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The Keleti Passage


The Keleti Passage

An art project in Hungary showcases refugees and volunteers whose lives intersected at Budapest's central train station.
23 November 2015
Siblings Ashkan and Setays drew their home in Afghanistan.

"We have some stories we'd like you to see," says Gábor Kasza, an artist and activist based in Budapest, Hungary. "Photos of people with messages they've drawn or written for you."

These images are part of a project which attempts to convey a deeper understanding of the refugees arriving in Hungary in recent months. They are people looking for safety after fleeing war in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. The art also aims to describe the motivations of volunteers coming to their aid, some of whom were immigrants or children of immigrants themselves.

As many thousands of people arrived in the Hungarian capital, Gábor and three fellow artists set up a large roll of paper in Keleti train station. Refugees and volunteers were asked to write and draw their impressions, dreams and experiences. Then, each one was photographed alongside this personal "message to the world."

"The situation is – we have discovered in doing the project – a question and problem of our European identity," Gabor says, explaining that he has noticed a discrepancy between who Europeans are and who Europeans thought they were. "The efforts of our neighbours have inspired hope in us," he says, referring to the way Austrians and Germans have welcomed refugees in large numbers, as well as fellow Hungarians who rose to the occasion and volunteered at sites like Keleti Station.

"These images contain universal and personal messages of human experience," Gabor says, "tidings of wars in distant lands, dreams of peace and hopes for new life in Europe. Their messages are ones which ask us to imagine our own futures as we consider their predicaments. The way we respond to them will define the future of immigration in Europe – and the future of society for all of us."