Read, Think, Organise

Text and photos by Sarah Anulika

In the heart of Budapest, Hungary, a compelling narrative unfolds within the walls of a unique community library established by a simple English woman Antonia Burrows, a feminist and activist. A former teacher at ELTE who dedicated 15 years to teaching feminist studies, she now teaches English and German privately as well as, continuing to support feminist activism, promoting and working with Hungarian women to achieve positive change in Hungarian society for women. She has dedicated her life to offering support and empowerment, wisdom and knowledge to migrant women. Transitioning from a career as an educator, she has progressed into a dynamic activist, tirelessly promoting positive change within Hungarian society.

This library serves as a hub for English language books, with a distinctive focus on feminist subjects. It stands out in Hungary and is the only library across other European countries that has such a big number of English books covering diverse aspects of womanhood; from women’s psychology to parenting, sex, sensuality, and philosophy, and history.

The heart of this story is shown through a series of photographs made during a significant exhibition in 2023. The exhibition centred around the experiences of migrants and refugees in Europe, showcasing the situation of migrant/refugees in refugee camps and landing-places, along with leaflets and books on the subject. The photographs were displayed in Anotnia’s library for four months, and received a lot of attention, prompting discussions and raising awareness about the challenges faced by migrants and refugees making the dangerous journey to Europe.

The photographs in this project capture moments of Antonia engaging in her daily activities within the library. Climbing a ladder to retrieve a book for a patron, immersed in conversations with visitors, and poring over a book for information – each frame captures her commitment to fostering dialogue, knowledge-sharing, and empowerment within the community.

The essence of this project extends beyond the library’s walls. It is a call to action, a campaign to encourage migrant women in Budapest and across Europe to recognise their voting rights and embrace their potential as agents of change. Antonia, herself a migrant, uses the library as a platform to advocate for political engagement and empowerment as it is also a gathering place for migrant women. The library’s motto: “read, think, and organise,” embodies her vision of encouraging critical thinking and active participation in civil society and politics.

As an established institution in Hungarian society, Antonia’s library is not just a repository of books but a source of power and empowerment. It acts as a meeting space for people from diverse backgrounds, fostering connections and encouraging political participation. Through this project, the aim is to inspire women, particularly those who may feel excluded, to recognize their agency and embrace the opportunity to have their voices heard through the democratic process.

This exhibition serves not only to narrate the story behind the project but to invite visitors to engage with the themes of empowerment, migration, and civic participation. It is a testament to the transformative potential of community spaces and the role they play in shaping a more inclusive and empowered society.

The EU elections are approaching and it is all about us migrants and refugees! Migrant women need to have the right to vote because they encounter specific challenges, such as discrimination, language barriers, etc. We require support at the EU level to address these issues effectively bringing about local and systematic change. The EU Parliamentary elections in Hungary will be on Sunday June 9th 2024. So save the date!

I call out all the migrant women in Hungary including myself and all over Europe to come out and vote on the day of the EU elections, to make our voices heard and also to vote for someone that will recognise, accept and work with migrants and refugees all over the Europe.

This is a call for action, all together, with one voice we can be heard and achieve our goals for a brighter future!