KOHI interviewed Shukrije Gashi in two sessions, on 14 February and 21 March, 2015. Gashi was born on 22 May 22 1960 in Pristina. A former political prisoner during Yugoslav times, she worked to promote peace for more than twenty years, and took part in around 400 cases of conflict resolution. Gashi studied law at the University of Pristina, and currently directs the “Partners Kosova Center for Conflict Management”.
In 1983, she was arrested and charged as an accessory to “the perpetration of criminal acts against the people and the state of Yugoslavia,” the official charges according to the country’s penal code, and spent two years in prison. Shukrije Gashi was found guilty of being a member of the then-illegal Albanian national movement, a loose network of small groups advocating the Republic of Kosovo. As a prisoner of conscience, she was given drugs, forced to work, and subjected to physical and psychological torture, which included being told that her boyfriend and fellow activist had been killed (which was true).
Gashi’s story is a young woman’s gripping account of determination (she was 21 when she was finally arrested after an adventurous escape from the Yugoslav secret police), in order to take a leadership role in the underground Albanian national movement. Gashi drew courage and will from her grandmother, a charismatic local figure who was involved in the “Campaign to Reconcile Blood Feuds” and national mobilization efforts – acts of feminism before the term was globally recognized. Because of their political opinions and activities, Gashi and other members of her family were under constant surveillance, which involved police harassment, pressure to change jobs, and difficulty to navigate the Yugoslav system, in which Albanian demands in Kosovo – for more autonomy and improved living conditions – were considered sedition.
The thirteenth volume of the series entitled Áron Márton’s Legacy comprises those of the bishop’s writings that had been addressed to the state authorities. As a bishop, Áron Márton represented the diocese of Alba Iulia for forty-two years and on occasion the other Transylvanian Roman Catholic dioceses as well. His episcopate was not free of cares; following the years of royal dictatorship, he remained in Southern Transylvania after the Second Vienna Award to offer hope for his congregation members, who held a minority status. Then, following the Second World War, the much-awaited peace failed to arrive and the religion-persecuting dictatorship inherent in the Romanian version of Soviet power came instead. Throughout these years, the supreme power in Bucharest proved helpful or tolerant for only very short periods as there was a twofold pressure on the Hungarian Roman Catholic congregation members, clergy, and bishop, as a minority both through confessional otherness and through differences in mother tongue.
In the four years between 1948 and 1951, besides the nationalisation of ecclesiastical schools, the conversion of Greek Catholics to Orthodoxy by force, and the abolition of monastic orders, priests and monks had to face imprisonment, forced labour, and persecution. After Áron Márton’s release in 1955 he was the only active Roman Catholic bishop in Romania. He had to establish contact with both the local and central authorities, and, considering the correlation of forces, this relationship was a subordinating one and, consequently, marked by struggle and compromises. In this struggle the bishop had only two instruments to resort to: asking and protesting. Surrender was not possible as he had to undergo all the hardships for his priests and congregation. His letters are classic examples for minority leaders regarding the nature of their attitude toward the government. The letters in which he asked for something were written in such a manner that he never humiliated himself; at all times he maintained his human dignity and his episcopal stance and remained unbiased. The official letters published in the volume represent testimonies to the bishop’s straightforwardness, honesty, sense of responsibility, empathy, and regard towards the authorities. They speak about people who suffered, in whose interests he intervened before the local authorities or the Ministry of Religious Affairs and later before the competent authorities of the Office of Religious Affairs. He had to defend his congregation members against national oppression, rather than against purely religious offences. The letters arranged in chronological order according to the changes in history reflect the serious problems characteristic of the period and reveal the relationship between State and Church through time. The bishop’s official writings and letters published in the volume help readers to “get acquainted with and make out” the laws regulating the ecclesiastical life of the time, considering that their application produced mostly negative effects and led to restrictive consequences.
- Alba Iulia, Alba Iulia, Romania
- Marton, József
- Márton, Áron
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‘Goli Otok’ 1–5 is a five-volume book of memoirs comprising almost 3,000 pages. It includes the memories of Mihailović himself as well as of others who survived Goli Otok. Mihailović explores the topic by combining research and a journalistic approach. His research efforts and work to shape the material into a book took a full 37 years. He has mentioned several times that he modelled his work on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and his ‘Gulag Archipelago’. ‘I chose a journalistic form of dialogue about Goli Otok with people who had survived it themselves, and who are able to formulate some conclusions about this terrible experience.’ He had gathered, ‘ten people whom he respected, liked, and who trusted him’.
