Posted Feb. 15, 2021.
On Feb. 7, the UUCF Partner Church Circle (PCC) had an extended conversation with Rev. Barni Varro, minister of UUCF’s partner congregation in Szentgerice, Transylvania. The area around Szentgerice is now designated “code yellow” rather than “code red.” Schools re-opened last week for students in Kindergarten-Grade 4 and for Grades 9-12. There have been a few COVID-19 cases in Szentgerice; they are all recovering. One parishioner, who was in a nursing home and had multiple health issues, has died of COVID-19. The doctor at the medical clinic (which the UUCF-PCC helped to create along with the Dutch partner of the Reformed church and the people of Szentgerice) has been proactive in procuring vaccine and tests for the village. The doctor is also arranging for specialists to visit Szentgerice during the pandemic, so that people needing eye care and other specialized medical care do not need to travel.
Barni’s family remains well and his sister-in-law’s parents and grandfather have recovered from COVID-19. Barni’s arm, which was broken last fall by his horse, still pains him when the weather changes. Because his wife, Ilona, offers classes in 10 schools, the mix of in-person and online teaching is logistically difficult. Both their daughters will be back in classrooms. However, Barni anticipates that there may be a third lockdown because of the increasing spread of the viral variants in Europe.
Elections for leadership of the Hungarian Unitarian Church at the local, regional and organizational levels, including the election of a new bishop, are supposed to happen this year. However, they will not be held until gatherings of at least 100 people are permitted.
The work on the renovation/restoration of the church will resume when the weather permits. The roof repair has been successful – no further leaking during this winter’s rains. The old painted wooden tiles that form the ceiling of the church were not badly damaged, since the worst flooding was a one-off event. Centuries-old decorations have been uncovered during the renovation process.
The winter in Transylvania has been so mild that the bears have not hibernated. In addition, their primary prey – wild pigs – are dying from African swine fever so that the bears are coming into villages and even chasing skiers in the Carpathian Mountains. So far, domestic pigs have not been affected by the disease, but there are restrictions on the buying and selling of pigs as a preventative measure.
Barni described an adjustment in the eligibility requirements for scholarship applicants regarding the deadline for submitting the certificate from their school showing their grades for the year and good conduct.
Finally, he said that the dedication of a memorial garden and monument, which was postponed because of the pandemic, will be held on Transylvanian Thanksgiving weekend at the end of September 2021. Everyone from Fairfax is invited to attend if travel is again possible. The monument will honor Jakab Elek, the most famous Unitarian born in Szentgerice. Elek was a teacher at the Unitarian High School in Kolozsvar, a noted historian and member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and a commander in the 1848-49 revolution.