E – 1985 – Temerin
Teacher of Hungarian language and works at Office for Youth KZM, Temerin.
Q: Tell me, what is the feeling when you’re ’at home’ for you? When do you feel ’at home’?
A: When I don’t need to dress myself nicely, when I don’t need to comb my hair nicely, when I can behave however I want, that’s good. And when everybody… well, not when everybody loves me, but when they accept me the way I am.
Q: The way you are. And what is the opposite feeling for you? When do you feel not at home?
A: When I sort of have to pretend that I am someone I’m not. Because, in a company that… not that I don’t like, but that doesn’t feel good, when I feel I don’t belong there, contrary to the way I feel at home or at a place where I like to be, where I feel I belong, that I’m a part of my community and that it’s something mine.
Q: How does it feel to be a part of a group?
A: Relaxed. How can I put it…
Q: And how do you feel when you feel uncomfortable? Amongst what kind of people? Why do you feel uncomfortable? Can you explain that to me a bit closer?
A: I’m uncomfortable when I’m very anxious, when I feel that I’m not good, that I’m not completely normal, because every group has its own criteria of normality.
A: Yes. And when I can feel they don’t love me there.
Q: What is a parameter of normality for you?
A: In a group?
Q: No, in life in general for you. Yes, in your group.
A: Kind of not to hate anybody I don’t know, but to see something or someone well first.
Q: To meet them?
A: It’s not always easy, but I think that it’s best.
Q: And do you think people often hate?
A: Yes. Yes, and they are jealous of one another.
Q: Did you ever feel hatred or jealousy?
A: Yes. Yes, of course.
Q: In your opinion, why does that happen? Why was someone jealous of you or hated you?
A: People always think that they don’t have enough of something – enough love, enough of material things or, I don’t know, enough… they’re not good enough at their work or that someone got more than them in life. That’s why.
Q: What do you think are the most common prejudices people have about someone they don’t know? What do people base their prejudices on? Are they based on physical appearance or… What do you think they’re based on?
A: Yes, that comes first. Physical appearance comes first. Whether someone is dirty, whether they look strange, whether they have some health issues, whether they talk differently, talk funny or, I don’t know, behaves aggressively somehow.
Q: Did you ever feel people have prejudices about you, people who don’t know you?
A: Well, yes I have.
Q: Why, what do you think?
A: For example, in a bus to Novi Sad… Well, should I tell this?
Q: Yes, yes, feel free to speak.
A: Well, I was speaking Hungarian with my friend on a bus and some woman was sitting next to us. And, I don’t know, it was years ago, she was yelling at us – why are we talking in a foreign language, are we talking about her, and if we’re not gonna talk in Serbian so that she can understand, to shut up. That, for example.
Q: That woman was standing behind you or…?
A: Well, we were standing, she was sitting. We weren’t talking about her. Nothing. We didn’t even speak loud enough for it to bother her.
Q: How did you feel at that moment?
A: Well, awful. And then, after that day, when I enter a bus, I’m always checking if I’m bothering someone while I’m talking to someone or should I shut up…
Q: And have you experienced such things only in Novi Sad or here in Temerin too?
A: I haven’t here in Temerin, but there are those who did. I haven’t found myself in such a situation.
Q: What do you think of that woman? What was her reason for attacking you?
A: Maybe she really thought we were talking about her. Maybe she just doesn’t like national minorities. Or maybe she was angry that day coz of something.
Q: Yes, and then she took it out on you.
Q: And do you think people have prejudices about national minorities in general or was that woman an exception?
A: I hitchhiked a lot while I was at the University, and people used to stop more in Serbia, and they never…
Q: Had anything against you?
A: Yes, they were never like… ‘If you’re Hungarian, get out’ or something. But several times they asked me, since I live here, why haven’t I learned the language better because I’ll need it. Yes, and I know that, but maybe it’s not that easy for me to learn it. And they don’t know me, they don’t know my profile.
Q: Your life.
A: They don’t know what I’m like, they know nothing about me. But, yes, they’re right.
Q: Did you manage to communicate with people before, while you didn’t speak Serbian? How did you communicate with people around you?
A: Well, you know, I didn’t go to the store where I couldn’t explain what I want. And when I’ve gotten older a bit, I’ve tried to… I’ve asked my mother how to say this and that, and in time I learned Serbian. I’m still not great at it and it’s difficult for me to express myself well enough, but I always try and I respect people who try, in my language, to…
A: …explain or learn it, I think that’s important, to try and not to make fun of someone who…
Q: Doesn’t know?
A: …can’t pronounce something nicely right away.
Q: And while you didn’t speak Serbian, did you ever feel strange somehow or you felt completely like, how can I put it… You didn’t feel the need to understand what people are saying? Did you ever think that someone might be talking about you at the time when you didn’t speak Serbian? When someone is talking in Serbian, and you don’t understand.
A: Well, yes. Yes. Yes, to be honest. I always thought about what they might be thinking. If someone is laughing…
Q: Do you think that knowing languages is important in general for people to communicate or…?
A: Yes. Yes. It’s very important. I understand now more and more how important it is. Every language.
Q: And what motivated you to learn Serbian language? When did you start learning?
A: I really wanted to learn it, but it was very hard for me because the private lessons are not very good and they cost money, but it’s very important coz – you see, even now I have difficulties. When I started going to the University, I realized you need the language everywhere and then I started reading books in Serbian, and it’s a bit easier with books…
Q: It’s easier with books, yes. Did you notice any difference between Serbian literature and, for example, Hungarian? Did you see the difference in the literature, between Serbian and Hungarian writers?
