The 1956 Hungarian Revolution
Escape to freedom
Imre (Emery) helped me inside. My mother, father, and younger brother were very glad to see me returning from Budapest. The pain in my leg did not bother me very much and I thought at the time that everybody was fussing too much and overacting a little bit on my behalf. It only took us a few hours to get to Szécsény.
Imre began telling my parents everything about the Soviet attack. Rumours about Kádár leaving the Government and the negotiators and running to Moscow for help.
How the Soviets double-crossed and arrested the Hungarian negotiators.
Imre Nagy's radio broadcast of appealing to the nation and the world for help. How Imre Nagy with many others in his Government seeking shelter in the Yugoslav Embassy. He told my parents that the fighting was still going on in Budapest and many other places and that the Soviets had deported hundreds of captured people back to the Soviet Union.
Although seemingly in a hurry, he managed to tell us a lot in a short time. He tried to bring everybody up to date, even if most of it was only rumour at this time.
Radios broadcasts locally, or from abroad, were unreliable, mistrusted, and taken as propaganda most of the time. He was in a hurry - he wanted to get back to Budapest and get back to the fighting while there was still a chance to hope and to fight.
This was the third day of the Soviet attack, the 7th of November. The general situation was very uncertain. The fighting was still going on in Budapest and many other towns. I was just hopping and moping around. Some of the very naive people, I included, were waiting for the Western powers to come to our aid or at least force the Soviets to negotiate instead of shooting our people.
The days went very slowly for me. I was not that badly disabled. I could walk around with a slight limp and not too much pain or discomfort. I spent most of the time just feeling sorry for myself and angry that I could not be somewhere and doing something useful.
The fighting and the strikes seemed to go on day after day, week after week, and somewhere in the country. In Budapest some heavy and prolonged fighting went on for the first few days and continued sporadically for some time.
The new Kádár Government offered concessions, threats, amnesty etc. It just went on for days.
Towards the middle of November, there were rumours that the Nagy Government was still the only legal Government. A few days later I heard rumours that Nagy and his Government had been kidnapped by the Soviets.
There were some newspaper reports that the new government would meet all the demands of the 23rd of October. They were a few of the many promises made those days, but not many were ever kept. The deportations, strikes, and some fighting were still going on.
In Salgótarján, a large industrial town, only about 25 kilometres away from our place, there were still many demonstrations and strikes during November.
The Soviets or the newly formed security forces broke up many of the demonstrations. They were acting even more vengefully than the old ÁVÓ. They could attack any groups, beat them up, and throw them in jail or in the reopened "labour camps".
It was towards the end of November after many threatening decrees from the new government that some factories, schools were forced to reopen. Numerous factories or mines remained on strike. Others voted to go on strike in protest against the deportations and the harsh government decrees.
The people's Revolution was brutally crushed, by the 'might' of the Soviet Union. The world as a whole could not care less or did not want to care. There were words exchanged at the United Nations and elsewhere but everybody, including us crushed Hungarians, knew that those were only words. Deep down we knew that we were back where we were before our few glorious days of victory or may be even worst.
After our first victory there were numerous radio broadcast asking the people to surrender their arms and register with one of the 'volunteer posts' so they can be contacted if the need arises. The new Nagy Government was anxious to get on with normalising all conditions in Hungary. Get the country back to work and start negotiations to fulfil the revolution's and the people's demands.
I went to register my name at a school near Baross Street.
The need did arise, much sooner than most of the Hungarians anticipated it. The Soviets invaded us again to crunch our Uprising, our Victory, our Cause, and our Idea. They came back to subjugate us so the new government could eliminate any opposition and in time start its retaliation.
Towards the end of November came decision time for me and many thousands of Hungarians. The arrests, jailings without trial and deportations had been going on since the invasion. Other retaliations started and they set up the new 'security forces' to replace the disbanded dreaded ÁVÓ. They sometimes acted more brutal than the forces they replaced.
Some of the new decrees were forcing schools to reopen. One day in the last week of November our Director rang me to ask whether I was going to return to the hostel and school and he would be very pleased to see me back again.
I was worrying about my registration, my participation, and my hospital admission records falling into the new authority's hands and there being some reckoning to pay. I seriously had to think about my future and consider what I was going to do.
I had a long discussion with my parents about escaping to Austria, as soon as possible. My mother spent the last couple of days cooking and baking my favourite foods, spending long intervals crying and hugging me, giving motherly advice and wisdom for my future. My father, a highly educated wise old gentleman, advised and consoled me too.
We all suspected that we might never see each other again. Their hearts were in pain, but with parental love and wisdom they approved my plans and gave me their blessings.
We all cried openly, hugging each other many times during the last two days. Often my mother started a low-key apprehensive pep talk and soon tears were running down her beautiful cheeks and she started hugging me, sobbing and crying. My father was very encouraging, even indicating that they will probably follow me soon.
Deep down, somehow, I knew he was just trying to encourage me. He would never leave Hungary.
As fate would have it, I could not visit Hungary again for twenty-two years. My father died a few years earlier and the country was still under Kádár's control.
The political system was more humane and relaxed. Economically the country and the population's living conditions improved. The people of Hungary enjoyed more political freedom.
Life seemed much better: most of my family, my brother and sisters and their families, had good jobs, cars and owned their own flats, things that were unthinkable in post war Hungary.
I left my family and Szécsény for Budapest and my hostel before the end of November. It was one of my life's worst and hardest experiences, to say goodbye to my mother and father.
My father took me down to a workshop near our place in Szécsény. They had a large truck loaded with boxes and sacks of potatoes going to Budapest. My father had a brief talk with the driver and we said a very long goodbye, we hugged and kissed each other with tearful eyes.
I never saw my father again.
With tears in my eyes and a fast-throbbing, aching heart I jumped on the back of the truck with quiet a few others already on or climbing up later and sat on top of one of the boxes. Soon the truck started to move and I was waving goodbye to my father as the truck slowly started up the road heading for Budapest.
There were about twenty other people on the back of the truck with me, sitting on boxes or sacks on the way to the Capital.
The roads, towns, and villages all seemed to be reasonably quiet and showed signs of settling back to relative normality as our truck went through them. Many people waved to us and yelled their good wishes and a wishing us a good journey along the way. A 'General Strike' was voted on and was observed practically throughout the country.
The Kádár Government tried to negotiate with the unions and the recently elected Workers Councils. They were promising anything just to get them back to work and accept the new regime. No sooner had one factory started to work then another went on strike in protest of the deportations or the arrest of some of their leaders.
The buses and trains tried to run as regularly as possible under the circumstances, but due to the declared general strike (which was more like a 'rolling strike') for the heavy handed interaction of the authorities, the service was very uncertain. Anybody who wanted to travel somewhere had to grab any transport that was available. Trucks laden with goods and people heading towards the Capital were a common and welcome sign. The country villages were sympathising with the Capital's population and their struggle and they grabbed all available vehicles, loaded them with fresh produce to send them up to the city for free distribution on the streets.
