Dissolving: Ferenc Mine

Aknaszlatina/Солотвино, Ferenc Mine, 1908

Aknaszlatina/Солотвино, Ferenc Mine, 2012. Photos by Márton Kállai

“Aknaszlatina or Solotvyno, the once thriving Subcarpathian salt mine is constantly evolving. On the surface, under the former mining colonies the ground has broken, craters are being formed by the water washing away the mines, while the Dead Sea-like experience of the saturated salt solution breaking to the surface lures more and more tourists to soak themselves. The mining is over, and the local Hungarians, once the majority of the miners, have increasingly been shut out from the Ukrainian world of new entertainment. A new world is being formed on the ruins of nature, while the old one lives on along with it in the memories.”

Aknaszlatina/Солотвино, Ferenc Mine, 1910

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A courageous man floating among the mine timbers on the salty water of the crater created after the rupture of the former Ferenc Mine

Hapax legomenon

Every Hungarian knows where Újpest is: a former industrial town along the Danube, now the 4th and northernmost district of Budapest. But where is the Újpest Street? I mean, where is that Újpest Street, more than four hundred kilometers from Újpest, where only one number exists, the 50, and the houses to the left and right of it already bear the name of вулиця Петра Грози, the Romanian politician Petru Groza, who at the Alba Iulia meeting of 1918 first proposed the union of Transylvania with Romania, and who in 1945 became, with the support of the Soviet army, Prime Minister of the first Romanian Communist government, so that with all Ukrainian-Romanian tensions he deserves to have a street named after him in the Ukrainian Солотвино, the former Hungarian Aknaszlatina?

Between the Ukraine and Romania, the Tisza is the border, at the just recently opened border post a bilingual billboard proclaims: “The Tisza, which connects us.” In Sighetu Marmației, the former Hungarian Máramarossziget on the Romanian side, where even the Romanian shopkeepers willingly switch for Hungarian for the sake of the foreigner, the street named after the former Royal Romanian foreign minister Nicolae Titulescu, starting from the main square, unexpectedly runs against the border: originally it was obviously not intended for such a short span. A hundred meters and a hour later, on the other bank it leads as вулиця Сігітська, Sighet Street, on the main street, along which in the neighboring Tiszafejéregyháza (Біла Церква, Biserica Albă) the Hasids, cut off from Sighet in 1920, founded a cemetery which became silent in 1941, and to the statue of the 15th-century Moldavian prince Ștefan cel Mare, next to which at the corner, above the Raiffeisen bank machine, there appears, on only one house, the inscription Ujpesti-út, Újpest Street, certainly left there from the “Hungarian world” between 1938 and 1944. Ghost script at its best.

Cemetery in the Carpathians

The upper valley of the Tisza, Yasinya/Kőrösmező, the old Hungarian-Polish border.

After the Tatar Pass, the road goes down in the Prut valley, the first settlement is Tatariv, that is, Tatars’ Town. After the fall of Kiev (1240) here ran the border of the Mongol Empire, the Tatar troops repeatedly invaded the Carpathians, until the Hungarian Angevin rulers sent Romanian tribes from Maramureș to found a buffer state against them, the future Moldova. The memory of the Tatar border guards is preserved by a chain of place names along the other side of the Carpathians, and according to some historians, the local mountaineers, the Hutsuls with their small and heavy-duty, Tatar-like horses are also their descendants.

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After Tatariv, the Prut valley widens for a few hundred meters, and on the right side there appears a canopy structure, like those set by the Greek Catholics above the roadside statues of the Virgin Mary. I passed before it a couple of times before I first looked at it carefully.

However, under the canopy there is no statue of Mary, but a cross, which, according its three-language inscription – German, Hungarian, Ukrainian – was set in 2005 by the Austrian Black Cross organizing the care of war graves, and the Hungarian Institute and Museum for Military History, in memory of the Austro-Hungarian soldiers fallen here in the First World War. Around it, on each side two rows of stone crosses, perhaps more symbolic than real, a total of forty-eight.

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I wonder when our compatriots fell here. During the Russian offensive of late 1914, which advanced as far as to Yasinya/Körösmező, in then Hungary? At the time of the spring campaign of 1915 which conquered Galicia back? In several consequent battles in defense of the Tatar Pass? If you know more, write about it to us.

Welcoming committee

After the organ grinders, and especially the organ grinders of Berlin, here you are, an organ grinder in Berlin, this morning in Berkaer Straße. “Darf ich ein Foto machen?” “Na klooor”.


Rather than in Vienna and Budapest, the old Monarchy can be found in Lemberg and Czernowitz, where since the collapse of the empire most of the houses have preserveed their condition of a hundred years ago, frozen into a Sleeping Beauty sleep, and where nowadays, when they renew some of them, with a lucky hand they try to restore the feeling of the Monarchy again. And of course in Odessa, on the flea market of the port city, where the waves sometimes still wash ashore the remains of the shipwrecked empire. Like these few postcards from last week’s loot.

