Legacy of a village

Béla Hernai, the teacher in Véménd was made photographer by the war. He lived in the village since 1905, and he probably had a camera even before in 1916 he was asked by the first local family to take a picture on them for the husband at the front. But the 700 glass negatives, which were brought from his attic to the Janus Pannonius Museum in Pécs, were all made in the years between 1916 and 1920. During this time many families went to him from Véménd and the neighboring villages, Germans, Hungarians, Serbians, to let themselves photograph in a solemn pose at the porch of the teacher’s house, with their husbands and sons going to or coming home from the front, for those remaining at home, or without them, for those in the military service far away. But he also took pictures of the Russian prisoners of war working in the area, and then also the soldiers of the occupying Serbian army, anyone who wanted to take use of the services of his occasional studio. Through his seven hundred pictures the village suddenly enters into the history for a moment, impressively documenting itself, before its traditional society definitely vanishes in the following years.

“Erzsébet Mausz with a child. They emigrated to Canada”

Véménd/Wemend/Vemen, laying in Southern Hungary, near Mohács and the post-1920 Serbian border, was founded after the Ottoman destruction by the Serbs fleeing in 1690 from the south, and in 1748 it was increased by German settlers. Later Hungarian and Jewish families arrived at the village, and Romanian-speaking Gypsies from the southern forests settled in the Gypsy quarter. In 1900 it had 1882 German, 255 Serbian and 105 Hungarian-speaking inhabitants, German and Serbian schools, Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish and Calvinist cemeteries – it’s typical, that its sociography by Árpád Thiery was published with the title Véménd was a Babel. Among the different ethnic groups of the village, like in general in the former Southern Hungary, harmonious cooperation developed in the course of two centuries, they understood and used each other’s language, knew and appreciated each other’s traditions. This world started to fall apart precisely in World War I. After the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, almost all its Serbian inhabitants settled over the new border drawn in the neighborhood, the Jews were deported in 1944, the majority of the Germans after 1945, and their homes were given over to Székelys fleeing from Bukovina and to Hungarians exiled from Slovakia.

After the death of the teacher the photos laid for fifty more years in the museum store before the Museum of Ethnography in Budapest some months ago exhibited them. The museum staff also visited the descendants of the former families still living in Véménd, to ask them about the persons in the portraits and their later fate. From the images and the “thick descriptions” of the related remembrances emerges the hundred-year history of a community, full of vicissitudes.

The exhibition draws particular attention to the hand-held objects, which usually refer to their owners’ social situation, confession, identity or to the occasion. The majority of the Catholic Germans keeps a prayer book or a rosary, a part of the Serbians an open book, the men cigarette. One of the Russian prisoners of war is sitting on the chair as if holding a letter received from home: in fact, it is a folded Hungarian newspaper, in addition upside down, but it still complies with the conventional image of the prisoner of war, who should be shown with a letter in hand. And in the last room, furnished as an occasional studio, the visitor can also stand in front of the screen with an object brought with him- or herself, through which he wants to send a message about his own culture. The hitherto made images are projected in a slideshow, and maybe in a hundred years they will be also shown in a similar exhibition.

2 comentarios:

Rupert Neil Bumfrey dijo...

For some reason your images never get picked up by G+, unlike other blogspot posts, peculiar! https://plus.google.com/100146646232137568790/posts/74dN7vgXRBx

Studiolum dijo...

Perhaps the reason is that they are not inserted via Blogger, but linked from our own server?