The trip was accompanied by Hannu Ylitalo, Andrei Roth and Päivi Taskinen for one day.
This is the account of a trip by Finnish friends of Eeva Huber’s work to Budapest, the capital of Hungary, and to Oradea, which is in Romania. We were eight travelers, four from Hämeenlinna, two from Vaasa, one from Liperi and one from Parkano.
The weather was mostly clear, only one day it rained a little. The daytime temperatures were a bit low, but still in the plus range (e.g. + 10 degrees). Warm clothing was required.
03/25/2023 (Sat) Finnish trains went on strike and we from Hämeenlinna had to take the bus to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. There we met the other members of the group. We had not only packed our own travel utensils in our suitcases, but also relief supplies for the association such as wool socks and other clothing donations. Finnair then flew us to Budapest where we were met by Hannu Ylitalo and Andrei Roth.
03/26/2023 (Sun) The main event of the day was a concert by Nina Åström in the Jewish Cultural Center Bálint Ház (www.balinthaz.hu). The concert was organized for survivors of the Shoah. Almost 100 people accepted the invitation. We helped prepare the venue and served coffee after the concert, which was musically accompanied by Andrei Roth (piano) and Jarmo Majamaa (vocals and English flute).
03/27/2023 (Mon) We explored Budapest’s Great Market Hall and viewed the city from the Danube bank.
03/28/2023 (Tue) We visited the Fisherman’s Bastion on the hills of Buda. In the evening we visited the Budapest State Opera (www.opera.hu) and saw a performance of the opera Hunyadi László, which is based on events in Hungarian history. The opera house is one of the most beautiful in the world.
03/29/2023 (Wed) Päivi Taskinen guided us through the historic Jewish quarter of Budapest. We visited many monuments of the Jewish suffering, such as the wall of the old Jewish ghetto. We looked at the Dohany Synagogue, in front of which is Theodor-Herzl-Platz. Finally we had dinner at the Mazal Tov restaurant.
Theodor Herzl was an Austro-Hungarian journalist who contributed to the emergence of political Zionism in the late 19th century. In his book The Jewish State, he predicted the emergence of the Jewish state. Fifty years later, when the State of Israel was established in May 1948, that prophecy was fulfilled.
03/30/2023 (Thu) We traveled by train from Budapest towards the Romanian border. After the train ride, Nicu Gal, the director of People To People (www.people2people.ro), and his Dutch assistant took us to Oradea, Romania in two cars. Passport control at the border went quite quickly.
Our accommodation in Oradea was the Spa Hotel Continental Forum Oradea. The mineral-rich water in the hotel’s outdoor pool cures psoriasis. During our stay in Oradea we went swimming as often as possible. The ulcer on my hand was also healed there.
03/31/2023 (Fri) We visited a school for Roma children run by the Christian organization People to People in the village of Tinca. The aim of the organization is to inspire the Roma children in the region to go to school and receive a basic education, thus giving them a good start in the future. Schooling is compulsory for all children in Romania, but the state cannot control education for all sections of the population, so not all Roma children go to school and many are therefore illiterate. Many Roma in Romania live in very poor conditions.
In the evening we went to the synagogue of Oradea, where the head of the Jewish community and the rabbi were holding a service. The service this time was short and held just for us as the local parishioners were attending a Jewish cultural event in another city that weekend.
After the service, we were led into the building next to the synagogue, where on the ground floor we saw a painting that occupied an entire wall. It presented Jewish history from Abraham to the present. An impressive work!
A Shabbat meal had been prepared for us in the upper hall of the building. We ate there with the leader of the community and the rabbi and sang Hebrew songs. The adjoining room is a youth room dedicated to Eeva and Adalbert Huber. Finally we blessed Israel and read the Lord’s Prayer. It was a warm and spiritual event and we were well served. As we left the building, each of us was given a large package of matzah (unleavened bread) on the ground floor of the building. They had a lot of these packages because the Jewish Passover was coming up.
04/01/2023 (Sat) Andrei invited the guests to his apartment. We drank coffee and congratulated my wife Eva on her birthday. We then walked around town and visited the local museum, which had been the home of a wealthy Jewish family before the war. An impressive experience!
Eva’s birthday was celebrated in the evening at a restaurant to which Nicu Gal and his wife and some local friends were invited. The food was good and there was plenty of it. Here, too, people sang together and the Romanians could hear Finnish folk songs, among other things.
04/02/2023 (Sun) We traveled with Nicu Gal back to Budapest, Hungary. The drive and the border controls went well again. We stayed in the same hotel that we stayed at before. We paid Nicu for the ride and wished him God’s blessings.
04/03/2023 (Mon) We visited the Dohany Synagogue on Theodor-Herzl-Platz, the largest of its kind in Europe and the second largest in the world. Security was tight and the visit went well. In the courtyard of the synagogue there was a “Tree of Life” and in the basement there was a photo exhibition on the Holocaust. A very impressive experience!
In the afternoon we drove up the Buda hills to see the Statue of Liberty. From there you had a good view over the Danube to Pest. We also visited a magnificent old spa house.
04/04/2023 (Tue) The taxi took us to the airport within 30 minutes and the check-in went well. The Finnair plane was fully booked and left on time. The flight was smooth and we were well served.
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I thank God that this trip went well in every way. We had no accident, no theft and no serious illness. Many people had also prayed for the journey. I thank all of you!
We also managed to take good care of each other – “no one leaves a friend behind” -, schedules were kept well and there was a generally positive vibe among us.
Finally, I would like to kindly remind all of us that while traveling is fun, let’s not forget to support the work of the charity.