Őnagysága Pozdnik Paula úrleánynak, Kispest, Üllői út 220-22, Teudloff-Dietrich gyár.
Tátraszéplak, 1916 (?) X. 14. Feladó Ritter J. hadapródjelölt. Tátraszéplak,
hadikórház, Tivoli pavilon. Üdvözletét küldi kézcsókkal Ritter József.

The Hotel Palace Tivoli, where Cadet József Ritter was recuperating (Not my postcard)

In the peacetime idyll of the postcard sent from the resort hotel Palace Tivoli in Tátraszéplak under the Tatry mountains, the recently opened electric railway is slowly jogging towards Csorba Lake / Štrbské Pleso. The Gerlach Peak, the highest point of the former Hungary still bears the name of Franz Joseph, and in fact Franz Joseph is still alive. But the war had been going on for two years, this is why Cadet József Ritter sends his postcard from the military hospital established in the resort hotel to Mademoiselle Paula Pozdnik to the town of Kispest, in the Teudloff-Dittrich iron foundry and fire engine factory. The time seems impossibly far when Tátraszéplak would get the name of Tatranska Polianka, the peak that of the Czech Legionaries and later of Stalin, the iron foundry that of the Hungarian State Railway Engine and Machine Factory, and Kispest would merge into Budapest.

Wielmożna Iza Lewicka. Kraków/Krakau, Rakowicka 19. II. 1918. II. 20.
Who could transcribe the Ukrainian-language message?

The postcard representing the Franz Joseph Square in Olmütz/Olomouc was sent by Volodimir to the Polish Krakow, but he makes excuses in Ukrainian for having to spend a few more days than planned in Moravia: this constellation in itself is a faithful impression of the Monarchy. However, the real protagonist of the card is the tramway, for the sake of which the whole composition was pushed slightly to the left. The tram started in Olmütz on April 1, 1899, and the local Czech press treated in detail and with pleasure the dangers of the “German” vehicle: “Beware of the tram! It destroys wagons and kills people!”

The same tram from the other side, the Elisabeth Square (Not my postcard)

“The first victim of the Olmütz electric railway!”

The atmosphere turned only when the name of Franz Joseph Square changed for Masaryk, and the exclusively German inscriptions of the tram were changed for exclusively Czech. By then the Ukrainian-Polish couple probably also lived in Eastern Poland, which shortly afterwards, with the shift of the borders to the west, became Ukraine: maybe this is how the postcard then found its way to Odessa.

“Hurra!” Fräulein Lena Hock, Hier [Offenbach], Goethestr. 78. 1917. III. 15.
Liebe Lena! Sende Dir hiermit einen herzlichen Tagesgrüß. War gestern auf der Suche nach Dir, konnte Dich aber nicht finden, hatte auch sehr wenig Zeit. Heute haben wir Nachtübung und dabei wird es auch spät werden. Nächste Woche geht ein kleines Transport ins Feld bin nicht dabei weil 98er. Grüßst Dich herzlich Dein Seppl [?] – Herzlichen Grüß an Deine Mama. Ob ich Morgen kommen kann weiß ich noch nicht.

Not a postcard of the Monarchy, but it just could be: the genre of “before the leaves fall, our soldiers will be back home” was characteristic of all Europe at the outbreak of the war. We also want to publish a nice collection of them with Natasha Gaidarova from the Great War blog. It is strange that the postcard was popular even three years later, although it is true that Seppl from Offenbach was just about to leave for the great journey.

“Polnische Wirtschaft”. Der Krieg 1914/15 in Postkarten. Abteilung: Das deutsche Heer. 11. Serie: Soldatenleben im Felde. Reinertrag für die Ostpreußenhilfe 1915

And here he already arrived. Although, according to its title, this item of the postcard series by Lehmann Publisher in Munich represents a “Polish farm”, the fruits of this farm are already enjoyed by the German soldiers, most probably after the Gorlice Breakthrough in the spring of 1915, somewhere in Galicia.

„Uniform austryjacki szary. Kołnierz […] na nim gwiazdki białe” (Reading by Tamás Deák)
We kindly ask our Polish readers to help us in reading the rest of the texts.

And here are the former owners of the farm, enlisted in the Monarchy’s army. The owner perhaps wrote in remembrance on the picture which clothes he was wearing at that time: “Austrian field-gray uniform. Tube ring collar […] and white stars on it.” The reminder was truly necessary, because the uniform would change soon.

The celebrated protagonist of the photo already wears the uniform of the newly formed independent Polish army. His three standing companions compensate with a grim posture for the lack of uniform, and demonstrate that when the home will call them, they will stand up. Soon it will be necessary.

I gladly hand over the photos and postcards bought on the Odessa flea market for just the purchase price + postage costs to anyone who would really appreciate them. Numbers 003 and 009 already have their masters.