Tree of life – The Jews of Hungary, 1981-2004 - Photographs by Andres Lacko


Amusement park next to the Jewish cemetery, Dunajská Streda, (formerly Dunaszerdahely), Slovakia, 1983 Photo: Andres Lacko

The exhibition “Tree of life – The Jews of Hungary, 1981-2004″ displayed a selection of 40 photographs by Andres Lacko, which reflect the changes in the lives of Hungarian Jews in the two decades of 1980’s – 2000’s.

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.

Andres Lacko has returned to Hungary and Slovakia during the past few years and the photographs taken between 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 Dunajská Streda, Slovakia). The visit aroused his interest in Jewish history and culture. “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 is being displayed in conjunction with the Hungarian Embassy in Israel. It will be exhibited in Hungary at the Photography Museum in Budapest and will then tour 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.

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. Between 1975-1986 he lived in Budapest, where he studied at the Film Academy; one of his teachers was the renowned film director István Szabó. In 1986 Lacko immigrated to Israel and a year later was awarded second prize in a world photography competition organized by Beit Hatfutsot: “Jewish Heritage in the Eye of the Camera.” A selection of his photographs was displayed at the exhibition held at the Museum in 1987.