I thoroughly enjoyed my ride on the back of the truck. I enjoyed watching the countryside passing by, the villages and towns we went through; People walking, talking, tending to their crops, people working, waving to us as we passed and us waving back; the wind blowing my hair as we headed closer and closer to Budapest. I would not see these people and the countryside for a very long time.
It was just after midday when we arrived in Budapest. The truck driver was very kind and courteous and dropped everybody at their destinations, a very welcome door to door service when practically everything was in a bit of a chaos, including the local public transport services.
Most of my friends were at the hostel already when I arrived. I quickly got updated about the few that were not there. Many were casualties of our struggle. May their souls rest in peace.
I went to see our Director and we had a long discussion about the possibilities ahead and also the many drawbacks of any action I was to consider.
I treasure his wise assessment of the situation and level-headed advice even to this day. We talked about the pros and cons of leaving or staying. Leaving my family, friends, country and studies behind, probably forever. Disrupting my education or waiting for the coming retaliation. I did not have very much time to decide before the reigning chaos had time to settle down and the 'Iron Curtain' hermetically sealed the country again.
I also had to consider what the authorities would do to my family and friends for my actions, including escaping to the West, if my plans to escape bore fruit.
Talking it over with my parents a few days ago and talking to the hostel Director and my friends, we all agreed if I was going to go ahead trying to escape there was no time to lose. I decided I was going to leave in the next day or two, after I had a chance to talk to Anikó and help to get her ready for our departure.
Many people were leaving the Capital to escape to the West and there were a lot of stories and rumours about the borders being guarded by the Russians, and that they were shooting at everybody trying to escape.
All my friends at the hostel tried to help me as much as they could. Laci gave me his pair of shoes to wear. They were going to replace my new cherry coloured 30mm thick rubber soled shoes, the latest fashion in Budapest at the time. I bought them recently and was very proud of them.
I enjoyed to go dancing once or twice a week, enjoying the music and ambience of the dance halls. I enjoyed meeting and the company of the nice young girls. The most popular dances were the Tango, Foxtrot and the South American Rumba and Samba in those days.
During the dances, I could hold all the nice young girls in my arms and dance in close body contact with them. I also bought some hand made Italian made shirts that had a different collar structure to the usual shirts, also some outrageous ties and fluorescent, bright coloured socks that were very fashionable at the time with the young people of Budapest.
My right shoe had a bullet hole in it now. That shoe was a very early casualty of the Revolution. I was shot in my right foot by the marauding ÁVÓs shooting from upstairs windows and roofs at any group of people in the first few hours of our Revolution.
In those early hours, many ÁVÓs were sniping from the tall buildings' rooftops and windows to avoid being easy targets and being captured. Those shoes would not be very good to walk in for kilometres looking for a suitable place to cross the border, anyway. Laci's shoes would prove to be much better for the rough December weather in Hungary, although it was beautiful sunny autumn weather all this time, right up until I finally left Europe.
Another friend, Miki (Nick) given me his 'akta-táska' (attaché case, or briefcase), because of my desire to travel light to escape attention and suspicion. I was only going to carry what I could fit in the briefcase. I did have a briefcase, but again it was nearly brand new and very shiny, more likely to draw attention. Both of them being very close and good friends, we also exchanged photographs, many good wishes, and loads of advice.
Many of my friends gave me their parents' and relatives' addresses, especially the ones from the Western part of the country, to use them as an excuse if I was to be questioned, or to visit them if I had the time and the opportunity.
Feri (Frank by the Hungarian nickname, something like Franky), his parents lived in Györ, also gave their address and a letter for them and asked me to go and see them and pass on the letter. We both thought visiting them would be a good excuse for travelling towards the border if I was questioned about the purpose of my travel, towards the Austrian border.
Before nightfall, I went to see Anikó. She quickly agreed to escape with me, to my surprise. She told me it could be an exciting experience for both of us. To my surprise, Anikó's mother and sister also supported our plans to leave the next day and try to escape to Austria. Everything seemed to be going all right so far.
I left the hostel early in the morning on my way to Anikó. Mrs. Totterer greeted me very warmly and seemed very happy to see me. We all chatted for a while and everything seemed all right, until I announced that Anikó and I better get going.
Anikó had her bag already packed, ready to go. Anikó's mother suddenly turned hysterical and started a very emotional, hysterical crying, jumping on the corridor's window ledge and threatened to jump out of the window (From the third floor!!!) if Anikó leaves her. She seemed very distressed at the thought of Anikó leaving her, and just went on screaming and crying. Anikó's elder sister, Ilonka (The Hungarian nickname for our version of Ilona - Helen in English) was there too. She was very understanding and helpful towards our plans and us but she also had to support her mother.
Anikó and I spent three or four hours in their spare room, left alone, talking, cuddling and kissing each other, dreaming about and making plans about our future together.
Anikó's mother was hoping that we would change our mind about leaving. We were hoping that in time she would settle down and consent to our leaving together.
Later, Ilonka had a long discussion about how they could calm their mother down and agree to Anikó's leaving with me. We arranged to meet at the Railway Station a couple of hours later, hoping to calm their mother down and try to change her mind and let her go.
I left, without ever saying a real goodbye to Anikó, ever hopeful that she would rush to the station before our train departs. Again, I had to realise my naiveté. I was dreaming about our escape and future together and waited until the very last minute for their arrival. I was very upset inside, but always hoped and trusted Anikó and her love for me.
The whistle went as the train started to move and was slowly gathering speed. I was standing on the steps hanging out straining to catch sight of the girls. They were nowhere in sight. I was hoping until the last second to catch a glimpse of her. Anikó was one of the most precious beings in my life at the time. My heart was thumping inside me.
I was very disappointed and broken hearted about leaving Anikó behind, and many times I felt like jumping off the train to run back to fetch her, with or without her mother's consent. I was very discontented, and at the same time anxious and excited about the unknown before me. I knew for my own safety I must go.
Naiveté, daydreaming, and illusions took over my mind, as I expected to see her sit down beside me any minute. I did not want to admit or accept it as a fact that I had just lost my dream girl and my very first real love affair for ever.
So there I was, I had to leave behind some one else I loved very much.
The train left Budapest on the way to Györ. Left behind were all my friends, loved ones, and my beautiful, war torn Budapest. (My mother, brother and sisters and their families for twenty-one years, others like my father, Anikó, and all my school friends forever. Some died fighting, some were imprisoned and executed for their participation in the Revolution. May God grant their souls peace.
A few minutes after we left the station, a young fellow, about my age came over to where I was sitting. "Are you going to try to escape too?"
"Yes." I replied, a bit cautiously, just in case he was working for the other side. He was Pali (The Hungarian nickname for Pál - Paul). He came from Pécs, (large southern Hungarian city - one of the longest resistance and strikes to the occupation was in the nearby hills).
