August 31, 2021
Emanuel Macron’s Visit
To highlight the importance of these memorial gardens and those buried in it, President Emanuel Macron was in Budapest for one day on December 13th and between his official visits, came to our cemetery to pay his respects at the grave of Agnes Heller, the famous, fearless 20th century philosopher who passed away in 2019.
Here he can be seen at the holocaust memorial:
Year in review
At the cemetery in Budapest, 2021 began with problems and ended with opportunity. We start 2022 in a very exciting way by tackling one of the largest and most overgrown sections that runs across the back of the vast property. With burials ranging from the 1930s – 1960s, many attempt to visit this section every year but its dense forest makes it only possible for the most daring and physically able. What a disgrace to the memory of the 5600 souls buried here, many of whom lost at least a part of their families in the holocaust. We see ourselves as their collective heirs and with that comes a responsibility to maintain their final resting place with basic dignity. Please see below for pictures, they will astound you.
This is just the beginning! We plan to tackle a lot this year, at least 65,000 m2 and should we have significant support from you, we can do even more. Please support us at this critical juncture - our costs have risen substantially due to labor inflation but we are pushing forward. Remember, donations in the US and Canada are tax deductible.
We were very saddened by the untimely passing of one of our founding Canadian directors, John Syrtash, in Toronto. Wishing his family long life and comfort from his glorious achievements.
Looking back on a year, like many other businesses around the world, we struggled to find qualified labor, even at a much higher price than we had paid historically. This effectively put a stop to our heavy work for many months. As the year progressed however, we made some big strides both in community engagement and being able to ensure workers were found. We hosted our inaugural volunteers' week for 23 people from across the world, aged 18-28, who worked for 20-25 hours each in the cemetery as well as getting to know Budapest and its community. They came from many countries including Israel, the USA, Canada and Belarus. We installed many new section signs, painted close to 1000 row markers and made big strides on Section 8. You would have seen an email from us in August so just a few pictures here as a reminder.
Lifelong friendships were created, with Hannah coming from Israel to spend Thanksgiving with Danielle from New Jersey.
Sections 7, 7A and 8
As the year moved on, we gained momentum post our Aug-Oct maintenance season and were able to clear Sections 7, 7A and 8, very old sections mostly from the mid-1890s. These are small sections with 3977 burials over an area of 17,135 sq meters, small in relation to what we have done historically but we only began work in November after the end of our annual autumn maintenance. In that sense, these sections represent a victory and one that has allowed us to resume momentum. It is important to note that it was our volunteers who made the start (and great strides) with Section 8. They were amazed to see what they found under the thick ivy, grass and brush.
This is Section 7 before work began:
This section now looks pristine and the repainted row markers visible to all, allowing for easy navigation
Section 38A / 38A1
December brought very cold weather to Budapest with a lot of ice too but as soon as that let up, we had an 8 man crew working on Section 38A and its extension 38A1. This is one of our largest sections, containing almost 5600 burials over an area of 16,415 square meters (over 4 acres). Here is a picture taken on the SW corner before we started. The section goes all the way to the end of the road on the left, as far as the eye can see. After 86 rows and about 250 meters, you reach the back wall of the cemetery. The second picture, taken from about row 10 up the same road, gives you a better perspective while the third allows one to see the back wall. While a few tombstones are visible here and there it appears to be mostly trees, brush and ivy but please understand that there are over 5000 tombstones in this inaccessible jungle.
Work on the section was started from the back where there is more room to maneuver and it was a bit less dense. It is interesting to see this in the next two pictures from the perspective of Fodor Jozsef's tomb - the bigger trees have been removed but the ground cover that hides many graves is still there.
Work is approached from both sides as a lot of the work involves carrying heavy logs to the sides that then need to be chipped. Here is the other side of the section