When History Interfered...

The young couple, 1933

The young couple, 1933

My Birth

Prelude

The Early Years

The Learning Years

Marching to the West

Home Again

The Punishment

My Birth

It was the evening of a cold winter's day in the Hungarian city of Komarom. According to the calendar it was the eighth day of January in the year of Our Lord 1933 when I had my first glimpse of daylight. I was not happy with what I saw! I decided not to stay around and wanted to leave this World full of shadows. They wouldn't let me! I was dunked in cold water and then hot water time after time until I had been tortured enough. With loud screams I let them know that it was OK and I was willing to stay. So this was how it started...

Prelude

My Father, a supportive member of the Army completed his non-commissioned officer education in the Jutas Military School. He was only a corporal at the time of my birth but a very handsome, strapping soldier who made all the girls' hearts race. My Mother was the third child of a middle-class, religious and conservative minded family. I really do not know where it was that she and my Father met but it is not that important. The fact is that they fell deeply in love very rapidly and as happens quite often intensive love is very fruitful; that is how my being was started. The trouble was that they could not get married because according to the rigid regulations of the Hungarian military service a soldier cannot marry until he is able to provide decently for the family. Unfortunately, the commission of a corporal was not acceptable. Because my Mother would not stay in her family home and a wedding was out of the question they had to be satisfied with co-habiting in rented digs. In that way, I was a love-child but it was only a year later that their alliance was legalized before the Church and the World. By then my Grandparents and everyone else had been peacfully reconciled.

The Early Years

To be born is not a simple experience, both child and parents can suffer, and the result can be a hard struggle for life. Of course, this is not true for everybody. Namely, it may depend upon which social layer (class) one is in when seeing daylight for the first time! I did not know of all these problems when I took my first breath of fresh air in the city of Komarom (Monostor), but it did not take me too long to overcome my ignorance. I cannot say that I was lacking in anything, beside my mother's milk I liked the milk-soaked coarse army bread, according to the stories of my Elders.

If I remember correctly, after Komarom, Rakospalota was our next home. We had a long courtyard and some flowerbeds with flowers. It was a one-story building with cheap one-bedroom apartments. I have a vivid memory to tripping and falling head-on into a tub of rainwater on the premises. This story would end here if they had not pulled me out in time.

But I got pulled out, and so my story continues. My Father got transferred to Piliscsaba and the family moved. A small, one-room cottage next to the old football field became our new home. The teeny kitchen with a glass door also served as a hall and an army blanket was hung, so that people from the street could not see what was happening inside. I do not have too many memories from that time. I know from stories told that by then I knew almost as many German words as Hungarian, thanks to my Swabian (south-west German) playmates. Unfortunately, I forgot most of it. We did not stay here long; the South Tabor (army barracks) in Piliscsaba came next. The very acceptable two-bedroom apartment with its park like surrounding was a royal lodging compared to the previous ones.

Catholic Church and Officers Baracks

The Catholic Church and the officers barracks in Piliscsaba.

On October 7, 1935 a significant event occurred but one which really did not affect me too much, my brother, Kazmer was born. My only grudge was that I had to rock him frequently. Living on the grounds of an army camp gave me more opportunity for playful adventures, and with the added territory I suffered three serious accidents. My first accident resulted in a very bad head injury after I let off the brake of a treasury owned wagon parked on a slant. In my efforts to set the brake to halt the vehicle, I got knocked down and my head was run over by the wheel. They carried me home unconscious in army blankets. After that incident I had memory loss for a long time.

My second accident happened when, standing on the top of a bunker I touched a live 220 Volt electric wire and received a tremendous shock.

The South Tabor (army barracks) was my home when in September of 1938 I started on my journey towards science. I was being educated at the elementary school in Piliscsaba. I was walking to the school at first, but rode a bicycle later on. I was overjoyed when I got my child-size bicycle. We had to take our classes in two shifts, the mornings on one week, and the afternoons on the other; this created trouble for me. The gate of the Tabor was guided by guards who were stopping everybody with a loud yell: "Stop! Who is there?" I was no exception; I could only enter the territory of the camp after I told my name and received the "Forward" command. I was not very happy with this torture, therefore to bypass the gate I used one of the several camouflaged openings on the surrounding fence which the soldiers took as the route for their unauthorized comings and goings. My third accident happened around that time. After successfully mastering riding my bicycle, I was cheerfully cycling all over the premises. Obviously, this did not meet with everybody's approval; a barbed wire got fastened across one of the paths. When I used this path next time, the wire lifted me off from my bicycle by my neck. I got sewed up, but the marks are still visible.

My second grade class in 1940 at Piliscsaba. Only half of my head is showing on the right behind the teacher, Ilonka Palffi's head. And some of the faculty members on a picnic

My second grade class in 1940 at Piliscsaba. Only half of my head is showing on the right behind the teacher, Ilonka Palffi's head. And some of the faculty members on a picnic

On a cold, snowy day in January 1940, if I remember correctly on the ninth, our family expanded again with the birth of my sister, Zsuzsa. Everybody was overjoyed: finally a girl! Even I was pleased to rock her.

