Gravediggers in Hungary have been taking part in the country's first national gravedigging contest at a cemetery in the city of Debrecen. Eighteen two-man teams were judged on their speed and style, with the fastest finishing in just over half an hour. Organisers say the contest is intended to increase respect and recognition for the gravediggers' profession and attract more people to the job.
The winners will compete in a regional contest to be held in Slovakia.
All contestants had shovels, rakes, axes and pickaxes to dig graves that complied with the regulation size: 0.8m (2 ft 7 in) wide, 2m (6 ft 6 in) long and 1.6m (5 ft 3 in) deep.
"We didn't have to prepare in any special way because we do this every day," said Jonas, from the nearby village of Hosszupalyi.
"This is good earth, quite soft and humid, just right for the event."
Each team had its own technique. Some preferred to dig simultaneously, while others had one man digging and the other forming the dirt into neat piles around the gravesite.
"I don't think this is morbid," the deputy chairman of the Hungarian Undertakers' Association, Zoltan Juracsik, said.
"This is a profession, and the colleagues who toil in the competition today are proud and deserve our respect."
YouTube link. Additional YouTube video.
Organisers say the contest is meant to improve the prestige of gravedigging and attract young men to a job that must still be done by hand in crowded cemeteries where mechanical diggers cannot fit.
With more and more people opting for cremations, and young people being increasingly unwilling to take up manual labour, the job is under threat.
"The hardest part of the job is to deal with the mourners,'' said local gravedigger Laszlo Toth, part of one of the fastest teams.
"But it's a good job, with good colleagues and a good environment.'"
That name in the last sentence sounded familiar.
There was a Laszlo Toth, a Hungarian nut-case who attacked Michelangelo's Pieta back in the 1970s.
Surely this must be a different one.
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