NOTE: This is the 13th segment of a memoir of the Hungarian Revolution, which
consists of 15 such daily segments. In these I pay tribute to the memories of
two of the martyrs of 1956: Istvan Angyal and Janos Danner. If at the end of
this series, you would like me to send you the complete text (330,000 bits,)
please let me know. I will also be happy to place this material into any
archive, which asks for it.
My apologies for the spelling errors in Hungarian words. This is due to
the present limitations of the Internet. As I want to correctly spell all the
Hungarian accent marks in the hard printed copies, this causes problems with
the E-Mailed ones. Consequently, many accented vowels are deleted on
and some are converted by . I hope that in spite of
that, the manuscript is still legible.
I would also like to ask you, that if you find any factual errors
(names, dates, places, or anything else), please let me know at
, or if you write about such errors on any of the open
forums, please send me a personal cpoy.
Best regards: Be'la Lipta'k
Albert Camus wrote:
"Hungary, conquered and in chains has done more for freedom and justice, than
any other people... We must be true to Hungary... We can be true to Hungary
only if we never betray, in words or deeds, the ideals which the Hungarian
heroes died for, and never condone, even indirectly, the murderers."
(We might repeat Camus' words, as we see the heads of state, - including both
of ours, - as they march to the UN rostrum, not even noticing the dying
hunger-strikers of Tibet.)
Leaving Bakay's office, we hear Russian commands from Bartsk Street. They
must be close, but they can not see us, because the corner blocks their view.
Now I hear a round of submachine-gun fire, followed by the wails of a male
voice, which quickly subsides into a death rattle. We are frozen like four
statues in the gateway of the building. It is Gyuszi, who first regains his
Let's leave our weapons in these bushes. Thanks to our white smocks, if
we are unarmed, we might stand a chance. - he says, and puts down his
submachine gun. We do the same and start slowly toward the Bartsk Street
corner. This is the first time in my life, when I am glad, that I had to
endure seven years of compulsory Russian. Nye styarljetyes! (Don't shoot!
), I yell from behind the protection of the corner. We keep yelling for a
good five minutes. We also holler, to tell them, that we are stretcher-
bearers and medical orderlies, we are unarmed, and that they should hold
their fire, when we emerge from behind the corner.
There is no reply, no response of any kind. So we start shouting again.
We stop periodically, wait for a reply and when none is received, start
again. We hear nothing. We receive no answer, we hear no movement, yet we
feel, we know, that they are right there, they are a few yards from us, on
the other side of the corner. They are watching and waiting. The windows of
the corner store are broken, the goods are untouched, nothing has been
stolen. At other times, this sight would fill me with pride, pride in my
people, pride in the honor of our Revolution, but now I couldn't care less,
now my mind is concentrated on survival and nothing else.
Now Gyuszi gives a hand signal, and we start, slowly, with arms lifted
high into the air. We walk to the middle of the street. I have already
reached the tram-rails and the street is still quiet. The darkness of the
night is beginning to lift and in the first blush of dawn, I can see a long
row of dark figures on both sides of the street, they are lying on the
sidewalks, next to the walls of the buildings. Now I hear a inarticulate
command, I hear the steps of a dozen feet running toward us and then I feel
this sharp pain in my back.
I lunge forward and almost fall from the blow. Lacika is next to me. A
Russian soldier is pushing him forward, with the muzzle of his submachine gun
in his back. My heart is in my throat, my eyes are glued to the index finger
of Lacika's capturer, because that finger stays right on the trigger, while
he thrusts and heaves him forward. The soldier behind me has a rank smell, he
is engulfed by a cloud of sweat and vodka fumes. As he lunged me forward, I
have seen his boots and his un-hemmed, extra long overcoat, which he is
dragging on the pavement. Every time he shoves me forward, he says: Fascist!
He probably thinks that I am an Israeli medic, and that we are at the Suez
Canal. He probably thinks, that the Danube is the Red Sea.
They march us down on Csaky Street and stop us in front of Gate #4 of
the university. We wait there. Finally a Russian officer is approaching. I
can hear his swearing from a hundred yards and can see the drawn pistol in
his vehemently gesticulating hand. He keeps screaming while he is clattering
toward us and continues to do so, after he arrives. I do not understand what
he is saying, but in his long-winded question, I do recognize the names of
our Prime Minister, Imre Nagy, and that of the Communist puppet who proceeded
him, Matyas Rakosi. I finally realize, that he wants to know, who's side we
The soldier behind me periodically stabs the sharp muzzle of his gun
into my back. The pain is becoming unbearable, my stomach is in my throat, my
mouth is dry as I finally stammer out that unspeakably ugly word: Rakosi.