We had to move again along with all the families who lived in the barracks. But that is another chapter.

The Learning Years

The Ay house was located on the west side of Piliscsaba along the Becsi road, close to the end of the town. The building is still there but is not the same. I was very satisfied with the three-room, kitchen and bathroom apartment with the two entry ways. There was a cellar, barn for the chickens, and a large yard with two enormous mulberry trees. Behind the house was the long and level fruit orchard interspersed with grape vines. That was the stage for the next two years of my life. At that time as a Hungarian citizen I belonged to the minority group; the majority was Swabish. There and then the Hungarian nation was represented by the four of us: a supervisor's son named Kuti, my friend Barna, and of course, my brother Kazmer. We lived close to each other and we constituted the "Szekely" team. Sometimes we acquired a few renegade Swabish helpers for a few sugar cubes. Many times we got challenged by our opponents: "Szekely team, come if you dare!" Of course we had to act on these invitations, but there was no "blood shedding" in the 7-8 years old children's games. Because really nobody got hurt, our Elders did not pay any special attention to our warfare. Besides my Father's perception was not to interfere with our childish activities, but he strongly advised us not to come to him with our complaints. We never did.

We both loved our sister, Zsuzsa and protected her when she was in need even that our activities were different to hers. I have many memories of being with her in the Ay house.

My parents decided to raise chickens and ducks to reduce our living expenses. The raging war was already on and according to the decision of Vienna, part of Erdely (Transylvania) was given back to us. As a soldier of the gas and chemical battalion of Piliscsaba, my Father participated in the partial liberation of Erdely. All the newspapers were full of photographs from the battlefields. These happenings affected us children so much that we decided to train our ducks to convert them to paratroopers with little parachutes made out from handkerchiefs fastened on their backs. Fortunately our efforts got stopped before it became a major disaster.

Late on a warm evening of summer or late spring, we were listening to the radio when the station was interrupted for the very first time with a cry of "Air alert, Budapest", which became quite regular later on. From the back of our yard we had a great view of the sky, and that was the place from where we watched the first air raid of Budapest (Varosmajor). An unforgettable and at the same time a shocking experience was to hear the explosions and to watch the dropping bombs in the brightened sky. At the same time the air defense were launching their guns, like many fireflies.

In these months our Government gave permits to the German troops for transiting to the East. The long convoy created an extraordinary sight on the Becsi road: small cars, big cars, trucks, motorbikes and armored cars lined up endlessly carrying the friendly waving soldiers. Some of us were picking bunches of wild marigolds from the close-by quagmire and threw the flowers on the vehicles. In reciprocation, the soldiers showered the gaping children with candies. In the mean time I was completing my third grade with more and less good results. Before the school year ended we were looking for a "new house" again. The Harsvolgyi house was located at Piliscsaba-Klotildliget, on the Bela Kiraly Street; it was a three room self-contained rental, one degree better than our previous home.

Around that time I met the two Metz children; Rezso was in my age and Jutka was a year younger. From our mutual sympathy a close friendship developed between us; but we did not know then that it will last for a lifetime.


The Metz Family

In the year Anno Domini 1943, something happened which changed my destiny and revealed the less happy side of my life. My happy childhood ended by with the completion of the fourth grade of the elementary school. All my life I dreamed of becoming a military man but when I applied for admission to the Hunyadi Matyas, Koszeg based Hungarian Royal Military School; I was turned down because I had no high ranked sponsor. I had to continue my education in the Konyves Kalman High school located in Ujpest, a suburb of Budapest. I was commuting by train daily between Piliscsaba and Ujpest. A special car was designated for the students which was off-limit to the other passengers. Very strong rules and regulations were established by these young people and I was even subjected to an "inauguration". Every newcomer had to go through with a ceremony where the "convicted" was given a choice between taking a voluntary spanking, or the "older" members will use violence on him. I chose the first option because I was informed unofficially that the other method would be a hard beating, occasionally they even took the victim's sneakers off. There is something more to tell about this students' car: generally "the stronger dog" rule existed, and a few times during the first year I took the trip in the overhead luggage rack for my best interest. I had some problems with a few of my classes in school, especially I was not very comfortable with the Latin grammar and was studying into the late night hours at home (but I still remember all of what I successfully learned). I did not flunk any of my classes, but was still overjoyed when I got the news that our school year would end in May because of the war. From about that time all the Jewish people were requested to wear the yellow Star of David. One morning coming to class I was very surprised to see quite a few of my classmates wearing the sign.

The war was continuing with more and more brutality, Budapest was subjected to the air raids daily. The scenario was always the same: siren - bunker - siren - release.

I had already lived ten very eventful years of my life when Dad took me to a shooting exercise. Firing with live bullets from an 8 mm Frommer pistol was an unforgettable experience for me. He let me try the shooting also with a Manlicher type shotgun along with Schwarcz-lose machine gun. I don't remember if the bullets actually hit the targets, but they sure made such a racket of hitting something. I never fired a machine gun since then. After the exercise Dad showed me an army tank, the first I ever had seen. This was a small Italian made "Ansaldo", very much alike a Fiat Topoline. It was equipped with a twin barrel machine gun for two operators. The chemical brigade was using it to pull the mustard gas disperser trailer.

