Tuesday, 2 March 2010

I have serialized my book, here is Part 2.The Escape.

The three friends in the spring of 1956, by the fall their lives would change forever.

November 15, 1956

It has been a gray and mournful day and not only because fall was slowly accepting the inevitable approach of winter, but even the most optimistic among them was giving up hope for the miracle. It was becoming evident that no one was coming to help preserve the exuberance born on October 23; no one could stop the retribution and repression that was soon to follow.
Fall had come and the three inseparable friends were still in their hometown as neither was admitted to university. As planned earlier that day, they met on the outskirts of the town by the ancient cemetery on this dark and sad November day.
Their daily lives were already so tied to each other that it was only natural that all three would escape together and stay together, forever. It would have been unthinkable otherwise. These youthful bonds are often stronger than allegiance to family; a few years spent together seem like a lifetime.
Laszlo was waiting for the other two, his face reflecting the weight of the worry he had spent the day with. He could not forsake his parents, leaving them alone to care for an older brother, paralyzed and impaired since birth. He had his first test of adulthood that day. The other two, now sullen and worried lest they, too, will change their own minds, have hurriedly said farewell and took off into the night.
They walked in silence on the dark and wet country road. Were they aware of their decision to leave the country that night, maybe captured and interned, maybe succeeding to cross the border and never to return again? Almost certainly neither did feel the enormity of their decision. Their wet faces, the silence that surrounded them in the countryside and the steady rain that was falling only underscored their plight. However, their faces would have suggested that they knew that with each step they were changing their lives forever.
They only had an idea how far the Yugoslavian border might be from their home town of Baja, but these eighteen year olds did not consider that 5 or 6 extra kilometers should be a problem if their assumptions were maybe too optimistic. So they walked out of the town onto the old provincial road leading south. Within minutes they were soaked from the rain when out of the wet darkness an old milk truck appeared to slow down for them and come to a screeching stop. They were permitted to jump on the back, next to the empty milk containers and although the rain now seemed fortified by the speed of the camion, their progress towards the border had improved.
An old villager in the last village where they got off the camion showed them the approximate direction toward the border, wished them luck and hurried back into his old farmhouse. They were in the middle of huge cornfields and found the walk now excruciatingly slow due to the huge and heavy mud-boots that quickly formed on their shoes. The wet ground was almost knee deep in black mud. They have lost any sign of direction and had the feeling after a couple of hours of struggling on that they were walking in circles. There was no sign of anything resembling the border. Only little piles of what looked like tents made of corn stalks, every 100 meters or so. It must have passed midnight, when in the distance ahead they have spotted what looked like faint light and contours of a low farmhouse. They have decided to knock on the door, as their sense of direction for the border was totally lost.
The man who appeared at the door was wearing long underpants and shirt covered by a roughly made fur vest, which he was clutching with one hand. He appeared calm and friendly in spite of the late hour and the sight of the soaked and mud covered young men. They have greeted him in the only language they knew and were rewarded by a response in the same language. Did this mean that after all these hours of walking in the muddy cornfields they were still in Hungary?
"Welcome and step inside from the rain" - said the man. Inside was just one rather small, wooden beams covered space. An oil lamp was the only light that revealed what they could smell immediately entering, the presence of animals. The sight and smell of a peacefully ruminating cow, two goats and several chickens, ducks and geese. As their eyes were now getting accustomed to the light they spotted the huge earth and bricks made oven, with a large extended shelf on which various forms of humanity was spread out. Several children with curious glances, some asleep undisturbed, and their mother were examining the strangers. This sudden change from the miserable November night out there was welcome indeed and only in later years thought Peter that at that moment, if the information they were seeking from the farmer had confirmed that they were still on the Hungarian side of the border, they may have stayed with this decent farmer and his family until daybreak and then perhaps turned back and give up their objective of leaving the country. Perhaps.
As it turned out, the good man had assured them, they have been for some one kilometer inside the territory of Tito's Yugoslavia. While neither of these young adventurers had even imagined a trip to a foreign land some weeks before November 15, but if they had, this imaginary trip would have been, most certainly to some exotic European capital, certainly arriving by an international express train to an exciting railway station, perhaps arriving by taxi at a famous hotel and greeted by a polite and smiling doorman, offering help with their sizeable luggage. Instead, their first contact ever with a foreign land was a farmer in his underclothes, greeting them in Hungarian and inviting them in to his stable and home in a one-room house, encouraging them to sit on a wooden bench next to his warm oven and cow. Still, it could not have been more pleasant and encouraging.
There was no need for any explanation. By their question the farmer seemed to have understood immediately their situation and was already pulling on his rubber boots saying that he would be gone awhile and fetch the Yugoslavian border guards. If there was any concern in what would follow next it was not felt at that time since the warmth of the oven and curious looks from above the oven shelf took all their attention. The kind farmer was gone in no time at all.
And so their introduction to a foreign land was now a historical fact. Some thirty minutes later they heard the sound of a car and within a minute the farmer and two soldiers, with machine guns and shinny battle helmets appeared in the doorway. They were ushered outside with obvious gestures so quickly that they had no chance to say a word of thanks to the farmer or say farewell to the spectators on top of the oven. The rain was still falling and the dark seemed even more impenetrable than before. The boys were made to stand about ten meters from each other, hands in the air, and one of the soldiers had quickly searched them, top to bottom while the other had watched with his machine gun in the ready.
Their identity booklets were taken away.

They did not speak too much; a Serbian word here and there was all they could hear. When the frisking was over they just stood for what seemed like eternity. As their arms were getting tired they slowly let them fall down but the soldiers did not object so they just stood in the rain and waited. This was the most frightful time of their entire border crossing, since they could not imagine what would transpire next. Why are they standing like this, apart and with their backs to each other? What will they do with them? Why are they not trying to communicate with them? What will happen? During this long wait, their thoughts were focusing on every possible outcome that could come before dawn would break. They were hoping that no harm would come to them most of all since in the days leading to crossing the border Radio Free Europe was continually broadcasting about many Hungarians escaping, including to the South, Yugoslavia.
Anxious minutes followed in the dark night. Peter thought of his family, then suddenly recalled his first encounter with gun-toting soldiers. Much later he wrote down the incident with the Red Army in the diary that he continued even in the refugee camps.

To be continued.
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