1956, the year when “A nation said: Enough!” This year is the 60th anniversary of the 1956’ revolution and war of independence. My Revolution is our weekly series of narratives of the 1956’ revolution by the book titled Az én Forradalmam (My Revolution). Remembering to 1956; every week you can read a stupendous story of a Hungarian 56er:
My escape started with the young secret police officer living next door warning my parents out of sheer good will and in utmost secrecy that the family should leave Hungary. The reason he gave was that they were on a list of people who could expect serious retaliation in the near future because they counted as being of German extraction. This is why they decided that we should leave our homeland and my native city of Győr, and flee to the West. After that, on 23rd November 1956, we boarded a train leaving towards the border, leaving everything behind but a suitcase for each of us.
To make later developments easier to understand, I need to mention that my beloved father returned home in 1950 after five long years of Soviet captivity as a prisoner of war. He had been able to play instruments since a young age, had a good singing voice, was able to carve wood with great skill, and spoke Russian. The Soviet commander of the prisoner camp took a liking to him during his captivity.
But back to the escape: the masses got off the train at Mosonmagyaróvár, we were picked up by an elderly peasant who took us to his house in a carriage, gave us food, and my father gave him the last of our forints. In the falling dusk, we set out on foot towards the border, led by the elderly man, who said goodbye after half an hour after saying he believed we would be expected by Austrian gendarmes after some 10 to 20 minutes. To our greatest surprise, we were stopped not by the Austrians but by armed Soviet soldiers who shouted “Stoy!” at us, so we were captured. I was worried, and I saw my parents were also at a loss and worried by the potential consequences. We were escorted to a group of refugees waiting beside a large campfire; I saw many older people, families and lonesome youngsters. We were allowed to warm up a bit while we waited for the next empty open truck. Then we were transported to Mosonmagyaróvár prison, where everyone was ushered into a small room. A few resisting youngsters were removed from the room, and shortly afterwards, I saw three of them being shot to death in the prison yard, through the window. This was a shock to me and, being a child, I was unable to comprehend what was happening. I and my parents began to be really afraid.
Soon, the three of us were escorted to a room to be heard. To our surprise, the Soviet army officer sitting behind the desk and my father looked at each other in astonishment, then started smiling, and embraced each other, started to talk Russian, and clearly recognized each other. After a brief exchange of joyful words, my father told my mother and me what happened. It turned out that this Soviet officer had been commander of the prison camp for years where my father had been held captive, and that a special friendship had evolved between them due to what I described above. This miraculous coincidence saved us from the very stringent punishments that could follow our escape. This incredible reunion was a great experience for me as well, my fears were alleviated, particularly after the Soviet officer, with the consent of the Hungarian secret police officer present, let us go, on condition that we return to Győr.
Leaving the prison early morning, we set out for the border after a brief consultation, ended by my mother’s firm request. Shortly afterwards, an elderly woman came up to us and took us to her home, where she gave us ample food and we were able to rest after the long night. On the following day, we waited for darkness to fall, and the old lady walked us quite a length of way to where the Austrian gendarmes were waiting for refugees with flashlights. We thanked the unknown old woman for her bravery and kindness, and full of uncertainties, exhausted but deeply happy, we arrived to the free West, to Austria. We were taken to Andau where we spent two nights in a school gym with many of our companions in distress, and where civil helpers gave us special at-tention.
On the second day of our twoday stay in Andau, I made friends with two little girls of a similar age, and we decided to take a walk towards the restaurant located near the school. We set out sticking really closely to each other, and had the feeling that our status as Hungarian “refugee” children was highly visible as nearly everyone we met on the street gave all three of us some 20-schilling notes or some other pocket change with a kind smile. Highly surprised, all we could respond was “köszönöm, köszönöm” (“thank you, thank you”). As we were walking home, we counted this foreign money, and – if I recall correctly – it was slightly over 100 schillings, which was a very large sum back then. As happy as we were with the kind gift, our parents were extremely angry with us, because they thought we had stolen the money, and we had quite a difficult time proving otherwise.
On the third day we were accompanied to the railway station, where we boarded one of the waiting trains, assuming they were going to the same destination. We travelled for several hours to a small city called Solbad Hall in Tyrol, near Innsbruck, the capital city of the Tyrolean region, and boarded buses to go to the Speckbacher military barracks. There, we were given everything from winter clothing to financial assistance.
Although I very much wanted to go to the Hungarian-language school already in operation in Innsbruck, based on advice from a nun living in Solbad Hall who spoke Hungarian, my parents enrolled me in a German-language school, much to my regret. The advantage of this was that I learned German with the help of my Austrian classmates much earlier than my friends who went to the Hungarian school. After my father got a job where he was also given a home, we were able to move out from the refugee camp in the spring of 1957. This allowed us to integrate in Tyrolean society quite quickly.
This was how the 52 years I spent in Tyrol started; this is where I met and married my husband István Radda, also born in Győr, taught our son Tibor the Hungarian language, so that he also speaks Hungarian to his three sons, our grandsons. My relations with the old homeland have grown increasingly intensive since the political regime change in Hungary, particularly in the last eight years after we moved near Vienna. The days of fleeing and the months and years spent in Austria and Tyrol have left me with a lasting impression. To this day, I remain grateful to Austrians and more specifically to Tyrolians for the great selfless help and the particular sympathy they have demonstrated in the years onwards.
Today, after 60 years, I am proud to be able to present the beauties of Hungary to the Austrian members of Club Pannonia – Society for Relations between Austria and Hungary – in package tours organised regularly in my capacity as president of the Club.
via: Az Én Forradalmam (My Revolution)
photos: Az Én Forradalmam (My Revolution); gettyimages.com