Another young fellow about my age was doing the same thing, going the same place. He was also trying to escape to the West. We immediately became good friends and seemed to get on very well with each other, understanding each other, being on the same wavelength more or less.
Talking to Pali helped me to get my mind off the very painful departure, leaving Anikó, family, friends and everything else behind.
Our train only went as far as Komárom, although it was scheduled to go to Györ.
It was dark when we arrived at Komárom. We strolled into town at around ten o'clock at night, looking for somewhere to stay. There was a ten o'clock curfew in force nation wide. That was the probable explanation for our train not going any further.
The people were amazing, everybody seemed to know what we were up to and came to our help with advice or warning about the local communist militia activities. A man came out of a doorway towards us, waving as we walked along the footpath. He grabbed and pulled us inside and excitedly whispered to us.
"Watch out, there are 'Militia' all over the place, looking for people like you." (Komárom is one of the places, on the Slovakian border, between Budapest and the Austrian border, where many escapees had to go through, and the authorities were keeping a lookout for people like us.)
"You two can stay with us for the night, if you have nowhere to go."
The spirit of the Revolution was widespread. Everybody was trying to help everybody. Everybody was a brother, especially a brother in need. They gave us a very nice dinner and their best room for the night. We were treated like royalty. After our dinner and quite a few drinks, we talked for long hours into the night.
Next morning he walked with us to the Railway Station to ensure that we caught our train to Györ. We thanked him profusely for their kindness and help.
Györ is very beautiful and large city near the Austrian and Slovak border. We went sightseeing first before we walked to see Feri's parents at the outskirts of the city. They made us stay for the night.
The nice people did not know how to spoil us enough. Apart from feeding and putting us up for the night, they offered us money. We did not want to accept any, because I knew they did not have much themselves, but they insisted. Visiting them was a very pleasant and memorable experience.
Unfortunately a few months later my father's letter in New Zealand informed me their son was imprisoned and later executed for his participation in our Revolution, another casualty of the retaliation. May the Almighty God rest his soul in peace.
On the way to the station, I bought a bottle of Szilva Pálinka (Hungarian Plum Brandy) for the road, as another travelling companion. According to Hungarian tradition, it is the best medicine for cold, boredom, tiredness, corn on your toes and practically any ailment.
After long goodbyes and some tears, the train departed on our way to Sopron.
Pali and I could have gone straight to Sopron or Mosonmagyarovár, both very close to the border, but after some discussion we decided it may be too obvious heading so near to the border and so much inside Austria, so we changed trains at Csorna and headed south towards Szombathely.
We were very nervous, worried, and apprehensive, just waiting for somebody to tap us on the shoulder and ask for our destination and purpose for heading towards the Austrian border. We had our answers worked out, visiting relatives and so on, but in reality we felt more like a guilty little child and were very worried and afraid of being caught. Our successful escape or a long prison sentence depended on not being caught. We also contemplated the alternatives of getting off the train while we were still a fair distance from the border and walk for 20-30 kilometres and get noticed, looking like city kids as we did.
Alternatively, we could risk being just as obvious and being noticed getting off the train close to the border. There were a few people on our train, all softly talking to each other, probably making plans. They all seemed like us, city folks, far away from home. We all seemed to share a big secret, big expectations, contemplating the future, the big unknown.
We got off our train at Répcelak and started walking towards Lövõ not quite thirty kilometres away. Our great plan was to catch another train there that goes nearer to the border. The plain truth was that we were very scared and were going around in circles, too frightened to take our chances and head straight for the border. That train came from Sopron and headed to Szombathely as our previous one from Csorna, but on a different line.
We anxiously looked around the train. There were too many Hungarian soldiers and other people that looked suspiciously like communist militia in civilian clothes on this train.
Our plan did not seem to work very well. After a few stations, the train stopped, and the station's platforms were full of Soviet or Hungarian soldiers. "Well," I thought "our plan did not work, they are here waiting for us, like lambs to the slaughter."
Nothing else left but to go to Szombathely now. Soon after our arrival at Szombathely a young man rushed towards us and started to talk in a hurried whisper that he had heard that many people managed to escape near Köszeg.
Köszeg was a large town very near the border, we would not be very noticeable as city folk, and there was hardly anybody guarding it in the last few days.
Against all our previous plans and decisions, we quickly got on a train that was just leaving for Köszeg. As we had never tried to escape from Hungary before, we had neither experience nor any solid or fail proof plan. So, we could be easily persuaded into any feasible alternative, like this one.
It was getting dark as we arrived in Köszeg, and we had no firm plan of what we were going to do next. We started walking more or less aimlessly away from the station, trying to come up with some kind of a plan for the night and in the longer term.
We might have walked for only 15 minutes and perhaps one kilometre from the station looking for a hotel to stay for the night, when a man standing on the footpath outside a gate came whispering to us as we were approaching him. "Come, quickly, inside with me".
Once inside with the solid timber gate firmly shut behind us, he told us that there were many policemen and soldiers around in the last few hours, looking for people like us. The word got around that many people escaped around here and they reinforced the border and the town with new Soviet and Hungarian troops, Militiamen and police in the last few hours. He invited us for dinner and to spend the night with them, in their 'best room', de javu.
We had a very similar experience before in Komárom and Györ and would be having some more yet. God Bless the many fellow Hungarians that helped us one way or another with our escape.
The next morning, he told us that he heard that the best place for us to try would be near Répcevis, about 12 kilometres from here. They still had trouble guarding the border for its entire length at all times.
We set out towards Répcevis after a very big and beautiful breakfast. After two or three hours on the road, we found ourselves in Répcevis. We checked it out a number of times on our map along the way, and it was very near the border alright.
Walking through the village, as in many villages before, the local people smiled, waved, and encouraged us. They all recognised us as city kids and knew that we were heading towards the border, trying to escape to freedom. Many just walked past us and smiled knowingly, encouragingly and pointed in the border's direction, or came to whisper encouragement into our ears.
During our walk, we asked an elderly man about a more precise direction and the distance to the border. He pointed to the end of the street and told us to go straight ahead across the fields for about two kilometres and we will be in Austria. "There is nothing much between here and 'Freedom' to stop you," he said - if only he knew. We headed west quite elated that we were so close to our goal. Like with springs in our heels, we hurried ahead. We must have gone for what felt like nearly two kilometres, crossing a road as we headed towards our goal and we saw many other people heading in the same direction all around us.
Suddenly we heard and saw Soviet soldiers running towards us, yelling and firing their machine guns in our direction from the little forest, a few hundred metres on our right. A bullet hit me on my left arm, below my shoulder, but luckily, it only grazed me slightly. For a few minutes, it was bleeding quiet profusely.
We both stopped and quickly stuck our hands high up in the air. People warned us before not to run or the Soviets will fire at us without giving us a second chance. The Soviets did not enjoy a very good reputation among the ordinary Hungarians. There were numerous stories around about their ignorance and brutality.
We did not run, I did not run and they still fired at us, they still shot me.