The war was continuing. My head was buzzing constantly with all the military reports. One day my Father's place of work, the gas and chemical warehouse where he had recently been commended, reached its final destiny. The institution at Illatos Street in Budapest was completely destroyed by an air raid. My Old Man got lucky, the shelter where he was supposed to go during air raids got a direct hit, and everybody inside died. Ironically, he was away that day to supervise preparation for the evacuation of the warehouse. Shortly after this disaster the evacuation took place. The workshop was transferred to the Pettend Prairie. Pettend is located on the Budapest-Szekesfehervar railway line, between the towns of Baracska and Kapolnasnyek; this town was the center point of several lordships. My Father continued his "reign" here as a Commandant of the workshop over a reservist squadron and about two dozens seamstresses (employees).

The family had to move again, but this time with only necessary belongings and without furniture, to our new address: Kennessey Castle, Pettend Prairie. We only got two rooms here: coming in from outside were the kitchen-living room and the great room (probably it was a library in the old times as the floor to ceiling shelves were full with books) which served as a bedroom and ammunition warehouse for us. Because my Father wanted to eliminate the constant guarding of a warehouse, the unit's 3-4 wooden boxes of rifle ammunition were stored under our beds.

One time we were preparing to go home from Komarom, but the allied Air Force destroyed the MAORT oil facilities at Almasfuzito and parts of the railway station in Komarom. Our train was delayed from 4 AM to 9 AM. Arriving in Szekesfehervar we had to leave the train to find shelter in a close-by bunker of a public building, because of a sudden air raid. The earth was trembling from the constant explosions of the bombs; some of us were praying aloud, others were crying in the tense atmosphere. Finally it was over and we got home late at night exhausted and hungry.

I liked living in Pettend. First of all there was no school to go to for the rest of the semester; secondly, living in our new forced home was changing our everyday routines. Somehow I felt safer here even with the increasing air operations. Day and night, sometimes even twice during the 24 hour period, large bomber formations flew over us. At one time we counted 70 airplanes overhead. One moonlight night one of them exploded and plunged as a burning torch into the ground close-by. This was the very first one I had seen.

There was a big commotion, the command was given: find and catch the personnel of the aircraft. It was night time and I was wondering what the squadron of soldiers was doing in our bedroom. Then suddenly I realized that the ammunition was under our beds, and my Father was distributing it among the men.

They could not find the pilot or anybody else and next morning I had a chance to examine the still smoking wreckage. It was a RAF fighter airplane. We had three more occasions of crashes of aircraft, but they were Liberator bombers. One of the incidents left a big impression on me when the falling airplane exploded practically above our heads and broke into pieces. From the seven members of the crew only two survived the crash, but one man had a bad head injury. The wreckage was scattered over one square mile around us. The pieces from the wings were gliding to left and right and we had to run to avoid them. Finally they landed sticking into the ground about 100 meters from us. The white star was clearly visible. They found the five dead crew members also; they must have fallen out from the burning plane but had no time to open their parachutes. This was the very first time I got to see a dead man, he was lying by the road and blood was seeping from his mouth and nose. Except for this, he looked like he was in a deep sleep, even his wrist watch was still working. When I went back later I found that his stiff and empty hand was extended like he was asking for help, but the watch was missing.

Around that time of my life a very significant event happened. I had a very bad toothache for days and finally my Elders asked me to do something about it, because I was suffering. The painkillers I had taken had no effect anymore. I think it was a Sunday when my Father had had enough of my complaining. He gave the order to the buggy carter to canter the horse and take me to Kapolnasnyek and "have the kid's tooth pulled out". When we got to the surgery the dentist explained that he was completely out of all the anesthetics and the surgery would have to be done without. The strapping Miska (that was his name) insisted that he had an order to have the kid's tooth pulled out. There were no two ways about it, Miska held me down, the dentist pulled my tooth out and I was screaming. Probably this is the reason I detest dentists so much and feel close to passing out just even thinking about them. As a result, I don't have any of my own teeth anymore.

The chemical warfare battalion published a picture album in limited copies for the memory of the Erdely invasion. Most of the pictures are connected to the events of the invasion, but some of the photos illustrate the exploded Rumanian concrete fortresses which were destroyed under my Father's command. The protruding reinforcing bars from the broken up cement remind me of a dinosaur's skeleton. The title of the album is "Kelet Fele". Here is the Introduction from the first page:

Standing at the border facing to the East
Proud resolute defiance sparkling in our eyes.
We are grasping our weapons with hard will,
Let us be worthy to our glorious ancestors.
Millions are waiting for the hour to come
When fists will strike the rugged robber down.
But God's willing that instead of battle noises
Loud singing fills up every valley, mountains.
For all these happenings be blessed the Lord,
Our legendary leader, the Supreme Warlord.

