Concrete photo with cut-out silhouette. The Vácrátót memorial commemorates the victims of both world wars

In one of Hungary’s quiet villages, 45 minutes from Budapest, there is a memorial that, despite such an intimate location, is world-famous. It was erected in honour of the victims and disappeared during the First and Second World Wars. The Vácrátót monument so perfectly captures the loss and emptiness after the loss of loved ones – mainly soldiers – that it is impossible to pass by it indifferently.

This monument has no formal name. It was ceremonially unveiled in October 2014 near the local botanical garden. It was made by Hungarian sculptor Böjte Horváth István and depicts a Hungarian family of four in traditional dress, and where the father should be, we see a cut-out of his silhouette.

In the relief, the wife reaches out and embraces her husband’s arm, while the youngest child leans on her father’s invisible knee. Similarly, the daughter leans her body into the empty space where her dad should be. Behind the figures is a tree of life – a symbol of those who survive and continue to build society. In his work, the artist was inspired by one of the photographs of a family who lost their husband and father in the war. Beneath the monument is a list of names of men from Vácrátót who died serving their country.


Hungary lost 661,000 of its citizens during the First World War, and as many as 300,000 soldiers and 600,000 civilians, including 400,000 Jews, died or went missing in the second global conflict. Such huge losses were a personal tragedy not only for many families, but also left a literal hole in Hungarian society. Many husbands and fathers had to leave their families and go to the battlefield, from where they often never returned.


Thousands of children were forced to grow up either without a father or with someone so devastated by what he saw and did that he became a shadow of himself. Wives, too, in the face of this tragedy, had to raise their offspring alone, and many more women faced the task of rebuilding society once the wars were over. The cut-out silhouette in the concrete photograph is therefore an excellent and apt way to show the losses caused by armed conflict. It is a reminder of the sacrifices made by these soldiers and the fact that their loved ones will never forget their presence.



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