history of Irota

Most likely, the village was founded around 1450 by a Slavic-speaking community which identified themselves as Ruthenians or Rusyns. Until the end of the nineteenth century the language of education remained Ruthenian, and although the present population no longer masters the language – apart from a few Christmas carols – they still preserve their original ethnicity. A number of village council members devote their time to specific Ruthenian interests, which mostly find their expression in joint excursions or celebrations. The names of many villagers betray their Slavic descent: visitors of the local cemetery will notice many names on the tombstones ending in ‘-kó’ or ‘-szki’.

Closely intertwined with this ethnic background is the Greek-Catholic religion, which, roughly speaking, applies the rites of the Christian-Orthodox Church while pledging allegiance to the Pope of Rome. Unlike their Roman-Catholic colleagues, clerics are allowed to wed and start families. Approximately half of the villagers goes to church every week. Mass is celebrated every Sunday in the church on the hill, while during the week more modest celebrations take place in the chapel on the main street.

Irota has not always been as small as it is today. Village doyen Gyula Stuhán still remembers the times when Irota boasted 450 inhabitants. This number has since then sunk to 70, but it has to be taken into account that during summer things get livelier when children visit their grandparents and families come to spend their holidays in the cottage they inherited from their parents or grandparents.

Most villagers, provided they have not yet retired, work in agriculture and forestry. The village school and the small shop have long ago ceased to exist: children now need to go to primary school in nearby Lak and then to secondary school in more distant Edelény.

Retail services have been taken over by mobile shops such as a baker, a pastry shop, a greengrocer, the postal service and the butane gas bottle delivery. Moreover, the villagers are largely self-sustaining. Home slaughtering, honey making, fruit and crop growing as well as hen keeping are still part of their daily routine.

The traditional – and isolated – village character originates in the fact that it is a cul-de-sac, or ‘zsákfalu’ in Hungarian, and therefore lacks through traffic.

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