Finally I got a reply from Koszeg to my twice sent applications. I got very excited after opening the envelope, this time I was accepted, thanks to the recommendation of Laszlo Sodro lieutenant-colonel, my Dad's commandant. I had to join up with the Hunyadi Military School, Second Grade of the Second Division on September 1, 1944. A list was attached naming the necessities I had to take with me. Example: 4 pairs of gloves, including 2 pairs of white leather, 1 pair of brown leather, and 1 pair of brown leather with lining.

I was very happy but at the same time anxious and worrying about the unknown. But I still had plenty of time left to enjoy our childish war games with my brother. One of our favored games was playing air defense artillery. We sat in ambush and threw rocks at the enemy fighters, the swallows. Luckily, we could not hit any of them. The summer was ending fast and it was time for my departure. I got a bit scared when we arrived at the famous old school buildings, especially after my Father left me there with his very quick "keep your chin up" good-bye. I was placed in the capable hands of a sergeant who converted me to a proper cadet in no time. I was supplied with the following items: 2 pairs shoes, 1 pair snickers (I brought the required socks with me), 1 uniform of summer white, 1 heavier casual wear, and 1 dress uniform for outings; 6 underpants, 6 shirts, 2 nightgowns (without collars), 1 bathing apron, 10 linen and 2 hard collars; 1 causal and 1 dress overcoat, 1 belt with a copy of the Saint Crown in the middle of the large buckle, and 2 caps. The last item was a five-point belt whip for the cleaning of the over-garments. Occasionally this served as a weapon when some of the boys tried to bully the others. This happens among teenage boys some times.

With my parents in 1944
With my Parents, Zsuzsa and Kazmer, Pettend Prairie, Summer 1944.

In my cadet uniform
In my cadet uniform, Koszeg, September 1944.

Our daily routine was the following: wakeup call at 6 AM, exercise, washroom, making beds. Every room had a fourth grade student, he was the section commander. Next came marching down in closed order to the first floor dining hall for breakfast. We always had to move in closed order, even if only four cadets were walking.

Eleven persons sat by a large table, at the end of the table a forth grade cadet sat as a table commander. Sitting on his right was the next person in command. That was changing daily, therefore in ten days everybody had a chance to sit next to the table commander. After breakfast we marched in closed order to the school building for our classes. We met at the main door with the duty officer who was taking care of our administrative needs for interrogation, guard service transferring and other requests.

After the morning classes we went back to our rooms to clean up for lunch which was served downstairs again in the dining room. We had two hours free time after lunch and more classes and studying during the afternoon hours. Afterward we had to go back to our rooms again to clean up before dinner was served. Bed time was set for 9 PM. We had a different routine on Saturdays. Besides the studying we had to go for formal training, many times at the expense of our free time. That was the day for the mandatory letter writing, the under garment exchange in the storage room, and for our weekly bath taken in the bathing aprons.

We attended worship on Sunday mornings in the third floor chapel. After our lunch we went for excursions to practice marching and to play war games. This was the best time of the week even though we had to play by the strict rules of our superiors. Friendship formation was only permitted among classmates. We got fed five times a day and the food was acceptable; even so, we were always hungry. We were looking forward to receiving packages from home which we always shared. Leaving the premises was forbidden unless in the company of visiting parents.

Marching to the West

Then history interfered with my life again. With the front getting closer we had to write to our parents for arrangements to take us home. (Some of the parents' geographical locations were already occupied by the Russians and their kids had to stay in the school.) But my military career was ending on a foggy day, November 4. My Father came to get me. I got my paper for "excused leave until recalling". I am still waiting, even though I'm 78 years old.

All the students who had to stay were taken to Eger (Germany), and did not get to go home for at least a year. I found myself back again at Pettend Puszta, however, for not too long. The Russians had already reached the Danube and suddenly happened what I could not picture before; the war was raging right below our backyards. Every day more and more JU-88 bombers flew over us on the grey and cold November sky, and I sadly acknowledged that many fewer were returning than had gone out. We got the order to move again with the chemical warehouse to Magyarlak and vicinity. Magyarlak is about 6 miles from Szentgotthard. We loaded the boxes of our minimal necessities, mainly food items, into an ancient truck (which unfortunately broke down around Papa). The military families, including us, boarded a Wermacht bus and started on the journey to Magyarlak. The Russians had already reached the borders of Baracska; it was time for us to leave. After arrival some of us discovered the only restaurant in town and we ordered dinners. We barely finished our soups and started on the second course when several loud explosions startled us. It was so intensive that we left our food and found shelter under the tables. We learned later that they were bombing the railroad tracks about a mile from us. We finished our dinners after a few more interruptions, but the experience left us a bit shaky. We got lodged in the "clean room" of Karoly Kuruc, who had a farmhouse right across from the restaurant. He was friendly and very kind to his "uninvited" guests. Finally after two weeks, they were able to tow the old truck, named "Mari neni", with our belongings into Magyarlak. It was high time, because our food supply was on its last legs.

