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Budapest to Erect Statue Commemorating Wartime Sexual Violence Victims

Fanni Kaszás 2020.01.30.

The Metropolitan Assembly decided on Wednesday that a statue will be erected in Budapest commemorating  women who have been raped during times of war. Members of the assembly have unanimously supported the memorial entitled “Women raped in war(s)”.

Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony noted in his proposal that the wars lived through by Hungarians not only affected the soldiers involved in the fighting, but also the civilian population. One manifestation of this was wartime sexual violence, which is difficult to process individually as well as socially.

There are also written traces of the “Hungarian aspect” of wartime rape during the Second World War, and Soviet mass sexual violence forms part of the social memory. Literary works based on recollections also record their occurrences – such as Hungarian psychologist and writer Alaine Polcz’s ‘Woman on the Front.’

The Budapest mayor said that according to research, until 1989, rape by Soviet soldiers who arrived in Hungary was a taboo subject: the built-up myth of the Red Army made women invisible. Since 1989, wartime violence during World War II is no longer a taboo subject in Hungary, and the changed memory politics has made it a matter of concern, but there is no social space for victims to process the violence against them and discuss the past.

According to the proposal, the erection of the memorial would create a mental and physical place that would help to process the trauma on a social level, while reminding present and future generations as an “exclamation mark” of something that should not happen again.

Karácsony added that at the same time, the statue would also be a memorial of personal history and stories, adding that in addition to the monument itself, in view of the sensitivity of the topic, further research, conferences, and related educational events should be organized.

The site and art concept for the memorial will be proposed after professional and social consultation. For the consultation,  preparations, and the erection of the statue, HUF 35 million has been appropriated.

featured photo: FORTEPAN/MILITARY MUSEUM OF SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND