Artist Statement: In March 1945, my maternal grandmother and her family fled Hungary as Russian armies advanced from the east. Over several months, they traveled through Austria to Germany, eventually settling in a displaced-persons camp in Munich. Their story came to me in pieces due to inconsistencies of memory and my grandmother’s reluctance to discuss her journey. In the camp, my grandmother met and became engaged to a Hungarian man named Paul. When sponsorship to the U.S. opened, my grandmother left with her family, certain her fiancé would follow. During transatlantic passage, my grandmother was ill with symptoms of early pregnancy, ultimately leading to my mother’s birth. My grandmother’s fiancé never came to America nor did they meet again.
This work is an attempt to visualize and reconstruct a past and a world that no longer exists except in relatively few place markers, carried objects, and memories. In my reimagining of this refugee narrative, photographs of places my grandmother passed through as she fled Russian-controlled Hungary provide visual context for the story. Yet, since many facts are missing, fictive elements are needed to complete the story. This becomes especially necessary when focusing on my missing grandfather, Paul. All that remains of Paul are three small photographs and scant details from refugee documents obtained from organizations assisting in searches for missing relatives. In place of fact, portraits and still-life act as meditations about this missing person. In this way, photography, while maintaining relationship to truth also creates narrative where gaps exist.