Last summer I had the opportunity to participate in XYZ, a book published by Café Babel to celebrate their 15th anniversary. The idea of the book was to compile the best 15 articles (one per country) and update them with new photographies. For Hungary, this article about the Kolontár catastrophe was the chosen one, a topic that a lot of people didn't even here about even if it was the biggest environmental castastropher after Chernobyl.
Last week, I finally received my copy and I coudn't be happier! First, because it's the first time that my work is published in a real book but also because we had the opportunity to revise a topic that nobody seems to talk about anymore. And I say "we" because I coudn't have done it without the help of Iván Kozák and Ádám Csizmadia.
Because of design issues, I had to reduce the captions I wrote at the beginning, so today I want to share the extended work with all of you:
"The people of Kolontár should be happy because they got brand new houses instead of the damaged old ones" - remarked an official of MAL cynically during our visit. For sure, this house - kept as the sole memorial - is the only material proof of the catastrophy. Yet no-one is happy. The community has fallen apart, villagers have turned against each other for the compensation funds and not even the train stops anymore in the declining village, while lack of jobs forces locals to keep working for MAL.
"My children were born here, here lived my family until the red mud swept the house away" explains Gyula Tokolics, former worker of MAL, who lost his parents-in-laws in the tragedy. They used to live where he is standing now, in a house insanely close to where the defectuous pool was constructed during the 1990s. Now with the leaders of MAL acquitted, and while the media interest slowly fading and everything is clean and ready to forget, he is still fighting for justice and for the rights of his family.
These fields of Kolontár once soaked deep in the toxic red mud for weeks on end, leaving plenty of time for heavy metals and other hazardous materials to reach deep into the earth. Six years and a barely half meter deep soil change later, walnut trees, potatoes, onions and wheat grow on the site of the toxic leak. Not many people would want to buy vegetables from Kolontár, but there is no way to know for the buyer on the market where the seemingly healthy plants came from.
After the catastrophe, the community has fallen apart, villagers have turned against each other for the compensation funds, while lack of jobs forces locals to keep working for MAL. The government and the company made huge efforts to clean everything and make people forget, reason why only one house is still standing as a memorial and vegetables are growing again, even if they only change half meter of soil. Meanwhile, people like Gyula is still fighting for justice and for the rights of his family.
Comments below are open, so feel free to share your opinion or thoughts :)