Hungarian city’s mayor attacked – from California

A couple of years ago Béla Schwartz, the socialist mayor of the Hungarian city Ajka, was attacked in the press; not in the Hungarian press, but from Los Angeles, California. This is a story about the mysterious ways Hungary’s right-wing propaganda is generated here in the United States.

In 2009, a group of Hungarian-American artists formed The California Alliance of Hungarian-American Artists (Kaliforniai Magyar-Amerikai Művészeti Szövetség) to promote Hungarian culture in Los Angeles. Bálint Sapszon, a young, talented composer, and recent immigrant, became president with four vice-pesidents: Elizabeth Matsik, painter; Lívia Varsányi, folk dancer; Niki Burgi, photographer and Timea Antal, actor.

In 2010, Hungary declared a state of emergency in the Ajka region after an old dam near an aluminum plant collapsed, dumping toxic red sludge and killing four people and injuring 120 others. In November articles started to appear in the Hungarian media that The California Alliance of Hungarian-American Artists were demanding the resignation of Béla Schwartz because he had “overbilled” city services related to the toxic spill by about 2 million Ft (7 thousand dollars). (Read here in Hungarian.)

When I first read about the strange demand, I thought it was quite unusual that artists from California would be protesting a suspected fiscal impropriety by a small-town mayor in Hungary. I wrote a piece assuring Mr. Schwartz that Hungarian-Americans in California had no idea where Ajka was, and didn’t care about his city’s billing practices. (Read my article in Hungarian here.)

After my article appeared I received a letter from Mr. Sapszon explaining that the article about Mr. Schwartz was based on a “private letter” and he had no idea why it was published by Magyar Nemzet journalist Levente Bucsy.

I expected that Mr. Sapszon would demand a correction yet he didn’t. Although he had ample opportunity to do that, he had an interview a year later in the very same paper, with the very same journalist. (Sapszon interview with Mr. Bucsy in Hungarian.)


Mr. Sapszon (second from left) with Hungarian Consul to California Mr. Kálmán (blue tie)

Later I learned that Hungary’s ruling party Fidesz has organized attacks and accused Mayor Schwartz of twenty-two different crimes, including overbilling, embezzlement, bribe, harassment… you name it. His family suffered tremendously in the endless legal process. Yet, no Hungarian judge was willing to convict him. He was innocent; the charges were all drummed up. (Watch Mr. Schwartz interview on Hungarian TV here.)

I wondered how does a private letter from California turn into a headline in Hungary’s right-wing media. How did Mr. Sapszon know that Ajka’s mayor had billed 25,739,913 Ft? …and the disputed overbilling amounted to 1.89 million Ft?

Hungarian diplomats are organizing “support troops” among Hungarian-Americans to attack critics in Hungary and abroad and to respond to the “lies of the American media.” Of course, California’s Hungarian artists may demand the resignation the any mayor in any country for any reason, but I cannot help to suspect that Mr. Sapszon and his friends played the role of the media “attack-dog” for the Budapest government. Not nice.

Most of the artists are affiliated with the Hungarian House in Los Angeles and have close contacts with László Kálmán, who is the Hungarian Consul in California. Mr. Sapszon is the artistic director, and Ms. Antal is the financial manager of the House.

Earlier, I suggested to Miklós Pereházy, who heads the House and also maintains uncomfortably close relationships with Hungarian diplomats, that it would be more appropriate to operate his group as a registered lobby organization for the Orbán government.

What do you think?

György Lázár


  1. Avatar András B. Göllner says:

    Mr Lázár’s suggestion is a sane and reasonable one. A less reasonable, perhaps more flamboyant individual would suggest, that Mr Sapszon and his Californian Orbanites register themselves as a traveling circus act and call themselves the Californian-Hungarian Hussars for a Muslim Free Hungary (CHHMFH). They would look great in the costume worn by the gentlemen with the Fu-manchu. Ah, what a wonderfully wacky place, California is. Didn’t Jim Jones start out from there, before taking his flock into the jungles of Guyana for a shot of cool-aid ?

  2. Avatar karl busch says:

    These Orbinates do anything for a few dollars. The Fumunchu clown is the Colonel of the Hussar Army of 4 persons. Consul Kalman is a known neo-fascist.

  3. Avatar Gizella Czene says:

    Slightly off topic, but Elizabeth “Babi” Matsik recently died of cancer.

  4. Avatar György Lázár says:

    Dear Gizella, I am saddened by the news. My most sincere condolences to the Matsik family.

  5. Avatar Gyula Bognar says:

    The above article is informative, correct and the suggestion is valid. I knew about the turn of affairs, after Bokor Balázs was replaced as Consul in L.A. and new Fidesz goon and informant took his place along with some unsavory staff.
    The Hungarian Cosulate and the Fidesz Government is very active in recruiting brown nosing people for spreading their vile lies and propaganda.
    It seems from this article, that Mr. Perehazy perhaps been blessed with a longer tongue, than backbone and brain. Some other people, may be for just the travel benefits to diaspora meetings and stays in Budapest become a subservient followers of the prevailing powers. By the way, working on behalf of a foreign Government in the U.S., also requires, that the individual or groups register as “FOREIGN AGENT(S)”.

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