When we reflect to our country’s history, in most cases, the ancient past, the long passed kings, the most significant battles, come in our mind. Nowadays, as Europeans of the 21st century, the thought of wars, weapons, or riots in our streets seem so distant, that we cannot even imagine some of them actually occurred not more than a couple of decades ago.
In 1956 a revolution took place in Hungary, a country that had been under soviet authority for over ten years. That day, 23rd October, the date that the country pays tribute to every year ever since, millions started to protest against the oppressive soviet regime. A little country took the floor and was not afraid to go against the biggest empire’s suppression to make an end of the unbounded power of the communist dictatorship, the unjust suits, and the leadership that governed the country into the deep.
Historical retrospection through the participants’ eyes
By the autumn of 1956 the general feeling intensified insomuch, that the country hit the face of the revolution. On the 16th of October, the students of Szeged formed a student-based association, which pursued many other universities to join all over the country. On the 22nd, not only did they create the 16 points; stating aims such as: the pull-out of the soviet troops from the country, free multiparty elections, general franchises, and the free use of the Hungarian national symbols; but they also decided to hold a demonstration the following day.
On the 23rd of October, hundreds of thousands of people joined the march in central Budapest, leading to a euphoric mood that swept over all of Hungary. The symbol of the revolution, the flag with a hole, was born when the communist coat of arms was cut out from the middle of it.
“It was an uplifting experience to go in the thundering crowd, especially for me, discriminated fellow. By then, they were cutting out that displeasing, repulsive hatchment from the flags and scanned ‘Russians go home!’. Passing by the State Department building we saw the twinks had put the Hungarian flag in the window of the barrack. Wherever we went, people joined us. It was an incredible experience!” (32 year old librarian)
As the crowd arrived to the radio building to get the 16 points across to the governance, the ÁVH (state security police) opened fire from the windows, shooting the innocent crowd. Here fell the first heroic victims of the revolution.
By the next morning, the tanks arrived in the capital to silence the people, but the crowd outbraved them; getting weapons from the barracks or fabricating Molotov cocktails, the elders and young equally picked a fight against the more formidable soviet armies. But nothing mattered then, there was no question; everyone went without thinking… there was a revolution.
The size of the revolution, and the potential possibility of actually fighting the freedom out, astonished not only the governance but also the people. It was the biggest outbreak in many years, and even the smallest glimmer of hope to break forth endowed the population with an unimaginably huge power.
Looking out from the window and seeing soviet soldiers circulating on the streets was an ordinary scene for years to the Hungarians, but that was probably the first time in a long while, when people did not have to walk with their heads down passing by them, fearing from possible imprisonment while on the way to buy bread, or hurrying home from work. This time they walked with their head held high.
“I ran up to the legal history department where I only found the old Eckhart professor. It was obvious that I was going to the protest, I didn’t calculate what could happen, but when the old Eckhart said: “Be careful!” it popped out, that “It’s too late now.” And I knew, there is no going back now. “ (21 years old university student)
When the soldiers fired upon the defenseless peaceful protesters in front of the parliament, leading to the death of almost 100 innocent people, emotions broke loose. Confrontations evolved throughout the country, and the Hungarians did not back down. They fought for their freedom; they fought for what they believed in.
The consequence of the revolution
Though the revolution did not bring the hoped freedom for the country; since the Soviet Union prevaricated, and after pretending to back off, returned with that big of a military force that exceeded the Hungarian’s power; the revolt had a huge impact on the nation’s history.
As soon as the retaliation started, the people who fought there, who went out to the streets, who nursed the wounded, who gave food to the revolutionists, who helped them afterwards were all heroes. Every one of them.
Some of these people still live with us; they are among our grandparents, parents, teachers, or professors.
It won’t be forgotten
Hungary today is a developed country in the heart of Europe. It has changed so much since then that when our grandma starts telling a story from “back then”; what happened to the family, where were they those days, we are taken aback.
“Were you really there?” It seems unreal. Then, after a short state of shock, we get pulled back into reality and realize that today in Hungary, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have friends, relatives, or acquaintances who were forced to leave their country after the revolution. After the fights, the country did not only lose the thousands who gave their life for their home, but also the almost 200,000 people who had no choice left but to leave Hungary and start a new life somewhere else in the world.
The elder generation now lives like nothing ever happened. And we cannot even measure what they did for the country, and for us, so that now we can now live in a free country. We might never know. They might not consider themselves as heroes either, but they are heroes. Heroes from the past.
We should listen to their stories, should never be too busy to do so. There is so much they can teach us, so much wisdom, they carry that worth audition. An old story can make us appreciate what we have in a second, drive us to achieve more to reach up to them and make us value and honor them even more.
We can make sure their stories will never be forgotten.