The Regional Hungarian Peasant House Museum in Temerin was declared open on July 20, 2003. In accordance with our plans and expectations, the house and its surrounds has been intended to present the remains of Hungarian folk architecture on the one hand, and the traditional peasant way of life, family living space and husbandry on the other. It also serves as venue for smaller community gatherings, traditional and traditionalist programmes, occasional exhibitions, but if the wish arises, even for smaller family gatherings and other social occasions.
The house together with the front and back yards and the vegetable garden behind were given to the Temerin Camp of Creativity and Fine Arts (TAKT) by the local authorities then consisting of a Hungarian majority. Before that – from the autumn of 1927 onwards – it was the home of Mátyás Matuska for more than half a century, who at first lived there together with his large family and later, towards the end of his life, on his own. Even though he farmed on only about three hectares, his hard work soon resulted in leases of new pieces of land. During the heyday of his farming activities he held from about 17 to 22 hectares of land on lease, kept three or at times four or five horses, two carts, and raised cattle so that he could support his large family and bring up his children decently. His wife, Katalin “Sesztra” Kovács bore him thirteen children altogether, nine of which lived to see adult age (six girls and three boys). Because of the numerous children and since the boys had been born last, the head of the family also had to employ a farm hand periodically. The entire family practiced their Roman Catholic religion devoutly, strictly observed the fasts and the festivals, never worked on Sundays and did not even harness the horses. After Uncle Matyi’s demise (1979) the house stood uninhabited until 1984. It was then that János Sziveri (1954-1990) accepted the inheritors’ noble offer and moved there with his wife after having been ousted even from Novi Sad by several leaders of the Vojvodinian communist literary regime as part of their picking a bone with the entire editorial board of the “Új Symposion” literary magazine in 1983. Owing to this episode, the house has by now also become a literary cult shrine. This is being shown by a memorial plaque (made by Ferenc Matuska and Ferenc Papp) placed on the house on the 40th anniversary of the deceased poet’s birthday by the now defunct Democratic Community of Hungarians of Vojvodina. After the Sziveri family moved to Subotica and then to a temporary accomodation in the Kelenföld quarter of Budapest, new lodgers came to the house, or people who could use it free of charge in exchange for some maintenance, which, unfortunately, most often proved to be rather scanty and began to show after a certain time quite much on the house and the surrounding estate. We began to put everything back to repair and started with the reconstruction and refurnishing of the house with traditional period fitments in April 2003 as a large-scale joining of the forces of the local Hungarian NGOs, cultural organisations and the members of the Democratic Party of Vojvodinian Hungarians.
According to unwritten tradition, the house had already been built at the beginning of the 1850s. It cannot be ruled out that its thick adobe walls date even further back in time, and survived the violent incineration of the settlement on August 29, 1848. It is certain that the house had already been marked on building plot number 2087 of the 1892 cadastral map. At that time the yard was much larger than today, one part of its southern side bordered Lajos Kossuth Street, but a little garden was carved out of it with a house on it that was smaller than the present one.
After passing through the postern door, one reaches the porch covered with colour-patterned cement tiles. The porch was originally covered with bricks – the portion towards the back yard still shows remnants of this – and it was supposedly renovated at the same time with the kitchen. It is mantled in leafy grapevines of a rich yield on the southern side, its wall is decorated with ropes of garlic and further to the back hackles are displayed to remind us of the once so important role of domestic flax dressing. The wooden washing machine, a science history curio of its own kind, has also been placed on the porch. Further to the back there are conveniences used for making trappings, a carving stool and other objects used in former peasant life.
Another point of interest of the porch is that there is a hole of about half a brick in diameter in the ceiling near the kitchen door. It was made so that the grain stored in the attic could be lowered into sacks from above through a linen hose placed into the hole, and thus the tiresome work of carrying sackfuls of the grain on one’s back could be avoided. Further to the back, in the direction of the larder one can notice a medium-size chandelier hanging from the ceiling: up to 1929, when electricity was introduced, people used such chandeliers and, of course, oil lamps for lighting.
The first door opening from the porch leads into the kitchen that once used to have an open fire, but which was altered even before 1927, the wall separating the room into two halves was removed and the traditional heating appliances were modernised.
At the beginning of the XX century two earthenware stoves were stoked in the kitchen, but today only that in the backhouse is still in use.
The front house or “clean room”, the anteroom counted in Temerin also as the most representative, most beautifully furnished room of the house. Those who could afford it, because they were well-off or because their children had already flown the nest, did not stay in it at all, only kept it for guests or the mother stayed in it with the new-born baby in the weeks or months after giving birth to a child. The Temerin clean room presents the state of the first third of the XX century with its well-preserved furniture that praises the artistic and professional skills of the local long-ago carpenters.
The room is parallelly divided, this could be said as already being the general trend at the beginning of the XX century. The room that has a tamped ground floor and has been painted was covered in pinewood floorboards in 1934, and is decorated with home-woven embroidered rugs.
The chalk inscription 20 + G + M + B + 04 on the doorpost of the back house is a reminder of the year of consecrating the house and of the Three Wise Men with the initials of their names [in Hungarian].
