When the Hungarians of the world remembered the millennium of the Hungarian state last year, the Hungarians of Croatia, that is of the Drava region and Slavonia also joined the celebration. The members of this ethnic group, the eternal survivors, preserved their settlements, name, faith, customs and mother tongue for a thousand years. Several of their villages – Vörösmart, Hercegszöllős, Laskó – were the spiritual and cultural workshop that had a central place on the pages of our cultural, literary and church history, even if only for a short time.
The church of Laskó was standing on the hill like a giant with open arms. This church hill is probably the most famous historic place of the Dráva region. Even the Romans had their fortress here, and later, the foundation stones of the first church of the region were laid here. In 1475, a luxurious Gothic church was built in the centre of Laskó. The well-being of the borough, its fishing of sturgeon, and trading on the Danube largely contributed to its leading role. The Franciscans preserved their miraculous sculpture of Mary until the XVII century.
It is not accidental that Southern Reformation started here. Mihály Sztárai, the greatest figure of the Hungarian reformation advocated his new tenets here. The citizens of the borough did not only support the preacher spiritually, but they also helped him financially. His psalms adapted in Hungarian, could be first heard on the church hill, and the first school dramas were heard in Hungarian here. The settlement that is shrunk to the size of a village today, was the cradle of many famous people educated in Laskó. These people would deserve a separate chapter in the Hungarian cultural history.
Demeter Laskai could be a person educated by the local Franciscan monastery. His codex was found a few years ago in the Franciscan monastery of Sibenik on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. After an ancient Hungarian verse dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the second oldest Hungarian linguistic record, a five- line verse can be found in it handwritten by him. Osvár Laskai was also born in Laskó. He was an outstanding personality of the Franciscan Order. He published his collection of preaches, which gained a European fame at his time. János Laskai was also the son of this settlement, born in the middle of the XVI century. Literary history considers him as the great translator of Esop. Péter Laskai Csókás is the formulator of the Hungarian word items of the Calepinus dictionary containing ten languages. In addition to them, several excellent figures of the Hungarian literature, history of arts and churches stayed in the settlement for shorter or longer periods of time as a preacher or a school-master.
After the XVII century, as the water of the Danube moved further away from the settlement, the economic and cultural significance of Laskó was also ebbing. Its intellectual glistening was slowly fading away, and it flared up again with the appearance of the Ács family in Laskó in the XIX century. László, the father, wrote the chronicle of the village. Gedeon, the elder son became the priest in the military camp of Kossuth, where he took part in their hiding, and left a diary of more than five thousand pages, which is considered to be an unparalleled historical document. Zsigmond, his younger brother was a teacher, who worked together with János Arany, who was an outstanding translator of literary works in his age. He was the Hungarian translator of Shakespeare.
The population of Laskó keeps gradually diminishing, just like the Dráva region. The last time its population dropped significantly was after the attacks by the Serbs in 1991. From the Hungarians living over the border, those in Croatia, comprising also the Hungarians of Laskó, are the most endangered. Its survival mainly depends on the leaders of the country in which it lives. This, however, requires that the Hungarians, who bled out in the constant fights up till recently, have to face their destiny. They have to understand that their diminishment is ceaseless, a process of ageing is going on, and many of the young people become unfaithful to their mother-tongue, customs, school and church.
Now there is a possibility in Croatia for the Hungarians to control their lives. If they do not stand up together to their one thousand year foundation as the population of a borough with twenty-twenty-five thousand Hungarians living in the country, so that they can build on it, and so that they can agree with each other, and if they do not try to find a compromise for the problems that emerge, they will not have a future as Hungarians any more. Being conscious of the remaining future value of their lives, they may enter through the symbolic gate leading to the next millennium together with the rest of the nation, which means that they may go towards further existence, the acceptance of life, and the agreement between each other. This possibility shall not be lost.