Oct 08 2012

Katy escapes during the Hungarian Revolution

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A neighbor, Katy, gives her account:

My grandparents spoke German at home. My grandfather was Polish, meeting my grandmother during WWI.  They lived happily until WWII.

When Hitler came into power, Hungarian Germans sided with Nazis.  All bridges were destroyed during WWII. In 1944, my mother was shopping with some friends. They wanted to go on the trolley but it was too crowded. Then the bridge was blown up. Everyone on the trolley died.  The Germans bombed the bridges to thwart the Russians, setting charges underneath.  But when the river froze it could be crossed.

After the war, Hungary was a very poor country with 3-4 families living together in the same house. My parents were aristocrats and had a good life before war. Then their land was taken over to collective farms.

My parents got divorced. My father stayed in Hungary and became a communist, marrying his cleaning woman who was also a communist. My mother remarried a lawyer (a mayor) who remained in Hungary.

Escape: November 24, 1956. My mother and I escaped when I was 16 and to be married to Laszlo. We met 3 nicely dressed couples at the train station. My mother boldly approached them, saying “I have a feeling you are going to escape. May we join you?”   They said “no” but my mother wasn’t convinced. Eventually they took us in. A person who helped us cross was killed.

At the border, we were held by an armed Hungarian Communist for two hours. We were verbally abused with “you pigs are going to jail” and “the Russians are going to take you to Siberia and you will be killed”. Luckily, there was a group of 10-15 student escapees who could speak Russian (it was mandatory to learn it). Hearing them speak, the uneducated Hungarian Communist told the rest of the group “See, the Russians are coming. Now you are dead!”  He thought the students were Russian soldiers and he let his guard down.

A couple of students snuck up behind him and struck him on the head, knocking him out. But not before he alerted the Russians soldiers. Our group lay down on the damp ground avoiding the light coming from the car where Russian soldiers were looking for us.

Eventually we were able to cross about 2K from the Bridge at Andau. People were being shot at the bridge, and we could see Hungarian people floating dead down the river.

As soon as we crossed the border, there were Austrian soldiers there to welcome us with blankets and coffee and there was hugging and kissing and crying. Two days later they took us to Vienna.

Only 3,000 refugees were allowed to come to the US and we didn’t know if we’d be able to go. Other choices included Canada and Australia.

American Jews paid for our travel, to Ireland, Iceland, Canada and finally New York. Flying into the city was like a story book with all the dazzling Christmas decorations.  We then went to Camp Kilmer.

Our first home was in Chicago. In 1965 my stepfather came out to visit. We already had a lovely home and my husband had good job. He kept saying ‘I was dumb’ to not have escaped as well. He spoke Romanian, German and Hungarian and could have gotten a good job. The remaining spouse of anyone who escaped in 1956 was granted a divorce, so my mother and stepfather were divorced.

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