The winter weather had a set back, just like our troops at the front. Cuci bacsi, whose real name and title was Major Aladar Tarkay camp commander, started to mention the possibility of moving backward again in the near future. By that time the main road to the Third Reich was completely occupied with military troops, groups of people wearing swastikas, civilian refugees fleeing the Red Army, cars and trucks, wagons with horses; it was even a problem for us to cross the road. On the top of everything, a few Ukrainians who had joined were herding hundreds of cattle to the West. Some of the local farmers opened their gates to the hungry animals and captured 2-3 of them as the Ukrainians could not care less.

Soon the order came: departure to the unknown. I do not remember exactly the name of the several hundred miles away destination, but it was a city somewhere in South Germany. We had no idea at that time that we would never get there. My family was trying to prepare very carefully for the long journey, keeping the chances of our survival in mind. Each of us children got a customized backpack which contained dry food for three days of canned meats, sugar and rusk; the latter was a military issue named "cibak" (that was so hard that would break our teeth if we were not careful enough). Also we had to carry three changes of under garments, gourds, first aid kits, and gas masks, as my Father was a chemical warrior. We had a bit of problem finding a proper fit for a gas mask for Zsuzsa. We were given dog tags also to wear in our necks (not worn for a long time, though).

Before departure Cici bacsi stated (not officially) that nobody is forced to leave the country. Then one foggy morning, around the 24 of March, we took our place with many difficulties in the procession of vehicles flooding onto the road to start on our journey.

Magyarlak

Magyarlak

Our caravan consisted of 20-24 wagons and 4-5 Hoffer trucks. Two trailers were towed by each truck. Two wagons were assigned to our family for our personal items and treasury stock. Zsuzsa and my Mother, who was getting close to giving birth, were sitting on one of the wagons. My brother and I were sitting up high on the top of a trailer wearing our raingear. It was a very comfortable place from which we could oversee all the commotion, but like everything else those days, it did not last long. We spent our first night in the courtyard of a farmer close to the village of Feldbach. From that day on we got our allowance of meals and food supply from the Army, who received it from the German authorities. Zsuzsa was treated as a regular soldier, therefore the quantity of food was satisfactory, but I can not say the same for the quality. That was my very first time of sleeping under the sky.

We were sleeping with Kazmer on an overstuffed straw mattress and during the night either he or I kept rolling off from the bed. Dad slept under the sky also on a similar straw mattress, while Mother and Zsuzsa stayed in the wagon. Our night was very eventful with all the air attacks targeted on Graz. Explosion after explosion lit up the August sky; it reminded me of the August 20 fireworks on Saint Istvan Day in Budapest. Toward morning the Wermacht Army blew up the strategic points of Feldbach. We hardly slept at all. By the morning our blankets were covered with frost. With the beginning of the new day we washed up from a small basin, ate our breakfast and got on the road again. Every vehicle on the road was heading to the West, nobody wanted to go in the opposite direction; however, more and more packed trucks and cars were abandoned unguarded at the side of the road.

At the middle of the day the caravan was breaking into groups to receive the midday meal and to take a short, but well-deserved rest. Sometimes we could not unite again until the evenings. But we had to find shelters many times during the day when a shrill scream was heard: Airplanes! One time two low flying aircraft with their red stars clearly visible to the naked eye, attacked us with machine gun fire. The closest shelter appeared to be a huge dunghill. When the planes came from the right we took to the left side to hide, when the attack came from the left, we lay low on the right. Fortunately this cat and mouse game did not last too long; from one of our vehicles a four-barrel anti-aircraft rapidly took them down. One after the other like burning torches, the planes dropped to the ground. We were told later that they had mistakenly targeted us. That day we took quarters for the night in a knight's room of a castle. Our accommodation varied from hay barns, empty school buildings, even occasional hotels, but sleeping in the soft lap of nature's was not very rare. In every place where we stopped for the night Dad had to find the midwife, just in case she would be needed.

Nothing lasts forever and one day we ran out of petrol. We had to abandon most of our trucks and trailers with their cargo without saying goodbye. But the horses remained, and we just pushed and pushed forward.

One time the wagon on which the family was traveling broke down. One of the wheels got stuck, would not turn anymore. We had to stop while the caravan moved on. We were left behind on a remote back road all by ourselves. While the driver was trying to fix the faulty wheel, a landmine hit the ground about 250-300 meters from us. It got closer and closer targeting our wagon. We were very scared until like a guardian angel an armored Wermacht vehicle pulled up behind us. After assessing the situation it opened up gunfire towards the hillside on the left. That was the end of the incident and we continued our journey, the wheel was turning again.

The next day was not any better and my nerves were on edge. We were traveling again on the main road (at a snail's pace) when in many different languages the hated screaming came: Airplanes! With our newly developed routine we jumped into the roadside ditch, but today the ditch was very shallow and provided us little protection. I was trying desperately to fit into the shelter to avoid being hit by the flying bullets, but there was no room to do so. Finally the airplanes disappeared from the sky. It was a very close call because all around us several horses and wagons got destroyed with direct hits. People were crying out for help, but no matter what, the war still was on and we had to move forward steadily. By the evening we arrived at a small village. At the foot of the mountains by a fast-moving creek was Oberhaag. A small room connected to the horse barn became our place for the night. After all the excitement of the day I slept soundly.

