A Memorial in Hungary

This post is about a memorial dedicated to WWI veterans in Dunapataj, Hungary. While I was there a few weeks ago, I wrote some notes about it and copied down its inscription, with the intention of commenting on it in the blog.  I realize that it is a little late to post, but I promised myself at the beginning of the semester I would write something that involves translating Hungarian. This is my last chance, so here goes.


I couldn’t take any pictures, so I’ll describe how the memorial looks. It’s very tall. My guess is at least 15 feet. The base is a pedestal, on which two soldiers stand. The first soldier is holding up the second, who has obviously been injured and is unconscious. The one still standing struck me as either proud or defiant. He looks ready to jump into battle.

On all four sides of the pedestal are names of locals who died. I noticed one name was Istvan Taba. When I go back, maybe I’ll ask around who he was. Around the pedestal is a small, well-kept garden, with a chain fence around it. There were fresh flowers laid at the front of the statue under the chain fence.

The Inscription

I’ll start with the Hungarian and then give my translation. Incidentally, the inscription has accent marks, which I don’t know how to reproduce here.

Az nem lehet, hogy annyi sziv hiba onta vert. S K Keservben annyi hu kebel szakadt meg a honert.

             —————-    —————–

Az 1914-18-I vilaghaboruban elsett hosok. Emlekere emelt Dunapataj kozonseg.

            —————     —————-

Ne sirasd annak vegzeletet, ki a hasaert adta eletet. Szelteme a sir korol marad. Tettekre intve as utodokar. 


A szobor felujitasa 2004-ben valosult meg. A Dunapataji Polgari kor szervezeseben. A Dunapataji Onkor manyzat tamogatasaval lakossagi ada kozasbol. 

The Translation

It cannot be that so many hearts bled for a mistake.  Those who loved their homeland must feel bitter that their homes have been destroyed.

            —————     ————–

Many heroes died in the 1914-18 World War, and memories of them honor Dunapataj.

            —————-    —————

Don’t cry because they died. They gave their lives for the homeland. Their souls will remain with their graves, and their graves will be a reminder of them for their ancestors.

                   1924 [Presumably 1924 refers to the year the memorial was first dedicated.] 

This memorial was rededicated in 2004, and it was the Polgari club’s idea. [Polgari probably refers to the mayor, so he must have his own club or organization.] The residents of Dunapataj also offered their support. [Frankly, I don’t understand this last sentence in Hungarian. This is my best attempt to translate it.] 


I’ll be the first to admit that my translation has problems. I took some liberties to make it clearer in English. This was the best I could do with a dictionary and some help from my parents.

Two words catch my attention in the transcription: “mistake” and “homeland.” What is the mistake? The obvious answer is the death of local heroes, but, given the political situation in 1924, I bet the population of Dunapataj was thinking of wider issues. The Treaty of Trianon was signed in 1920, so I wonder if the mistake was the loss of so much territory. Likewise, the homeland would refer to more than Dunapataj.  The homeland probably coincided with the pre-WWI borders of Hungary.

For the rededication in 2004, what do “mistake” and “homeland” mean? I’m sure most residents think about communism and the USSR as a mistake. Along with the pre-WWI borders, homeland probably also includes Hungarian minorities outside of Hungary, and the destruction of the homeland in the second line of the inscription must bring to mind the damage communism did to Hungary. That is, according to your average Hungarian, communism and the Soviet Union were only a disaster for Hungary.

The next time I go back to Dunapataj, I should ask people about the memorial. I’d like to know what they were thinking when they rededicated it and what memories they associate with it. I’ll have to visit the Polgari club and have a chat with them.

I have a final question to ask: what is the relevance of graves in the inscription? Heroes died, and they remain after death with their graves. Is this a way to claim land that cannot be taken away? Is it a way to encourage future generations to protect their ancestors’ land? I imagine that part of what keeps Hungarian minorities outside of Hungarian borders is the connection they feel to their ancestral or family lands. I don’t mean to be nationalist here. Whether the connection is real or fiction, it is no doubt a motivation for why they stay put. Otherwise, they would pack up and move to Hungary. Come to think of it, I’m skeptical about how Hungarian those communities still are.

After having read about Yugoslavia for the last week of class, I wonder if there is a connection here to Serbian feelings about Serbs in Croatian territory. I suppose the connection Hungarians feel towards their kin in neighboring countries is similar to what Serbs felt about their kin in Croatia. That’s scary to me. I think I’ll take comfort in the fact that Serbs were/are much more vehement than Hungarians are.  At least, that’s the way I choose to think about it.

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