Thursday, September 17, 2015

Leading Hungarian conductor sends aid to refugees

Iván Fischer, founder and music director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, has a foundation which this month has been taking action to aid the refugees arriving in vast numbers at Hungary's strengthening borders.

While ugly scenes fill our screens and papers as the country's forces rebuff crowds of desperate people with tear gas and water cannon, others been doing all they can to help. The Iván Fischer Foundation hired a lorry to help civilian aid organisations and sent supplies of water, juice and baby food to the refugees in places like Gyor and Hegyeshalom. On Tuesday they reported that they hoped to reach the refugees on the Serbian side of the closed border.

Sometimes it takes artists to do the real leading when politicians fail (please read this fantastic article by the poet George Szirtes).

Google Translate seems oddly to tackle Hungarian better than certain other languages, something that's proving very useful at the moment. Here is an article from Origo in which Fischer talks about what he's been doing and why.

He suggests that if any good can come out of the current crisis, it would be to convince Hungarians to drop their prejudices. He dreams of a more tolerant society: "Tolerance just means that I do not watch a different religion, skin colour, or origin - only the person." The issue at stake is not merely religion, but poverty: "Do we really want to draw a concrete wall between ourselves and the world of the poor?" he protests. And what would he like the government to do instead? "Show the world the really wonderful Hungarian hospitality!"

Music can play its role too. It is, he says, "a huge tool capable of miracles... It should be, and it is, possible to awaken people to have a lot of goodness within them."

Fischer's news appears on his Facebook page and in this video from the back of the lorry he thanks the volunteers. (In Hungarian and English.)

People show their true colours in crises. Fischer is emerging as one of his country's real heroes. As for the BFO, they are due in the UK in the spring with their tour of The Magic Flute, and I for one can't wait. I'd go and hear them play anything, anywhere, any time.