Memorial plaque unveiled in Budapest for Roma leader
A memorial plaque was inaugurated at Budapest’s Nyugati (Western) railway station on Sunday in honour of Béla Puczi, who led the Roma defending the Hungarians in the 1990 ethnic clashes in Targu Mures (Marosvásárhely), in central Romania.
Addressing the ceremony, Jenő Setét, head of the Idetartozunk (‘We belong here’) Association, said he had never heard of anyone else before who expressed his identity as clearly as Béla Puczi, who insisted on being Hungarian and Roma even while he was being tortured.
Setét said that
the role played by Roma in Hungarian history, e.g. in the fight against the Turks, in the 1956 revolution and freedom fight or the 1989-1990 change of system, is still ignored in schools.
In a joint press statement, the Roma Press Centre and the Idetartozunk Association said the Roma defending the ethnic Hungarian residents of Targu Mures shouted “Don’t be scared, Hungarians, we, Roma, are here to help!”
Puczi was imprisoned and tortured in retaliation. When he fled to Hungary, however, he was regarded as a Romanian Roma, rather than a hero.
After a lot of adversity, he died homeless in Budapest in 2009, they said.
“Many of us believe that the heroic act of Béla Puczi and his companions is a message to all Roma and non-Roma Hungarians on both sides of the border that in spite of all difficulties we belong together,” they said.
Representatives of the Socialist Party and the Momentum Movement also laid wreaths at the event.