Mihailović admitted that he had waited a long time for someone else to tackle the topic. ’I expected, maybe for a whole twenty years, that some other person would tackle this, someone with sufficient talent and patience to commit to it, but that didn’t happen, and then I concluded that I would have to start myself.’ He believes that Goli Otok is not particularly topical today and is not given enough attention. This is one of the reasons why he decided that he would take up the task of writing about Goli Otok himself. Another lies in the significance of the topic in his personal history. ‘For me, this is directly relevant. I don’t have the right to allege that it’s important for everyone, because that would, perhaps, be immodest. But it’s important to me, why I, as a young person, was arrested and sent away to Goli Otok,’ Mihailović explained.
Through the combination of documents and oral history, Mihailović has created an original work – a ‘history-memory’, a memoir based on facts and real-life testimonies – and in this sense the five-volume opus represents an indispensable work for investigating the history of Goli Otok.
Mihailović’s five-volume work is accessible to researchers and is kept in the Goli Otok collection in the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Belgrade.
In the GDR, child care and education were firmly in the hands of the ruling SED party, but in 1950 the protestants were allowed to open a seminary on the Island of Hermannswerder, near Potsdam. First, it offered men, and from the 1950s women banned from attending regular secondary schools, the opportunity to obtain their secondary school leaving qualification (Abitur), enabling them to study theology or church music. In the GDR pupils were often prohibited from attending secondary schools for religious and/or political reasons. It was particularly common for the children of clergy members to attend the seminary.
In addition to a growth in the school size during the 1970s, the curriculum also changed. It then included more subjects that were not part of theological education, for example the possibility to focus on modern languages. From 1982, the school even adopted the curriculum of North Rhine–Westphalia (West Germany) as part of their leaving qualifications.
The State Security Service (Stasi) constantly had their eyes on the institute and commonly conducted searches for forbidden material. “Youth Sundays”, taking place yearly from 1949, were a huge thorn in the government’s side. During these events, young people discussed, away from the official socialist apparatus, how to lead a Christian life. Even an eventual ban could not stop the meetings as even without official announcements, meeting times were simply passed on by word-of-mouth.
Apart from “Youth Sundays”, the island was also home to church synods and later environmental gatherings and bicycle “star rides”. These are events in which the participants start at different locations, all meeting at the same spot in the centre thus forming a star. In Germany they have taken place since the 1970s to bring attention to different causes, such as the environment.After reunification, anyone who graduated from the school was retroactively granted the right to study anything, not just theology and church music. Today it is a Protestant secondary school.
- Potsdam Hermannswerder 26A, Germany 14473
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The exhibition in Răscruci displays first of all the spiritual and material assets of Hungarian communities living in the Transylvanian Plain. In this region up to the mid-twentieth century every wealthy family usually had a clean room, which, as a general rule, was the place for displaying and storing the family’s material assets, Sunday church outfits and the dowry which was prepared over the years. In less well-to-do households the clean room was decorated mainly before the red-letter holidays, at Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, and, for the most part, the exhibition displays the items against this festive background. Nevertheless, apart from various wall-hangings, decorative wall plates, and pear-shaped pottery jugs, ornate beds, tables, skilfully carved chairs, benches, storage benches, and cabinets, the clean room also gave a home to everyday objects, kitchen utensils and instruments used for spinning and weaving.
