Over the weekend, I had the misfortune of watching the (Romanian) internet blow up over a video posted on YouTube.
Ostensibly, it shows a faceless Romanian man filming with a hidden camera as he tries to order some food at a Kaufland in the town of Odorheiu Secuiesc but get refused service because he didn’t speak Hungarian.
Antena 1, the conservative television news network, covered the incident from a completely one-sided view:
This news report also included a statement from the head of the ANPC (the government agency in charge of consumer rights) in Brasov, Sorin Susanu, saying how wrong and discriminatory the whole thing was and that the store should be fined.
If that weren’t enough, the incredibly racist Radu Banciu then blathered on for 20 minutes about the incident, first saying that the store should be closed by the government, and then later saying that “If this had happened during the time of Ceausescu, he would’ve sent in water cannon and hundreds of tanks and wiped out every Hungarian from the city.”
Sadly, the comments under the various YouTube videos are full of even worse vitriol.
And Now, Some Real Facts
First, Sorin Susanu works for the ANPC in Brasov County, and the incident happened in Harghita County. It’s also obvious from this comments that Mr. Susanu knows absolutely nothing about what happened other than what he saw on the heavily edited YouTube video.
Secondly, Radu Banciu is the same man who said all Moldovan women are lazy whores and was later sanctioned but not fired for those comments. In a just world, he should be shut down and taken off the air, but he won’t because his kind of racism is tolerated in Romania.
And Banciu is also completely wrong about his history. Ceausescu was a lot of things, but the man didn’t stay in power for nearly 30 years because he was a total idiot.
Hey, look what I found! It’s a picture of Ceausescu with two dozen Hungarian leaders from Szekely Land! In fact, the picture was taken in 1965 when Ceausescu met the leaders of the Magyar Autonomous Region, the boundaries of which were specifically designed to accommodate the Szeklers. Looks to me like the complete opposite of sending in tanks to “wipe out” Hungarian speakers.
So, yes, we know Banciu and Sorin Susanu are both idiots. But what about the video itself? I won’t do the asshole the favor of posting it here directly, but you can click here to see it if you really want to.
First of all, this was no average Romanian guy who “just happened” to catch an incident on film. The guy who filmed this is a coward of the worst kind. He calls himself militianul or “the militiaman.”
In Romania today, there is no “militia” as that was a Communist institution. In English, “militia” sounds like a military thing, but in Communist countries (including Romania) it was more of a police agency. So, right away, it’s odd that this guy is using a Communist title for himself.
Secondly, the “Kaufland incident” is not his first video. Starting in November 2016, he’s been driving around the country filming non-stop using a hidden camera. From his earlier videos, it looks like he’s mostly been trying to catch people breaking traffic laws, with “bonus points” if it’s a cop doing something wrong/stupid.
He never uses his real name, but on the bottom of some of his earlier videos is the name “Marcus”. He films with both a handheld camera as well as a dash cam, pretty clearly indicating he’s not poor. Furthermore, based on what I’ve seen of the interior of his car, it looks like he’s driving either a Volkswagen or an Audi. Whatever it is, it’s definitely not a Dacia brand vehicle, the only one manufactured in Romania.
In all the videos I reviewed, he’s constantly cursing and behaving like a complete and total asshole. In the “Kaufland incident” video, he starts off by saying he “heard” from someone that they won’t serve you at that particular store in Odorheiu Secuiesc if you speak Romanian, so he’s going there to “investigate”. In other words, he went there deliberately to try and find problems.
The video is also heavily edited, so the viewer has no idea what happened in between the different cuts. In the second segment, you can see the worker is already tired and stressed, and “Marcus” is belly up to the counter and waving around money in an aggressive fashion.
At first, the woman takes his money and is seemingly going to complete his order, but when she mutters something in Hungarian, “Marcus” was ready. He immediately began launching into a tirade about how he’s a victim because he’s Romanian.
Another customer in the line, clearly trying to defuse the situation, says (in heavily accented Romanian) that Marcus ought to at least start by saying “hello” in Hungarian before placing his order because he’s in Szekely Land.
Marcus, already prepared for a fight, then begins yelling about how he’s in Romania and has no need to speak Hungarian. Marcus then oddly starts filming the rear end of a woman in line wearing short shorts while shouting more about how he’s a victim.
There’s then a jump cut, and the next thing we see is the bottom half of a man who supposedly is some kind of manager at Kaufland, and there’s a lot of shouting and yelling. Some other customers, including an overweight older man, start getting angry, and Marcus then flees, saying that the Hungarians were going to “jump” him. The video then ends with Marcus “sad” about how he’s a “foreigner in his own country,” the title he gave to his pathetic little video.
The last frame of the video is a link to his website. The YouTube video is on Marcus’s monetized channel, meaning he gets paid when people watch his videos. And on his website, he’s asking for donations to support his “cause”, whatever the fuck that is.
In other words, this whole incident was set up specifically for Marcus to make money.
And Now, the Laws
I really don’t know how many times I’ve got to say this, but Romania is a multicultural country. There are over a dozen recognized minorities, and people speak a wide gamut of different languages. The insistence that everyone living in the country speak perfect Romanian is, quite frankly, pure fascism.