After that, as if to prove that on the road of betrayal, only the first step
is difficult, I pull out my red colored athlete's certificate, using it's
color to prove, that I am one of them. As I do this, in the depths of my
soul, I already know, that I will be ashamed of this, that in my dreams I
will keep reliving and correcting this terrible act, as long as I live.
The Russian officer couldn't care less about the color of my athlete's
certificate. He wants to know about the defense of the university and about
the resistance he can expect from the buildings on the other side of the
gate. When we tell him, that there will be no resistance at all, that the
university has been evacuated, he studies our faces and then decides to
enter. He tells us to walk slowly in front of them, keep our hands in the
air, while they follow us from the cover of the bushes. We do just that. We
walk very slowly. It is daybreak by the time we reach the tanks and the
anti-aircraft guns, which we were unable to move, parked near the Library. In
this semi-darkness, the guns look even larger and more menacing than I
The officer tells us to holler, that we are Hungarians, and that they
should not fire. We obey, knowing that there is nobody to hear us, except
for the few people who stayed in the medical emergency room. As we enter the
dark and empty Main Building, the corridors are full of the guns, blankets
and other belongings of the cadets, who decided not to fight yesterday. Our
hands are still in the air, as we march through these corridors and
eventually reach the main aula. All is dark and quiet.
The officer strides into the MEFESZ office, which, it seems ages ago,
but in fact only two weeks ago, used to serve as the local office of the
Communist Party. When the officer disappears, the guards line us up, in
single file, before the office and finally allow us to lower our aching arms.
On our left are the offices, on our right stands a row of the busts of past
rectors (presidents.) I am standing next to the bronze bust of Rector Stocek.
By now, there must be a dozen of us in the line, as the Russians have also
found the people in the medical emergency room, and now they stand right in
front of us.
We stood in line for two or three hours. Finally, at around 8 AM, a
Russian colonel arrives with two of his assistants. They don't even look at
us, just march into the MEFESZ office. A few minutes later, I see that the
guards are searching the young man at the front of the line, and after that,
they take him into the office. As I see that, reflexively I smooth over my
pockets and as I touch the right side pocket of my corduroy jacket, I feel
something hard. It is the little lady's pistol from Prague, which Sandor
Kopacsi gave me.
Now I'm really scared. I must get rid of it, but how? There is nothing
within my reach, except for Stocek's bronze bust, which is sitting on it's
marble stand on my right. Now the guards are searching the second person in
our line, so I don't have much time. I grab the pistol in my right hand. It
is so small that it practically disappears in my palm. I wait until the
guards start searching the third person and at that instant I make an attempt
to lift the bust with my left hand.
I lean against the bust and I'm straining to lift this block of metal
with all my might. After a second or two, which seems like eternity, a small
crack appears at the bottom, and the bust start to tilt slowly backwards. Now
I push even harder and with superhuman effort, manage to increase the crack a
bit more. Suddenly, something lets go and the bust starts to tip backward,
while the crack is opening up very quickly. I let go with my left, slip the
pistol under the bust with my right. Rector Stocek hesitates for a
split-second and then falls back into his original position. We would hear a
thud, if at this instant, Lacika did not start coughing like a maniac. But he
did, and that drowned out the soft sound made by the landing bust.
As the bust internalized my pistol, I made a solemn promise, that in
exchange for his assistance, at the first opportunity I get, I would look up
the accomplishments of Rector Stocek and would miss no opportunity to spread
the word of his greatness. (39 years have passed since then, and I am still
hoping, that one of these days, I will fulfill that promise.)
It must be around 9 AM, when it is my turn to be searched. When they
take me into the MEFESZ office, I see the colonel sitting on Kati Sz ke's
desk. He is looking through Kati's papers, the various forms, including the
National Guard membership cards. He is tall, greying, well informed and
speaks fluent Hungarian. He knows where he is, he does not talk about the
Suez Canal or fascists either. The colonel seems to be shaken and moved by
what he has seen on Msricz Square. He keeps asking about the defenders: Were
there school girls among them? Did I see that right? - he asks twice in a
row and each time I nod. His eyes are sad, he seems embarrassed for having
fought and killed children.
