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written by Kovács Ágnes
translated by Zoltán Bartko 2017-12-09




An exhibition by Péter Matl

MaJel Centre, Alžbetina 42, Košice, Slovakia

5 December 2017 - 8 January 2018 


If we talk about Péter Matl from Mukachevo, Ukraine, we usually add - as a hint to those, who don′t know him - that he is the author of the Monument of the Entry of the Hungarians to the Carpathian basin at Verecke Pass, Ukraine or that he is the author of the Monument of Hungarian National Unity in Ópusztaszer, Hungary. As a sculptor, during the last 20 years, he has been producing mainly public sculptures of wood, stone and bronze.


This time, however, he brought some paintings capturing the phenomenon called "malenkiy rabot"[little work] and GULAG. Perhaps his first work in this topic was the monument of Malenkiy Rabot in Mukachevo, Ukraine - these works now form a series: the monument installed in the Commemorative park of Lajos Gulácsy in Mukachevo, Ukraine was also created by Matl, as well as the one in Stariy Sambir, Ukraine.


This exhibition - consisting of more than 40 paintings - has been presented all over the region of Zakarpattya under the title "By five". It is a reference to the fact that - in the labour camps - prisoners were obliged to march and were counted in groups of five. The Hungarian and German prisoners did not understand any Slavonic language, thus not even the Russian order "po piati". The guards taught them a life-long lesson with their rifle stocks. 


Though the author proposed to use the aforementioned title, we decided to change it to the much more impressive "GULAG", which brings the attention immediately and unambiguously to this dark period of the post-WWII era, the era, during which tens of thousands of the people of Hungarian and German ethnicity, taken from Hungary, Zakarpattya and Slovakia, were killed and the hell, which the survivors were not allowed to talk about. The memories made them crippled - both physically and mentally - having nightmares even decades after returning home. Today, this inhumanity is unimaginable to us - people forcing people to work and starve to death, the cold weather chilling everybody to the bone and the prospering wolf population feeding on prisoner corpses... Yes, it is all over now - many don′t even care about it. However - luckily - there are still many who do. One of these is Péter Matl. These pictures were painted in November 2016, for the purposes of the monument in Stariy Sambir, Ukraine, at the premises of the former labour camp, commemorating the deported people of Hungarian and German origin - this monument is also a work of Matl.


Since 2001, 25 February is the memorial day of the victims of communism - the victims of communist dictatorships - in Hungary;. on February 25th this year, the GULAG memorial year ended;  The estimated number of these victims is 100 million (world-wide). In Central and Eastern Europe, the number of victims - those who deceased due to famine or execution in labour camps, as well as those imprisoned, forcibly interrogated, tortured, stigmatised, persecuted due to their ethnicity or religion, i.e. all those deprived from the freedom of action and choice, physically and mentally crippled people - amounted to one million.


The aim of this exhibition is to commemorate the strangers and fellows, who - as it turned out - went through hell and lived among us in silence, with the burden of their memories, for decades. And let us also commemorate those people unknown to us, whose faith was to die. 


Fotos by Dóra Gráf







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