Crossing borders from Hungary to Ireland: the cross-cultural adaptation of Hungarian refugees from the 1940s and their compatriots from the 1956 Hungarian Revolution
Pálmai Bánki, Katalin (2009) Crossing borders from Hungary to Ireland: the cross-cultural adaptation of Hungarian refugees from the 1940s and their compatriots from the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.
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Hungary was compelled to release great emigration waves several times during the course of its history. In 1956, shortly after the Post-War polarisation and the Hungarian uprising, the Irish government granted asylum to 541 Hungarian refugees. The arrival of the Hungarians marked Ireland’s first participation in the UN refugee program and consequently had a series of outcomes which were unplanned as the Irish government struggled to find a long-term solution to the situation in the Knocknalisheen refugee camp where the Hungarians were first housed. This study gives voice to the experiences of these twenty former Hungarian refugees who came to Ireland over 50 years ago and remained in Ireland when the majority eventually relocated to Canada once they experienced the reality of economic conditions in Ireland. Set in a qualitative framework, this research explores the cross-cultural adaptation of members of the Hungarian community in Ireland: what it meant fifty years ago to adapt to a new culture, and to preserve national identity in a political situation, when there was no way back home. Data was collected through twenty interviews, archive documents and newspapers and a Grounded Theory approach was applied for the interviews and content analysis for the documents.
This study contributes to existing research in the field of cross-cultural adaptation, by making visible the experiences of a group of Hungarian refugees, and extending our understanding of the challenges they faced at that time. It provides insights into the socio-political consequences of the arrival of the Hungarian refugees in 1956 into an impoverished and deeply conservative Ireland from both host society and newcomer perspectives. These had implications for employment prospects for the refugees and also raised gender issues for the refugees in their new society. Finally, this study also provides insights on identity change in the cross-cultural adaptation process, as well as identifying strategies for preservation of one’s original culture while adapting to a new cultural environment and the loss of the heritage language from first to second generation.
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