Silver Dreams

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To get your dose of Heideggerian nostalgia for Central European peasant life that is no more, check out the photos of my friend Zoltán Gyetvai, an ethnic Hungarian photographer from Slovakia. I say photographer, but in good Central European tradition he is something of a renaissance man: also a published poet, ethnographer, educator, community organiser, and electrical engineer (if I remember correctly), among other things.  Most of the photos I believe are from the Hungarian historical county of Gömör (now in Slovakia), with some from Transylvania thrown in for good measure. Ethnography for many Hungarian intellectuals in Slovakia is an exercise (or more like a duty) that is full of melancholy because it is aimed at not only documenting the disappearance of an old way of life but also the gradual assimilation of one’s own ethnic community. That all this has coincided with decades of economic decay during communism that has accelerated ever since also adds to the sombre mood of these photographs and the whole situation. This county has the highest unemployment in Slovakia and the population is in decline. Zoltán has been documenting a world that is disappearing in more senses than one.

P.S. I should add that these photos are not only of Hungarians but also of Romani (a large community in Gömör) and possibly Slovaks and others.

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