Oct 08 2012

Eva escapes during the Hungarian Revolution

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A member of Shoreline Caucus shares her memories of living in Communist Hungary. This video highlights her escape. Another describes her experience with TB. Here is the rest of the story:
My grandfather’s ancestors descended from southern Germany after the Turks pulled back (1600’s). Hungary gave them (Swabs) land because they needed more people. They lived by the border, spoke an old kind of German, but could speak Hungarian quite well.  I couldn’t learn German in school so I took private classes.

I got TB during my 2nd year of high school at the age of 15. I had no energy and was always warm. In class, I would fall asleep and my math teacher, an ex nun, would become angry. Later, when she found out I had TB, she apologized.

I was taken to a sanatorium in Hegyfalu, staying there for  2 months. It was for High School kids who had TB. We went to school every morning which was in another building and came back for lunch. The winter of 1953 was very cold and snowy. The temperature dropped down to -20C. There was no heat in the sanatorium except for the doctor’s and nurse’s offices.  Because there was no hot water, we took cold showers.  The sleeping area was cold. We were given no medications. The purpose of staying in the sanatorium was to quarantine people who had TB and to allow them to rest.

I wrote to my mother and she came to visit to observe the living conditions. She took me home. My mother told some people about the situation and it was written up in the paper. Back home, classmates brought to me my lessons. During the summer, I went down to Kisfalu  where I met a doctor who had worked in another sanatorium. He treated me. I stayed with him and rested and kept in touch through the years.

On October 20th at the age of 18, I married Sandor who was 28.  The Revolution started on October 23rd. The Russians were looking for Sandor because he was a revolutionary sympathizer. We went on a honeymoon to Haviz  and stayed in a room at his uncle’s place. There were no cars so we traveled by train.  We heard on the radio that unrest was heating up. My mother got a taxi and came to get us. Returning from my honeymoon, I found out I had TB again. The doctor who took care of me when I was 15 offered to help. He was able to get for me a two week dose of penicillin.

Meanwhile, Sandor walked to capitol of the county.  By this time there were no trains or buses. Sandor spoke to people on the streets (students) against the communists.  They knew him because his father was a congressman before war. Somehow Sandor secured a truck. Just before November 4th, he and with his brother and two other men went to the local army camp. They spoke with Hungarian soldiers, asking them to join the revolution to fight, but the soldiers declined. Sandor asked them to give up their rifles and ammunition so they wouldn’t have to fight their fellow countrymen.  They complied and the truck was loaded with the weapons.

Sandor gave rifles to the young people, but by this time (November 6-7) the tanks were rolling in and there was no more fighting. The communists knew what Sandor did and were after him.  They questioned me and my family as to his whereabouts.

Escape: December 18, 1956. Because it was such a nightmare, it took ten years to even talk about it. Since the communists were after Sandor, I suggested to him that we should really leave. I didn’t tell my mom, but she suspected. I took the train and she came to say goodbye. Sandor was going to follow.  Mom said ‘I don’t think I’m going to see you again. I think you are going to escape’ and I said ‘I don’t know Mom’ because I didn’t want her to know.

At the station I spoke to some people and found a ‘professional’ who would take us across the border for a fee. I called Sandor and told him ‘This would be a good time for you to come’. I was nonspecific in fear of being overhead. He came with his brother and his wife on the 18th of December when the Russians were clamping down.

The ‘professional’ came with a horse drawn cart.  We were joined by another young woman that I met while I was living with the doctor and his wife. So there were 5 of us. We gave the ‘professional’ all the money we had. It was about 5 PM and was getting dark. We traveled for about 2 hours until we came to the railroad station. He told us to cross the tracks and we’d be in Austria. He lied and left us there.

With no map, Sandor knocked on the door of the railroad station to find our location. He was told to walk by the river until we came to a pedestrian bridge. So we walked many hours in the darkness and snow. We had one set of clean clothes and no food or water.

We came to a pedestrian bridge at about 11 PM and walked across. We saw a small building like a hut with a little window. Sandor walked ahead to check it out and then looked back with huge eyes and arms waving. He motioned for us to be quiet and come along. We looked in the little hut and saw two Russian guards with rifles resting on their crossed legs. They were asleep. Thank God because I wouldn’t be here if they weren’t.

All five of us ran to the nearest house and hid. Sandor and his brother hoped to find a house with lights on to ask about our whereabouts. Ten minutes later a couple was coming back from the Austrian border. They had just taken a group across, but were too tired to take us. They told us to walk ten or fifteen minutes toward a light but to watch out for land mines. Don’t go any further than the Mill because 100 feet further is the border where there are Russian soldiers.

We approached a building where there was an older Austrian couple who spoke Hungarian. They gave us tea and told us to wait. In a few minutes, we were led away by some other Austrians, walking 4-5 kilometers. We saw Russian soldiers in a corn field but got by unnoticed.  We came to a school building.

It was Christmas vacation. In the gymnasium there was straw on the floor. We were given blankets. Next morning we found an older couple next to us who had a child. We told them we found two Russian soldiers asleep. They replied “Those soldiers let us cross because we gave them vodka. They said they were looking for vodka and women. They appeared to be sleeping but they were drunk”. There were 3 pretty young women in our group and we lucked out.

Vice President Nixon announced that an additional 30,000 refugees would be allowed into the US including people who were ill.  About 1/3 of the escapees had TB (including myself and 2 others in our group). We were checked out in camps in Austria. Some went to Switzerland and Sweden. Austria had recently come out from communist control and didn’t have the capacity to care for all these refuges. TB was rampant in Hungary.

Sandor contacted cousins in Vienna who welcomed us. We sold jewelry to pay for the bus. We stayed for two weeks and then I was sent to an old military camp because I had TB. My two week stay was paid for by a National Catholic organization. The Danish brought food including big aluminum cans of milk, French bread, sardines and the first orange I had ever tasted.

Along with 200 other people, we were sent to an American military camp in Salzburg. It was very nice with a Hungarian chef. After staying for two weeks we took a bus to the airport in Munich. From Munich we flew to Paris and then to New Jersey in a Red Cross airplane which took 26 hours. I was continually throwing up on my clothes during this travel time and received a new coat upon my arrival.

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