Yes, Odorheiu Secuiesc is in Romania. And there are plenty of laws already on the books to address the primacy of the Romanian language. Every item in the Kaufland store must bear a Romanian-language label. The laws of the city are written in Romanian. If you go to court in that city, you have the right for the proceedings to be conducted in the Romanian language.
Kaufland, meanwhile, is not a government office or institution. It is not required to hire bilingual employees nor to serve every single customer. If they really wanted to, they could refuse service to anyone they wished for any reason whatsoever, as long as it wasn’t done on a systemic basis. That’s how capitalism and commerce works.
Kaufland is a German multinational corporation, and they exist to make a profit. Refusing service to people on an ethnic or linguistic basis is totally against their principles, so there’s no way in the world they have some kind of policy about “never serve a Romanian”.
What’s far more likely is that they hired native Hungarian speakers to serve their clientele (which is 98% Hungarian-speaking), and perhaps some of them aren’t very conversant in Romanian. It’s unclear from the video if the woman working there even understands the language.
What I do know, from reading Kaufland job advertisements, is that they pay a very low wage. Who knows what the woman in the video was earning, but it probably wasn’t much. Everyone’s dressed in shorts and T-shirts, so it was obviously a hot summer day. And she was working in front of several fryers and hot grills, so maybe she was just sweaty, tired, and stressed out. She certainly looked upset long before Marcus ever began shouting at her.
Since we never saw the “manager’s” face, there’s no evidence whatsoever that the management of the store condoned her behavior. The store later issued a statement saying they apologize for the way Marcus was treated. And I hardly think an old man with a beer belly was “about to jump” Marcus.
Furthermore, let’s not forget that Marcus is driving a foreign car, using a foreign-made hidden camera, going to a foreign-owned store, all while being a self-proclaimed “patriotic” Romanian.
Szeklers vs. Hungarians
Lastly, and I really can’t believe I have to even say this, but the Szeklers are not Hungarians. The Szekely speak Hungarian, but they’re a completely different group of people with a completely different identity and history than “regular” Hungarians.
In the Union of Three Nations signed in 1438 in Transylvania, the three “nations” were the Hungarians, the Saxon (Germans), and the Szeklers. Furthermore, the Szeklers have fought against the Hungarians many times, including when Mihai Viteazul conquered Transylvania in the year 1600.
In 1764, when the Hungarians were ruled by the Habsburgs, they sent in an army to massacre the Szeklers, causing thousands of them to flee to Moldova. And in 1867, the Szeklers opposed the Vienna Compromise. And these are just a few of the many times the Szekelers have clashed with the Hungarians.
The Szekelers are a distinct people who have held grudges against their fellow Hungarian speakers for centuries. I’ve met Szeklers before, and I distinctly remember one man (in Cluj) who refused to speak to me because I didn’t speak his language. Later, I brought in a bilingual friend of mine to talk to this guy, learning that he was from Targu-Mures and that he was a militant, asshole racist no different than Marcus (except without the hidden, sneaky camera bullshit).
I get it. The Szeklers can be a royal pain in the ass. God knows the Hungarians have felt that way about them since the year 1222. They’re a hard-headed group of people who never got along very well with anyone, even the Hungarians. Their name means “warrior people” and they still take that seriously, even if they’re just middle age men lining up for some shitty fast food in the parking lot of a German store.
I don’t speak Hungarian beyond a few words (including “hello”), but I’ve interacted with thousands of Hungarians throughout my life. I’ve been to Szekely Land (although not Ordoheiu Secuiesc), and I’ve never had a single problem ever, except for that one guy. And that guy comes to Cluj every year, dressed up in medieval Szekler clothes, and clearly has an agenda (he puts on a big show for a Hungarian-language TV channel out of Targu Mures). But am I going to judge an entire people based on one person? Of course not.
The Szekelers want the same thing they’ve always wanted, which is exactly what Ceausescu (briefly) gave them: autonomy. Frankly, they’re not the only ones chafing under Bucharest’s stupid and corrupt rule.
But one thing must never be forgotten – the Szekelers are not the Hungarians. The UDMR party (the mainstream Hungarian party in Romania) has little traction in Szekely Land, which tends to vote for parties like the MPP. And yes, a few Jobbik nutcases from Hungary like to show up in Szekely Land ostensibly to support their “brothers”, but everyone with half a brain knows it’s mostly about furthering their own agenda in Budapest.
At the end of the day, the “Kaufland incident” video was a case of one racist asshole meeting a tired, underpaid woman who may or may not be also harboring her own racist attitudes. Neither of them has a shred of power, and neither of them represents anything except a fanatic fringe. But it opened up a can of hate worms that got everybody inflamed (close to 1 million views in three days), and for that, I have no sympathy whatsoever.
Grow The Fuck Up
Romania has enough problems without fascist vigilantes playing the victim card. And god knows, if you really want a shitty pork product sold in the parking lot of a German store in Odorheiu Secuiesc, exercise a little common fucking sense and say a couple of words in Hungarian like jó napot (“hello”) when placing your order.
If you do, I promise you that you’ll still be 100% Romanian when you go to your badly understaffed hospital cleaned with diluted disinfectant in order to treat your grease-clogged little tricolor heart.