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Dear readers, 

many of you might be in a similar situation to this issue's essay-writer: you don't live in the country you grew up in. You might still care about that country and its politics, whether it is because you want to move back someday, because friends and family live there, or simply because you can't stand the injustice anymore. 

What can you do? Some Hungarian expat-activists in Berlin were sick of being confined to small solidarity-demonstrations. So they decided to organize and founded the "Freie Ungarische Botschaft," the Free Hungarian Embassy. In her essay, which you will read below, Kata Katz describes what they decided to do.

Further, we collected many interesting and informative reads, podcasts and even a musical playlist-zine for you. We promise, you will learn something new. Or did you know the history of Hematogen, the kids' candy made of cow blood, which was available throughout (post-)Soviet states?

Enjoy the letter,
Judith and Anna
10 April 2019
A view of Budapest, Judith Langowski

A catalyst for coming up with something meaningful

A view from Kata Katz, activist of the "Free Hungarian Embassy" in Berlin


Let us introduce ourselves: we are a group of European citizens mainly of Hungarian origin based in Berlin – and we believe it’s about time that the institutions and decision makers of the EU finally actively opposed the anti-democratic aspirations of the autocratic Hungarian government in order to defend and secure the common future of the EU. 

We call ourselves the Freie Ungarische Botschaft (Free Hungarian Embassy, FUB). The mission of our collective is to help restore the democratic rule of law in Hungary and to create a solidary society from abroad.
 
Тhe birth of FUB is closely linked to the assault on the Central European University and the demonstrations that followed in April 2017. While in Budapest thousands filled the streets, for those of us who live abroad the space to resist and to demonstrate was very narrow. At most, a handful of people gathered in front of the Hungarian embassy for a photo shoot to show solidarity, followed by a short speech – but there was no appropriate channel for active opposition. 

This left us more frustrated than we were before – but it was also a catalyst to come up with something meaningful.

The frustration we felt had different origins: solidarity with our country of origin, a sense of justice, a desire to support the suppressed Hungarian opposition, our worry for remaining family and friends, and the participation in a struggle for a unified and democratic European Union. Our motivation to act on these frustrations might be very diverse, but what unites us is the urgent need to be actively engaged against injustice. 
 
At first, it might not seem convenient to form a politically active community from abroad, but there are actually a lot of things one can do. We wanted to find out how it can be done effectively. 
 
In April 2017, we began to organize ourselves to think of a reasonable act of protest. Those who showed up at the meetings quickly realized that any single action won't be enough – so we founded the Freie Ungarische Botschaft and got to work. 

We had to ask ourselves: how should we act or do something for a country in which we obviously don't live anymore? Was it possible to criticize a country you left on your own free will, or was it just tacky? 

Then there were our different backgrounds: some of us were new to activism, while others had already experience being engaged citizens back in Hungary. How should we start? A good way to go was asking others facing the same questions.
 
Our first event in July 2017 was called “Political Activism in Emigration – How can I influence the policies and politics of my home country from abroad”: a panel discussion with representatives from several Berlin-based activist groups. The overwhelmingly positive feedback confirmed the necessity of such organizing, and we immediately started working on new projects. 

One way is obviously to motivate fellow Hungarians living in Germany to vote: our biggest project so far was the GoToVote ("Itt szavazok”) initiative ahead of the Hungarian parliamentary elections in April 2018. We arranged meet-ups in several German cities to encourage Hungarians to register and vote, and set up an informative website to guide them through the process. 

Another way to act from abroad is to organize fundraising events for Hungarian NGOs: in 2017, we collected for “A város mindenkié” (The City is for All), an organization of and for people experiencing homelessness and housing poverty active in Budapest since 2009. In 2018, we raised money for “Utcajogász” (Street Lawyer Association), who operate a free legal aid program for the homeless and those living in housing poverty – their work is more important than ever because of the inhumane law against the homeless in Hungary. In March 2019, we supported “Kontúr Egyesület” (Contour Association). Kontúr is running a community space in an impoverished neighbourhood in Budapest since 2015, organizing events for children and community discussions for adults.
 
The European Parliament elections are coming up – a perfect time for cross-border activism. Currently, we are preparing a campaign addressing European citizens who fluctuate or do not vote at all in the elections. 

We also want to reach German citizens who agree with our values but do not yet know why Hungarian politics are important for them. The struggle within the European People’s Party has again brought Hungarian politics more to the centre of attention in Germany, and our aim is to get the German parties to take a stand on Hungary and to integrate a response to Hungarian illiberal-fascist system into their political platform. 

We want to draw the Germans’ attention to the fact that their taxpayers' money is funding corrupt governments and is wasted through the European funding system; which indirectly promotes fascist movements. For this, we plan various actions in the near future, such as the launch of an anti-corruption website, and questioning politicians with eastern European partners about their position on eastern Europe. 

