The girl in Budapest

the girl in budapest

This photo was taken by Danish press photographer Vagn Hansen and appeared on the front cover of Danish illustrated weekly magazine Billed Bladet in November 1956. The solemn girl in the photo is an insurgent about fifteen years old, donning military uniform and holding a PPSh-41 submachine gun in her hands, became a symbol of heroism and courage of the generation.

On 23rd October, 1956, Hungarian students and workers took to the streets of Budapest and issued their demands which included personal freedom, democratic election, the removal of the secret police, Soviet troops, and Communist control etc. AVH guard ( Hungarian State Security Authority) opened fire. People did not back down, a revolution was ignited. To suppress this and restore oder, former U.S.S.R deployed heavy tanks and troops into Budapest. They acted with immense brutality even killing wounded people.

By 14th November the revolution was crushed. About 3,000 Hungarians were killed and another 200,000 fled the country. The liberal Hungarian prime minister Imre Nagy was tried and executed and buried in an unmarked grave. Many insurgent leaders and fighters were later identified by press photographs and were arrested, sentenced and killed by the authority.

Children as young as twelve were reported fought against Russian tanks and soldiers. The girl in the photo was later identified as Erika. According to source, she saved the wounded freedom fighters as a Red Cross volunteer and died during the fights after the Soviet invasion of 4th November.

The boy in Nagasaki

The boy in Nagasaki

I first saw this photo in a book called ” Hiroshima – The World’s Bomb ” (Author : Andrew J. Rotter, Oxford University Press, 2009.) in a bookstore. I was deeply moved – and still am – by this image to purchase this book.

The photo was taken by American photographer Joe O’Donnell in September 1945 in Nagasaki, which was struck by an atomic bomb on 9th August.

Back then O’Donnell was a 23-year old Marine Sergeant. He was sent by the U.S. military to document the damage inflicted on the Japanese homeland caused by air raids of fire bombs and atomic bombs. Over the next seven months starting September 1945, he traveled across Western Japan chronicling the devastation, revealing the plight of the bomb victims including the dead, the wounded, the homeless and orphaned. Images of the human suffering was etched both on his negatives and his heart.

In the photo, the boy stands erect, having done his duty by bringing his dead brother to a cremation ground. Standing at attention was an obvious military influence. Looking at the boy who carries his younger sibling on his back, keeps a stiff upper lip, tries so hard to be brave is heart-breaking. To me, he has epitomized the spirit of a (defeated) nation.

“I wanted to go to him to comfort him, ” O’Donnell later wrote, ” but I was afraid that if i did so, his strength would crumble.”

Emperor Hirohito urged his subjects to “endure the unendurable” in his surrender speech delivered through radio broadcast on 15th August, 1945. This boy was one of those who had to endure it.