The exhibition, Tree of Life: The Jews of Hungary, 1981-2004, displayed at Beth Hatefutsoth in 2004, consists of a selection of 40 photographs by Andres Lacko, which reflect the changes in the lives of Hungarian Jews in the past two decades.
The exhibition blends past and present. Lacko’s first visual documentation dates back to 1981-1988, when Hungary was under Communist rule, and Jewish life was relatively meager. He took photographs throughout Hungary and Czechoslovakia mainly in places where Jewish communities no longer existed or were dying out. In that period he mostly focused on cemeteries, gravestones and synagogues converted into storehouses, as well as the elderly Jews in the towns and villages – all bearing witness to Jewish life which had vanished.
Amusement park next to the Jewish cemetery, Dunajská Streda, (formerly
Dunaszerdahely), Slovakia, 1983. Photo: Andres Lacko
Andres Lacko has returned to Hungary and Slovakia during the past few years and the photographs taken in the period 2000-2004 draw a different picture of Jewish life since the fall of Communism (1989). They depict the dynamic life of the Jewish community and reflect the participation of young people in communal life. This photographic project by Lacko, an Israeli of Hungarian origin, began after a visit he paid in 1978 with his father to the village where his grandfather was born, Dunaszerdahely, Czechoslovakia (now Dunajska Streda, Slovakia). The visit aroused his interest in Jewish history and culture.
About the Photographer, Andres Lacko
Andres Lacko was born in Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1947) into an assimilated Jewish family of Hungarian origin. His parents moved to Peru in 1966, where he studied Sociology at the Catholic University of Lima. From 1975 to 1986 he lived in Budapest, where he studied at the Film Academy; one of his teachers was the renowned film director Istvבn Szabף. In 1986 Lacko immigrated to Israel and a year later was awarded second prize in a world photography competition organized by Beth Hatefutsoth: “Jewish Heritage in the Eye of the Camera.”
“For me, taking these pictures was a journey into my family’s past, about which I knew very little” he says. “It may have been my way of finding my roots.”
The exhibition was displayed in conjunction with the Hungarian Embassy in Israel. It was then exhibited in Hungary at the Photography Museum in Budapest and then toured other galleries throughout Hungary.
Lacko’s photograph project was made possible by the generosity of: The Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, New York; The Leslie and Vera Keller Foundation for Enhancement of the Jewish Heritage, New York; The Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Hungary; The Israeli Embassy in Hungary, Budapest; Alliance of the Jewish Communities of Hungary (MAZSIHISZ), Budapest; and World Jewish Congress, New York and Jerusalem. A selection of his photographs was displayed at the exhibition held at the Museum in 1987 Related sites: In the Land of Hagar - A Virtual Exhibition on the Jews of Hungary In The Land of Hagar - the Book Jewish Community of Budapest Dohany Street Synagogue.