UNOSZ Symbol Exhibited in the Biggest Open-Air Museum in Hungary

By Melinda Simó, leader of the Udvarhely District Women’s Association

Wandering Tablecloth
A well-known symbol of UNOSZ, the Unitarian Women’s Association of Romania, is the “wandering tablecloth.” As the name indicates, the tablecloth “wanders” from one place to the next: from the site of the UNOSZ annual meeting and conference one year to the location of the following year’s event. The tablecloth is composed of embroidered triangles sewn together, made by and representing each local women’s association. Today, the tablecloth contains approximately 120 triangles. 

Recently, a copy of the wandering tablecloth has been painstakingly prepared for the Szentendre Skanzen, the biggest open-air museum in Hungary. 

Recognizing the tablecloth as an object of enduring community solidarity and diversity and therefore worthy of being exhibited, museum collaborators asked the leadership of UNOSZ to create an exact copy.  However, having the piece professionally replicated was beyond UNOSZ’s financial means. 

Wandering Tablecloth Creators
Irma Györke, first on the left Melinda Simó, first on the right

Then I had an idea. I asked Irma Györke, president of the sewing group of the women’s association of the Székelyudvarhely Unitarian Church, to think about ways that they could produce this copy. She embroiders and sews every day, passionately teaching and sharing her knowledge with all attending the sewing group. Irma enthusiastically embraced the idea, leading the group led by her to commit to sewing together the individual triangles sent by each local Unitarian women’s association. The group sewed together 99 triangles, which they bordered with lace. 

I must say I thought the copy of the tablecloth would never materialize, not with volunteer work. Sewing one of the triangle sides took 30-50 minutes; the lace had to be stitched around five times. Irma kept us going throughout the 3-month period: in addition to taking on the lion’s share of the work, she continuously encouraged us, inspired us, and motivated us to not give up. 

The missing triangles were either not replicated or arrived after the deadline; some did not fit into the given 50 cm size. However, when I look at the replica, I see the wonder; I see that knowledge creates miracles. Irma’s expertise was essential in honing our skills and capabilities; her enthusiasm created the wonder, the magical spell “it will be done” in our hearts. Without her, this project would not have been realized. 

Our gratitude goes to all who have been involved, from the small sewing group who did the actual work to supporters of the project, namely Ildikó László, Klára Katalin Gergely, Edit Deák, Magdolna Benedek, Dimény Csilla Júlia, and Szerénke Fülöp. They supported and fed our dreams, encouraging us every step of the way. 

Wandering Tablecloth in Church
The wandering, “wonder-creating” tablecloth has left the church of Székelyudvarhely and is preparing to take its place in the open-air museum of Szentendre. We can all say, paraphrasing well-known Hungarian poet Mihály Vörösmarty, "Thank you, life, for thy blessings - this has been great joy, yea, the Work of Women!"