My arm was bleeding and I felt a slight pain and I could feel the blood running down inside my shirt.
I was thinking of sticking my handkerchief on the wound, but I thought the better of it. I did not know how trigger happy our Soviet captors would be. They were yelling at us in Russian, and they could not understand any Hungarian. They were fresh troops from the Soviet Union, not the ones that were stationed in Hungary in the previous years and knew some Hungarian.
During our nearly one-thousand-one-hundred years of being a Christian Kingdom, centred around our present, truncated country, we were invaded by Ghengis Khan's Mongols, the Tartars, the Turks and, in the last fifty years, by Germans and twice by the Soviets.
Most of us Hungarians looked at the Soviets over the years in much the same way, as a "barbaric' invader and occupier. After the WWII, many people were 'sold' on the Communist and Soviet promises of agrarian reform, nationalisation of assets, classless society, freedom, independence, equality and the like. Over the years, it all proved to be just propaganda. The only people who still believed them were the high office bearers, who financially or materially benefited from being a 'Komi' (Communist).
The Soviet soldiers that were stationed in Hungary and lived there for a few years learned the language, adjusted to the local conditions and became more 'civilised.' They became friendlier towards us, the locals, and much more understanding. All of us knew that the new ones were very barbaric and 'trigger happy'.
All of us that were captured were herded onto the back of a Soviet army truck that was hidden behind the bushes, beside the road. It was a troop carrying truck with seats on both sides and double seats in the middle. Pali and I were made to sit on the side of the truck with the Soviets sitting either side and in front us. There were a few other captured people on our truck already.
The truck took us to another village on what seemed at the time like, because of our anxiety and fear of the unknown, a fairly long drive. It stopped in a large oval, bushy enclave, an encampment, with a metre or higher mound running all around it, surrounding a number of tents, trucks, heavy guns and tanks, and a large number of Soviet soldiers. In the middle were a couple of larger tents, with the Soviet soldiers and officers coming and going. The place seemed like a hive of activity. The encampment seemed to be below ground level and had a high earth bank around it with trees and bushes all around. The tanks and guns had their barrels sticking over the banks, facing towards Austria. No one talked to us. Although we could understand Russian, (after all, it was a compulsory language in all Hungarian schools for many years now) there was nothing much to understand as the Soviets were hurrying around or sitting nearby and watching us. We always talked to them in Hungarian, too self-conscious and proud to use the occupiers' language.
There were the occasional orders or names called, but they all seemed to go about their business without saying much.
The guards on the truck did not say much either, not even between themselves.
So close yet so far away, I thought to myself, looking at the unplanted strip of land (looked so obviously like the border) only a few hundred metres away towards the west.
Sometimes we whispering to each other and were anxiously wondering about our future or the surprises in store for us.
At times we got a bit brazen and egged the Soviets on.
But deep down we were really very worried, downhearted, disappointed and uncertain of our future.
After a long wait that seemed like eternity to me, sitting on the back of the truck with some of the Soviets left guarding us, we set off towards some unknown destination.
While were sitting there hardly anyone said anything. If we tried to talk to our guards they would get stiff and wave their guns around threateningly to shut us up. They never communicated with us and never tried to keep us informed.
We were taken to Szombathely, as we found out later, after our arrival. Some of our fellow prisoners recognised the place. I certainly did not, having never been there before.
The truck stopped in front of a multi-storied red brick building. We were gestured to get off the truck in a hurry and were herded into the old building and up a flight of steps.
It looked like an old barracks building with very large dormitories. There must have been about 60 people already sitting or lying on the mattresses on the wooden floor. I do not know about the other people, but I was very frightened. The place did not look like the entrance to heaven or my freedom.
Before I could settle down for long on a vacant mattress on the floor, I was grabbed, told to leave my briefcase on the mattress and was marched by two soldiers to a small, dirty room where my arm was cleaned and dressed. The bloodstain on my heavy raincoat was sponged off and I was told to go back to my place. Fortunately it was only a minor wound, the bullet having only grazed me, and it did not do much damage.
Someone had betrayed us, Pali and I felt pretty certain and bitter about that. The Soviets were waiting to ambush us. We felt betrayed, but not for a second did we blame our host of the previous night or the village people that so nicely encouraged and wished us on. There could have been an informer in the village, or the Soviets might just happened to be there. After all we must been easy pickings for them, so many people trying to escape in the same place and at the same time. It looked much like a mass exodus. In reality that is what it was.
During my stay in the large room, sitting on the mattress on the floor, I saw many people being taken to an office or something outside the big dormitory and escorted back after a fairly long while, looking down hearted and exhausted. I was terrified, waiting for the time I was called to be interrogated, waiting for my turn.
My turn did come. Two soldiers came for me and holding me under my armpits, frog marched me to a little office by the stairway. It struck me something like a cleaners room, broom cupboard.
That stairway did not lead to 'heaven' or freedom, a horrifying thought ran through my over excited, fearful mind.
The office was a small, shabby place, it was most likely the cleaner's storeroom. There was a large old scruffy desk with a female and a male officer sitting behind it asking questions and taking notes. There were two other officers sitting by the window, behind the two sitting at the desk, and another three sitting behind me by the wall, covered by the door as I entered. I did not notice them until later.
I was very scared. I was very nervous and frightened.
The woman very politely told me to sit down.
They all must have sensed my panic. They must have experienced with some of the others too.
I felt panic-stricken.
I was asked for my name, age, occupation, date of birth, school I was attending, and my home address.
I was also asked many questions about my parents.
Where I was going?
What was I doing near the border?
What was I thinking about communism?
Why I did not like communism?
Why did I try to escape to the west?
The woman kept going back to this question after a few unimportant, routine questions.
After a few minutes trying to avoid the real reason - and they were watching my answers, my face and reactions to their questions - suddenly I worked up amazing courage. With self-amazing bravery I started to describe all my disappointments with the system.
The regime that was always talking about freedom, prosperity, personal satisfaction and equality, in reality there was a 'total lack of personal freedom', 'freedom of speech', self-expression', 'my family's persecution in the previous years' etc. I was amazing at my own sudden brazenness and courage to speak up.
I could not really tell them the actual reason, though: that I (and many other Hungarians, I suppose) was terrified of the retaliation that we were imagining to be released soon on Hungary. I do not know whether they believed me or not. They just took notes and asked more questions. I told them that I wanted to travel overseas as well, but in fact, we never were allowed really.
I felt very nervous, scared and sweaty again suddenly, everywhere especially in my shoes and pants. Nervous twitches ran down my back and I felt goose pimples all over my body and the hair was standing up on the back of my neck, I was mortified. I felt sorry for myself for my sudden outburst.
These people were not here to play games, chess or cards with me.
I was very scared.
Nevertheless, as I entered the room, I suddenly sensed that the I.Q. level in the little room had multiplied.
Pictures of horror, torture, and a long prison sentence ran through my hyped up mind and imagination at a rapid pace.
