Meeting of alumni from Kárpátalja in Estonia (an interview with Dr. Ágnes Ortutay)

It was not an easy thing for a young Hungarian from Kárpátalja to be a university student in the Soviet era, because among others the lack of knowledge of the official Russian language. The situation was even harder for the children of the non worker class. Children of priests, who didn't follow the Soviet state religion, the atheism, were directly selected out from the applicants, as it was the case of the State University of Ungvár (Ungvári Állami Egyetem). Because of these conditions, several students from Kárpátalja decided to try their luck in the Hungarian friendly Estonia, in the famous University of Tartu. Recently, fifty of them met in the historical city of Tartu, which is a gemstone of the small, already independent Baltic country. We asked one of the participant of the meeting, Dr. Ágnes Ortutay from Nagyszőlős about her time as a student in Tartu.

- Dr. Ortutay, why had you go as far as Tartu to be a medica in 1970?
- I have graduated in the Hungarian school in Nagyszőlős, and I was determined to be a physician. In those times many of the alumni of our school were already the students of University of Tartu. They were talking about how much they liked in Estonia, where people like Hungarians, so I have decided to go so far to study. I didn't have other choices, since my father was a priest, therefore I was banned from the University of Ungvár. I know a case where a student from Munkács had to cancel his studies during the third year because of political reasons. He had finished later also in Tartu.
- What was the life and the University in Etonia during the 70's? What language did you use in your studies?
- Estonia was so different inside the Soviet Union already those times. It was a bit like living abroad. Estonians were so different from the Soviet people. Tartu is a beautiful University town and the friendship of Estonian and Hungarian people was a reality. In our class there were 125 students in the Estonian group, they had studied in Estonian. I was one of the 25 members of the Russian group, together with two other Hungarians from Kárpátalja, and we had learnt everything in Russian. Later we had learnt also the Estonian language, since it was evital for the clinical practice. Most of the patients were Estonian, and, especially the older ones didn't speak Russian.
- What did you do after you had finished?
- I came back to my hometown, Nagyszőlős, and since then I am the endocrinologist of the local hospital.

Kárpátalja (weekly journal), V. 30. (237.) (the original in Hungarian by Zsolt Badó) republished with the permission of the journal

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