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Roundtrip in Austria-Hungary

Székelyudvarhely

Székelyudvarhely is one of the bigger towns of the Székely, a group of Hungarians who received special privileges in medieval times for military services at the Eastern borders of the Hungarian Kingdom. In the very special history of Transylvania they were one of the four nations that populated the area alongside with “regular” (not privileged) Hungarians, Germans (who established several towns and were mainly miners or artisans) and Romanians. The town became the seat of Udvarhely county in 1876. The house regiment of the town was the 82nd Infantry Regiment recruited in the Székely region.

After the erection of the “Wehrmann in Eisen” in Vienna, a large number of patriotic monuments were set up in the Monarchy during 1915-1917. They were made of wood and citizens could buy steel pins for money donations that were hammered into the wood. Thus, the wooden statue had been becoming iron plated. The Székelyudvarhely statue was erected in 1917. Four soldiers from the staff of the 82nd regiment carved it depicting a Székely private in combat. The statue was put under a wooden roof on the main square of the town. It was soon nicknamed “the Iron Székely”. Similarly to many other Hungarian statues intruding Romanian soldiers demolished it in 1919.

After the systemic change in 1990 ethnic rivalry between Romanians and Hungarians lessened and it became possible to re-erect the statue in 2000. Until then almost all kinds of Hungarian memorabilia were forbidden on public places of Transylvania. The new Iron Székely is not wooden any more but is  made from bronze. I personally hope that the statue will stay for many decades maybe centuries on its current place symbolizing tolerance and mutual appreciation of Hungarians and Romanians.

The statue became very popular as it is evidenced by the post card. Also a Kappenabzeichen was prepared with this motive. It is made from grey metal, a cheap material, yet it is relatively rare to find today. This indicates that not too many copies were manufactured. Maybe it was prepared for the members of the 82nd infantry regiment and not for the general public. Unlike another badge of the regiment this Kappenabzeichen has not been seen on contemporary photos either.

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