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Szatmárcseke is a settlement with 1640 inhabitants, lying on the left bank of the Tisza, 18 km-s from Fehérgyarmat and 88 km-s from Nyíregyháza, on the Ukrainian border. Its downtown area is 240 hectares with fields of 3420 hectares . The village is situated 110- 115 meters above the sea level on the slight South-East to North-West slope of the Szatmári-plain. It is surrounded by water from all sides, by the Tisza in the North and the West, the Túr canal in the East, a deep water drain canal and the small Túr in the South. The closeness of the Carpathians can be felt in precipitation, the amount of which reaches 750 millimetres . The climatic conditions are favourable for the less heat, but more water intensive field crops and horticulture. There are also excellent possibilities for meadow and pasture management, as well as animal husbandry.

Until the end of the XII century, the area of the village had been covered by a continuous oak-ash-elm forest, and rivers and waters were lined by willows, poplars and mixed gallery forests. When the name of the settlement appeared in a charter in 1181, his founder, Cseke, the forest-ranger was also mentioned. Its owner later became the Kölcsei family from the Szentemágócs dynasty, which continued to be the greatest and dominant owner of the settlement via two lines, the Kölcsey and the Kende families straight until 1945. Although Cseke (it only received the distinguishing Szatmár attribute in 1907) was acquired by Báthories and Perényies, the big landowners of the country as a pledge and through purchasing at the beginning of the XVI century, the original owners could regain possession of the ancient village. In the 1660-ies, already a great number of the patented nobility lived in the settlement, which lay relatively far away from the marching routes of the armies, and their number kept growing in the following centuries. These approximately ten-fifteen families were the big landowners of the village, and the descendants of the sixteen Roman Catholic families settled here from Upper Northern Hungary in 1795 were the so called household servants living on the large estates at the end of the XIX century, and the first half of the XX century.

The number of the inhabitants in the village made about three-hundred people at the end of the Middle Ages – based on a document recording some violent events in 1509. In 1660, 108 households were recorded (about 540 persons), but the number of the population decreased to a total of 1720, comprising twenty serf- and four cotter-families, after the Rákóczi freedom fight. In 1785, there were already 806 people living in Cseke, and its fields made 6368 cadastral yokes at the time. The population peaked at the very end of the XIX century (at 2003 people) and in 1960 (at 2165 people), which number then shrunk due to the immigration to America (about three-hundred people) and the world wars, let alone the economic migration within the country.

From the thirties of the XIX century, the name of Cseke became known after the death of Ferenc Kölcsey in 1838, the poet and politician, and also the country recorder. He moved to the village as a landowner in 1815, and although he did not wish to stay here to the end, due to his family situation (his brother, Ádám's death, and having to bring up his son, Kálmán), he stayed here forever, and died and was buried here in 1838. It was in the manor house of the poet of a classical education, and with a good knowledge of the works of contemporary European philologists and men of letters (Bayle, Fontenelle, Voltaire, Holbach, Goethe, Kant), but also of the contemporary Hungarian literature with his far renowned library where the national anthem of Hungary was born in January 22, 1823. Szatmárcseke became a place of pilgrimage thanks to this poet, who also took on the function of a member of Parliament, and who was comparable in political affairs to the greatest, like Miklós Wesselényi, István Széchenyi, Ferenc Deák and Lajos Kossuth. The “Holy Sepulchre” became the Mecca of all who at least once in their lives were touched by the feeling of patriotism.

The National Anthem – the final title of which is: From the Stormy Centuries of the Hungarian People – was set to music by Ferenc Erkel in 1844, which made it generally known. It was even translated to Hebrew in 1848. Its success was attributed to the fact that the triumphal procession of Hungarian history and universal suffering caused by the divine punishment for sins born in self-conceit keep answering back to each other in it. In its honour January 22, the date when it was written has been the day of Hungarian culture in the whole country since the political change in 1990. All those who believe in the lastingness and values of Hungarian culture gather in Szatmárcseke on the Sunday before the day when the National Anthem was created.

Ferenc Kölcsey built his manor house himself – as witnessed by several authentic reports -, and it was bought by the related Kende family in 1862. The slowly decaying home was pulled down in 1889. The house that was built in its place met a similar fate in 1960, when the walls of a new culture hall were erected in the same place. This today hosts the Ferenc Kölcsey Memorial House consisting of two rooms, which presents the poet and his age.

The graveyard of the Reformed, under monument protection since 1979 is a sight renowned throughout the country. The special, uniquely shaped tomb-signs are typical only of this settlement, not to be found anywhere else in the country. The wooden grave-posts said to be of a boat-shape, actually have a human shape, and personify the dead body placed in the grave. Since 1930, when ethnography “discovered” the graveyard of Cseke, - in lack of any written records - there have been several theories about their origin and date of origin, and some of them even thought of a connection with the boat-type burials of the Ob-Ugrians, who were linguistically related to the Hungarians.

The tomb of Ferenc Kölcsey can be also found in one corner of this graveyard. The first sepulchral monument – a column broken in two – marked the tomb of the poet between 1854 and 1938. On the centenary of his death, the ashes of Kölcsey, his brother and his brother's wife were exhumed, and placed them ceremonially under the tomb with circular columns that we can still see today.

The authors of this book give a detailed presentation of the history of the village from the Middle Ages until the 1970-ies on the basis of the available written sources, and provide the reader with family trees for the Szentemágócs dynasty in the XIV-XV centuries, and the Kölcsey family in the XVIII-XIX centuries. A separate chapter is devoted to the bloody events in 1919, when on the call of the president of the local Directory

a special red detachment of thirty-forty people made and armed attack against the barracks in Cseke, killing two gendarmes, and had the local river commissioner executed in Sátoraljaújhely because of his statements. The days of the 1956 revolution and the behaviour of the population are discussed in similar detail.

A separate chapter presents the religious life of the population converted to the Reformed faith in the middle of the XVI century, the history of education continuous since the middle of the XVIII century, and the architecture. The Catholic people settled here in 1795 built a church with the financial support of János Hám, the bishop of Szatmár in 1840, and their school has been operating since 1809.

The 1856 inventory of the legacy of the poet's sister-in-law, Mrs. Ádám Kölcsey, born as Jozefin Szuhányi is presented in the Annex of the book, which gives a picture about the life-style of the Hungarian nobility in the first half of the XIX century.

Szatmárcseke today hopes to have a future from tourism: it counts on those coming to visit the graveyard with its tomb-signs, the tomb of Ferenc Kölcsey, and those who come for the day of Hungarian culture, but it would like to host all those who like Hungarian folk cuisine. Therefore, an international cookery competition is organised in February each year, and also an international plum jam cooking contest in August when plums grow ripe with the participation of contesters from Szatmár, Bereg, and Sub-Carpathia – to be enjoyed together with a rich folklore programme by several thousands of tourists.


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