József Bálint | Dumbrăvița

Szabó Béla | Dumbrava

Mr. Béla Szabó’s great-grandparents arrived in Dumbrava in 1893, the seventh family to settle in the village at the edge of a forest. Legend has it that wolves used to roam the forest before the people of Dumbrava tamed it.

Ever since they have been known, the dumbrăven have spent their Sundays in church with the other Hungarians, dressed for the feast – in the old days they wore black trousers, high leather boots, and white shirts – and then they gather at the table, where they eat chicken soup with noodles, then steak or paprika, and for dessert, they make raspberry, strawberry or cherry cobbler.

Communism wasn’t easy for them either, and if it hadn’t been for the 1989 Revolution Dumbrava would have disappeared. There were plans to build four blocks of flats in the church garden, where the villagers would be gathered and their houses demolished.

Mr. Szabó is a teacher and a member of the band Angelis ’96, where they have a drummer, a saxophonist, a trumpet player, a guitarist, and a soloist. They play pop and folk music at their concerts. They play Hungarian folk music for all the surrounding communities and play light music in Romanian villages. It runs in the family. “Many times, even in the garden and in the field, we used to sing, and that has stayed with me because when I get on the tractor and work in the field, I sing, all day long I sing!”

Angelis `96 has toured in Serbia, Hungary, and Germany, and for the children of Dumbrava Mr Szabó organizes music lessons. This is how he manages to keep at least half of them in the village, where Hungarian families, who came almost a century and a half ago, tamed the forest and built their houses, in which they still live today.