Photo fragments from communist Hungary

Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 04:13 pm
Or: a collection found on the street tells the story of minor apparatchiks in love.

Once every couple of months it's big garbage day in my district. This means everyone takes out all the **** they don't want anymore and dumps it on the sidewalk. It's like Queen's Day in Holland, except nobody's selling anything. Mounds of stuff, discarded sofas, broken cupboards, old books, soiled shirts, cardboard boxes and piles of random garbage heaped onto the pavement in clusters.

This means lots of activity. Early in the morning the diggers trek into the neighbourhood. Elderly people, Roma. Stuff gets carted into car trunks, folded into plastic bags. Trabants with trailers that are stacked full take off to the suburbs.

In Holland you had rag and bone men until the sixties or so I think, who would come by to collect stuff that's nowadays hauled off by the municipality's "big trash" service on request. This is like that - just on a really large scale. Mostly it just means a lot of trash you have to circumnavigate when you walk down the street, but at its best, or worst, it has a near-Third World feel. A bony old man pulls a makeshift platform on wheels with cardboard stacked up a meter high down a busy road, passing cars swerving around him.

One of those days, a couple of months ago, we took a walk and rummaged through the piles out of curiosity. Found some dumpy Hungarian textbooks, a couple of novels in seventies covers. And photos. Not once, but twice, we found photos. One pile of photos sprawled over the pavement in Nyár utca, dirtied by shoes, some still shoved into a box along with other papers; postcards too, Christmas cards, holiday greetings from Slovakia. The other, larger pile at the beginning of Dohany Street, across from the synagogue, in a box in between newspapers, random stuff.

Budapest and Dunaújváros

I've dubbed the first collection "The apparatchik". These photos belonged to a couple called Lajos and Zsuzsa Dömötör (I googled them, but found no leads). I assumed at first that Lajos had been a minor official, back under the old regime - but going through the photos and translating the texts of postcards with the help of fellow Flickr members (in particular GCsanadi), it turns out that it was Zsuzsa who must have been the apparatchik. Unfolding the story locked into these photos and postcards turned out to be fascinating - if like me, you're the kind of person who finds fragments from the past's quotidian life the most interesting thing.

Continue reading, view the photos

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Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 06:18 pm
Fascinating, nimh. These folks are slightly younger than I am.. interesting to see across the world. (I have had hungarian friends, but they came over here around '56.)

The office plant is a Sansevieria trifasciata ('mother-in-law's tongue')... still a good houseplant. I had them in my sideyard in southern california, as they can survive outside there.
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Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 06:42 pm
Hey, thanks, glad you thought it was interesting!
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 06:54 pm
Staghorn fern - at least one of the "stuck on the wall" plants.

I bought one for the hamburgers for one of their anniversaries in the late 1970's. A bit of a wild and crazy kind of gift.

Looks like a possible spider plant in the mix as well. With the mother-in-law's tongue, it's a quintessentially 1970's plant collection. Just needs a pothos and maybe a small money plant to complete the vibe. The canteen photo is so reminiscent of the workingmen's cafeteria I used to frequent up in Thunder Bay here. Panelling, shared tables, the whole look is so evocative.

Germany, Canada, Hungary - some things were just the same everywhere - those glasses and turtlenecks with narrow slacks.

Thanks for sharing this.
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 07:19 pm
Staghorns also get "planted" outside in Los Angeles (I know nothing about them and other climes). These 'seventies' plants hang on because they can make it reasonably successfully in the average apartment..
I'm not an indoor plant person, or not much of one, since I'm such a thorough californian, y'know, just walk out the damned door..
I did buy a pothos recently. Hmmm, maybe I'm going downhill, plantwise.

On the photos, I'm a mad photo addict, have been known to rummage through so called antique shoppes' hidden treasures. They often have a shoebox full, or several shoe boxes full, of old photos and postcards, and old postcards that are photos.

Thing about one's own photos is that.... sometimes what you like about them twenty or forty years later is not at all what interested you when you took the photo.
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Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 09:07 pm
Money plants? Tell me more.
Reply Sun 5 Apr, 2009 03:48 pm
The money plant.

(the photo fragments are bringing all sorts of memory fragments back)

Back in the mid-1970's there was a plant called a Mexican Hat Plant by southern Ontario inside gardeners. It had little leaflets with rootlets that dropped off the plant and started new plants. When I moved to northern Ontario, they called the same plant the money plant.

The money plant in south-western Ontario was the plant I knew as a jade plant in the rest of the province (and in all of the houseplant reference books I had).

Fast forward to 2006. We chip at work for a small gift for a colleague. Someone says "oh, I got J a money plant". I'm curious, go take a look, it's a jade plant.

What the two plants have in common is that they poop their own baby plants off of the end of their leaves.
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