Incredible Progress This Year
June 6, 2019
After a long winter break of 3 1/2 months, we are thrilled to announce that we have made a strong start to our 2019 season.
Before going into detail, Marc and I receive many requests for information and help on a daily basis and we try to help as much as possible. We would like to share an email we received just last week from Stewart of Toronto, Canada. It gives us a great deal of fortitude to receive comments like this (as well as appreciation in the form of meaningful financial support):
"You can't imagine how ecstatic and overjoyed your replies have made me! My father passed away when he was only 54 years old. I was still in my teens. I have always regretted never asking him to tell me more about his family and had no record of them. It took me years to track down my grandfather's grave in Budapest. But now, to learn the names and burial places of my great-grandparents and great-great-grandfather is absolutely incredible. I was truly in tears while reading your emails. This information has changed my life!
"Needless to say, I would love to learn the names of any of my other relatives you can find. I must say that what you and Dr. Pinter are doing is truly wonderful. Even though there is an enormous amount of money still to be raised and much work to be done in order to restore the whole cemetery, your efforts are miraculous and selfless. Like so many descendants of Hungarian Jews, I cannot thank you enough."
Now onto our work so far this year:
Last week, we completed work on Section 28, the largest in the cemetery by area with 4,871 burials and 4,445 graves. It comprises an area of almost 19,000 square meters (203,000 sq. feet) or almost 5 acres. Our team has expanded significantly from 5 workers to between 10-15 on any day so that this was finished in just 4 weeks in conditions that were a lot worse than those experienced last year. By way of comparison, the 3 sections we saved last year comprised of close to 17,000 sq meters, 90% of this area and 80% in number of graves taking us between 6 and 7 weeks.
Here is an aerial shot of part of the section. Given the age of the section and therefore the density of thick trees, it is difficult to capture the cleared effect of the entire area. Nevertheless, one can still see part of the section in the large open area surrounded by forest on all sides.
Section 28 is one of the older sections in the cemetery with most of the burials from 1906-1909. It had one of the most dense conditions of all with many stones having fallen and buried below a good deal of undergrowth. Below is a picture of one where our crew was able to resurrect a pillar after who knows how many years lying on the ground.
The following picture of the section partially cleared, gives the viewer a clear idea of what we are dealing with. On the right and in the background is the area we have opened up while directly in front and to the left is an untouched area that is almost impossible to get through until we open it up.
Equipment: Wood Chipper and Pick Up Truck
Over the winter break we bought a pick up truck as well as secured the services of a wood chipper, a vital piece of equipment we were lacking. We are thankful for the cooperation and assistance provided by the Budapest Jewish Community (BZsH). We rented at first to determine the quality and usefulness of various models. During our first month, we rented a machine that was too slow for our purposes and hindered our progress in clearing the enormous backlog of branches, Subsequently, we have rented the Jensen 540 which has seen a tremendous increase to our productivity and we hope to buy this machine.
Here is our "new" pick up truck hard at work. It has only 350,000 km on its odometer! Thanks to our friend and donor, Tom Sved and his family for buying this truck. The chipped branches go straight into the truck and are transported to a storage area near the front gate. After some build up, a power plant comes to pick up the chips and pays us about USD$2 per cubic meter for the privilege.
We spent the month of April chipping the backlog of branches in the sections we completed last year and carting the large wooden logs to our storage area where they are being dried and then sold for various purposes.
Our Work Plan
We have already begun work on Section 22 which come to 7780 sq meters, 2,957 burials and 1957 graves. This work should be completed in the next two weeks.
On the map below, we have highlighted the sections completed to date and circle Section 25 and 25 A/1 in red. Last year, we wanted to test our hypotheses and work methods and thus began on smaller sections in locations where we would be less disruptive. This year, we are tackling more visible areas along the main thoroughfare where progress can be observed by many. We decided just last week to postpone 25 and start Section 22 instead., While not yet fixed, we will likely tackle 38A after Section 22 is completed in the next two weeks.
Volunteers and Visits
We were delighted to have some important visitors from overseas join us.
In this picture is Ron Csillag from the Canadian Jewish News who wrote the article earlier this year that many of you would have seen. Follow this link to read it: Canadians thankful for group clearing Hungarian cemetery
To his right is Mrs Csillag and next to her, Anita Frelich, from Baltimore, Maryland who gave us 3 days of her time as a volunteer. Her help was tremendous; She begun our project of photographing all the tombstones in the cemetery and over this time, managed to photograph around 200. This is an enormous task but one that can be done without much physical effort. If you or anyone you know (especially student groups) is coming to Budapest and can spare a day or three, we would be very appreciative.
Finally, we are excited to report that we are applying to receive charitable status in Canada. The authorities tend to be very slow in their response but are confident it will pass.
We hope to send another update by mid-Summer.
CALL TO ACTION
Please consider donating further to our cause. At our current pace of activity, our cash burn is very high at present and we need funds urgently to continue.
For donors (including those in the USA wishing to take advantage of tax deductibility) please click on this link:
With warm regards,
Michael and Marc