Derenk Ghost Town - Hungary
The village of Derenk has a very interesting history based partly on the political upheavals of Europe and partly on the lack of regard that landowners had for their tenants. Originally founded in medieval times and named after the dogwood trees that grew in the area, the village population was reduced drastically by the occupation of the Ottoman Turks who slaughtered hundreds of villagers and deported many more. The village was totally wiped out in the plague of 1711 which hit the whole country hard. A census in 1715 shows no inhabitants of the village at all.
At that time the village could have remained a ghost town for eternity but fate deemed that it should have a revival and it was subsequently repopulated by immigrant Poles. After settling here they faced further upheaval when, due to its position, the inhabitants were asked whether they wanted the village to remain in Hungary or become part of the new Czech Republic after the fall of the Austro Hungarian Empire. The village voted to remain Hungarian but lost some inhabitants who preferred the rule of the Czechs.
Then in 1935 an important politician, Miklós Horthy took over an estate near the village. He loved hunting and entertaining his guests with hunting expeditions. The village of Derenk was a thorn in his side as it cut down nearby forests which were rich in game to obtain wood for the charcoal making industry the villagers relied on for income. If he could relocate the population then he would have a large swathe of land on which to hunt uninterrupted. Several years of attempts to pay the villagers to leave followed without much success. Then in 1943 he grew weary of waiting and paid the local police and soldiers to demolish the town and forcibly remove the inhabitants. They and all their belongings were transported to the local railway station where they were loaded onto trains and taken to two other villages in Hungary. The homes they left behind were demolished. Now only one building remains intact whilst others lay in ruins. Now cleared of human interference he instigated what he called a ‘wildlife park’ for the entertainment of his guests.
Following the Second World War Horthy, who had been imprisoned by the Germans, was freed and lived in Bavaria. It is thought he felt guilt at the plight of his country under the Russians and so emigrated to Portugal as Ambassador where he died in 1957 asking that his body not be returned to his country until the Russians had left.
Every year now in mid July, descendents of those residents forcibly evicted from their villages meet on the site of the former village to remember the past. Although the village may have disappeared, a legacy remains in the local language which is a dialect version of southern Polish, a legacy the governments of Poland and Hungary want to preserve.