Many of us take stock whenever a year has passed. As Director of the VERITAS Research Institute and Archives, I shall try to summarize briefly everything that was important and crucial for us in 2020.
First of all, I would like to thank the VERITAS staff (researchers, archivists and the administrative team alike) for their professionalism while I was away on sick leave and throughout the duration of a rather challenging year. COVID 19! I don’t think it’s necessary to point out how much difficulty it has caused for so many of us, but life goes on...
For as long as we could, we hosted “live” events, and once we could no longer do so, we moved them to the online sphere. Not a single one of our originally scheduled events – our monthly VERITAS Debate Nights included – was cancelled. It would have been remiss to do so, for 2020 was the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Trianon, one of the most tragic events in Hungarian history. We owe(d) it to ourselves to remember.
Several years ago, the VERITAS Research Institute and Archives prioritized an ongoing research program devoted to this sorrowful historical event and its consequences entitled “Trianon and Higher Education”, the findings of which have put many disputed questions about 20th-century Hungarian history in a new light. Conferences, publications and articles appearing in numerous journals and newspapers have validated the hard but fruitful work associated with the program. I would also like to emphasize the outsized role our media appearances have played, especially in 2020. Since I believe the most effective way to disseminate information to the public is in this forum, we participated whenever and wherever we could. Unfortunately, conferences abroad and our appearances in the Hungarian communities of the neighboring countries which we had grown accustomed to in previous years were all postponed. We hope to make them up once the pandemic subsides and the situation has improved.
There were also moments of great joy. Human Resources Generalist Mónika Kovács-Veres, on the occasion of the August 20th holiday, was awarded the Hungarian Order of Merit Bronze Cross, while the Bezerédj Foundation chose Senior Research Fellow Dávid Ligeti as the recipient of the Bezerédj Prize for 2020. We once again send our heartfelt congratulations to them!
Having overcome more than a few roadblocks and undeserved attacks, I believe the VERITAS Institute, founded on January 2nd, 2014, has found its legitimate place in the world of Hungarian science and historical records. With its achievements in the historical profession, it will win the recognition of everyone who has harbored reservations about it over the years. This is as it should be and I take comfort in it. Moreover, I believe that our chosen motto – “Thou shalt not lie...” – remains our guiding principle. If we continue our work – of which there is an abundance and includes the setting up of a GULAG-GUPVI memorial site in the town of Cegléd – in this spirit in the future, then the positive assessments of the VERITAS Institute will surely outnumber the negative ones.
Finally, I would once again like to extend my thanks to my colleagues and to everyone who considers the existence and work of the VERITAS Institute as important and believes that serving the public good is a worthy endeavor. Perhaps my statement is validated by the increasing number of Hungarian émigrés who have offered their valuable legacy papers – providing significant assistance in researching the Hungarian past – to the VERITAS Institute.
These bequeathals also prove to us that the dividing lines drawn at the Grand Trianon Palace in Versailles in 1920 and then again in Paris in 1947 can be reduced to symbolic borders on a map if we believe in the power of unity and in a common Hungarian past, present and future!
by Sándor Szakály
Source of photography: © Árpád Kurucz