Of the geographical and cultural regions presented within the ethnographic collection, the traditional home furnishing displayed in the room of Răscruci – part of the material culture of the Transylvanian Plain – is among the most interesting. The villages of the Transylvanian Plain, even in the period following the Second World War, were rarely the object of thorough, systematic ethnographic research. As this region is inhabited by a community marked by differences in language, culture, and religion, it was avoided by most researchers. The exploration of the culture of Hungarians living in the Transylvanian Plain began relatively late, in the interwar period. The study of ethnographer Gertrúd Palotay on the embroidery of Sic, published in 1944 (Palotay 1944) captured the interest of Zoltán Kodály as well, who concluded that if the embroideries of the region were so wonderful, their folk music must be similarly rich. Encouraged by Kodály, composer and folk music researcher László Lajtha visited first Sic and then Sânmărtin. Attila T. Szabó conducted toponomastic and linguistic research on a regular basis, and in 1944 he published an article in the Erdélyi Múzeumi Közlemények (Transylvanian Museum Journal) entitled Unknown Embroideries of the Transylvanian Plain. Despite the initial display of interest it was not before the development of the dance-house movement following the events of 1968 that this area re-captured the attention of researchers. Prior to the change of regime the ethnographer and museologist Károly Kósthe younger was preoccupied rather by the culture of objects, whereas, beginning with the 1980s the ethnographer and university professor Vilmos Keszeg conducted significant research into belief in this region.
From the ethnographic point of view there is a distinct characteristic area within the Transylvanian Plain, comprising eight villages: Răscruci, Bonțida, Luna de Jos, Tiocu de Jos, Borșa, Feiurdeni, Câmpenești, and Măcicașu. These settlements are represented in the room of Răscruci. In these localities they generally did not use black for weaving or embroidery, except for wool weaving. They used the same set of motifs as the neighbouring villages, but in the case of embroideries we meet the red-blue colour combination and the pierced part was usually highlighted by grey. This method also dominated in the embroidery of women’s blouses. This area was mainly characterised by ong-waisted garments, whereas the neighbouring villages typically preferred short-waisted dresses. With the exception of Sic, every village used all-white embroidery as a general rule. The practice of wool processing has been preserved in these villages even to this day. Even today we can find fur bedspreads, fur tablecloths, and hand-woven over garments in any traditional rural household. As sheep breeding was quite common in this region, in Lacu, for instance, even sacks were woven from wool. Farmers living here usually had a large number of sheep and at the time of sheep shearing and harvest Romanian women from Maramureș came here to wash the wool. This work was usually remunerated with wool. In the manufacture of woven fabric the “fuzzy technique” was characteristic. The first such piece was collected by Tamás Hofer in Răscruci, and later placed in the Museum of Ethnography in Budapest. According to Edit Fél, the first information on this weaving method date back to the fourth century BC: this explains why the fuzzy pillow edges caused a stir in the professional sector, since it was hitherto unknown to experts that this particular weaving technique was also used in Hungarian-inhabited areas.
The physical and spiritual heritage of these rural settlements was considerably richer than that of the neighbouring noble villages, as the maid servants who sewed the garments of noblewomen also recreated their favourite motifs for their own use. The noble villages also imitated and followed the culture of the aristocracy. The textiles known as “written” double chain stitch patterns are a more vigorous, peasant-style version of aristocratic embroidery. In Răscruci red was usually the colour used for needlework, whereas in the neighbouring villages people used black or red, though the red-blue combination was generally preferred in embroidery. The elbow-sewn shirt was a common item in the eight villages represented in the room of Răscruci. The men’s and women’s leather waistcoats and jackets are worth mentioning; these items stand out with their tailoring, embroidery, and decoration. As far as footwear is concerned, villagers usually wore boots that they had bought in the market in Cluj, which they set aside for festive occasions only. On weekdays, during summer people went barefoot for the most part, and in winter they wore sandals.
The inhabitants of the Transylvanian Plain also purchased painted dowry chests at the Cluj market. These were generally manufactured by craftsmen in Cluj. The ceramics on display are mostly the products of major pottery centres of the nineteenth century. The interior walls are decorated with pear-shaped jugs and plates from Turda, Bistrița, and Dej. These were usually purchased at fairs or bought from wandering pottery masters in exchange for wheat. The early 1900s marked the disappearance of rural pottery workshops in Răscruci and Sic. The last one in Cubleșu Someșan ceased to exist approximately a decade ago when the last potter passed away. The room of Răscruci presents the details of peasant society, an almost bygone era. To this day the priceless inherited repository of culture, experience and values passed on to the inhabitants of this region constitutes an integral part of everyday life. This invaluable heritage can only be used meaningfully by locals if they know how to lead a responsible life in the community and society they were born into.