We were carrying the wounded - I say, pointing at the blood on my
white smock. He does not seem to care about what I did. He is staring into
the air. So I change the subject: Why is your pistol-case made of wood? - I
ask in a conversational tone. As if I woke him up, he gives me a surprised
look, then takes off his belt and shows me. The colonel attaches his pistol
to the wooden pistol-case and thereby creates a weapon, which can be held
against the shoulder. This contraption is steadier, he tells me, when one is
aiming it at a target.
Throughout the interrogation, the officer appeared absent minded,
apologetic, while his two aids, who did not speak Hungarian, seemed
suspicious. They seemed suspicious, not of me, but him. It was obvious that
they were freshly sent, while he has been stationed in Hungary for some time.
After the questioning, we were taken to the KA-51 lecture hall, which they
have converted into a temporary prison.
This lecture hall served many functions during these two weeks. It was
exactly two weeks ago, that professor Mutnyanszky, whom we called Uncle
Mutyi, told us, that we had more important things to do, than to listen to
his mechanics lecture. It was this hall, where we kept our AVH prisoner, it
was here, where we deposited the gifts of the Hungarian villagers and also
those of the Austrians. Here we are again, except this time we are the
The guards are down in the front, where the blackboards are. We look
down at them, like in a theater, as each row of chairs is at a higher
elevation than the previous. They made us to sit on the turn-out writing
tables, that are attached to each chair. This way they can see our hands.
There must be about 20 of us, but our numbers are increasing, as the guards
bring in other, unarmed people, who were captured on the streets.
First, we are not allowed to speak at all. Later, we notice that the
guards disappear periodically and return in a mood which is happier than the
one they left with: They must have found a liquor cabinet. The atmosphere is
calmer now, we feel relieved. The guards do not look like people, who are
about to shoot us. Jail or Siberia, yes! Firing squad, no! - says Lacika in
summing up the situation.
Lacika is blond, handsome, he is my age, we were classmates in the
Evtvvs High School and we are now both majoring in ship-design, here at the
university. Actually, I picked this major, because Lacika selected it, and I
wanted to be with him. (Later, this choice turned out to be a decisive factor
in my life: Upon graduation in 1959, in the United States, because my family
was behind the Iron Curtain, I was considered a security risk and could not
work as a naval architect. This turned out to be a good thing, because I
stumbled into the field of industrial computerization, and ended up writing
the first handbook of that profession. So, Lacika's early influence turned
out to be helpful.)
In high-school, Lacika was considered a homosexual, because they were
always horsing around with Elekes. Those who spread that rumor, simply
misunderstood his playful love of life and the immense happiness which he
radiated. To him, life was a big joke, and he did his best to live it
accordingly, and therefore lightheartedly.
Why don't you take off that bloody smock? - Lacika asks. He has
already taken off his and was sitting in his tailor made, neat and broad
shouldered sport jacket. The other indispensable component of his teddy-boy
uniform were the drainpipe-trousers, which were so tight, that one needs a
zipper to take them off. Lacika always paid attention to his appearance. I
could not possibly compete with him. My officer's boots are worn now and my
olive corduroy jacket has gotten so dirty, that I can stand it up on the
Why were you crying in the morning? - he asks. First I don't
understand, then I realize, that he is talking about yesterday morning, when
he found me on the floor, next to the radio. I did not realize, that I was
crying! Yes you were. You were white as the wall. Your tears were flowing
and you kept repeating something like: Don't let it happen!
Yeh, I remember, that after Imre Nagy's speech I lost control, life
lost its purpose, but I did not know, that I was crying. Well you were. It
took me some time to cheer you up. You better be grateful! OK, so I'm
grateful. Still, the fact remains, that most everybody run away, when they
should have fought. An other fact is, that Marika is dying, and we are about
to be deported to a cooler climate. In other words, I think, I had a point.
Now, Lacika is trying to reach down, to pick up from the floor, one of
those good smelling Austrian oranges, which are individually wrapped in
tissue paper, but the screaming of the Russian guard stops him. When the
guard leaves, he picks up the orange anyway, starts pealing it and asks:
Have you seen the collection boxes of the Writer's Union? All that paper
money! That was some sight! Sure I did. I left 120 of my 140 Forints in one
of them. The remaining 20 is still here. I did not spend a penny during the
last two weeks. Nobody would take my money.
