Summer Camp, the Children’s Republic

During the Interwar Period, private summer camps constituted a self-evident part of childhood among families of the wealthier urban classes. Although various changes in the economic and political arenas affected the manner in which summer vacations could be spent, private institutions (including the camp in Bánk) were intended primarily for the children of the urban well-to-do. Although through the “pioneer” scouting movement, the communist regime both standardised the camp experience, and made it available to all, at the same time, most private institutions were forced into dissolution. Interestingly, it was precisely this early period, the decades of the fifties and sixties, that the privately operated camp in Bánk claims as its golden age.

Gaudiopolis – “City of Joy” – was a “children’s republic” operated as part of the Pax Children’s Home in the Budapest district of Zugliget between 1945 and 1950. Its founder, Lutheran pastor Gábor Sztehlo, intended the children’s state as a haven for orphans forced into hiding during the war. The republic was self-sustaining (though it did receive support from the Swiss and Danish branches of the Red Cross): apart from their studies, its citizens participated in construction projects that included a school and sporting facilities, grew fruit, worked in workshops, operated a library, and organised cultural events. The community had a constitution and by-laws, its own currency (the “Gapo-dollar”), and an internally published joke magazine entitled Gapo Matyi. The citizens of Gaudiopolis appeared in the film Somehwere in Europe, and their story featured several times in the works of film director Erika Szántó.