The tamped ground of the floor has been painted with a mixed pulp of cattle dung and ochre clay, which occasionally also contained a bit of black wallpaint. Its furniture reflects the state as it was at the turn of the century with a chest decoreted with painted tulips made around 1850, with a painted bench dating back to the same year which could also be used as a bed if it was drawn open, a weaving loom dating from 1896, according to the carving on it, as well as with a picture above the half-made bed depicting the martyrs of Arad. Next to this picture there is also a tastefully framed military memorial certificate in colour published in the days of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy the like of which could still be seen even a couple of decades ago on the walls of our great-grandfathers.
The everyday life of the families was mainly spent in the back house, this was where the women used to weave, and the weaving loom and the other weaving accessories placed in here signify this. The room used to be heated by a rick-shaped earthenware stove in the corner by the door, while the chimney corner seat next to it was primarily reserved for the elderly – this was where they used to cut the leaf-tobacco with the tobacco-cutter.
Underneath a pair of wooden clogs serves as a reminder of the times when old and young in the village used to go about in them during the winter days. The children used to bind their time in and around the chimney corner behind the earthenware stove. We have placed the most common children’s toys on the bench by the wall.
In the cupboard hanging on the wall one can find books, religious pulp editions, a pair of spectacles, a cigarette case, and other smaller accessories. The razor set was kept on the crossbeam away from the reach of children, together with the home-made soap and some leaf-tobacco.
The crest of the earthenware stove was used for making curd in earthen vessels, while on its neck one can find a leaven-drier plaited of grass. The housewives used this to dry the home-made yeast made of various ingredients (wine dregs, hop juice, cobmeal, etc.) – depending on the family customs and possibilities - necessary for leavening the dough for the bread. In the corner diagonally opposite the stove is the table, above it on the wall hangs a picture of St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary, while on the windowsill next to the table the so-called Prague Jesus smiles back to the observer from under a glass bell, dressed in pink and wearing a crown.
This object of pietry got here possibly from one of the more distant places of pilgrimage, which is also affirmed by its German inscription: Heiligstes Prager Jezuskind.
An inseparable part of the living quarters is the larder, opening from the porch through an old, encrusted door. The inside of the room was partitioned into two parts with a lath division wall in the 1940s and thus a special space was created for storing the food, especially the preserved meats: smoked sausages, bacon, ham, and brawn. In this way the larder door could be left open for a longer time, which ensured the constant air circulation and draught that was important for the preservation of the food while at the same time there was no danger from dogs or cats finding their way into it. The larder also holds the equipment needed for the pig-killing and meat processing together with the most important implements of soap cooking, honey extracting and making artificial honeycomb. Next to and under the big ladder leading up to the attic one can see vine-growing, viticultural and water-carrying objects. The partitioned part of the larder also holds large tins, pots and oil-cans together with a tomato press-sieve and a cabbage-shredder, among other things. We have also temporarily placed here two old refrigerators made of wood and tin, which although did not belong to the peasant household, are still important remains of our town from an industrial point of view and thus it would be a pity if we let them be lost. Also, this is the room which holds the measure of capacity of olden days, the wooden tub able to hold one bushel, dating from 1854, according to the carving on it.
As one passes along the porch further on, one arrives through the wicket-gate of the picket fence at the stable opening to the back yard. The division of the surrounding estate of peasant houses into front and back (farming) yards is a XX-century development. Long after Mátyás Matuska purchased the house from the Balla family in 1927, the yard formed a single unit, except for the little garden in front of the porch, which was fenced off from the animals and of course the vegetable garden and vineyard on the other end of the yard.
The concrete manger left of the entrance to the stable is relatively new, it was made in the 1930s for the cattle. Opposite, in the other end of the stable there is a traditional wooden manger for the horses, above it a hack for holding hay. Next to the dunghill there is a handbarrow, while on the walls and all around inside the stable one can find various tools and implements used for raising cloven-hoofed animals. Left of the door is the plank-bed hanging on the wall, the farm hand used to sleep on this.
One can see the most important implements of broom-making in front of the stable, as one passes into the coach house, in which we have placed the cart, the harnesses, yokes, the sugarbeet-grinder, hemp-breaker, the corn-sheller and corn-grinder. There is another smaller cart here that was frequently used for transporting such goods as wood or wine along the mountain roads of the nearby Srem region. Not far from the stable door, by the fence is the stone drinking-trough with one end in the front yard from where it used to be filled up with water. The fence prevented the horses let loose for the watering from getting into the flower garden and the cattle from nibbling at the vine arbour. Due to the custom of cascade building, the barn and the pigsty were joined the coach house in such a way that the latter was covered with a lean-to roof and shelled with small tiles, which abounds with houseleeks (Sempervivum tectorum), a popular domestic medicinal herb used for various illnesses and inflammations of the auditory duct.
The most important object of the front yard is the outdoor earthenware oven, which in its outward appearance looks the most like a small church to the uninstructed observer. A leftover remnant of the once vineyard is a concrete tub used for soaking copper vitriol.
The larger agricultural machines and tools have been placed in the big shed built at the farthest end of the back yard. Apart from the ox-cart and the sleigh one can find here the double horse-plough, the cultivator, the handplough for sugarbeet, the seeding machine, the hay rake, the chopping machine and the harrow, among other things.
Right next to the big shed, but already in the garden are the Szigeti-type beehives, which counted as an important technical innovation in their own time.
Another shed can be found in the back yard that has been covered with thatch according to tradition. Before it there used to be a hay-shed in its place. In its present state it is used as venue for social gatherings, dancing parties, smaller events, performances and exhibitions.