The questioning was thorough and grueling, and the fact that I had to lie to them convincingly made it even harder. I tried very hard to remember all my answers in case they were going to revisit the same questions again, and again. It was a very exhausting experience but to my big surprise and amazement after a while I was marched back to the big room, to my mattress.
In the balance, the questioning was not as bad as I had imagined before. They were polite and direct to the point. There was an undisguised hint that they didn't want to see me again. I was told that early the next morning we all were going to be put on a train back to Budapest.
Early the next morning - I cannot remember whether we got any breakfast or not, though I suppose we must have - we were herded onto trucks and taken to the train station and onto the train to Budapest.
I suppose most of us were from the Capital. I do not know if there were any other arrangements. Pali was in my group, we travelled together.
A few minutes after our train left the station, Pali and I went scouting around the train, to check out what conditions we were travelling under. To our surprise the whole train looked full of the same miserable type of people like us. There were some families with young children too. We could not see anybody escorting the train or us. Straight away, Pali and I went back to studying our map for the best and nearest place that we can get off this train and try to get near the border again and escape.
We were standing in the corridor by the doors, as there was only standing room on the whole train. According to our map of the day at the next station, there was another railway line heading back towards the Sopron-Szombathely line. (I have looked at a number of maps since but I could not find that little branch line again, it was enclosing a small triangle with the Sopron-Szombathely line one side, the Szombathely-Budapest line on the other. It must have been closed down during the intervening years.)
We did get off the next station and caught a little 'motor train' of two or three coaches. These fast little trains usually run between stations on branch lines.
Again, there was only standing room but we did not really care. We had neither the time nor mood to worry about things like that at the time. We stayed in the little corridor by the doors again, planning what we were going to do next. It did not need much planning, though, we were heading towards the border again.
On our arrival, we did not have to wait long for
the Sopron-Szombathely train. It was after ten o'clock
by now. We were surprised by the train because it was
very new and a luxurious 'Pullman' type with fluorescent
lights, big, bright and airy.
The atmosphere was a very tranquil, sombre party; I could not see any cheerful, happy faces. Everybody seemed whispering only to each other.
Later we found out, as we had already suspected, that they all had the same secret plan as we had, 'poor students' trying to escape to the west. If we all managed to escape successfully, this train should be called the 'Freedom Express', I thought to myself.
One of them told us on the train that if we were trying to escape to Austria we had better get off at the next station, the station after it was Szombathely and probably full of police and soldiers at the station waiting for people like us. We did not have any trouble a couple days before, but as we experienced already, things were changing around here rapidly.
It looks as though nearly everybody got off with us. After a few minutes, they all seemed to disappear in different directions. Pali and I, now on our own again, set off at a fast walking space, heading towards Zsira this time.
As we were walking through the village at a brisk pace, a man came up to us and showed us the direction to the nearby border. He pointed towards a few trees ahead and some long hedges running towards Austria. The man told us to follow the hedge straight into Austria.
Leaving the village behind us, we walked along a cornfield, which was only recognisable now by the stumps of the corn. After walking about five hundred meters in the cornfields, we came to a road that dissected the fields.
Soon after we crossed the road, we started to walk beside the long row of the hedge. A few minutes after walking beside the hedge, a group of Soviet soldiers jumped out of the hedges all around us, yelling and shooting at us.
We really walked into this one. I was shot again during all the shouting and shooting. Fortunately, I was lucky again, as it was only a slight grazing on the skin, on my left arm again, only a few centimetres from the previous one yesterday, de javu again. I was awe struck, such a similar thing happening again. My guardian angel or the Almighty God was looking after me, sparing my life or serious injury one more time.
I had completely lost interest in all things going on around me, acting much on instinct or as a robot and started praying until it was questioning time again.
Things seemed very real and frightening and at the same time very comical, theatrical to me, just like a record just going around repeating itself again and again.
Back on a truck. Back to Szombathely. Get patched up again. Back to questioning. Some ridiculous questions this time.
How did I get back to the border to be caught again?
I could get myself killed next time!
Some of these questions were banal and hurt my intelligence.
You did not need to be a nuclear scientist to work out that we got off our train and made our way back towards the border. As for being shot at again, yes I did pray quiet profusely for some time for my life being spared again.
However, apart from some silly questions, the tone of the interrogation was very serious and they also gave me some very threatening warnings this time.
They do not want to see me again!
Well they were bad news as far as I was concerned and I did not wanted to see them either.
To this day, I am not sure who they were. Most probably ÁVÓs (State Security Police, the Hungarian KGB), but I did not really recognise their uniform or rank, presumably because of my scared, mortified and confused state of mind. Long imprisonment and utter confusion was running through my mind. According to the certificate they give me, the stamps refer to the border-guards, which (because of the Iron Curtain) in the pre Revolution days were a branch of the ÁVÓ. The only distinguishing mark was between them, that the ÁVÓs had blue shoulder lapel and a blue stripe on their hats, while the Borderguards' were green.
Back to sleeping on the floor.
Back on the train to Budapest next morning.
Getting off the train.
Back on the little motorised choo-choo train.
Back on the 'flash' train.
Off the train again.
Things were getting repetitive and humorous.
Since I left Budapest, I was never even asked for tickets, students were free anyway, but what about escapees.
We did get some kind of pass from the Authorities
in Szombathely, but I can not remember ever seeing a
conductor. That pass was more for personal identification
than being a rail-pass, I would thinks so.
This time we were walking for two or three hours when suddenly and unexpectedly, we came upon a railway line.
Pali and I decided to walk along the line for a while. It was a change, some variety and we felt a bit lost, we did not expect a railway line here as nobody ever mentioned a train line near the border. As we walked along for a while we came to some vineyards along the line on the western side. We could see many little huts dotted among the vineyards. They usually stored tools in there. The owner also slept there to guard it in the autumn when the grapes and other fruits were ripening. We did not dare to walk through the vineyards in case there were soldiers hiding or some of the people guarding their crops would take us for thieves and started to shoot at us.
One of the little huts was very close to the tracks as we walked along the tracks. A dear old man standing in the doorway invited us in as we were passing. We were given food and some freshly distilled 'kisüsti pálinka' or 'silvorium' (Nickname for the very popular home distilled plum brandy). He gave us each a bottle to take with us then pointed us towards our goal again and wished us good luck.
We continued to follow the tracks for a while, before we came to a road. We joined the road walking along it, heading towards the west.
On the right hand side was a deep man-made ditch. I assumed it was man-made because the sides were very even and ran very straight with no vegetation. After a few minutes walking along the road, we noticed a truck coming towards us in the distance. Pali and I jumped off the road and tried to hide in the canal lying flat on our stomach facing the road until it was out of sight.
A few minutes later a middle-aged village woman came along, and we asked her for directions and advice.
She told us to go back along in the direction we came from to a bridge on the left-hand side. Call into the first house on our right after crossing the bridge. The woman there will be able to help us.
