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The village of Gát, which is a settlement from the Arpadian age can be found halfway along the highway between Munkachevo and Beregszász, on the Western edge of the earlier Szernye-marsh – or by another name Gáti lake. The lake, which has always influenced its existence, was first mentioned in 1272, in a donation letter by King Stephen V. The side of the lake was probably inhabited much earlier as several archaeological relics from earlier centuries were explored around the marsh. Stone axes, battle equipment, different articles for personal use, jewels, and funerary urns prove that people inhabited the area of the village or its close vicinity in the centuries and millennia preceding the settlement of the Hungarian tribes. They earned their living from fishing, hunting and gathering berries on the marshland, and they built their houses, and prepared hedges from the wood provided by the primeval forest of the region to protect themselves and their domesticated animals from beasts of prey.

A charter on the field review in Beregszászvégardó in 1374 mentioned the village of Gát (Gaath) as a village neighbouring and bordering on (Makkos)Jánosi. Its name came from the word of “gát” (dam), and in the old days roads leading across marshlands were also called gát. The village – probably – from the middle of the Arpadian age belonged to the castle of Munkachevo, and its domain. Its fate was entwined with that of the domain for many centuries until the middle of the 1940-ies. The water of the Szernye river, which drained the marsh, and fishing on it always played an important role in the subsistence of the people living in the village. The marsh gave shelter to the people of the village in times of war.

In the XVI century, the village suffered a lot from the troops of the enemy marching across it, and according to a census taken in the year of 1552, it was fully devastated. The village soon recovered, and their inhabitants were converted to the Protestant religion. At this time, the congregation already had their own priest. They could exercise their religion freely from 1681, and in 1750, they received a permission from the royal council of governor-general in Pest to build a wooden church. In 1828, this was replaced by a church made of stone, which was consecrated six years later. The registry of the Protestant congregation started in 1779. In 1796, the village already had its own teacher, and its authority had a spacious village school built in 1874.

The land around Gát is mostly of poor quality with lots of pasture and grassland. It could not provide sufficient earnings for the people of the village in the 1920-ies and 1930-ies. The landless peasants, and those with little land worked as day-labourers on the hills planted with vineyards in Beregszász, or the neighbouring fields and detached farms. In the meantime, pursuant to the Peace Treaty of Trianon in 1920, Gát – together with Sub-Carpathia – was attached to Chechoslovakia. The new empire – in order to ethnically disrupt the purely Hungarian population – settled thirteen Ruthenian families, who were made rich peasants by land donations, state house buildings, and long term loans. The local Hungarians tried to live an active cultural life in order to preserve their mother tongue, to foster their national identity and traditions. A drama group, a library, and a voluntary fire society were established, and even the last one had its share from public education.

With a decision taken in Vienna on November 2, 1938, this settlement was re-united with Hungary together with the Southern belt of Sub-Carpathia populated purely by Hungarians along the Tisza. During the following years, the demand for schooling increased in the village, and the young local people commuted to learn in civil or commercial schools, and grammar-schools in Munkachevo and Beregszász. The Hungarian state – in spite of the difficulties of the war – had neat ONCSA-houses built among others in this village for poverty-stricken families.

The village was taken by the Soviet army in October 1944, and in November in the framework of deporting the Hungarians from Sub-Carpathia, men were dragged away from Gát as well, out of whom fifty-three died amidst inhuman conditions in the gulag. Greek Catholic Ruthenians were declared by an authority measure to be Ukrainians in this village – just as much as all over Sub-Carpathia – and thus they did not fall victims to retali-ation. And even the new leaders of the village came from them. The authorities started to re-organise public administration, and to wind up the institutions of the Hungarians. They made the Ukrainian-Ruthenian, and the Russian languages official, and finished full nationalisation, and the organisation of collective farms by 1949. Classes with Russian and Ukrainian languages were started at the local Hungarian schools. The opening of the secondary school with Hungarian language was only permitted twenty years later.

Over the last decade, there have been more funerals than christenings in Gát – just like in all other villages of the Hungarians in Sub-Carpathia. 45 people died in the village in 1983 (fifteen per mil), and the fewest number of people – 24 – died in 1987 (eight per mil). The mortality line of the eight years of this decade apart from the above two years, 1982: 28, 1984: 27, 1985: 31, 1986: 32, 1988: 25 people. One of the reasons of the decrease in the number of the population was a reduction in the number of marriages. But more than the above, the catastrophic economic situation, and the decade-long and drastic decline in the standard of living mostly contributed to the unfavourable demographic processes. And mostly the fact that a major part of the population of the village became unemployed from the middle of the 1990-ies, for which situation the privatisation of land presently underway will only provide a partial solution.

The proportion of the unemployed is rather high. Presently, out of the one thousand and nine hundred active inhabitants of the village only four hundred (21 percent!) have permanent jobs. This applies also for other plain areas inhabited by Hungarians, and according to estimations, it amounts to more than ten times the Ukrainian statistical data, it reaches seventy-eighty percent.

In our days, the population of Gát – together with the descendants of the Ruthenians settled in the course of over the last one century – may be considered as mixed. The people of this nationality, due to their belonging to the majority nation, and their mostly leading role in the life of the settlement could always influence the life of the village more than proportionately with their numbers. The population of the village was 3012 persons (95 percent Hungarian) in 1999, and the number of the descendants of the Ruthenians (Ukrainians) settled in the 1920-ies, and also those who moved into the village since then encouraged by the authorities has amounted by now to one hundred and fifty.

The most significant son of Gát was Vilmos Kovács (1927–1977), poet and writer, whose novel Holnap is élünk (We will also live tomorrow) is a valuable treasure of both the Sub-Carpathian and the Hugnarian literature. This performance three and a half decade ago could not be surpassed ever since by the authors of those regions, and no work comparable with the quality of the novel has been born since Communism fell. After a lot of inhibitions by the party organisations and the authorities, his book published in 1965, and then soon banned, was the most authentic description of the fate of the Hungarians in Sub-Carpathia after 1944. After the end of the 1960-ies, Vilmos Kovács had a dominating role in educating, and supporting the young generation of writers who acted in the framework of the Forrás Studio, and he also influenced the struggle of the civil right movements of the Hungarians living in Sub-Carpathia.

Gizella Cipola was also born in Gát (1945). She was the private singer of the State Opera House of Kiev, and the winner of the international Glinka award. At one of the Giacomo Puccini international snging competitions organised traditionally in Japan, she won the title of Madame Butterfly. She performed in many countries of the world, and has won several awards.

Over the last one decade, the history of the village was that of continuous trials, devastation and re-starts. This is also true today, when it is once again hope fostering recovery, spiritual and mental resurrection.


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