Hungary gravediggers compete in national race

Work in progress during the first National Grave Digging Competition in the public cemetery of Debrecen, 3 June 2016. Image copyright EPA
Image caption Toil in the soil for a profession that says it is not getting the respect it deserves

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.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Competitors were judged on style as well as speed

"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.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption For safety reasons, only one member of each team was allowed to work inside the grave

"I don't think this is morbid," the deputy chairman of the Hungarian Undertakers' Association, Zoltan Juracsik, told Reuters.

"This is a profession, and the colleagues who toil in the competition today are proud and deserve our respect."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The undertakers' association is campaigning to get them better access to psychological support

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.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption There are multiple aspects to the job, dealing with mourners being one of them

"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.'"

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Paying respects after the job is done

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