Outside of central Budapest, in the suburbs, in a sweet little neighborhood with some half-timbered houses with gardens and (strangely) barbed wire-topped fencing is a park filled with statues of the Soviet era.
For a girl brought up on the other side of the Cold War, outside the Iron Curtain who’s only read about Soviet oppression and only seen photos of such statues, the literally giant reminders of the vast reach of the State, the every-day people as hero, the dead-eyed stone soldier, being up close to them is truly awesome. Spread throughout the park are smaller sculptures and plaques, honoring various party “heroes”.
It’s easy to understand how some Hungarians wanted these sometimes-hulking hunks of granite, concrete and steel that had been set about their city to remind them of the power and ubiquity of the Soviet dictatorship to be destroyed but it’s impressive that they weren’t. They were instead set up in what would become a park, a reminder and a tribute to all of the revolutions in Eastern Europe, in Berlin, in Prague, in Poland.
As we got off the bus and headed back toward the park, the silhouette of the reproduction of Stalin’s boots, all that remained of his statue before crowds tore it down during an uprising in 1956 that started out peacefully but ended with tens of thousands sentenced, imprisoned and hundreds killed, a stocky older woman was walking behind us.
I saw the statues in the brick arcades by the park’s entrance at the same time that I heard some old-timey planes high above. As I started to run towards them in hope of getting a shot of a biplane in the background and Lenin’s face in the fore, the woman, white hair pulled back, sturdy stockinged legs carrying her up the road, eyes crinkled in a smile or from the sun, said, “Lenin.” I nodded. She pointed a bit further ahead. “MarxEngels,” in the way that people do, as if they were one person. I smiled and waved as she walked on up the hill, wondering what she’d lived through, what she’d seen and what she thought about it all.
Getting there: http://www.budapest-tourist-guide.com/budapest-statue-park.html