The Story of 5 Villages

The Story of 5 Villages

Erika Papp Faber

Not all people living in Transylvania are Székelys.  Strictly speaking, that term refers only to the ancient inhabitants of southeastern Transylvania, believed to be descendents of the Huns.  They lived in the three Counties of Csík, Háromszék and Udvarhely.  Historically, they were border guards, with their own officers, and were exempt from further military duty elsewhere.

The Austrian Empress Maria Theresa wanted to do away with these centuries-old traditions of the Székelys and reorganize the border guard under Austrian rule, with Austrian officers.  The Székelys protested, pleading their constitutionally guaranteed rights.  Their resistance was met by force, most notably at Madéfalva, a village some six miles north of Csíkszereda.  On January 7th, 1764, the village was surrounded by Austrian cannon and leveled, while the people who tried to flee – young and old – were hacked to death by soldiers. The slaughter with some 200 victims became known as the Siculicidium – the ”Killing of the Székelys”.

Consequently, many Székelys fled across the Carpathians into the Bukovina section of Moldavia.  Their descendents called themselves Bukovina Székelys. Here we will deal with five villages which the refugee people established following the Madéfalva massacre: Hadikfalva, Andrásfalva, Istensegíts, Fogadjisten and Józseffalva, all located in Suceava County, Romania.

Hadikfalva, originally settled by 40 Székely families, was named for Count Hadik András, Chief Military Commander of Transylvania, who helped the refugees to resettle in Bukovina.  Another village, Andrásfalva, was also named in his honor.  According to reports, this latter seems to have preserved best the original village structure.

Fogadjisten was settled by 20 families who had fled from Transylvania.  Istensegíts (where Kodály Zoltán was recording old folksongs) was settled by 80 families. Józseffalva had the distinction of being visited, twice, by Emperor Joseph II, who helped the settlers with donations.

At the turn of the 19th century,  when the great wave of Hungarian emigration began, many Bukovina Székelys  too emigrated from these villages, some to Canada and the US, others to Brazil where they were enticed with promises of land and stone houses.  (Most of these promises never materialized.) 

Then in the 1930s, a Franciscan friar, Dr. Németh Kálmán, was sent to minister to Józseffalva.  He found that the people there spoke the Hungarian language of the 18th  century, since they had been isolated and did not have contact with the mother country.  

Recognizing their deep-rooted desire to return to Hungary, Rev. Németh worked tirelessly to bring about their resettlement.  He described his undaunted struggle with different levels of bureaucracies in his book “Százezer szív sikolt” (A hundred thousand hearts are shrieking). 

He also related the total destruction, by fire, of the village of Józseffalva on Holy Thursday of 1939.  Hungarians throughout the Carpathian basin sent assistance.  With a view to resettling in Hungary, the villagers rebuilt their houses, but in such a way that they could be taken apart and reassembled again.  In 1941, they were resettled in Bács-Bodrog County, south of Szabadka, a region of former Hungary, which after 1920 became a part of Yugoslavia.  The settlers called their new village Bácsjózseffalva, but because of the war, they had to flee from there in the summer of 1944, when they were moved to the Dunántúl area (west of the Danube).  They replaced people of German extraction who had been evacuated from there.

The same thing happened to the villagers of Istensegíts, whose 900 families were resettled in eight places in the Bácska in 1941.  (In seven of those places, they included the word “Isten” in the name of their new settlement.) But they too had to flee to the Dunántúl area after three years.

Some of the inhabitants of Andrásfalva were resettled in Tolna County, at Mucsfa and Izmény, others in Baranya County and around Budapest.

The population of Fogadjisten was also resettled in Bácska, in what is known as Velebit today, and they kept the name of their original village.  In 1944, they too had to flee, and most of them settled at Vaskút, south of Baja.

The population of Hadikfalva had suffered the same fate as the people in the other villages. They were settled into places formerly inhabited by Germans.  Since 1945, there is no significant number of Bukovina Székelys in Bukovina.

The story of these five villages has been forgotten in the turbulence of the 20th century.  Yet their admirable tenacity in maintaining their native language and culture is an example that deserves to be told, and should be imitated!