Next day in the early afternoon hours my Mother felt her time was here. They sent Kazmer and me to the creek to catch some trout and to explore the region. Responding to the quest we were walking along the creek against the flow and throwing in our hooks without much success. Eventually we reached a small man-made pond created from the water of the creek. We met with two young men here. With hands and gesticulations we tried to introduce ourselves. We found out that they were French POWs who were assigned for agricultural work to a local farmer. They noticed our futile efforts and promised to give some from their own catch. But first we had to take cover because they were fishing with hand bombs. (I had no idea how they got hold of the explosive.) The hand bombs were thrown, the fish came up to the surface, our friends waded into the waist-high water and started to throw the dead fish onto the bank. We decided with my Brother that we better not wait until they gave us some, therefore we grabbed four meter long trout and left the area.

By the time we got home Arpad had been born. This big event happened in the sixth year of WWII, April 11 of 1944. We were happy with the new little brother, but his birth did not effect my routine. I was thinking that the little new-comer did not interfere with my status and from now on instead of five, six people would receive the daily food supply. My Mother had little rest after the ordeal of giving birth and the following day we had to continue our journey.

Oberhaag

The weather had taken a bad turn as General Winter started on his last attack. A tremendous amount of snow had been falling, just as if every pillow was ripped open in Heaven. We were perching on our earlier converted covered wagon. Arpad was securely tucked in up to his neck; he must have felt good because he was not crying. Early afternoon we arrived at Unterhaag where Arpi, the young Hungarian, received his birth certificate from the Third Reich. A swastika and an eagle with extended wings were printed on the German document; an unlikely document to have for a Hungarian.

Our next stop was Ferlach. We stayed here for a prolonged time. The leadership made the decision that there was not much sense in going further. The small village was located at the bottom of a steep hill East of Klagenfurt, about 6 miles from the main road. One of the wagons was used to bring our daily food supply from the German warehouse in Klagenfurt. Our new quarters were good, they were on the second floor of a house built on the hillside. But we woke up the first night being harassed by bedbugs. In the morning, not having any other means, we took our petrol blowers (used previously to start up the Hoffers) to burn out the invading pests from the beds, closets, and furniture's cracks. This treatment was hard on the furniture, but there was a War on. We also replaced the straw bedding and had no more problems getting a restful sleep. I was not even worried about the airplanes.

One day I got a permit from my elders to go along with the wagon to Klagenfurt to pick up our food supply. The city was a pitiful sight, ruin after ruin wherever our journey took. The warehouse was situated in a lush but overgrown park. While the wagon was loading the supplies, I walked around a bit and had a hard time imagining that not too long ago probably young couples in love were whispering on the benches. Now, on the sides of the man-made ditches, were piles of ammunition boxes and 80 mm air defense guns. I was just about ready to go home, when I heard the shrill sound of the sirens. Because there was no other shelter available, we took refuge with our horse and wagon under a huge linden. Pretty soon with tremendous ear-busting noise about 11 fighter planes circulated above us at about 50-100 meter altitude. I could not believe my eyes, their guns remained quiet, nobody was shooting at us. Our air-defense also remained passive. We were in this state for about 5 minutes while our nerves were on edge. I was thinking that may be by the OKW's order we should not respond unless attacked. Then the aircraft flew away. It became quiet and we started up on our homeward-bound journey.

The day was May 7, 1945. We did not know then that on the next day Germany unconditionally surrendered and with it World War II ended in Europe. I was trying to figure out the meaning of "Peace". My knowledge and experience of peace was very limited as my awareness of the environment and the world around me coincided with the outburst of WWII. I even remembered that as a six years old child I was listening to the broadcast of the Spanish Civil War on the radio. But now, we do not have to be scared of the allied airplanes anymore, and no more food rationing once we finally get home (but of course, we had to have it for a long time). Because of our need for survival, by the direction of our Commander we had to sign in with the British Headquarters in Klagenfurt as POWs. I do not remember the exact date; it was sometime between May 10 and 12. The British Army provided a daily food supply for us which was much better than we previously received from the Germans. We got permits to pick up our allotment at their airport, and a few times I was lucky enough to go along. I don't think I will ever forget my excitement at watching the landing and departing of the Dakota 2 engine transport aircraft on the two remaining runways. They came in almost every 10 minutes and a large crew emptied them in no time; huge piles of expertly packed boxes and containers of food were left on the ground. Our new food supply reminded us of the happy peacetime. I was very pleased with the different food items: canned meats, fish in tomato sauce, split pea soup, real coffee beans, condensed milk, and English and American biscuits were among the selections. In the next 6 months Arpad practically lived on these biscuits soaked in milk. This was a royalty treatment for our family of six.

