December 25, 2023 16:53 Dr. Yen Platz
In 2016, Hungary's Minister of Human Resources, Mr. Balog Zoltán, emphasized that the responsibility for university lecturers' work extends beyond individuals or institutions, calling for a collective responsibility within Hungary. In 2023, Prof. Dr. Bui Minh Phong from Vietnam, a lecturer at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), received the Knight's Cross from the Hungarian State in recognition of his notable contributions to the nation.

Prof. Bui Minh Phong and the Knight's Cross (Photo: provided by character)

WAJ: After 37 years of teaching and research at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Hungary, the Hungarian State has awarded you the renowned Knight's Cross for your accomplishments in teaching, mathematical research, scientific cooperation, and education. How do you feel upon receiving this honor?

Prof. Bui Minh Phong: I am a scientist with a strong connection to my profession in Hungary. The medal bestowed upon me by the Hungarian state this time is a true encouragement and an evaluation of my work over the last 37 years. My life and work have been built step-by-step to achieve this medal. I enrolled at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in 1986 and successfully defended my doctoral thesis. I did internships and wrote my thesis in a year and a half at the time. The Council advised me to continue after the defence, but due to procedures, I returned to Vietnam to do it. I officially returned to the institution in 1986, and in 1992, I was promoted to Associate Professor. I was appointed a full professor in 2015. I am currently retired and retain the university's honorary title of Emeritus Professor."

I was overjoyed to receive the medal since it marks my dedication to Hungary in teaching, scientific research, and contributing to the development of relations between our two nations. As a Vietnamese person in Hungary, I am especially pleased to receive this honour, which helps to enhance the standing of Vietnamese people around the world. The Hungarian government has recognised and supported my work.

My joy was heightened at the start of this academic year, the 389th year of the institution, during the inaugural ceremony, when the university rector bestowed the title of Emeritus Professor on me. This honour is bestowed upon retired professors who have made outstanding contributions to the university. They keep their office, vote, and continue to contribute to the university as active professors. It acts as motivation for me to continue my study, teaching, and service to your country.


Prof. Bui Minh Phong was receiving the Knight's Cross (Budapest, August 19, 2023). Photo (provided by character)

WAJ: What has been your role as a professor in connecting scientific research, academia, education, and the community between Vietnam and Hungary throughout the past period?

Prof. Bui Minh Phong: I've always believed that whatever contribution I can make to the country, no matter how tiny, is something to be proud of. Throughout my career, I have established links between Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) and Hue University, promoted the interchange of professorial delegations from Hungary to engage with institutions and universities in Vietnam, and welcomed Vietnamese researchers to collaborate with us. I've also served as a liaison between Eger University and the University of Sports in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as several other institutions. Furthermore, I have taken steps to invite Vietnamese students to Hungary to study. For example, I arranged for a class from the Military Academy to send over ten students here for advanced security training. In addition, I have co-authored a number of scholarly studies that bridge both viewpoints. I believe that even these minor efforts have helped to deepen the relationship between the two countries and their academic institutions, create cooperation, and improve relationships between all parties involved."

I am a scientist who has lived in Hungary for a long time, therefore I am acutely aware of community issues. Since the formation of the Vietnamese Association in Hungary in 1995 (later renamed the Vietnamese Association in Hungary), I have been the Secretary-General. This organisation represents Hungary's Vietnamese population and has made numerous contributions to our community.

In the beginning, market owners arbitrarily raised rental fees for Vietnamese firms. The community would have faced many hardships if our organisation had not intervened. The organisation stepped in, negotiated with the market owners, and struck an agreement that saved our community money.

Furthermore, the association organises well-organized and well-attended programmes such as the Mid-Autumn Festival, National Day festivities, commemorations of President Ho Chi Minh's birthday, traditional Tet celebrations, and so on on a regular basis. Previously, the association operated on a small scale, but thanks to community financial and labour support, the association has grown dramatically. Many people, such as Mr. Vu Quy Duong, Chairman of the Vietnamese Association in Hungary, and business associations led by Mr. Thuy and Mr. Chu, have made significant contributions to the community, not only in terms of effort but also monetarily.

There are also various associations with their own activities, such as the Elderly Association, Women's Association, Student Association, Veterans' Association, Truong Sa Soldiers Club, Intellectuals' Association, Charity Association, and so on. Community service is not a chore for individuals but rather requires the combined strength of many. I notice that the leadership collectives of the association and other community groups are lively, making substantial contributions, and have received community acclaim."


