Translator’s note: The following is Sándor Szakály’s introduction to the 2019 Yearbook of the VERITAS Institute. It was also published by Magyar Hírlap as a standalone article on December 11th, 2020.
This is the fifth occasion I have addressed the readers of the yearbook of the VERITAS Research Institute and Archives. The volume consists of works produced specifically for 2019 by VERITAS research fellows and archivists and some external contributors with ties to the institute. In my opinion, these works and their respective sources of references, focused on 19th-20th century Hungarian history, may be of interest, for they may shine a light on a little known detail, a disputed or forgotten “element” or a little known person from the past.
I believe this yearbook has (again) succeeded in formulating a picture of not only the aforementioned 19th and 20th centuries but also of the work, for almost six years now, that has transpired at the VERITAS Research Institute and Archives.
Since the founding of the VERITAS Institute on January 2nd, 2014, a lot of things have changed around us and a few other things have happened to us.
Perhaps not everyone has noticed that the official name of the VERITAS Institute has been lengthened; since 2019 we have been known as the VERITAS Research Institute and Archives. This has also corresponded with an increased workload carried out by a staff of nearly fifty people. During the course of their research and analytical work, VERITAS personnel continue to act in accordance with the slogan of the institute: “Thou shall not lie”. We believe that the responsibility of our research fellows and archivists alike is to formulate findings on a given subject or issue to the best of their knowledge only after thoroughly familiarizing themselves with the source materials. There is always more to say. It was always so in the past and always will be so in the future. There are people who perhaps think we already know everything there is to know about the past; they believe there is no need to focus on it. In the meantime, however, we find out that in more than a few cases, we face up to a lack of knowledge or familiarity. The interests of every researcher are served by closing the gaps in his subject of specialization, and if necessary, the researcher must be willing to argue his findings and expose himself to the criticism that comes with it.
The VERITAS Institute has been and continues to be the target of criticism, which is not a problem, for we can learn from the experience. The past almost six years have been edifying for us, and we have continued doing our work. We have hosted conferences and continue to do so. As invited speakers, our research fellows have participated in conferences hosted by others both here in Hungary and abroad. We believe it is our responsibility to be there whenever Hungarian communities in the neighboring countries invite us to speak, so as to tell them personally about those aspects of Hungarian history of interest to them and to experience the distinctive sensation and atmosphere inherent in sharing a personal connection.
We shall of course continue to regularly publish the VERITAS Book and VERITAS Booklet series and the yearbook for the corresponding year. As I have alluded to above, this volume is now the yearbook of the (enlarged) VERITAS Research Institute and Archives. As such, it is also the founding director’s first Letter to the Reader since his mandate was extended on January 1st, 2019, his fifth such letter overall, while there have been six yearbooks published so far (2014–2019).
Perhaps the reader is wondering why I have once again written an introduction, especially since the 2018 VERITAS Yearbook was fine without one and the point of a yearbook is not whether it includes one or not. I too have deliberated on this question and come to the conclusion that I would like to take the opportunity presented here to briefly explain to the reader why the volume of the previous year lacked an introduction. The reason why has nothing to do with a new vision or concept, but rather the mutual will of life / fate / providence. Starting on April 1st, 2019, I spent 226 consecutive days in the hospital teetering between life and death. Given a one percent chance of survival, I somehow overcame the ninety-nine percent chance of death. So I ask that these few sentences about my return to the VERITAS Institute be confirmation and proof that the power of mutual will and sacrifice – which I witnessed in my doctors, nurses, loved ones and colleagues – can carry us through any hardship and physical-spiritual ordeal. Our very existence and survival as Hungarians are confirmation and proof also, following the signing in the Grand Trianon Palace in Versailles on June 4th, 1920, of that tragic treaty whose impact we still feel today. Despite it all, we can say (as Mihály Vörösmarty wrote in the Szózat) that “our nation still has life”.
My wish to you all is that it continues to remain so and that everyone in his own small way adds a small building block towards our mutual past and present, thereby underlaying our right to the future.