Peace, peace, blessed peace! Intoxicating happiness. We settled down in Farlach village just as if we had found our new home. Our general staff put their heads together and meditated on the pros and cons; should we be turning back to the East and heading home with our still intact train, or just wait to receive news from Hungary. And news came!! Through the radio, mainly from the warnings from different people who considered themselves lucky not to be ending up on one of the lamp posts of Andrassy Road. We decided to stay after these gloomy predictions; however, new nerve-wrecking events took place. Tito's red star partisans were looting in the neighboring village; they even helped themselves to the ladies' earrings. Our commander immediately contacted the British Headquarters for protection. Unfortunately, this was not possible, but they recommended arming up against the red star gang. While Cuci bacsi conducted a discussion, we children, my brother and two good friends, took off to find firearms. This was not a very hard task; piles of various guns and ammunition were lying around on the side of the main road. We selected several Mausers, a few machineguns, appropriate amounts of ammunition, hand grenades and other weapons. On the way home the weight almost broke our backs. The first person we bumped into at home unfortunately was Cuci bacsi, who, to our great surprise, started to yell at us: stop! Not one step forward!! Furiously he instructed a soldier to immediately disarm us (that was the thanks we got for trying to help).

But afterwards we got our orders from the British Commander to move into the Weissenstein refugee camp. This place was in the Drava River Valley about 8-9 miles West of Villach. It was bordered with a high and steep hill to the north and with the River Drava to the south and west, with very little farmland between. The "A" camp was stretched out mostly on the flood plain rather than on the farm lands. Therefore as on so many other occasions, we had to continue our journey to the West. On the very first day at the British checkpoint they took our weapons away. (What a waste of arming up!) After two-three days of riding we arrived at Weissenstein. We found the gates open and the guards gave us a very friendly reception.

Weissenstein

When I saw the large number of tents erected, my mouth fell open. There were tents everywhere, small tents, large tents, khaki tents, wherever I looked. There were streets and walkways between the tents but instead of house numbers, the names of the military corps or the origins of the occupants were written on boards on every tent. We put a rope fence around our area and happily became the owner of our new "home" which was made out of brown canvas and empty wooden boxes. We had to turn in (like everybody else) our wagon with the horse to the authorities. The several thousands wagons were stacked tightly with their tongues turned into the beds, creating a "tent city". If hundreds of years ago our King IV Bela would have this amount of wagons to build a fortress he would certainly win his battle against the Tartars at Muhi. I do not remember what happened with the horses, may be our Austrian relatives ended up having them.

We spent our days in a cheerful mood. I felt great having no tasks at all, just the pleasures of bathing in the Drava, sunning and playing. There was even no need to haul washing water from the river, because Papa dug a well. He mined out a 120-150 cm depth hole and lined it with boards. Our drinking water was furnished by the British soldiers. But again, as on so many other times, we got a new order. A small portion of the camp had to be relocated for unknown reason. So, one morning after few hours ride on the British army trucks we arrived in Malecnik. Those days this place was located close to the Yugoslav borders. The guards of our new camp were wonder-stricken when they saw our colorful groups of women and children. They were expecting soldiers, not refugees. Our ratio was 10 civilian to 1 military man. According to our instructions we were not allowed to go beyond the camp site's limited area, which was bordered by a road and a creek. On our northwest border was the British army camp. The area of our camp site was not larger than three football fields, including a small portion of a pine forest. I was kind of shocked by this strict regulation, but I became reconciled with our new tent. Imagine Reader, the very first time Kazmer and I got separated from our elders. It was great fun watching the camp fire and the evening show in a horizontal position from our mosquito-netted tent.

I always loved to pick wild mushrooms and our neighboring forest was full of them. The only problem was that our demand exceeded the mushroom supply of the permitted area. We just had to find a new hunting ground, which we did. We waited until the British patrols passed us on the road, and then crossed the road behind their backs into the prohibited forest area. Our return trip was done in the same way. We catered for the Family with plenty of mushrooms and with some harvested wild berries.

We did not stay too long in Malecnik. One day the trucks appeared again, and we were speeding toward Weissenstein where no tents were visible anymore. The "C" camp was created of barracks which were built from pine logs and wooden boards. The Family got an apartment in a log building. We moved into the first on the left, a woman with her grown daughter occupied the one in the middle, and a school principal with his family, named Horvath lived in the right side apartment. We were settling in the best way we could because according to some rumors, we might have to spend the whole winter here. An electric substation pole was at the front of our house with the low Voltage of 380. With my Father's technical knowledge and finesse it did not take long to light up our new home. Not too many people around us were able to enjoy this kind of luxury.

The days were passing by and we children lived our carefree lives until some bored teachers got the idea to open an open-air school. I was not very happy about this decision and became very upset. Of course my feelings did not alter the facts of establishing the two classes. The lower group was doing the first four classes of the high school, and the upper group was attending to the remaining four classes. We were sitting under a majestic pine tree on dirt benches which were dug from the hillside. This setting made me feel like I was sitting in an amphitheater while in the arena a clown looking person was trying to hammer algebra in our heads. Fortunately this school effort was very short-lived, almost like the good Lord was listening to my prayers. It started to rain very heavily and after 12-14 days of operation the school had to be closed down.

