The village of Cserdi welcomes refugees

October 20, 2017

Mayor László Bogdán | Photo: abcug.hu/András D. Hajdú

The mayor of the Baranya county village of Cserdi, László Bogdán, has vowed to accept the asylum-seeker families who were rejected by residents of Őcsény in October. Although the majority of Cserdi residents accept Bogdán’s decision, people from the neighboring villages are opposed to the idea, reports abcug.hu.

“We would be honored not to call these people terrorists and all kinds of names,” Bogdán said on HírTV’s Szabadfogás program at the beginning of October. “These are ordinary people who are in trouble. Mr. Prime Minister, now please don’t throw me into the black car, but I would be glad if we protected and paid a little more attention to these people.”

Bogdán told abcug.hu that he would host three persons in his home for a weekend.  However, Migration Aid operative coordinator András Siewert told the online magazine that they had not coordinated with Bogdán about the exact numbers. Siewert said asylum-seekers will also be hosted at a local guesthouse. After the Őcsény incident, the refugee-helping NGO decided not to reveal the exact date of the asylum-seekers’ stay. Siewert said they are not concerned about the residents of Cserdi, but about outsiders who might want to harm the local Roma and the asylum-seekers.

A mostly accepting community

“I would give them land, to produce, to work. You can write it up: aunt Joli’s cellar is up for rent!” The 81-year-old Cserdi woman, Jolán moved down from the vineyards into the village ten years ago when she could not walk up the rough road anymore because of her medical condition. “There used to be everything, corn, flowers. The house is habitable in the inside with a concrete base,” the elderly woman points at her now uninhabited ruinous brick wine cellar. She says she would not be bothered by the refugees; if it were up to her they could settle in the empty house if they wanted to work.

“There’s a difference between a migrant and a refugee,” Miklós of Cserdi origin who was helping out Jolán’s son told abcug.hu. “Many in the village mix this up, they often yell at each other like ‘Hey, you migrant!’ Those who has been living in the camp for years and do their things right, they can come. But those who just slip through the border then come here, they cannot.”

A young boy was less convinced about the mayor’s initiative: “It’s like with the gypsies. If Béla is gypsy and he steals, immediately everybody says that all gypsies steal. At the same time there are enough people in the village who would need help. I don’t know, it’s a complicated thing.”

A friend of the boy’s said he would host the refugees in his own house if its roof was not in such bad condition that it could collapse any minute. His wife however was more cautious:

“What if they get an epileptic seizure or something, then they rape the women? I would be afraid.”

According to Etel who works as a public worker, it is clear that the village is doing the right thing, since refugees are fleeing from horrible things and anybody could be in their place. “We don’t need them here,” an elderly woman interrupts her. “You can see it in the TV what do they do. Murderers!”

“You don’t have to believe everything you hear on the TV, aunt Erzsike!” Etel replies. She say she is sympathetic towards the refugees because, as a gypsy, she knows what it feels like when upon entering a shop the security guard immediately starts to follow her. On the other hand, she says, she also has children and knows that many children come with the refugee families.

Mayor Bogdán’s media circus

“Well, it’s f_cking great,” another Cserdi resident commented on the arrival of asylum-seekers. “There is no one in the village who would dare to contradict him,” the man said in reference to Mayor Bogdán. According to the man, this is why there has been no outrage despite the residents not being consulted about the initiative.

“I believe that he is solicitous about their fate but it’s a fact that he cares about appearances,” a resident of the neighboring village of Bükkösd commented.

His opinion seems to be shared by many Bükkösd residents. According to another Bükkösd villager, this whole initiative is a part of “Bogdán’s own circus.”  However he does not mind “as long as [Bogdán] doesn’t settle them in my own room.”

“Imagine, a few years ago you couldn’t go through that village [Cserdi] without running into trouble,” Balázs said in the centre of Bükkösd. According to Balázs, Bogdán has such a great impact on the people of Cserdi that they easily accept anything he says, even those who do not depend on the mayor. However, Balázs was not happy about the arrival of refugees because in his opinion there are many terrorists among them. Many residents agreed that the people of Bükkösd would dissuade their mayor from hosting refugees in the village.

“Bogdán knows what he wants to achieve with all this, maybe he’s doing this because of Brussels,” a mother told abcug.hu while she was rocking her child at the playground.

Mayor Bogdán gained national attention in 2013 when he started his scandalous “de-bitchifying program” in Cserdi. The aim of the crime prevention program was to deter Roma children from wrong-doing by taking them and their parents on prison tours. The program was wildly criticized for its homophobic overtones. In an open letter, Amnesty International Hungary called the initiative blunt, homophobic and racist. Although Bogdán is often criticized for his views that, according to some, further strengthen prejudice towards the Roma, the mayor of Cserdi remains highly popular both in his village and in national media.