We were in our early teens when this event happened. We remember discussing it with our parents and seeing articles about it in the newspapers. When my husband was in graduate school at University of California at Davis, he had a friend who had participated in this event and escaped Hungary. He eventually made it to America and received his PhD at the same time as my husband. Both our families ended up in the Washington, DC area with government jobs. At first we tried to keep in contact, but with family pressures, church pressures, commuting pressures, we eventually lost contact with our Hungarian friend and his family.
About 6 months before our mission call, when we were still filling out Church forms, I had the distinct impression that I needed to see if we could reestablish contact with our friends. Through Facebook, they were found.
A few months later, when we told them about our mission call, the husband said, Why on earth would your Church send you to Hungary? He felt they had rejected Democracy for Socialism, rejected God, rejected marriage, rejected having children, etc. You can tell he was upset with his country of birth. I replied, There are good people everywhere and we are to help them find the Lord! Over the past two years, I have seen his interest return to his native county. For instance, he has been studying and sharing with me that scholars have been using the original Hungarian script, called runes, to help decipher the ancient language, Sumerian. Magyar is obviously a very ancient language. There are many brilliant Hungarians (Rubik’s Cube) – too many to mention. In fact, they have developed a system of teaching music to children that was used by the Children’s Choir of Maryland and also BYU has music professors coming over to learn this system.
If you do not know much about this “Revolution” I would suggest that you read a little book by James Mitchner, called The Bridge at Andau.
As the used High School edition that we bought states, “The heroic story of the revolt by the Hungarian people that made crystal clear to the world the true face of communism.” More than 20,000 people crossed that bridge during a few weeks in 1956. Michener happened to be in Austria at the time of this revolution. He made his way to the border and started interviewing Hungarians. He could not believe what they were telling him, so he kept interviewing more and more people. Finally he realized that all the stories were the same, therefore, it must be the truth. Note: Parts of the book are a hard read!
In Budapest there is a museum dedicated to telling the true story of what happened during the communist and Nazi rule of Hungary. It is called the Terror Haza – House of Terror. Wikipedia: “It contains exhibits related to the fascist and communist dictatorial regimes in 20th-century Hungary and is also a memorial to the victims of these regimes, including those detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in the building. With regard to communism and fascism, the exhibition contains material on the nation’s relationships to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. It also contains exhibits related to Hungarian organizations such as the fascist Arrow Cross Party and the communist ÁVH (which was similar to the Soviet Union KGB secret police). Part of the exhibition takes visitors to the basement, where they can see examples of the cells that the ÁVH used to break the will of their prisoners.” (Picture below from Wikipedia)
On Oct 23, 2013 we went downtown to the Terror Haz and this display was outside. The panels told the stories of many of the victims of those days. The bronze footprints on the sidewalk were also another way they remembered victims.
When the Nazi’s came to Hungary, it is unfortunate that a group of Hungarians were very anti-Jewish and they saw their opportunity to have power. The Nazi’s did not have to have many of their troops in the country because those Hungarians did their bidding so easily.
The Shoes on the Danube (Wikipedia) – A memorial “to honor the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II.” Jews were forced to remove their valuable shoes and then were taken to a low bridge that crossed the Danube about here, chained to each other. Then the first one was shot, dragging the rest into the Danube to be drowned. The shoes here are bronzed. The low bridge was destroyed during WWII and not replaced.
When the Russians came to Hungary, the Hungarians at first thought they would be their saviors. They quickly learned that one evil system of government was replaced with another. The Communists ruled 40 years in Hungary.
The Communist had a logo which they inserted into the middle of the Hungarian flag. After becoming free from Soviet domination in1989, Hungarians celebrate October 23 annually and many fly the Hungarian flag with the hole in the middle, to symbolize the removal of the Soviet logo. It is a very big holiday and there are no shops open on that day! It is also a day where if the citizens are angry about anything, they have street meetings and demonstrations. Missionaries are to be no where near any mass meetings and demonstrations.
It was interesting as we traveled to many places around Budapest and would see what were obvious bullet holes in the facades of buildings. One was in a building across the street from Mamut Mall. I am sorry that I did not take pictures, as the building facade was completely refinished just before we left.
Hungary is not the only country to have had similar events occur during their Nazi and communist rule, but it was the country that we were in. Adri, our YSA President, had great grandparents who were executed during the communist rule. The great grandparents lived in the countryside and were told they could not use their animals for food. When they were starving, they disobeyed and killed a pig to eat. When the authorities found out about it, they took both parents outside and shot them.
When we visited Kiev, we toured a museum there that told the same story. Also we heard and read about the Halodomor. Wikipedia: “The Holodomor (Ukrainian: Голодомор, “Extermination by hunger” or “Hunger-extermination”; derived from ‘морити голодом’, “to kill by starvation” ) was a famine in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1932 and 1933 that killed estimated 2.5-7.5 million Ukrainians. During the famine, which is also known as the “Terror-Famine in Ukraine” and “Famine-Genocide in Ukraine”, millions of citizens of the Ukrainian SSR, the majority of whom were Ukrainians, died of starvation in a peacetime catastrophe unprecedented in the history of Ukraine. Since 2006, the Holodomor has been recognized by the independent Ukraine and many other countries as a genocide of the Ukrainian people by Soviet Union ruled by Stalin.“
Newspaper in 1956…. They were expecting Americans and other countries to help them; but we did not…