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.

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And if our history will be recorded one day, we will be able to say that we resisted !

We were not victorious,
but we fought.
We could not get rid of the tyranny,
but stopped its course.
We did not rescue our country,
but defended it.
And if our history will be recorded one day,
we will be able to say that we resisted!

I spotted this writing back in 1996 in a small museum when my band was in Germany. It was a makeshift museum to commemorate the fall of Berlin Wall. This writing struck a chord with me, immediately I took a picture of it.

As there was no additional information about it, I had no idea who the writer was. It was after some years, with the help of a friend, that these words were identified as an expression by Lajos Kossuth.

Kossuth was a 19th century Hungarian political leader. He led the fight – though unsuccessfully – for his nation’s independence. After the defeat by Austrian and Russian army, he became an exile and finally died in Italy.

I printed out a copy of this writing, framed it and placed it on the reception desk in my working studio. To the next of this writing, there I put a small Goddess of Democracy figurine.

Over these many years, whenever there are clients or friends ask me about it, I explain the background to them. When they request : “May I copy it ?”, I just say with delight : “Certainly !”.