Revolution broke out in Budapest on October 23rd, 1956.
According to the Austrian Peace Treaty, finally signed in 1955,
the Soviets should have left Hungary within 90 days. A year
later they were still there. Restlessness among the people
culminated in 16 Points, asking for all the freedoms, taken for
granted in the US, guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.
overwhelming enthusiasm we marched to the Parliament, my husband
a professor and I a student, pregnant with our third child.
There our emblem, the flag with the hole in the middle was born,
by cutting out the hated Communist hammer and sickle from it. To
the Radio Station! We will read the 16 Points to the whole
entered the only Radio Building in the country and never
returned. Outside, the crowd became inpatient, and the AVO
(secret police), shot at the quarter million people squeezed
into a two-lane street between three-story buildings. Young
people, brought up by the Communists since the Soviets had
occupied Hungary in 1945, felt in their guts they had had
enough; enough of hypocrisy, of slavery, of being at the mercy
of the government.
impossible happened: the Revolution became victorious. The blood
on the streets of Budapest wrote history: a tiny nation rose,
united as never before against a tyrant. Bloody battles for
several days ended in the Soviets leaving.
glorious days we had freedom and democracy. Former parties
organized for a free election, and 28 newspapers were published.
Imre Nagy became Prime Minister, taking over the government
legally. He declared Hungary neutral, asking the UN to guarantee
our neutrality. He got the country out of the Warsaw Pact.
Then the Suez
Crisis developed. Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. Britain,
France and Israel wanted to prevent it. They gave up under
direct US pressure. The UN chose to discuss the issue of Suez
first. As always - oil was more important than people. The
Hungarian Revolution was crushed.
casualties, 3,000 dead - and no freedom. The stream of refugees
stepped over the 200,000 mark. We were among them, with Louis 10
days old, Janos, 2½, and Helen, 4. We were captured twice, but
gained our freedom the third time.
Revolution was crushed - but not forever. The wish for freedom
is stronger than life.
Revolution was the first nail hammered into the coffin of the
Soviet system. Between 1956 and 1989 the Czechs had their
Revolution in 1968, and the Poles the Solidarity movement in
1980-81. Each added to the collapse of the Communist system. The
last nail was also hammered in by the Hungarians, when, the
Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Hungary and Austria, together,
cut through the Iron Curtain to let East Germans defect to the
West in 1989 - the toppling of the Berlin Wall followed
opportunities were avoided by the US at the UN in 1956, and they
continue to be avoided today. Blood on the streets of Budapest
in 1956, as on the streets of Iraq and Darfur today have been
ignorance - if there is such a thing” - Pearl S. Buck
Nobel-prize winning author of the Good Earth wrote about
American mindset, when it came to world politics, to diplomacy.
This “innocent ignorance” made the President of the USA claim he
was “not informed”, while the entire world listened to the S.O.S.
cries of the Hungarian people, begging help against a tyrant. We
wanted democracy. Around the world many people thirst for
democracy and Americans, realizing their leadership role, try to
help everyone achieve that. But that ‘innocent ignorance” keeps
haunting, when we only listen to the evidence we want to hear,
do not agree with elections that do not go “our way”, ignore the
rights of others to think differently, do not understand
cultural differences, know nothing about those we want to help
and try to help in a way that is resented.
events are important because if we do not learn from the past we
will be forced to relive it. Extreme left is as bad as extreme
right - many know from experience. The only system worthy of
human beings is democracy, but the greatest weakness of
democracy is that it can be voted out of existence. “Innocent
ignorance” can kill us. All those who have democracy must
appreciate the choices they have and make the right ones, or
they will have to suffer the consequences.
Helen Szablya is
the Honorary Consul of Hungary for WA, OR and ID, her book: The
Fall of the Red Star, her oral history drama: Hungary
Remembered, and her hundreds of articles, as a former
journalist, won numerous awards. The Szablyas have seven married
children and 16 grandchildren. Dr. Szablya, Prof. Emeritus WSU,
passed away Oct. 2005. For her lifetime achievements in
promoting a free Hungary, Helen was awarded Hungary’s highest
civilian award, the Hungarian Order of Merit, by the President
of Hungary in October 2005.
October 21, 12
noon at St. James Cathedral a Mass will be said in Commemoration
of the 1956 Revolution. Reception following. For all related
programs, please, see the Calendar
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