City built on coal
Komló was built on seven hills, a bit similarly to Ózd, not to mention Rome. It is rumoured that this origin story is true to every settlement that has seven hills in the surroundings. Its name was first mentioned in a charter from 1256 as Villa Complov. Later during the Ottoman occupation, it was almost abandoned. After a long silence, life returned here in the 18th century, owing to German settlers. The first drift way was opened on Hárstető that the Glanczer and the Adolf followed. Businessman Adolf Engel from Pécs played a key role in the developments afterwards. The successful entrepreneur gave employment not only to people from Pécs. He bought a land near Somostető and started exploiting at the Adolf shaft. Two other shafts were opened and by the end of the 19th century, he already employed 250-300 people.
That is miners’ life
Finally, the mine of Komló was purchased by the Hungarian Treasury in 1909 and it remained state-owned also after the Second World War, when the mines in the area of Pécs were dispossessed by the Soviet Union and the Hungarian-Soviet Naval Co. was established in order to manage them. Why is it interesting? You can read about it in György Moldova’s sociography with the title “Tiszteletet Komlónak!” (Respect to Komló): ‘If there was a strike in Pécs, we worked. The lords told us, what they fight out for themselves we are going to give you without a strike. Thus, the strike of Pécs drowned of course. Opposites remained for a long time. The privileged situation of Komló lasted until 1963, as well as the saying:
“Miners are unpayable anyway, so they do not even try to pay them.”
When the headquarters of the trust, known as Mecsek Coalmines Company, was moved to Pécs, the fate of Komló was sealed. Although they tried emphasizing on different meetings that the merger is only a formality. The newspaper of Komló also echoed the pretty slogan: “Let offices go, the coal stayed here!” Earlier developments diminished and modern equipment was moved to Pécs. The town became a sub-office, the hotels and restaurants that were so busy previously were closed one after the other. The trust did not even pay for the collateral construction work – canalisation, road network – made for Gagarin’s visit. We must mention that coal was getting in the background gradually in the sixties. One of the largest business partners of the mine, the MÁV (Hungarian State Railways) started replacing its diesel locomotives with electric ones. But how was the city built up?
Button and coat – a city is being built
The city had to be built in parallel with the development of the mine. Of course its rural characteristic remained for a while, because the agriculture and farming belonged to the image of the settlement as well as the prospering mines did. As Zoltán Vas said (who directed the coalmine of Komló until 1954) ‘Developing Komló into a city was messed up from the beginning; the new blocks were glued to the old village, but the whole old village should have been moved a kilometre further, where smoke and soot did not reach.’ As all accommodations were needed, they kept the village houses as well, and the new blocks of flats were clogged together on the mountain. The railway was also adapted to the geographical conditions and halves the city as the Danube does in Budapest. The industrial establishments like the Coal-sorter or the Power Plant are situated in the centre. Their smoke and dust were blown to the upper blocks of flats like the “kökönyösi”. These blocks became the most densely populated areas of Komló. Moldova wrote about their style, that there was not much to say about them. ‘Those who are interested in them do not have to travel to Komló; it’s enough to look at the blocks built in the same year in Pest, Dunaújváros or Bukarest.’ However, there is something impressive in the town. Of course, not the modern squares, like the former Lenin Square, where Vladimir Ilyich’s statue stood until the change of regime; it stands now on an industrial site of Mecsekjános allegedly.
Living in Komló has always been special; tens of thousands’ city that was built from scratch attracted people as gold does. The life of miners is hard: silicosis and permanent danger had their effects. Just as uneconomic exploitation and the inability to do something against cheap foreign coal in the eighties. The last wagon of coal was brought up on 31stJanuary in 2000, and this was the end of deep working mining. Many people have been waiting for the resurgence since then.
Translated by Zita Aknai
Moldova György, Tisztelet Komlónak!, Magvető, Budapest, 1971