Scenes from Budapest, Moszkva tér

“In the old days, this square used to be called Moszkva tér”

The voice of the metro had announced the stop, “Széll Kálman tér,” just as the train pulled into the station. Nothing had changed, apart from its new and freshly pasted name. The people still arrived on Soviet trains, steel blue compartments with leather cushions from 1970, the year of Line 2's inauguration. They mounted the tunnel escalators, still interminably long and windy, at the end of which the ticket inspectors guarding the entrance still nodded a deferential “jó egeszséget” (good health) to the elderly.

From the metro doors streamed forth the passengers, among whom emerged a little boy, polar bear clutched in one hand, his grandmother's mitten in the other.

“In the old days, this square used to be called Moszkva tér.”

The boy made this remark with extreme gravity, although he was no older than three, and his grandmother, like the grannies who had overheard him, was moved to a soft chuckle.

His words hung in the air like an air of Khachaturian...

The old name plates were crossed out in red before vanishing from one day to the next. But they cannot erase the past so easily. At the bar just above the metro entrance, there was still “Moszkva tér bisztro” printed on a London underground bull's eye; across the tram lines to the market, a “Moszkva tér ticket booth.”

Or can they?

Morning breaks over the bridges, streets and squares of Budapest as Ivan Sings. Köztársaság tér (Republic Square) has become II. János Pál Pápa tér (John Paul II Square); Lágymányosi híd (bridge) has been renamed Rákóczi híd. What was known as Roosevelt tér on the Danube is now Széchenyi István tér. The nameless square by Margit bridge is baptized Elvis Presley tér. And soon Szabadság tér (Freedom Square) will cease to be, as will the poetic Pablo Neruda utca and Lukács György utca in Óbuda.

And it was so that the reigning party committed what those they condemned had done before: uproot by force, remold the memory of the people.

Aucun commentaire:

Locations of visitors to this page