We followed her directions and found the house. We knocked on the door and the lady came out, looking at us briefly and she invited us smartly inside. She offered us some food and told us to follow the road that was turning to the left not far from her house to the first village. Go and see Mr. Kovács at a white two-storied house on the left with a high red brick fence and a large hay-shed.
We managed to find it easily as she has described it. After knocking on the gate, we were hurriedly greeted and shown inside by Mr. Kovács and led into the large shed full of people, women, men, children, young and old. He asked us to wait for him, he will be along to talk to us soon.
He did return some time later, and went around everybody whispering a few words and collecting whatever people had and were ready to give him.
He came to me before long and whispering, he quickly came to the point that he 'has to buy off the border guards', so what do I have?
The few forints I had did not interest him very much. He looked at my watch and asked me to follow him to his house and upstairs to a small room.
There were people everywhere in the hallways, rooms, stairway, in the yard, everywhere.
There was an elderly man with his wife beside him, sitting on the stairway, fishing inside a large suitcase full of jewellery, gold candlesticks, and many other expensive items that I could see, looking for something.
Mr. Kovács, sitting behind a small table in the little room upstairs, told me he did this trip at least three times every night lately and he will probably will make three trips tonight too.
He told me it was going to be dark moonless night, very suitable for us to go over the border unobserved.
He pointed to my watch and asked me if he could have it.
Immediately I could detect his underlying kindness. He was willing to take me to Austria free. He invited me upstairs for a private discussion, because he did not want to lose face and he wanted to get as much as he possibly can from everybody. In some cases such as mine - a young penniless student - he would provide his experience, contacts, and services free, willingly.
I thought about it a second or two and realising that I was still in Hungary and here I was given a chance to be led over the border by an experienced smuggler, I handed him my watch, whether I really had to or not.
I was not going to push my luck any further than I had to at present.
That watch was one of my prized possession. it was the latest Czechoslovak plastic watch, which you could see through and see the wheels and movements going around inside it. It had black imitation leather strap, nicely contrasting with the gold look of the watch, with a luminous face visible brightly at night and some bright red stones (jewels) showing. The Czechoslovaks made some very attractive and cheap watches in those days and they were very popular with young Hungarians, who did not really fancy their father's old style pocket (hob) watches. To most people, especially in the 'better off' West it would have been cheap rubbish, but to a Hungarian student in those days it was a real treasure.
He took my watch, and told me go back to the shed and wait for him. He was taking me over tonight.
Oh, what a relief.
Soon it was dark, very dark.
We were told to get rid of anything noisy.
Follow him silently in single file, close behind each other.
Try not to separate or get lost.
Do not talk, cough, or make any noise as we were going to pass very close to a guard tower.
Try not to endanger the whole group's successful escape.
The Soviet soldiers who manned the guard towers will fire at the smallest noise, without any mercy.
It was so dark that night I could hardly ever see the person in front me.
We walked straight out the back door of his shed into the fields.
A Chinese proverb says. "Even a journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step."
After about half an hour or an hour - I no longer had a watch and even if I had one, I would not have been able to see it in that near total darkness - we saw some very bright lights on our right, in the distance, a few hundred meters away. As we came closer, we saw a road with many bright, fluorescent lights and a small cabin brightly lit inside and outside too.
That was it!
An Austrian welcome!
A bright beacon to freedom!
Pali and I nearly burst out crying, our eyes were watering.
We knelt down, said a prayer or two and kissed the ground; we were free at last.
We hugged each other and danced around, very, very happy, blissful, and delighted.
Without us even noticing it, our guide had disappeared, slipped away and gone back to Hungary while we were busy.
No more merry-go-around!
No more walking around, searching for the border!
No more Szombathely!
No more questioning, and threatening!
No more fear!
Our life will never be the same again!
The banging our head against the brick wall had stopped!
At last, we had made it!
No more catching trains, walking around circles near the border!
Our journey was at an end and my journey had hardly begun.
I was thinking about and thanking the Hungarian country peoples' unbounded kindness and hospitality. They were the 'salt of the earth', they would never try to escape, but were understanding and helpful towards us 'city folk'. For generations they toiled in their fields, passed down from their fathers, grandfathers. They were more reliant on the weather than the political system they lived under, but they understood and were hospitable to us.
God bless them all.
I was thinking about everybody and everything I had to leave behind, more or less certain that I could ever return to Hungary, judging by the prevailing conditions, whether I would ever see my family and friends.
In the overwhelmingly friendly Austrian village of Lutzmannsburg, we were shown to our accommodation for the night and invited to the party next door. It was not a party in the usual sense. There was a large group of Austrians and Hungarians sitting in a dimly lit place singing, and I will never forget the scene or the haunting tune of "Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!" (Silent Night, Holy Night).
It was getting close to Christmas. We were also invited to the cinema next door for a free show.
The following day we were taken to Oberpullendorf where we were given lunch and anything else we needed at the school buildings. Later that day we were taken to a large college building or something in Eisenstadt.
Sometime before that I was asked if I had or knew anybody in Austria or Vienna. I suppose everybody was asked similar questions some time or other.
Shortly after our arrival in Eisenstadt I was led to a small office and asked whether it was right that I knew somebody in Vienna. I told them about Herr Oszkár Molitor in Vienna, Anikó's uncle, and showed them Mrs Totterer's letter to him. I did not really know him, but I did have her introductory letter and address.
A short while later a young Austrian lady, - I think she was a Red Cross volunteer told me she would take me to Vienna to see "uncle Oszkár".
The young lady was not quite ready yet and she arranged to pick me up soon. She was in a hurry when she came as it was getting dark rapidly (being late December).
I only just had time to grab my bag when she arrived.
I asked her to let me find Pali, so he can come with us too.
She gave me five minutes, but I could not find him, even in the fifteen minutes or more I spent running around looking for him.
Quickly, I had to decide to go.
I left a note for Pali with "uncle Oszkár's" address and telephone number, asking him to contact me soon as he can in the office.
Unfortunately, I never saw or heard from Pali again.
Those times in Hungary or Austria were not the best times to maintain contact with loved ones and good and old friends.
I had to leave behind many loved ones, old and good friends.
The lady's car was a fairly new one, a Volkswagen Beetle, as I seem to remember.
We were driving along the good Austrian roads towards Vienna.
The young lady made numerous attempts to start a conversation with me, but my German was not the best at the time and my mind was too busy, as I was getting further and further away from Hungary and my new friend Pali.
My German greatly improved during my stay in Austria.
I was missing Anikó, my family, my friends and Pali, I was depressed and elated at the same time. We had been through a lot together in the last few days.
Thoughts flashed through my mind in rapid succession. Elation of freedom and adventure chasing, depression of cutting the umbilical cord of all the past, family, friends, Budapest, Hungary, Revolution and fear, especially the hectic last few months.
Arriving in Budapest in the late summer of 1956.
Starting at the school, Ofotért, the University, and the Hostel.