Prof. Bui Minh Phong and the Rector of Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary (Photo: provided by character)

WAJ: As a Vietnamese-origin professor, how do you see Hungary, in particular, and Europe in general, have treated foreign intellectuals?

Not every country handles foreign scholars similarly. Since the Vietnam War, Hungary has stood behind the phrase 'We are in solidarity with Vietnam.' This shows that the Hungarian people have historically valued their feelings for Vietnam. More recently, during exchanges between the two nations' leaders, Hungarian politicians have expressed their appreciation for the Vietnamese community in Hungary, which, while small, includes many intellectuals and students. They recognise the Vietnamese community as Hungary's largest foreign-language-speaking community. This is due to the fact that many members of this group were either previous students or exchange interns.

I work in computer science at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE). Despite the fact that I am the only Vietnamese in my department, my colleagues have treated me fairly and respectfully. For example, on my 60th, 65th, and 70th birthdays, the university's Mathematics Journal dedicated special publications comprising papers written by scientists as honours to me. This reflects the deep regard and equality that my Hungarian colleagues have for me. It also helps to strengthen our contributions to the country and confirms Vietnam and Hungary's excellent connection.

WAJ: French President Emmanuel Macron has called for European and Russian intellectuals to collaborate in reducing the current political tensions. In your opinion, can intellectuals play a role in reconciling what politics hasn't been able to achieve?

This is an excellent yet difficult question. I am aware that the intellectual community in Europe as a whole, and particularly in Hungary or the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, wishes to address global tensions. Every field, discipline, and individual has contributed their own distinctive contribution. We fervently hope that global tensions will soon subside. We have contributed to scientific works and breakthroughs and have so expressed our views on topics that require settlement."


The scene of the Knight's Cross award ceremony in Hungary. Photo (provided by character)

WAJ: Many experts are concerned about the current global scenario, which includes economic, political, social, and environmental complexity, hinting at the possibility of a third world war. What, in your opinion, should society do to avoid such a conflict?

Prof. Bui Minh Phong: These are pressing challenges in our time. Climate change has had an immediate influence on life, agriculture, and all aspects of civilization. For example, if the Arctic ice cap melts quickly, it will result in a rapid rise in sea levels, resulting in the loss of enormous geographical regions. I believe that fixing this issue will involve the cooperation of countries all over the world, not just one. Scientists, in particular, must bear responsibility for devising strategies to ameliorate climate change and promote national initiatives. As scientists, we will have a voice and will advocate for global organisations to take prompt action on climate change and other urgent global challenges.


Prof. Bui Minh Phong's family. Photo (provided by character)

WAJ: What do you think about the second-generation Vietnamese living abroad?

Prof. Bui Minh Phong: We are individuals who have been or are now living abroad and aspire to make a meaningful contribution to our nation. Our generation believes that we have made sacrifices to support the next generation. Many of us are highly skilled individuals who have had to forego our jobs and engage in economic activities in order to support and offer the greatest conditions for the growth of the next generation. It is quite encouraging that second-generation Vietnamese in the United States are now receiving a thorough education. After graduation, they either work for local government agencies, global firms, or return to Vietnam to work. Many of them obtain strong academic credentials, as requested by their parents and families. This is a huge step forward for the Vietnamese population around the world.

Thank you so much! We wish you and your family the best of health and happiness, as well as continuous dedication to connecting Hungary's mathematics and science with Vietnam and the international community.

Budapest, 3/10/2023

Photos at the event:


Representatives from the leadership of the Vietnamese Embassy in Hungary were sharing joy with Prof. Bui Minh Phong and his spouse. Photo (provided by character)


Prof. Bui Minh Phong was receiving the title of Professor, Hungary (2016). Photo (provided by character)


Prof. Bui Minh Phong and Mrs. Eszter Vitályos, State Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Innovation in Hungary. Photo (provided by character)


Prof. Bui Minh Phong and his spouse at the Professorship Conferment Ceremony (2016). Photo (provided by character)

Writer To Hoai is famous for his book De Men Adventure Ky (1941) written for children. Currently, "Crickets" have traveled all over the world. The story has been translated into many languages and published in many countries around the world. He is likened to the Andersen of Vietnam.


At first glance, she doesn't stand out when standing next to her Asian girls, I become more and more in the middle European women. Yet, people like look at you, especially like to peek, every time you say, or every time she laughs. Asian-style face Dong, round black eyes that can talk, the corner of his mouth when also fresh. Long, silky black hair, clear voice, Standard and flexible pronunciation even when I speak the language German and Vietnamese.