Péter Juhász welcomes me to his college rooms at St John’s where he is currently stipendiary lecturer for physics and joint schools. His DPhil research focuses on using ultra-cold atomics gases -the ‘coldest substance known to man; colder than outer space’ - to study many-body quantum phenomena, specifically magnetic interactions. It is heady stuff, but I am here to talk about Péter’s tireless work for the OxCam Hungary group and significantly his charity work. He was recently appointed to the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Malta as a ‘Donat of Devotion’ in recognition of his volunteering in both Oxford and Cambridge.
During his first undergraduate degree at Trinity College, Cambridge he set up a care home visiting scheme and collected and distributed clothes for the homeless around Christmas. That commitment to the homeless continues. Currently, he helps to run a Saturday soup kitchen at St Giles’s parish hall with dedicated support from the University’s student community. ‘We help 40/50 people a week,’ he explains.
Despite the title, the Knights of Malta are in fact a worldwide organisation – active in 120 countries and with strong links in both Budapest and Oxford. The Order originated in Jerusalem in the 11th century when the Hospitaller Knights offered hospitality and care to the early pilgrims alongside a military function to protect the Holy Land. Today the charism focuses solely on medical, social, and humanitarian work – where the need is most urgent. OxCam Hungary’s annual dinner in March 2022, raised over £500 for the Knights’ Ukrainian appeal.
A determination to serve and to help others defines much of what Péter does. He is passionate about the need to maintain a strong Hungarian representation at both Oxford and Cambridge and his involvement with the alumni group reflects that commitment. Post-Brexit, many Hungarian students are unable to take up Oxbridge offers he says. Without substantial bursaries, the costs are simply too high.
Péter fears that many of the brightest and the best will opt for American colleges (with more generous funding) and that will inevitably affect the Oxbridge alumni cohort. At present, OxCam Hungary has a healthy membership of around 400 alums but a year-on-year decline in student numbers will take its toll. He encourages all alumni with a Hungarian connection to join the group and get involved.
OxCam Hungary works closely with other groups in Eastern Europe and Péter highlights a recent online talk arranged by OxCam Czech Republic with former First Lady of Ukraine, Kateryna Yushchenko. He says that this cross-collaboration is one of the positives to come out of the months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Groups needed to think creatively about how to reach members when in-person meetings were not permitted. Online events can reach across country borders and help connect alumni with a common purpose, bringing a new dimension to the way alumni groups operate and strengthening that vital connection with Oxford.