Liberation

“A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of communism.”—Karl Marx

I had heard about Memento Park, the only conflux of Communist-era memorabilia in the world, within days of arriving in Budapest this past August, but was told that getting there was difficult. Intrigued, I set out on the journey. Five hours and six bus transfers later, having relied on my intuition after purposeful misdirection by members of the local law enforcement, I arrived at Memento Park to find it practically deserted with the exception of two Australian teenagers. The statuary in the 300-acre open-air park inscribed an enormous circle in a field, and included allegorical monuments of “Hungarian-Soviet Friendship” and “Liberation” as well as busts and towering sculptures of Lenin, Marx, Engels and Bela Kun, among others. Though a hot day, I battled chills, taking as many pictures as quickly I could, for I had an eerie feeling that this park, extant testimony to dictatorship as rendered in sheet metal and steel, would not be here for long. Former fixtures on Budapest streets, the statues were housed in various collections and countries after the collapse of socialism in 1989, and, now gathered together, are continually threatened with destruction (all that’s left of Stalin are his boots). After gazing into the unseeing eyes of Red Army soldiers, framed by telephone wires, visiting the gift store (coffee mug with sickle and hammer, anyone?), and watching a rousing film on KGB training methods, I fled, awed at what I had just experienced—an “artistic” rendering of Stalin’s autocratic regime, during which 60 million of the world’s citizens were killed.

 





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Vir­ginia Konchan’s fic­tion, poetry and reviews have recently appeared or are forth­com­ing in The New Repub­lic, Amer­i­can Poetry Jour­nal, the Col­orado Review, Jacket Mag­a­zine, Phoebe, and the Mid-American Review, among oth­ers, and she cur­rently serves as the fic­tion edi­tor of Whiskey Island Mag­a­zine.