Debutantes and their escorts. Center: Emma Geckeler with Claudia Margitay Balogh, Peti Deer with Claudia. Bottom: Balázs Somogyi MC, Christopher Ball, Chairman and Honorary Consul
Justin Margitay-Balogh Scholarship Esssay
All persons have a most meaningful aspect of self-identification, something that they identify with the most, and feel as though they wouldn't be who they are without this vital piece of self-identity, this individuality. To others, it might be hobbies or careers; their interest in something that practically defines who they are. While I could argue this in many ways about myself, there's a fundamental element that I can treasure and identify with the most. Something that, quite literally, runs through my veins and DNA and makeup of who I am: being Hungarian.
I can only speak for myself, but it seems as though most people in the U.S. need to have a quick lesson on where Hungary is located, or even that it exists. But once all the geographical confusion has passed, I think it becomes clear that being Hungarian is quite unlike any other culture, and it's one of the reasons why I'm so proud to be a part of it. There are so many aspects of Hungarian heritage that are unique and compelling for me – whether it be the easy-to-spot traditional folk clothing, or Puli dogs, or even just the proud fact that a Hungarian invented the "Rubik's Cube." And of course, a culture that has an excellent taste in cuisine is an obvious bonus (csirkepaprikás, dobos torta, and palacsinta are possibly the three most excellent additions to the culinary world, by far).
All jokes aside, Hungarian culture has such a bold presence, and its impact on more mainstream American culture is just another aspect that makes me proud to be Hungarian. Johannes Brahms' Hungarian Dances has played its way through the hearts of millions upon millions of music lovers, and George Cukor directed some of Hollywood's most incredible films, including A Star is Born, The Philadelphia Story, Adam's Rib, and My Fair Lady, just to name a few. And in recent news, I was thrilled and oh so proud to hear that alongside several amazing 2018 Academy Award Foreign film nominees, Ildikó Enyedi's Testről és Lélekről (On Body and Soul) was there to represent Hungary. Just to be a part of a culture that's so diverse and successful in arts and invention and lifestyle is what being Hungarian, to me, is all about.
I wouldn't be in such a position of cultural pride today if it weren't for two extraordinary women who have always inspired and guided me throughout my life. For my Mama and Nagyi, I am so very grateful for their perseverance and dedication to bring me up in an environment with such strong Hungarian influences. The Pannonia Club has given me the ability to understand my heritage and participate in events that many other people my age, unfortunately, would not be familiar with. Between performing at and attending Christmas pageants and Hungarians’ celebrated Independence on March 15th, the Pannonia Club has opened my eyes to a cultural richness that I'm incredibly proud to be a part of. I've had the privilege of getting to know so many incredible people, traditions (and of course, the foods) that are all connected by something so powerful and unique. Something that I will always hold near and dear to my heart, and what will always define me the most: being Hungarian.
Peti Deer is a Freshman at Massachussetts College of Art and Design, and is majoring in Film and TV.
When someone asks about my ethnic background, I am quick to answer with “Hungarian…” and then follow that with, “and pretty much every other European ethnicity”. But the reason why I always separate my Hungarian heritage from my very heavy ethnic background is because it is the heritage and ethnic background that I truly identify with.
With my grandfather being a Hungarian immigrant and my grandmother having grown up with a Hungarian father, my mother was raised in a family who truly valued the Hungarian culture. Having grown up with my grandparents right around the corner, and with my mom being the primary caregiver who values her Hungarian roots, I was raised in a household that appreciated the Hungarian culture. Although I do not know very many words in the Hungarian language, I was taught a few of them growing up. Simple words that we used every day at home, words I had no clue were a part of the Hungarian language until I was almost in middle school. I grew
up eating Hungarian food like chicken paprikash with nokedli, lecsó, “Hunky Soup”, Hungarian stew, and stuffed peppers as weekly dinners. I never realized, until going away to school, how much these dinners actually mean to me. Not being able to eat stuffed peppers and lecsó, or even get food at school that is remotely close to it has put me in a craze, not only because they taste so good, but because they remind me of home.
A few summers ago my grandparents took me on the trip of a life time. I got to travel to Hungary with my sisters, cousins and aunt. I got to meet and stay with my family, and I got to see the place whose culture has affected so much of my life. I got to see the places that my grandfather had talked about in his stories, and I got to experience so many great memories there.
I am very lucky to say that I am able to identify with my Hungarian heritage, as many people cannot say that they have the same experience with their heritage, and it was truly the most amazing experience I have ever had in my life. Through the trip I was better able to appreciate my Hungarian heritage, and I realized how much Hungary and the Hungarian culture has impacted my life. When I think about my Hungarian culture I think of my home and my family, and it has become an identifying factor for those who mean the most to me.
Emma Geckeler is a Quinnipiac University freshman, studying Nursing.