Meeting many new people.
Making many new friends.
Meeting Anikó and falling in love.
Spending many happy hours in Anikó's company.
Then, the 23rd of October.
From reluctant bystander to becoming an arms carrying revolutionary.
Standing apprehensively in front of the Parliament buildings, and later the Hungarian Radio building.
Getting carried away by the peoples' emotions and enthusiasm.
Being fired on.
Getting shot again.
Farewelling loved ones.
Attempts to escape.
Being shot at again and again.
Getting further and further away from Hungary and my loved ones, friends of old and new.
Thoughts and pictures running through my mind in rapid succession.
Soon, it looked like a few minutes later one moment, and then like an eternity the next, we arrived in the brightly lit, beautiful Vienna.
It was too late in the night to see "uncle Oszkár", and the young lady took me to her parents' place to sleep for the night, where I was received with enthusiasm and warmth.
Early the next morning we went to see "uncle Oszkár".
Uncle Oszkár was expecting me. The young lady rang him from Eisenstadt as well earlier the morning before we came. He also received Mrs. Totterer's letter from Hungary, telling him to expect me soon.
Oszkár had big plans for me. He seemed to be well informed about the happenings and situation in Hungary, especially in the Capital.
He was a very friendly, easy talking person. His Hungarian was perfect, although he had spent most of his adult life in Vienna and had a very successful music publishing business, "Lyra-Verlag".
He was very interested about the well being of the Totterer family (Mrs Totterer was his sister). He was also interested in an eyewitness' experiences of the Revolution and my attachment and well being of Anikó. He was under the impression that Anikó might try to join me in Vienna soon.
Let us keep our hopes alive. My hopes, more precisely.
While anxiously talking and enquiring, Oszkár soon started cooking a large pot of lecsó, a typical Hungarian summer dish made with many vegetables, but mainly lots of ripe tomatoes, even though it was nearly mid winter. I did notice that conditions were very different in Vienna, compared with Communist Budapest. There was freedom in the air and abundant variety of goods in the shops.
Normally, I could not stand lecsó, but he was trying so hard to be nice to me, and cooked a typical Hungarian dish as well. I had a good helping of it and praised him for his excellent cooking and taste. His wife was there too, but after the formal introductions and the usual niceties, she let us talk uninterrupted and stayed quietly in the background. Oszkár forced me to accept a few hundred Schillings and took me around Vienna for a tour of sightseeing and to see some agencies for accommodation, clothing, and other necessities.
Austria and Vienna were amazing to the Hungarian refugees. The people were extremely friendly and exceptionally dedicated to help us any way they could. The Austrians themselves only recently got rid of the Soviet occupying forces, so they sympathised with us whole heartedly.
During my stay in Vienna all the public transport and cinemas were free to us refugees. Many, many other various places catered freely for us. Many schools, colleges, and other institutions were used to accommodate us (Christmas schools break).
Oszkár took me to one of the agencies and the man in charge gave me a voucher for free accommodation in the Hotel zúm Türken, where he was staying as well.
I bade farewell to Oszkár after he dropped me off at the hotel.
I would see him often during my stay in Vienna, always anxious to help me any way he could. I forged an impression of him as a wise, gentle, and bright gentleman.
God bless his soul. We kept in correspondence after my arrival in New Zealand, until his death some years later.
I have many beautiful memories of a very enchanting and beautiful Vienna, and the Viennese, - Austrian people.
Vienna was a very beautiful place at the time. I was very impressed with the glitter, gaiety, abundance, and the people's friendliness, especially as it was during the Christmas period. It was a spectacular contrast to the communist ruled Budapest, my beloved home and birthplace.
Many of Vienna's streets were very beautifully decorated for Christmas. Coloured lights were strung across the roads, shop windows brightly lit and brimming with presents. Immitigable colour, brightness, pomp - in a very amicable way - and plenitude, something I had never seen or experienced before behind the 'Iron Curtain'. The air was filled with the haunting, beautiful Austrian version of "Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!" and brazen gaiety and happiness.
Many times I was asked to go to the cinemas, parties, including special Christmas parties, functions, specially laid on for us refugees with beautiful Christmas cards, presents and other niceties.
I very well remember a Christmas party I was invited to at a Lutheran Church, near downtown Vienna where I was staying in the last few days. It was for the Hungarian refugees. Everybody had a nice Austrian host and many presents. My host, a young Austrian lady, was very nice and was happy when I asked her for a date. She told me she was very pleased to show me Vienna in the day or at night. I think she realised how much friendship and company we had to leave behind.
Coincidentally - the next day I was invited to another Christmas party by the Catholic Union's Academic Help Forum and a performance at the Bundestheater the following day. But I am jumping ahead of my story again.
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Vienna. I enjoyed the history, the brightness, the friendliness, the tram rides on broad and beautiful ring roads and all around town.
After a week in a very 'posh' first floor room in the Hotel zúm Türken, I was very gently and politely asked to move upstairs to an attic room, they needed the expensive room I had had until then to let out to paying customers. One of the maids came to help me shift upstairs and to console me. She was telling me how much would she would like to emigrate to Canada. I am not sure whether she was genuine or was just hinting that I had better make some long term plans for my future too. I did not really have any plans to bludge off the Austrians too long or in any way outstay my welcome.
Later that day I was invited to stay at the sacristy of a Lutheran Church near downtown Vienna. I stayed there for a day or two, when a nice Austrian lady came and asked me to pack my things and come and leave with them.
Later, we sat down for dinner with her husband and young son, about my age. During dinner we all had a long discussion.
The lady's husband was a long time Communist. He served in the International Brigade in Spain during the civil war. He felt very guilty, learning what the Soviets had done in Hungary. He especially, but in fact the whole family, felt some guilt and they wanted to take me in permanently, to ease the burden of their conscience.
My German had improved to easy conversation level by then, and he and his son took me around to one of their friends, a long time Viennese who could speak Hungarian. He was Hungarian born, but lived in Vienna for decades - since the end of the Spanish civil war. He attempted to translate between us, what I already understood from our conversation with the family. I suppose they wanted to be sure of my understanding them, sure that I was not just being polite, and pretending to understand them. He was a dear, likeable old man anyway.
The young boy was working in a nearby furniture factory. He and his father took me around to the factory he worked at and introduced me to his boss and friends. They spent some time with me explaining that I can go with him in a couple days and I will get a good, steady job there with him. He was also telling me he likes my company and would prefer if I slept in his room. In the mean time because they held me in such a high regard, I got their living room with the bed-settee to myself.
I liked the family very much and I felt very guilty, but I already knew I could not settle down there. I had numerous reasons for this. One was that my family was so much persecuted in the previous years and my father was made to work away from our home and made to move around. My mother and brother usually followed around my father. I grew up looking after myself or living with relatives or boarding in school hostels. Very early in my life I acquired a great deal of independence and I was not actually ready at the age of twenty to be someone's adopted son.
