Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Part 4 of my book,Without Illusions, an immigrant's journey

Part 4.

Soon the boys’ worries were somewhat relieved when in an hour of waiting, a much bigger military car approached and what looked like an officer of some rank approached and motioned them to get into the car.
For the next hour or so they were driving across farm roads, then onto a highway and by the time dawn was breaking, the car was approaching the town of Subotica. Just before the WW2 broke out in this part of the world the town was called Szabadka and belonged to Hungary, Peter was taken by his father there on an exciting motor train from Baja when we was little. He remembered the lunch they ate at the Szabadka railway station and that his dad ordered a dessert that they both liked so much they asked the chef for the recipe and taken it home. The dessert was called Aranygaluska and became a favorite in their household from that time on.
How long ago was it, when the whole family, the three boys and the parents sat at the Sunday meal, 8 or 9 years? And when again, if ever, will they sit at that table, all five of them?

The car came to a stop at what looked like the local police station and they were taken to an office where they could take some of their wet clothing off and spread them out on chairs in front of the stove. They had been offered hot tea and cigarettes. Shortly a man appeared to take notes of their impromptu visit to the Republic of Yugoslavia, speaking fluent Hungarian he told them they are not the first Hungarian “refugees”, as he called them, to seek asylum in Yugoslavia, some six hundred have crossed over in the last 10 days or so.
More are expected, so much so that there is no more room in this small town for them and they will be transported shortly to another place designated as a refugee camp.
How I became a “refugee”, Peter had asked himself. The revolution that exploded just three weeks before was centered in Budapest and the bigger cities. The smaller towns and villages witnessed mostly sympathetic demonstrations and sent food and medicines and other immediate aids, as best as they could to the capitol. The local high school students that graduated in the spring of 1956 and were rejected by the strictly controlled universities and colleges were still in Baja that fall and enthusiastically joined the local factory workers and students. They marched together to the nearby army barracks and begged the conscripted young soldiers to join the revolution and discard the hated red stars on their caps and uniforms. When they had successfully persuaded the reluctant and frightened conscripts to join, they then marched with them to the next army barrack, where some professional soldiers were stationed. Soon the weapon magazines were opened and anyone who wanted, found some weapon and ammunition, so now the small town had its instant revolutionary army, and named themselves National Guard.
Peter, now in possession of a Russian made machine gun, had reported to the Mayor’s office, in the center of the town Revolutionary Committee and received his only official assignment. Somebody instructed him to go to the main square and supervise that all the students who regularly commuted from the nearby villages by bus are to be properly returned to these villages, as there was tremendous confusion, everyday life became chaotic.
Schools soon closed and the students were all on the streets. One evening Peter joined a group that went to the town’s main park, where Stalin’s much hated statute was erected right in the middle of it. The enthusiastic group had uprooted the statute following the example of the destruction of the immense Stalin statute in Budapest, carried it to the nearby canal and had tossed it in from the bridge.
It was difficult in the calm of a small town to follow the bloody fight that was ongoing in Budapest. Many had wanted to get to the capitol 16O kilometers to the North, but there was no transportation, no trains running.
Following the fourth of November attack on Budapest by some 3000 Russian tanks, Soviet armored vehicles and tanks had arrived in Baja as well. Senior high school students and some others just out of the local high school had planned an attack on the few tanks and armored vehicles that were stationed on the strategic squares in town. Some had hid in the square of Toth Kalman, in the attics of apartment houses with their light weapons, mostly machine guns and rifles. The attack was to begin precisely at 6 PM one evening, somebody was to start firing and then all would join in. It must have been divine intervention, as was acknowledged by all later, that no one had started firing, no one dared to begin the shooting. The armored units would have caused a blood bath against the totally inexperienced students, probably killing many innocents in the apartments below, too.
The news of the fighting youth in Budapest, then, became even more heroic and tragic to the population of these small towns.
In the subsequent days amidst the news of the evolving tragedy of the revolution, only the disappointment and the anger remained with the people. Small groups of agitated people filled the little town’s main walking street, mainly to exchange any news that may have come from the capitol. One such evening in the early days of November and after the Soviet invasion of Budapest, Peter was suddenly accosted by one of the well known communist sympathizers in Baja. He had cynically asked Peter where he had hid his recently brandished machine gun.
While this incident did not leave his thoughts, the decision to leave the country was not due to this. But all of this seemed very far and quite meaningless in the light of his present situation in Yugoslavia.
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