The orange is pealed now. He offers a grayish, soot covered slice,
while pulling up his shoulders to indicate that he had no opportunity to wash
his hands. The orange has an unusual taste. The juices of the fruit, wage a
futile struggle to overcome the taste of gunpowder, charcoal and dirt. Have
you heard the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe on Msricz Square? - Lacika
asks. Well, same as you. A few sentences between the cannon bursts. I did
hear about Eisenhower's policy of liberation and that the American Veterans
voted to help us. That sounds important. All veterans of the United States!
That is something! Do you think, that they will help?
Lacika is quiet for a moment, his face is serious, when he answers:
All I know is, that one day they too will need the help of their friends,
and God better make sure, that they get no more assistance then, as the help
they are giving us. I hope to God, that one day they too will experience what
I feel now. What I feel, having read the pamphlets, which they dropped in the
Free Europe balloons, the pamphlets, which promised help to those who help
themselves. I know they too will get, what they deserve!
Now, four new soldiers enter the lecture room. They are talking to the
elderly the fireman among us. They are looking at his uniform, asking him
questions. The old man does not understand a word. I do overhear the term
fascist and as I do, I also notice some similarities in the fireman's
uniform and that of the German SS. Hitler wasn't born, when the fireman were
already wearing this uniform. I hope these mongolians know that! - says
Lacika, as the soldiers leave.
We don't have time to start on a new subject by the time, when a Russian
officer enters with the four soldiers. They say nothing, they just take the
fireman with them. There is petrified silence in the lecture room. With bad
premonition we hold our breath, for a few minutes. Oh, I guess, they just
moved him to some other jail - says Lacika and right after that we hear the
burst of machine-gun fire.
Those God damn animals, those Devils! - says Lacika. I am so
shocked, that I can not say anything for a few minutes. Afterwards I ask: If
you believe in the Devil, you must also believe in God? Well, I guess I do.
I guess the existence of the universe proves that there is a Creator. On the
other hand, I don't believe, that He is some sort of a score- keeper, who
judges our every deed. To me, He is like the farmer, who plants the wheat, -
in His case, each seed is a universe, - but He does not watch the growth of
each seed individually. That was a rather poetic picture. - I compliment
Thinking about the fireman, I ask: So you don't think that there are
such places as Heaven and Hell? Right - he says. Those places are human
inventions. They are the carrot and the stick, which the priests have
invented, to make us follow their rules. And the Devil? What made these
Russians do, what they just did? Oh, I don't think there is such a creature
as the Devil. I think, the Devil is fear itself. The bosses of these people
are afraid of anybody who dares to think for himself, all dictators are
scared of the free human spirit. They kill, because they are scared.
So you think, that God let's these things happen, because He is too
busy planting other universes and does not notice what is going on here?
No, not exactly. - replies Lacika. He seems a bit uncomfortable. It is not
his style to be serious about anything. I think, He is different from the
farmer because He probably also planted himself with the wheat seeds. I think
that somehow he is not outside, but inside us. He is the good in us, he is
what we call love. Now that is an other poetic picture, this
God-enters-monkey model! And why would He do such a thing? - I ask.
Lacika looks at me for a fairly long time and finally blurts out: Why
not? Just to see what will happen? Just to see how such a creature will
evolve? How life will evolve? So you think we are one big experiment? A
game to entertain God? - I say a bit angrily.
Experiment yes, game no. I think God planted himself to create life and
the big question is weather this mix of matter and love, which we call life,
can survive? Well, if that was so, if God put himself into his Creation,
and if it is his presence, which has caused the evolution of life, does that
mean, that by destroying life on this planet, we can destroy God? - I ask,
kind of pulling his leg, in this strange discussion in the Russian jail. I
don't know that, but my gut feeling is, that this little planet is much more
special than we think. Now, that we have conquered nature, now that we are
directing our own evolution, the survival of life is up to us.
Our discussion went on for a long time. The morning turned into
afternoon, than evening. I was getting very hungry, it was painful to be
sitting on that hard turn-out table, still, these discomforts were not the
worst. The worst was this hopeless mood of mine. My soul resembled the burned
out houses of Msricz Square.
Lacika was sitting on my left. On my right were Ili Tsth and her sister,
the two medical students, who stayed in our emergency room. I felt completely
exhausted on this Monday night. Last night I was carrying the wounded, the
night before we stayed up listening to Imre Nagy's last words, the previous
night, I was in the Svar jail and the night before that, I was up with Jancsi
Danner. So, as midnight approaches, I find harder and harder to keep my eyes