Geszt Summary

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Geszt is a real dead-end village in the part of Békés county bordering on Rumania. The highway comes to an end here, and this is also the terminal of the bus line. The railway avoids the village. Its inhabitants live their everyday lives silently. Most of the young people do not any more find jobs for themselves in the settlement, because the only source of living, land, does not make it possible for many of them to set up a family in their ancient homeland.
Its clean air, natural beauty, and the visible results of the preservation and protection activity attract visitors that like discovery. The area around Geszt is extremely rich in birds and small game.
The land area around this settlement lying next to the rich waterland of the Sárrét, and the valley of the Sebes-Körös, has been always found suitable for settlement throughout history. It is considered to be a populated place since the time of the Neolithic age. The Hungarians must have settled in this area, as well: the birth of the settlement can be dated back to the XI century.
Throughout the long centuries of the Middle Ages, Geszt was inhabited by nobles with a free legal status, many of whom still have their offspring living in the village. Until the end of the Turkish rule in the XVII century, they had served the ruler, and later the prince of Transylvania with arms. Their free status was brought to an end by the Hapsburg Monarchy at the turn of the XVII–XVIII centuries, which was aiming at the construction of a modern state organisation. They lived in serfdom from this time until the Bourgeois revolution in 1848.
The settlement, having lost its freedom, received a new landlord. First, the treasury, and the royal chamber exercised the right of ownership. After 1760, the Tisza family became the exclusive property-holder in the region. The members of the noble dynasty lived in the village straight until the end of the Second World War, and they also had their burial place here. They made progress on the basis of their personal qualities, talents, hard-working and ambitions – rather than by way of their huge property or relationships –, and they became stronger generation by generation both in rank and authority. History shows the two end-points of this extraordinary family carrier from the ancestor Tisza, who earned his living with arms until the position of prime minister in Hungary.
The Tisza family is unique in Hungarian history as both father and son worked as prime minister during the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy. The fifteen years of Kálmán Tisza’s rule fell to the calmest and constructive period of dualism. His son, István Tisza had to face up to the challenge in a more difficult historic situation. He stood out of his peers in knowledge, responsibility, and foresight, but as he had to share the destiny of the country, he could only become a loser. The disruption of the Monarchy started during his second prime minister’s office. Tisza’s death, and assassination gained a symbolic meaning both in his own age, but also in the memory of his people.
During the time of the Tisza family, Geszt was considered to be a settlement with a national fame. Everybody remembered the name of the village not only because of its famous politicians, but also due to Endre Ady, the greatest poet of the turn of the XX. century. He did not miss one single occasion to formulate his “murderous” critique against prime minister István Tisza. Tisza, called the “clown of Geszt”, however, never misused his power. Although he did not like him, but he respected and recognised Ady’s significance, and therefore, if it was necessary, he even helped the king of poetry.
The rising, abounding years of Geszt fell to the age of dualism. The development of the nearby Nagyvárad, and the adjacent Nagyszalonta helped people find a living. And still, life was very difficult for the villagers, who were mostly small and poor peasants. The majority of the village could not earn their living from land, because it was not possible due to the small arable land area. It is not accidental that the pastures that remained after the successful flood protection and drainage work, became the sources of living: extensive animal husbandry, sheep and swine breeding offered some opportunities for the people that were looking for prosperity and wealth, or simply a source of living.
The peace treaty of Paris in 1920 decided about the fragmentation of Hungary, and the new Trianon border was drawn near the village. After this, Geszt entered a phase of slow decline. Part of the arable land was given to the adjacent Rumania. Their owners could still go over to cultivate them for a while, but this soon came to an end. The earlier benefit, the closeness of the market centres, was also lost. There were not even roads leading to the inside of Hungary. The only dust-free road was built in the middle of the 1920-ies, which offered the possibility of connection, but the whole of the South Bihar region belonged to a part of the country that was most under-developed.
The village could not escape the devastation of the Second World War, either. In 1945, the inhabitants of the village tried to take the control of their destiny into their own hands by land partition. Their work done with faith and perseverance was halted in the turnaround year during the Rákosi era. In the age of Kádár, during the period of socialist industrialisation and planned economy, the development opportunities of the village got even narrower, and the population started to move away. The mass settlement of the Roma population was started on the plots left empty by those moving away.
The drop in the number of population in the village speeded up from 1960, and lasts until now. There are almost insoluble problems in the way of the population remaining in the borderline area, and the periphery of development. They have to find the way of development, integrate the large number of Roma people that settled in the village, and preserve the remaining values of the village, the quietude, the cleanliness, the beauty of the romantic landscape, rich in game, but before anything else the community, which creates its traditions, memories, legends, in which this village at the end of highways is still very rich.



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