The 1956 Hungarian Revolution
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We are free!
The victory was ours.
The Hungarian people answered their oppressors with bare hands, with guns, with 'Molotov cocktails' and with barricades. Many Hungarians paid for their yearning for freedom and human rights with their blood and even with their lives. Many more people of Budapest lost their homes and belongings because of the senseless destruction of their city by the superior and well-equipped oppressing forces.
Amazingly, everybody, including the people who lost practically everything, felt and looked very happy.
The streets and buildings of Budapest were badly damaged, many in ruins, but there was no crime or looting. The shops, unless they suffered a direct hit, did not get touched by anybody. The shops that were damaged were quickly repaired or boarded up by volunteers. The uprising was pure and innocent.
I saw many large boxes on busy street corners filled with money, donations from the people, to the people, to the cause. I did not see anyone guarding them; no one looking after them - there was no need. Everybody was happy to contribute and to not touch that money.
I still, vividly remember seeing one of those big boxes, probably larger than a square meter. It looked brand, spanking new as it was specially made just for that purpose. It stood on the western side of the Octagon, (The communists called it November 7 Square, the day of the Russian revolution.) nearly full with large bank notes.
The radio frequently announced our victory and Nagy Imre's resolve to negotiate with the Soviets to move their troops out of Hungary. They also urged the population to surrender their arms and register at one of the 'freedom fighters depots'. Many of the schools, shops or offices quickly became 'points' where the freedom fighters could register and surrender their arms. We would be contacted and rearmed if an attempt was made to overthrow our victorious uprising. I did leave my arms, name, phone number and address, so I could be registered and contacted if the need arose. I went back to my hostel to clean up and change my clothes.
The fighting was over. I felt very happy, despite being shot at and wounded. I felt lucky - many people and many of my friends lost their lives for our victory. The people of Budapest and the whole country were happy that at last we were free.
There were a few people who, with foresight (now retrospectively we can call it foresight), knew that this peace would not last. The Communist and the Soviets would not want to lose their domination and face to the freedom loving Hungarian people.
We Hungarians achieved our dreams of freedom and independence from the Soviets, our uprising was successful. The popular Imre Nagy was named Prime Minister and János Kádár General Secretary of the now renamed Communist Party (Socialist Workers Party). Kádár later ran over to the Russian side and set up a new Government in Debrecen, only hours before the Soviet invasion on the 4th of November (He remained the Party leader for more than thirty years and Prime Minister as well most of those years. He also ordered the execution of Nagy and thousands of others).
Nagy promised to negotiate the withdrawal of the Soviet Troops from Hungary, withdraw the country from the Warsaw Pact, declare Hungary a 'neutral country', end the 'one party rule', have free elections soon, and promised economic reforms as well. Additionally, Cardinal Mindszenty was freed.
The Soviets agreed to give concessions to the new government and agreed to most of Nagy's demands... for the time being, anyway.
At the hostel, I found that practically everybody was involved in the fighting and out of the twenty-four of my friends staying there, two had died. Our Manager was a very well educated, refined, friendly man and very good friend, respected by me and I would think by all of us. Even now after more than forty years I have great respect for him and appreciate his friendship and advice. When I turned up, on
Friday, he told me that he knew where I was and that practically all of us were involved. He also told me that somebody had already been around asking if he knew of anybody who was involved. He denied any knowledge of anybody's participation, despite knowing that many of us were involved.
A few days later he helped me again, most likely others too. On the nights of the second and the third of November, he asked me to come to his room and listen to the reports on the radio of the large Soviet forces pouring into the country near Csap and other places from Romania. The Soviets had begun their re-invasion of our country to crush our victorious Revolution.
At first, the Soviets tried to cover it, by saying they need their new forces there to help to withdraw their original forces and equipment intact from the now - to them - hostile territory. Most Hungarians, and according to news broadcast even the new government, accepted their explanations. The skeptics and people with foresight, however, knew better. Most of the average Hungarians, though, were too happy or too drunk with victory and looked at those few as doom-casters or agents of the Communists or Russians or both. Ours was the victory, and we really enjoyed it after years of tyranny. Ours was the ultimate prize, victory over the mighty Soviet yoke.
In the late autumn sun there were a lot of flowers and white crosses on the many temporary graves in the squares of Budapest, and large trucks with country folks roamed the streets distributing fresh fruit, vegetables, or other food free to the people of Budapest.
After I got myself cleaned up and changed, I went to see most of my family and my girlfriend, Anikó. Her mother and sister were fine as there was not much fighting in their neighbourhood, in Damjanich Street. They were all pleased to see me alive and well and Anikó and I went for a walk around town.
During our walk we went to the Köztársaság Square and saw some machinery and many people digging a large hole not far behind the Theatre and nearly opposite the Communist Party Headquarters. Someone told us that they were digging to the underground headquarters of the ÁVÓ (State Security Police).
In the previous few years while they were building the Underground railways, the construction seemed to slow down as they got near the Communist Party Headquarters, at the Köztársaság Square and near the Parliament Buildings. There were rumours of something else being built, that they were not only working on the Underground railways, but constructing some underground labyrinth, like a subterranean Headquarters for the ÁVÓ and the high ranking government and party officials.
Now the people felt obliged to get to the bottom of those rumours and dig up the hiding ÁVÓs.
I joined in to give a hand with the digging for a while. The next day I wasn't able to come back as I was given other chores to do, though I found out a few days latter that the diggings were successful, but the ÁVÓs managed to get out somewhere else, evading the diggers in the process. They probably just melted into the scenery somewhere quietly. Then again, some others said they did find some and hung them, and I did actually see a few of those hanging off trees near the square on the Ring Road. The sight was a bit gruesome, because they were hanging upside down, undressed. Afterwards, I read some comments and references from the Kádár regime and others about the 'barbarous deeds' committed, but it was really the spontaneous expression of the population's deep seated hate for regime's hatchet men.
The invading Soviets did encounter some resistance down country though, but their main objective was to retake the Capital, the streets of Budapest again.
But that's another day, another story, and another
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