you fuck off to Hungary" line (and let's not be distracted by the "cordial invitation", we all know what that means). I assume Radu is "inviting " me to Hungary anyway - he seems to be somewhat confused by who the Hungarians actually are - the Magyars are not thought to be directly connected to the Huns (and thence Attila), by the way Radu.

Sometimes I think I ought to write a manifesto for this blog so I can just direct people like Radu to read that, but at other times I think that that would probably be a bit over-the-top and self-important. So, at least for now, I won't bother.

So, anyway, thanks Radu for the laugh, and for the material for this blog post. I realise this was somewhat gratuitous, but you know, I think ridicule is all that nationalism and bigotry deserves.

I, at least, feel better for writing that, even if it hasn't improved the lives of any of my readers one iota. Sorry all. I'll post something a little less obnoxious next time.


Anonymous said...

Andy, as a Romanian let me thank you for exposing the ridiculous bigotry of some of my fellow nationals. I look forward to reading more from you. Greetings from Iasi!

Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,

Welcome to Romania :-)
It is interesting indeed to see someone's else view over the Romanian - Hungarian tease. Since I haven't lived among Hungarians I don't have a strong opinion about them, people.
Reading this post I couldn't help but noticing the subtitle of your blog and I wonder: since Miercurea Ciuc is a town in Romania, wouldn't have been more correct to say "...Miercurea Ciuc, also known as Csíkszereda."?

Andy said...

Thanks, Iulian and Ileana for comenting.

Ileana, in some ways yes, and I did think long and hard abut which way round I should word that sentence, but eventually decided on the way you see it. Living here, the town's name is first and foremost Csikszereda, while obviously everyone recognises it has another name (and that other name is obviously the more "internationally recognised" one (ie it's the one that's on maps). In the end I decided (and attempted to be very consistent about this) that I would refer to towns in Romania firstly by the name which the majority of theinahbitants use, while adding the other name (if necessary) afterwards. Thus I always refer to Cluj as Cluj and Brasov as Brasov for example, but refer to Odorhei Secuiesc as Szekelyudvarhely (with the Romanian name in brackets afterwards). This policy only causes problems when I want to refer to Targu Mures/Marosvasarhely which is split about 50/50.

I can see why this policy might bother some people, and do understand where you are coming from with your comment, but I think I'm sticking with it.

Cheers and happy women's day

dumneazu said...

I get the same treatment in Hungary: if you like Romania so much, why don't you move there, etc. It's part of the fun of blogging: the peanut gallery is right there, six inches from your face at 8 in the morning.

I think that when an east European country enters the EU, it tends to make the intellectual atmopsphere less supportive to the shriller nationalist blowhards, and so off they march to the battlefields of the World Wide Web! If you read the comments on Bourdain's Blog you can watch how the debate inevitably derails into Romanians calling Hungarians "Asians" and Hungarians calling Romanians "Gypsies." If I had a penny for every time I get that reaction... I'd be rather well off.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Some people call all Hungarians all "Asians" and all Romanians "Gypsies"? What about the Hungarian Gypsies and the Romanians descended from Slavs? Oh for a giant melting pot.

I'm another English guy living in a town in Romania. In the interests of harmony and trying to be mates with everybody I tend to say "Cluj" to Romanians and "Cluj/Koloszvar" to Hungarians. This seems to work ok for me, so far.

dumneazu said...

Have you also noticed that when your blog gets these angry comments, the writers tend to have relatively excellent command of English, often using the high literary register to try and convince you that you are hopelessly in the thrall of the Evil Neighbor Country's Propaganda Plan?

I have to tip my hat to you, Andy, that you would even try to attempt commentary about politics on your blog. I don't quite have the stomache to deal with the nationalist looney gang telling me that I could "never understand how much (insert Country name here) has suffered."

Unknown said...

Tha name "CSIKSZEREDA" can be seen a document written in 1558. Maybe that smartass could tell us, hogy old is the oldest document mentioning "MIERCUREA CIUC" .......

Unknown said...

of course "how old" :) sorry!

Andy said...

Thanks Dumneazu. It's not so bad really. These things are pretty rare, in the main. I think my favourite was when someone told me (in excellently crafted English) that (and I paraphrase a lot) I was a stupid hick who was incapable of forming his own opinion (based it seemed entirely on the fact that I lived in Csikszereda and not Bucharest)

rs said...

Can't forget the Saxon town names either. For whatever reason, the geotags on Flickr always use the saxon name...check out the geotag for this picture from the fortress in Deva. Not sure what the logic is there but it's probably a conspiracy by the Germans to retake Transylvania.

Anonymous said...


I am Romanian as well. I consider your blog very informative about how the Szekelys/Magyars from Romania perceive their relationship with Romanians and the Romanian state. There is little unbiased and non-politicized info around on these topics and I do appreciate your posts

Anonymous said...

Thank you. That was hilarious, and he certainly deserved it. A most enjoyable post.

Anonymous said...

I try to avoid conversations like this in general. I'm more of the "why can't we all just get along?" type. I've travelled to some very interesting places in Transylvania and have noticed one major theme: Everyone loves bitching, but there's so much "poor me" out there, that no one's willing to just put their ego aside & get things done. And I don't care if you're Hungarian, Romania, Saxon or Martian, we're all guilty of it.

Anonymous said...

Sweet :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,

i came across this blog, and neddless tosay, i loved your response!

I am from Romania (my mother is SZEKELY :), from Szekely Udvarhely, and my dad is romanian), but i've been living in US for the past 14 years. I am saddened, to see the ignorance and hatred of people prevails... One fact though, while growing up in Romania, i had countless ocasions when romanians would tell me, "go back to Hungary"...and it is sad to see that nothing changed in the democratic part of EU Romania.
i am PROUD of my SZEKELY roots!

love your blog!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Andy! I found your blog through your article on education. I am a hungarian (from Transylvania) living in UK for the moment. I find your blog more hillarious than sad, even though I know it's not easy what you experience. I wish you courage, strenght and lots of happiness amongst your loved ones. Kinga