The 23rd of October, 1956 is one of the most sorrowful days of the Hungarian history. Briefly, Hungary had been controlled by Russia since 1945. The death of Stalin brought people in many Eastern European countries the hope of freedom and change, but as the uprising in Hungary proved; this was not to be the case.
Most of us know the storyline and there are many sources where you can read about the events, but today we want to share personal stories of civilians from the day. What better way to get an understanding of the case than from stories of the men in the streets?
“I went to the University of Technology and Economics. Most of the professors were dressed in black; some of them even had a cockade. They were utterly enthusiastic and kind; they were with us, students. This meant a lot, especially feeling secure since in these 4-5 years you mostly belong to your teachers. We felt like we were doing the right thing because they took our side.” 24-year-old university student
“I ran into the judicial department, where I only found Professor Eckhart. It was obvious that I was going to the demonstration, I didn’t think about the potential effects of it. Then, the professor told me ‘Be careful!’ and I automatically said ‘It’s too late’. I knew that there was no way back.” 21-year-old university student
“It was uplifting to march in a big crowd, especially for me, a discriminated cadre. They were already cutting out of the flag that disgusting arms and scanning ‘Rusz-kik haza!’ We were standing in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and saw the Hungarian flag in the window of the barrack. More and more people joined as we kept marching on. It was fantastic!” 32-year-old librarian
“The session of the cabinet council was adjourned because the demonstrators were on their way to the Parliament. I got home around 5 o’clock so I listened to Erno Gero’s speech on the radio from home. Instead of being comforting, it was thrilling and shocking, fuel to the fire.” 35-year-old minister
“The demonstration had started. I joined them somewhere on Rakoczi Street at the University of Dramatic Arts. There were our teachers and Tibor Dery if I remember well. When we reached Stalin Street we saw the nameplate on the wall. We decided to take it off. We did so and the crowd was frenzied. This inspired us so much.” 26-year-old-movie director
“I was supposed to have a meeting with Lajos Kassak in the afternoon. I called him to inform him that I won’t be there. Their maid answered the phone saying that they were also in the city centre. I met Kassak, his wife and Judit Szanto in front of the Feny Espresso. We started talking and I asked him ‘Master Kassak, is this how it started in 1918 as well?’ ‘Sir, this is revolution itself!’ he told me with his typical paloc accent.” 29-year-old writer
“We could hear rifle-shots from the Brody Street and the elders said that it is very dangerous to go to the Radio. That’s when I met the first injured man. Others were holding him shouting ‘Is there a doctor among you?’ He got shot by a gun and was bleeding. A local showed them to a doctor’s office, they broke in and found doctors, nurses who took care of the injury. The doctor told us to spread the news so that people will know where they can bring injured men.” 15-year-old high school student
“I went to the radio station of the Hungarian Home-Defence Union at night because I wanted to know if the world has heard about the revolution. I was searching for radio frequencies but I found nothing. I was able to get in touch with a Czechoslovakian radioman and asked him if he knew about the revolution. He didn’t know anything. Since this was quite a heavy-duty radio station, we kept saying that there was a revolution in Hungary throughout the night. We stopped doing it at dawn. The next day, at 2 pm we also read a text composed by university students in Hungarian, English and Russian. The text said that we wanted to inform the world’s nations that a big crowd had rebelled against the Soviet Union in Hungary and that we were afraid that the national radio reported false information or nothing at all. As I heard later, our transmission was listened to in the West.” 25-year-old technician
For more stories check out www.oktober23.kormany.hu!
Written by Alexandra Beni
Photo: Aktron / Wikimedia Commons