RIMÓC, HUNGARY | When I first arrived in the village on the only driveway, I was immediately captivated by the landscape and the alley. At that time, I had no idea that fifty years ago 10-year-old girls walked into Szécsény on this road every morning at 5 o’clock to work as day laborers.
Silent streets, lace curtains, cultivated gardens, red apples on the trees. The silence of the village was impressive, but at that time I had no idea that once girls were walking on the streets holding hands, singing loudly. At that time, I didn’t even know that guys from the surrounding villages came in groups to court the girls of Rimóc who were known far and wide.
I have met four elderly ladies in Rimóc in the past few months with the help of Katalin Fábián, head of the local Care Centre. Since I have always photographed in familiar places so far, it was a huge step for me too to introduce myself to someone as a complete stranger now by saying ’good morning, I came to take some photos’. With a camera and a notebook in my backpack, my photo book under my arm like a school kid, that’s how I arrived their houses.. We have a connection: Nógrád, Palócföld, a little county in Northern Hungary. We flip through my photo book together, and although those pictures were taken a few villages away, they say as if they saw themselves in it. They smile at me and say okay. I can come. They are waiting. They are always at home. They are happy when someone comes to visit them.
One of them is hesitant. She asks me to call her later, until she thinks about what she could tell me? I called her a week later and she happily said yes.
While a cake appears from the cupboard, I ask a question: were you born in this village? Then the story begins, usually somewhere before the World War II: I hear about four- or five-year-old goose shepherds, marriages at a very young age, lots of work, weddings, singing, mourning. Life has passed by, kids flew out of the nest, grandchildren, great-grandchildren flew even farther. Their husbands had died a long time ago.
She often pets the flowers and talks to them.
“They have souls.” That makes them so beautiful.
A grass never grew in my garden, that would be a shame! As long as I can, I do it. While I’m still moving.
Once I saw a woman’s skirt at the market, oh, I really liked it. I told her I would pay for the skirt on the spot. She was all surprised, thinking: in what skirt she would go home then? We say we are the looseskirts. My husband didn’t really like me going out that way, like a peasant. But what should I do? That’s the only way I can dress.
I could have got married far away, to the neighboring village of Lóc. I had a suitor. But I didn’t want to. I also told my mother I didn’t want to. I just wanted to stay here in the village. I love here. I stayed here.
The grave is already there. In the top corner of the cemetery. I was once asked why I had chosen that particular one. Well, I told them. There on the edge, the sun will shine on me first. In the entire cemetery I will have sunlight first. They were curious so I told them.
In winter, when there is nothing to do in the garden, I pray and sing. I begin with the holy songs, if they run out, the seculars follow.
I look forward to the next occasions to meet like a small child. I pick up the backpack again and ring the bell. Like a little student. I’m going there to learn from them, about life.
Autumn and winter are the period of turning inwards, of reckoning. Even now, after the first 4 months, I had to realize that this project is more than just photography. I am not, I cannot and do not want to be an outsider. I will be part of their story.
Grabbing a camera has always been important to me because of the possibility of capturing something. Preserving something valuable. There is always more to it than just taking beautiful pictures.
Photography teaches you to see behind things. Connect with the other person. Leaving a mark in the world. Not just to document as an outsider, but to be a part of the story.
And I always come home as a different person than I was when I left.
Because of these elderly ladies.
The artist is a scholarship holder of the Art Scholarship Program of the Hungarian Academy of Arts.