Today is All Saints Day and local people are remembering past generations of their own kin in the nearby Catholic cemetery. An hour after the sun set, this churchyard was refilled with warm coloured light from candles in transparent orange, yellow, pink and green vases surrounded by a sea of flowers arranged about each inscribed headstone. I heard the crunch of dry fallen leaves as someone passed (otherwise) silently behind me and then stooped down to light another candle at his very personal destination. The sound of good natured laughter (for this is in many ways a joyful occasion) came from the entrance.
A path and a thin concrete wall separates this fairy land from the burial place of over 5,000 Russian soldiers who died in savage fighting here in 1944. This altogether more austere and regimental space, guarded by a monumental sculpture of mourning motherhood, had its own few memorial lights. More soldiers who perished crossing the Danube are buried on the Esztergom side of the river, beneath the canopy of a hundred or more beautiful horse chestnut trees. A lot of lives were cut short here during the Second World War and afterward through the continuing politics of oppression and occupation that followed ‘liberation’.
Last night I listened live to Polly Harvey performing her ‘Let England Shake’ collection of post war songs live from the Albert Hall in London where I am more accustomed to the jingoism of the last night of the proms. It felt like she was reclaiming an imperial venue with more thoughtful and significant messages, which I carried with me through the whole of today.