Lastly, we will again bring expat activists together for our activist conference “Life-Work-Activism?!”. For those of you living in Berlin: come join us on 13 April at Supermarket (Facebook event here)! Activists will share practical knowledge on how to get actively involved against undemocratic processes. At this event, with other activist groups, we will create an active citizens’ collective to influence Europeans to vote in the European Parliament elections. 
Or join us for our second birthday party at Badehaus Szimpla in Berlin at the end of May!

 

Kata Katz is a founding member of FUB, sometimes more involved in the group, sometimes less, as life and work allow it. She has been based in Berlin for eight years now and works in academia.

This week's recommendations:

Onscreen:

Despite having been socially excluded for centuries, Roma people’s culture has had a strong influence in the arts, particularly in theatre; and even though the Romanian state operates thirteen theatres of three national minorities, attempts to set up a Roma theatre (who are the country’s largest minority) were met with hostile reactions. According to a new research, it was actually Roma slaves who laid the foundations of modern early modern theatre in what is now Romania – read its history on RevistaArta.ro.

#IfYouOnlyReadOne: Five years after the violence by special police forces and thugs on Maidan in Kyiv, the Prosecutor General declared all cases closed, even though some crimes are still being investigated. In this interview, a lawyer representing the injured explains how the law enforcement system is hindering justice and how this process has affected trust between the people and the police. OpenDemocracy.net

The European Press Prize has an even better list of recommendations than we do! Whether you want to read about Orban’s football obsession, Bellingcat’s unmasking of the Salisbury poisoning, or why a Romanian author argues for the use of article 7 against his country, here’s the shortlist: EuropeanPressPrize.com.

We don’t mind the overflow of Europe content ahead of the parliamentary elections, keep it coming! “Sisters of Europe” is a great collab that portrays fascinating women from different countries. Meet Elena Maslova, iron mine worker and union activist from central Ukraine (she’s from Kryviy Ryh, like presidential candidate Volodimir Zelenskij): SistersOfEurope.com.

Between the two rounds of the Ukrainian elections and the outcome still uncertain, brush up on the country’s main political events since it gained independence in 1991 with this succinct timeline: Reuters.com.

Public mosaic murals are the colourful siblings of panel buildings in many Soviet cities. They are beautiful - and probably will be extinct soon. Dennis Keen documents the murals of Almaty and wants to preserve them. Here’s an interview with him: CalvertJournal.com.

Have you heard about the children’s treat made with actual cow blood powder? Created to address the anaemia and general childhood malnutrition across the USSR, this snack is still easily available in other formerly socialist countries such as Lithuania or Poland. A staple of my Siberian childhood — and actually, it’s quite yum! A brief history of the Hematogen. Vice.com [Anna]

Unearthing the Music is a project piecing together and retelling the stories of experimental music and sound art from “non-democratic Europe.” The latest essay tells the story of the Bulgarian “Musica Nova”, and how the Experimental Studio for Contemporary Music in Sofia played an important role in institutionalising and transforming cultural life in the country in the 1980s and 1990s. UnearthingtheMusic.eu

Before welcoming a Russian bank with ties to the secret services to Hungary and offering it full diplomatic protection, there was also the contract (classified, of course) with Rosatom, authorising them to build a nuclear power plant and indebting Hungarian taxpayers to Russia for decades. But how did Orbán become so eager to further the Kremlin's interests in Hungary? A longread from Direkt36.hu
 

Offscreen:


A playlist-zine, a musical potpourri of weird and weirder sounds, from all over Europe compiled by the Latvian “mango” collective - in short a perfect soundtrack for a European spring: mango.bandcamp.com.

Many sighed with relief as liberal and pro-EU Zuzana Čaputová won the Slovak presidential elections last month, not following "the V4 trend." In Between Europe's latest episode explains who she is, how she came to politics, and what contributed to her campaign's success: NewEasternEurope.eu

In the Western Hungarian-majority Zakarpattia region in Ukraine, cultural and language matters have for long given enough reason for ethnic tensions. Hungary and Ukraine both expelled their respective diplomats, and some analysts are now accusing Orbán of trying to create another breakaway state within the country. An audio report by BBC.co.uk

Is the AfD facilitating the Kremlin's infiltration of the German Bundestag? One MP certainly promised to, in exchange for Russian financial and political assistance: an investigation by the BBC.

 
We are also on Twitter! Check it out for more recommendations.
That’s it for now! 

Any thoughts? You are more than welcome to share recommendations or pitch essays to us, and we’ll be happy with feedback, too. 

Till next issue, where we will focus on a special date: the 15 years of Europe's "eastern enlargement," which happened on May 1st, 2004.

Wishing you all the best,
Judith and Anna
Till we see you next time…
 


You can not only buy a forest, you will also get a temporary EU residence permit. And for only 277.000 US dollars per forest on Alibaba. What a bargain!
(Image from Alibaba)
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