‘’For trees people exist eternally, but it means nothing more than as if they never existed.’’ Olga Tokarczuk – Primeval and Other Times
At the beginning of the XVIII century, Prince of Esterhazy started to repopulate his areas abandoned because of plague on the north-east part of today’s Hungary. He made poor Polish highlanders from Subcarpathia come to Derenk. They began to live here; in this Hungarian province surrounded by woods and mountains where they, for over 200 years, specialized in farming, trading, poaching, and smuggling. During all this time, they nourished their own identity, culture, language, and religion.
During the 30’s, the village’s area was sold to the Hungarian Government. Finally, a growing conflict between the dwellers and the country’s governance caused that in 1943, all the people from Derenk were resettled to different places near Miskolc.
Economically, the Derenk people benefited from this situation because in these new places they had better living conditions as well as the possibilities of land cultivation. Nonetheless, the community was destroyed leaving the sense of grievance and longing for the native village. Derenk has remained ‘’the lost paradise’’ forever.
In the new places, life went on. Children came to the Hungarian schools and over time became Hungarians. Only the memories about relatives and feelings of identity remained.
Nowadays, a few people who were born in Derenk and remember this village as vibrant and thriving, still live. Most of the others know this place from the stories told by parents and grandparents.
And what about Derenk itself?
Derenk is disappearing, huts are collapsing, paths are getting overgrown. What is left are trees and souls moving in the blowing wind.
*The project was created thanks to the scholarship from the Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland