Why Unitarian Kaláka?

Posted by on May 3, 2018 in Stories | Comments Off on Why Unitarian Kaláka?

“In the course of a few short days, I had some profound conversations that showed me that, rather than feeling like something was being asked of me that I wasn’t sure I could give, something of great value was being offered to me that deepened my faith. I encountered people for whom our faith was a lifeline and who in return placed their lives on the line for our faith.”           ~ Teresa Cooley, Turning Points

Why Unitarian Kaláka?  My Journey.
–By Marge Titcomb, First Universalist Church of Yarmouth, ME

 

Transylvanian countrysideCuriosity about our partner church in Transylvania began a decade of experiential learning far deeper than I ever anticipated. Each visit has unveiled new experiences, new learning, and new discoveries. Along the way, I became involved with Unitarian Kaláka, a nonprofit organization that supports projects that facilitate kaláka (working together) in historically ethnic Hungarian villages in Romania.

What follows is a sampling of my experiences traveling in Transylvania that brought me to fully embrace the power of Unitarian Kaláka.

Radical hospitality never falters. Whether we are in a new community or returning to friends, with every visit, the focus is always on our needs and comforts – helping us to find our way (literally or in language), catering to our food preferences and needs, providing warmth and comfort for leisure and sleep. Our hosts express true interest in us, and share rich details of their lives. The bold experience of reaching across cultures, seeking the common, enriches life.

 

pic3Kids come first. In these villages, education is all important. As populations decline, schools regionalize. New ways are found to offer local pre-school, day-care, and playgrounds (a few of the projects supported by Unitarian Kaláka donors), while also finding the funds so high schoolers can continue their education while boarding away. For those wanting to continue to university, there is an added challenge of passing difficult exams to continue to university. While parents know their kids will likely move away from their home village, they still hold the universal hope for a better life for their children, and trust that all will work out. Indeed, some kids do return, even with college diploma in hand. They will often work in the nearest city, but return home to the village daily.

pic4Natural beauty abounds. The landscape is gorgeous any time of year. In the rich beauty, we can also see the scars of history – mismanaged forests now managed, mountains previously mined but now tourist destinations for hiking. In Torocko, the forest was devastated in 1938 when the government cut down thousands of trees to build a government-sponsored, never-used small church in the center of the village. This ethnic-minority village already had its one traditional well-attended church. A few years ago, the community embraced a ‘kaláka’ project, working together to plant 9,000 trees to replenish the devastated forest.

In nearby Torockoszentgyorgy, the historic economy was mining, which ended when manual labor was replaced with machines. In recent years, a new economy is thriving with a lovely hotel where visitors can wallow in the beauty and hike in the surrounding landscape.

pic2There is respect for the land: In Transylvania, we eat well! Subsistence farming is very difficult, but it is the way of life in the villages. As visitors, we have deep appreciation where food is local, organic, and abundant. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, cheeses, berries, lemongrass tea, paprikash, polenta, cakes & jams. Even the alcohol is local – cherry palinka, lightly referred to as ‘ladies palinka’ is quite good.

Villagers are Resourceful. Under the painful history lingers hope, perseverance & persistence. It is always difficult to change the status quo, especially when the status quo is oppressive. Transylvanian ethnic Hungarians have learned to be incredibly resourceful and persistent as they persevere under enormous pressures.

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pic6One example: in Torockoszentgyorgy, the community house kitchen has no running water. As the center of village activity, it hosts all 500 people for big events such as weddings. All the dishes are carried to the parsonage (which has running water), washed, and returned to the community house, ready for the next event. Image the ‘cleanup crew’ needed for those events! Now, a true ‘kaláka’ project is underway to expand the house and add running water for kitchen and bathrooms. The project has been supported by Unitarian Kaláka donors since 2016.

In the villages of Transylvania, success stories abound!