Italian WWI Cemetery, Zalaegerszeg, Hungary

In the 1989 film Field of Dreams, while Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is walking through a cornfield, he hears someone whisper, ‘If you build it, he will come.’ He figured out that the IT was a baseball park.

In Zalaegerszeg, in the early 1900s in the throes of WWI, the hospital was full of wounded soldiers. Able-bodied men were in short supply. And the fields weren’t producing. The Ministry of Agriculture was asked to set up a POW camp, presumably so that captured soldiers could work the fields.

Ambitions were high. When the Bratislava Military District Command was asked to hand over a plot of land, he chose Egervári u. 16, where 50 barracks were built to house 20 000 prisoners. Only 3600 showed up. Not quite a full house. They all didn’t come.

From what I can gather, the camp was built around 1915 and known locally as the Wire Village. And then, in 1920, it was reborn as an internment camp.

The former camp is now a cemetery. The inscription is in both Hungarian and Italian – the Hungarian text describes it as a World War I Heroes Cemetery. The Italian simply a military cemetery.

Stone arch marking the entry to the Italian War Cemetery in Zalaegerszeg Hungary

Here, the bodies of 1,656 soldiers are interred. I read that there are 720 individual graves I didn’t count them. I would have thought there were a lot more, considering that the plaque seems to say that there are 692 Italians alone.

COllage of two photos. Each photo shows a black marble slap with gold writing 1) in Italian marking the 692 italian soldiers who died in Zalaegerezeg from 1917 to 1918; and 2) in Hungarian mentioning the Italian, Russian, Serbian, Romanian and Hungarian soliders buried here.

The Italian markers are numbered crosses.

Numbered crossed - one in the foreground showing the number 170. Gravemarkers for italian soldiers buried in Zalaegerszeg Hungary

Those of Russian, Serbian, Romanian, and Hungarian soldiers and Jewish POWs are marked with helmets. They, too, have numbers. On the back.

11 rows of low headstones bearing a soldier's helmet and a branch of some sort marking the Russian, Romanian, Serbian and Hungarian soldiers buried across from the Italian cohort in a miliary cemetery in Zalaegerszed Hungary

The unknown heroic dead are buried in a mass grave, I think underneath the obelisk

an obelisk with a large stone wreath a third of the way down from the top. Inscribed with the years 1914-1918. A heroes' monument. Four steps lead up to the base. To stones with a relief of a soldiers helmet mark either side

The cemetery has undergone a number of facelifts, the most recent in 2014 when a three-year project supported by the Italian embassy began, It was completed in May 2017.

It’s a lovely spot and heartwarming to see the place renovated and cared for. The lads deserve as much and more.

 

 

 

 

 

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