“A CEUval vagyok”
Since days, almost weeks, my Facebook flux is whispering these words over and over. Whispering or rather shooting them. But what is happening is terrible, I will not explain this from the beginning, plenty already did and did it well here, here, here, here. Or here. No matter what, this is a hot topic for me, this is why I wanted to talk about it here.
I was living in Hungary, in Budapest for 3 years. This town, this country, the people that live there, no matter where they are from by the way, had deeply imprinted me. It was not without regrets or either second thoughts that I decided to leave. Second thoughts that are still from time to time coming back to torture me, especially in dull moments, these moments when you wonder why are you here today, how and why again, what if things had been different? We can ask ourselves these questions ad nauseam and it is most of the time better not to do it.
Mind you. Budapest and Hungary were my home during these 3 years, I made boundaries that will never break, no matter how stretch they can become. I cannot do anything about it, I am bounded to this place, I left there an enormous part of myself. This is why what is happening there is touching me so much, almost as much as what is happening in France, my birth country. I understand thanks to that we do not have only one home, we can have many, following the digging work we do sometimes even without noticing.
I never was a CEU student. But I was lucky enough to gravitate in its spheres which are by the way really welcoming, by knowing people who were studying or working there. People that are now Alumni, these same people that remind me nowadays how much the situation right now is troubling them deeply. With good reason actually.
I wrote, I red, I partied, I drank a lot of coffee in there locals, from dorms to libraries and terraces. For this reason, with this point of view not internal, quite distant but still existing, I can testify the incredible effervescence present in this place, where students, teachers, contributors or simple wanderers like me were exchanging and meeting, from every nationalities, origins, religions. Every sexual orientation or identities. Where everybody was trying their best in order to allow others to feel included. Where nationalism studies and gender studies were taught. So yes, I can understand that Viktor Orbán’s government members don’t really enjoy having them in their courtyard, this very same government that decided to rewrite History taught at school and to install a program called “family studies”.
A Georgian friend of mine, former student in nationalism studies actually, told me once that CEU and people who gravitate within and around it were packed in an incredibly comfortable bubble. She was right. Clearly we were among a certain elite, transnational, open minded, clearly leftish and liberal, not necessarily a financial elite actually, as a lot of students, including her, were having scholarships in order to sustain themselves during their whole learning time. It is true though that to evolve exclusively in such atmosphere, without any or enough contact with the outside, can be destructive, the risk was to start to believe that everyone was thinking like you, floating on this little cloud of open-mindedness, bilingualism, apparently without any border, discrimination or judgmental behavior. I say apparently because obviously, there was shadowing parts and internal problems that you could only hear off by paying a lot of attention.
Now the bubble had burst and many fall from high. So CEU can be attacked, democracy can disappear, this is what is happening in Hungary for a few years now, right under the quite blocked up nose of European Union instances that have been threatening Hungarian government for quite a long time without any result.
During my 3 years living on Hungarian territory, I saw and participated many demonstrations. Practice that is less popular there than anywhere else, Communism times traumas still are quite vivid. In 2013, it was against schools program reforms. In 2014 against an Internet tax project. As far as I remember, this was what pushed the most people in the streets of Budapest.
There were also smaller demonstrations, more confidential ones, with less people, sit in front of the Parliament for greeting refugees, against the erection of fences at Serbian border, against the presence of the army there. The Slut Walk against a video made by Hungarian police encouraging rape culture. The organized ones but still very framed, almost shut down, as the annual Gay Pride.
Every time, CEU students and professors were there, even if they did not speak Hungarian for most of them, even if this very same bubble was making their understanding of the context and stakes of the event not as clear as it could have been. But they were there. They still are, the ones from the nowadays promotions, the ones from the old ones, the ones that left the country while ago but whom let a lot of their hearts in these locals and libraries. They keep being there but they understand painfully now how lucky they were to participate this experiment more fragile that it seems at first sight.
But Hungarians are with them now and demonstrations are taking a surprising scope these last few days, we have to be conscious and proud of it. It is a scream for all these times nobody listen to them. From saving a university made by an American billionaire, they made a perfect pretext to express their intense shame and disgust, the wave is now rising and coming faster.
So they stood for CEU and they now stand for Hungary, the one they want, the one that is not what their government is dreaming to make happen.