Another reason was that many countries were offering to settle us refugees. That meant the opportunity of going to some far away and exciting places, to new cultures, experiences, and adventures, but also moving away further from my family, friends and Hungary.
The next day the man took me to a large refugee camp on the outer suburbs of Vienna, to see if I could find any of my old friends. He also forced me to accept some money from him. He told me as he left me just outside the camp, that I can go home - I already had a key to their flat - when I finished at the camp, although none of them will be there until later, after work. Somehow, I could sense that he knew I was not very happy and I will not settle at their place. Him taking me to the camp and his parting words conveyed his fear of my pending, early departure.
I was a couple of hour's walk away from their flat. I decided to give the camp a miss and slowly make my way 'home'.
I was trying to sort out the confusion in my mind. I did not want to hurt their feelings and trust in me, but I could not think of any alternatives. The longer I left the hard decision, the harder it will be on all of us.
I was looking forward, dreaming of the adventure of going somewhere far away. I felt too mollycoddled and fenced in by their attention and kindness. I was far too independent to settle down and accept their constant though well meaning attention and help.
On my way 'home' I called in to the 'Hungarian' man, for advice and to write a very apologetic letter to explain my reasons. He seemed to understand and sympathise with me. The letter sounded terrific. I said goodbye and went back to the flat, grabbed my things, left all their presents, their key and my letter behind and quickly, laden with guilt, and with a heavily burdened conscience, I hurried away.
On the tram to the inner city, without any certain place to go, I met another Hungarian youth about my age. He invited me to stay with him at the University hostel in the heart of the city. There were many young men of our age and most of them from Budapest. I told him I was happy to accept his invitation as I was in between places right then anyway. I had been told about that place a few days ago and went there for lunch a couple times before.
During our conversation, he named the many different places we could go and I told him that I was already working on the problem.
I had registered with a number of sponsoring countries like Argentina, Israel, Canada, Portugal, U.S.A. and South Africa and was really waiting for them to advise me of the date when I could move to one of my new destinations.
In a matter of minutes we became great friends.
The next day I did some more running around and registering with some of other countries. Unfortunately I lost contact with him too, and never saw him again. I could not even remember his name anymore. (Sorry, if you are reading this) I think he must have taken a plane to his new home.
Those days there were thousands of Hungarians in Vienna. We could easily recognise each other as we dressed differently to the more affluent Viennese. We often exchanged news from back home and advice and help about everything that was available or helpful to us.
I already had my acceptance confirmed to go to Portugal and the U.S.A. I was only waiting for them to inform me of the departure date.
The Americans were a bit paranoid about accepted some Hungarians who might want to go there as a working spy for the Soviets, disguised as refugees. I do not really blame them.
That night at the University hostel, some one mentioned that the New Zealanders were interviewing and taking some of us.
Well, I thought to myself, I would really fancy going somewhere that far and that different.
The next morning, bright and early I joined the queue outside - I think it was - the British Embassy.
Richard Nixon, then Vice President of the U. S. A., came along while I was queuing up. He introduced himself to a few of us around and shook a few hands, including mine and he wished us all well. He went inside the Embassy probably to express America's pleasure to the New Zealanders for relieving the burden on Vienna, Austria.
There was not that many of us waiting, and the processing seemed quite fast and simple. A few questions and we were told to be ready in the next day or two to be bussed to the airport to fly to New Zealand.
The telegram arrived the very next morning from the New Zealand Delegation informing me about my acceptance and departure in 3 days time.
The waiting was over. The destination and departure time was settled.
Now, I had time to say goodbye to my new friends and had some time to revisit the dramatic events of the last few weeks in my mind again.
The enormity of events of the last few weeks had taken me by surprise and they were ceaselessly rushing around in my mind. Now, with my destination settled, I had time to stop rushing around like a headless chicken and take stock of the past and my inconceivable future.
I travelled around in Hungary many times in my previous nineteen years, and recently I had spent three days running around close to the Austrian border trying to escape from it. I had never felt the freedom and the abundance of Vienna before.
After boarding the bus the next morning, we were told that there was some trouble. The Soviets would not let any American aeroplanes land on Austrian soil ferrying the Hungarian refugees to their new destinations, to our new home.
So we were not going to the Vienna Airport, but we are on our way to Hörching, north-west of Vienna, near the West German border. The route from Vienna to Hörching was like a postcard of enchantment.
The days spent at Hörching was filled with uncertainty and anxiety, as we heard the news that we had to wait until it was finally decided that we can be bussed to Munich in West Germany and depart from there. The Soviet Union would not let any American military aircraft land on Austrian soil to help the Hungarian refugees.
The bus ride amongst the snow clad Austrian Alps was a beautiful, fantastic sight in fact. The mountainous Austrian countryside was breathtaking, awe-inspiring. I was glued to the bus window and thoroughly enjoyed the majestic scenery.
I had never travelled by air before either, crossing many borders and Continents.
I have ended up in New Zealand - and I have never regretted it - because their telegram arrived first and they were the quickest off the blocks.
We spent just over two days in an old American military camp in Hörching, until things were sorted out by the diplomats, before we were taken by bus to Munich Airport.
Our bus ride on the German Autobahn to Munich was another long enduring experience. I heard about the German Autobahns but experiencing, gliding along one in 1956 at more than one hundred kilometres an hour on a large modern bus was something new, another memorable experience.
We soon boarded the aircraft on our way to New Zealand,
mainly due to the well known German efficiency.
Here's one of the many correspondences I receive from time to time:
Subject: Febr. 21 1957 REPCEVIS
From: "VIOLET ORAVECZ"
Date: Fri, April 9, 2010 9:47 am
REPCEVIS, it was near this little village 2 young girls crossed the border to Austria.
The date was Febr. 21 1957, by that time not many people tried to escape.
The borders were heavily guarded.
We arrived to the village by train, at the 1st house we went for help, the people were distant, afraid, which was understandable, they could get into trouble helping us.
So we walked down the street, afraid to go in another house, but we had to try if we wanted to cross the border, so we picked the last house on the street leading out to the fields toward the border. We went in that last house, and there the people were, first of all surprised, but very friendly and helpful, gave us advise and direction and told us not to go before dark.
They did not guide us personally, just gave us directions.
May God bless these people and their descendents forever.
When we left the village, soon we saw 2 soldiers in the distance, we hid in some bushes, luckily they did not see us.
It was raining all day, the farm fields were muddy, that was lucky for us.
Maybe the guards were not to eager to patrol the area and by that time not many people tried to cross, so maybe they let their guards down a little bit.
Besides the evidence of the people in that last house, I believe and know, that God was helping us too and with His help we crossed the border.
There were no austrian guards or guard houses on the other side.
So after about 2 hrs of wandering the muddy fields we finally reached Lutzmansburg in Austria.
Lots of friendly, welcoming people over there, God bless them too!
Thanks for coming, I hope you
have enjoyed it, will recommend
it to your friends, and will come
back later to see my site developing