A: Well, we… Hungarian literature is very… Well, we have really a lot of writers and a lot of poets, really a lot. We have more writers than the Serbs.
Q: I meant in terms of style and in the language itself, did you notice any significant differences?
A: Well, I didn’t read that much of Serbian literature, but Agatha Christie, detective novels, and such. That’s easier.
Q: Yes, those are translations, not originals.
A: It’s a fast read. Tolkien, The Hobbit, and stuff like that. You can read that faster.
Q: Do you feel accepted by the community in Temerin?
A: Yes, I do. I don’t feel like someone doesn’t accept me. But I don’t go places where I would feel they don’t accept me.
Q: What then? Are there places where you think you would feel not accepted, and that’s why you don’t go there? Some specific places or because of some specific people or circumstances?
A: Well, everywhere I go, I go because of people. I go where my friends are, I go where I need to get something done, then… There are no places I don’t visit because they don’t accept me there, but… I don’t know what to say.
Q: OK. And tell me how do you like life in Temerin? Do you think there is a difference between Temerin, as a smaller town, and some big city, metropolis, like Belgrade?
A: Well, I haven’t lived in a metropolis yet, but… Now I don’t know a word. When someone whispers behind someone else’s back and talks.
A: Gossips. There’s another word. I’m sure there is.
Q: Well, spreads rumours.
A: Spreads rumours, yes. I think that in smaller towns, like Temerin, people spread more rumours about each other and like to spread ugly stuff, unpleasant stuff, bad news. And I think that in bigger cities people don’t know each other that much and that’s why they don’t spread bad news so much. I don’t know.
Q: How do you feel when you find yourself in the company of people who spread rumours about someone or spread bad news?
A: Well, it depends who we’re talking about. (Laughs.) Sometimes I take part in it too. But I always end up feeling bad. Maybe it’s not true.
Q: Do you think that people are somehow stigmatized in smaller towns? Like, when people hear something about someone, that he can’t defend himself from it then in any way, that it follows him till the rest of his life? When they put a label on someone, or something like that.
A: Sure, it happens. Sure, it happens, yes.
Q: And do you think that people have prejudices about nationalities, that there are certain features that are assigned to a certain nation, whether it’s Serbs, Hungarian, or whoever, English people?
A: Here, in Temerin?
Q: Well, yes, and in general.
A: Well, they have. Yes, they have prejudices. For example, Hungarians… We have a prejudices that… I don’t know if that’s a prejudices or it’s true. …that Serbs are… For example, that Serbian children compared to Hungarian children are… And professors who teach both classes say so. …that Serbian children are louder, they’re more spirited, how can I put it…
A: Yes, temperamental. In a bus, for example, or wherever when they’re together, that Serbs yell more than Hungarians. And they are more open.
A: Yes. Hungarians are a bit withdrawn. Maybe because they’re a minority and then they’re used to being less of us there. But I don’t know if that’s true.
Q: Do you think that it’s better in general to be in a minority or always in a majority, no matter what the majority is like?
A: Well, I don’t know if it’s better to be in a minority.
Q: I’m not talking about national minority, but in general. Like, when you have an opinion, do you always stand behind your position, even though you’re in the minority, or you think it’s always best to be in a majority, because you feel more secure when more people support you, even though you maybe know the majority is wrong?
A: Well, if I know they’re wrong, well then of course it’s not good to go with the majority just because of that. I don’t know if that’s what you meant.
Q: Yes, that’s what I meant. Whatever opinion you might have, if you know most people… That happened to all of us. …if you know most people thinks differently, do you defend your position or you’re kind of sustained, and you think it’s better to be in the majority? Since some people are always afraid to express their position so they wouldn’t be lonely.
A: Well, I was in that situation too, that some… Those were also Hungarians… I don’t know if I should be telling you this or not. I don’t know how many more questions you have.
Q: Feel free to speak. There are no specific questions, just…
A: When I went to high school, some older students were teasing me all the time, every day.
A: Well, they didn’t like me, I don’t know, coz they found me strange. I wore big glasses. I don’t know. They didn’t like me.
Q: You wore big glasses. OK. And, in general, were there any incidents here in Temerin?
A: What do you mean?
Q: With neighbouring villages or on the basis of nationality or…
A: Concerning me?
Q: No, in general.
A: Incidents between Hungarians and Serbs?
Q: Well, that too, and in general. Were there?
A: Well, there were. There are a lot of things like that in Temerin. Not exactly every day, but there are.
Q: Did that used to happen in the past too or just recently?
A: Well, for some years now.
Q: And, what do you think, what’s the cause of it? Since it didn’t happen in the past, as far as I know.
A: Well, maybe media didn’t talk so much about it, I think, but it use to happen…
Q: What do you think is the solutions for that incident in a multicultural environment?
A: The solution… I don’t know.
Q: What is tolerance for you? Do you think that people should be more tolerant? In general.
A: Now I’m not sure what we’re talking about.
Q: You know what the word tolerance means?
Q: Well, in general, what does it mean being tolerant for you? Just that, as the last question.
A: Not to bother anyone. To take care of others. To check if they need something. To try to help in the first place, and not…
A: …judge, and… I think that’s it. Not to exclude anyone because of their looks, or the way they talk, or what I heard about them, for example. That’s it.
Q: OK. Thank you.