The restoration of the Transylvanian Hungarian aristocrats – VIII.

Noblesse oblige


The noble offspring are almost automatically becoming important members of local public life. They undoubtedly fulfill the traditional duties summed up by the term noblesse oblige. Thus, those who have been greatly blessed, whether in terms of wealth, or simply in terms of history, good standing and prestige, are obligated to act for the benefit of the wider community. In Zabola, Gregory Roy-Chowdhury organises dancing camps in the village; his cousin, Farkas Bánffy, is likewise an important figure in the social life of Magyarlapád (Lopadea Nouă), an ethnic-Hungarian village near Fugad, as the organizer of dancing camps along the Kis-Küküllő (Târnava Mică) river, having also helped set up a students’ hall of residence in the village in autumn 2016.

As can be read in the news from time to time, Transylvania even has an English royal resident, at least in summertime: aided by Tibor Kálnoky, Prince Charles found, and ultimately bought, an estate in Zalánpatak (Valea Zălanului). The situation is not without its tensions, and József Kasléder, the mayor of the village of Málnás (Malnaş) in the centre of the municipality, once burst out that the locals saw little benefit from having the Prince of Wales around: “The residents of Zalánpatak are expected not to install double glazing, not to build big, modern houses, not even to tarmac the road, all in the name of preserving the quaint old village appearance. You cannot stop improvements to the village just because the prince and his foreign guests turn up once or twice a year to admire how poor we are.”

Slowly but surely, with its fair share of difficulties, life for the returning aristocrats in Transylvania is carrying on where it left off after decades of Communist rule. With great determination, they have moved back, often to places where they never actually lived before, knowing them only from hearsay or from childhood stories. Nevertheless, they set about overcoming all the obstacles not just for their own benefit, but for that of their patria. They and their names may seem a little odd, their work, and even their mere existence, may appear somewhat romantic, but they are there, to the enrichment of Transylvania. Nobody else would do what they are doing. As Kata Vay, wife of Count Pál Teleki, exhorted her son Count Ádám Teleki, as he headed to war in 1744: “If you can act for the good of your nation, that is what you must do.”


Title image: H.R.H. Prince Charles property in Zalánpatak

Author: Gergely Szilvay