Posted Jun. 15, 2021.
The Partner Church Circle had a lovely, long Zoom call on Jun. 13 with Rev. Barni Varro, the minister of UUCF’s partner congregation in Szentgerice, Transylvania, Romania. Ferko Berecki, one of the young people who visited UUCF with Barni in 2018, was also on the call. Ferko is just finishing his third year of studies in mechanical engineering at Sapienza University, a Hungarian-language university in the nearby city of Marosvasarhely (Targu Mures). He has 1 more week of exams, and then will probably join his brother for the summer working in Germany. Barni told us that another of the 2018 group, Emese Paizs, had a baby boy a few months ago (his name is David!) and that Eszter Nagy, one of the older visitors, has a new grandson.
The weather in Szentgerice has been unusually wet and rainy. Many of the farmers have been unable to plant because their fields are too wet. Marauding brown bears continue to be a problem in the area. None have come into Szentgerice thus far, but the shepherd dogs have had to chase them away from the sheep in the pastures in the hills above the village.
Work on the memorial garden is continuing. Forty-five trees have been planted, the plaques have been ordered and the stones for the wall are being cut. Planning is beginning for the dedication celebration on Sep. 25. Barni is still hoping that someone from UUCF can attend. Zoom is fine, but the personal touch of being together physically is very important.
Schools are again open, and COVID-19 restrictions are loosening in Romania, at least for now. The Russian and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available. The government has declared victory over the virus; Barni thinks that may be overly optimistic. There are again in-person services at the church, though members remain cautious. The services are also available on Facebook to serve Szentgerice residents working throughout Europe.
In community news, Barni said that with the help of a European Union grant, the village’s community center has been renovated and upgraded. The community center contains meeting rooms, a kitchen and a performance space. Bathrooms have been installed, and there will even be some guest rooms available once furniture is purchased. In response to a question, Barni mentioned that the overall population of Szentgerice has remained stable at around 700, but that the demographics have been changing. Funerals of those who have lived in the village for generations are outpacing child dedications, as younger people move away for work. A few families are moving to the village from the city (about 15 kilometers away) and the population of resident Roma people (Gypsies) is increasing. He mentioned that the Roma now speak Romanian primarily and are becoming 7th Day Adventists and Pentecostals rather than join either the Calvinist (Reformed) or Unitarian churches in Szentgerice.
Barni sends his greetings to everyone. We will have another Zoom call in a couple months.