By this time the first home-bound train was on its way to Hungary. I still do not know the reason but our chance of going home was very uncertain. We were in the second half of September and the days already were colder, especially in the mornings. We had to think about spending the winter here. From the nearby forest we had collected woods and mosses to insulate our walls and fill in the wide cracks. But by God's will, we received a notification to take the train on October 3, 1945. There was very little problem with packing up the few boxes and several carry-on with our belongings. One late morning finally we boarded the train, into a boxcar with straw scattered all over on the floor. Finally, very slowly with loud creaky noises, the train started to move toward the east, toward our Magyar home.

The first car of the train was occupied by a hand-full of soldiers of the Queen Majesty. They were tasked to provide us with security throughout our trip to our destination. The first prolonged stop was at the snow-covered Semmering where we entered the Soviet Occupational Zone. We were curiously peeking out above the "rinfuza" (half-way boarded-up opening of the box car) to get the very first sight of a Soviet army man. And there he was, in a dirty and greasy uniform with a big red star on his round service cap. Probably he was an officer of the Red Army, and was wildly gesticulating and explaining something to the British Commander. I was very interested at first, but then I got bored watching them. After awhile the train started up again to leave Semmering behind with its snowy scenery. By the evening we crossed the Hungarian border at Agfalva, where our train stopped to spend the night. Finally we were on Hungarian soil. Unfortunately the night was disturbed by the Russians when a trainload of Soviet soldiers pulled up next to our track. We almost got invaded with this looting horde, but luckily, the valiant soldiers of the Queen Majesty protected us from the disaster with several short and long warning shots (in the air) from their machine guns. In the morning we peacefully continued toward our terminus, Kaposvar. At that point the Hungarian authorities conducted identity checks on every adult. We were not arrested, but according to the loudspeaker, nobody could leave the station before getting their new identity documents.

We were told also that we had to turn in all the items which belong to the treasury stock. The Examiner Committee already had a black list with the names of the persons who were immediately arrested, the members of the Gendarme and the Nazi party. Dad had no problems with getting his stamped document. We had a few relatives from my Father's side that lived in Kaposvar and soon enough we took up liaison with them. The only problem was the few pieces of treasury items that we decided to keep, like the trappings of our yore horse, and an old typewriter. We were thinking in our down-at-heel state that these items would become useful when selling them. So, at my Mother's brilliant idea, we snuggled them out in the bottom of baby Arpad's deep basket with him sleeping on top. Finally, we all left the rail station and headed to our quarters, to the Dauschek house. Mama Dauschek was my Dad's sister. I had the pleasure to meet my relatives, and was ready to go to the movies with my cousin Geza. He told me that the ticket would cost 100 pengo. I had to ask my elders for the money, and my Mother was beside herself when she realized that her precious saving of 8-9 thousand pengo was not much to invest anymore. She was very disappointed at giving up her dream. After a few days of staying we were on our way to Klotildliget.

Home Again

Finally our train arrived at the Southern Station in Budapest. Our stuff was heaped onto the ground next to us. What would be the next step? How could we transfer everything to the next station, Csaszatfurdo, from where the train will take us to the vicinity of Piliscsaba/Klotildliget. We located a porter who promised to undertake this task for a considerable amount of cigarette paper. So, we loaded everything onto a two-wheel cart with Zsuzsa and Arpad on the top. All four of us had to help the porter to push the cart on the approximately 3 km distance between the two stations. We arrived there on time for the next connection and after downloading and uploading again we were on our way to our final destination. After a short hour we got off the train at Piliscsaba with our meager belongings. Finally we were at home! It was dusk already but we were just standing undecidedly beside the railroad tracks in the foggy and cool autumn breeze. Where could we go next? We could not go directly to our old apartment where we left about 90 percent of our furniture, which fortunately we recovered later. Finally we decided to go to my Dad's ex fellow officer's, Szekerces' home where we spent the night. Next day after a desperate search we found our new home, a rental at 8 Matyas kir. Street, Klotildliget. It took two truckloads to transfer the furniture from our old apartment. The house was spaces with the living room, three bedrooms, kitchen and other utility rooms and there was a small guesthouse in the backyard occupied by a renter. The water was piped into both buildings, except that the pump was missing. The owner of this property was Baroness Zsuzsanna Vajda. Many years later my parents bought this property from her and that was the birth of the Szekely Manor.

Klotildliget

As a summer's sudden hail storm, a multitude of problems showered on us. Winter was approaching, the value of our currency was minimal, the food was rationed, my Dad was unemployed, and a barter system was in place. The trapping of our old yore horse got us flour, lard, oil, and cornmeal. I was also trying my best to help to survive the 1946 winter. At the railroad station a large pile of coal was waiting to be hauled off by our "liberators". It was guarded by armed Russian solders, but I took the liberty of taking some of it home. One time a guard chased me up to the city hall of Klotildliget (approximately ½ mile). It started to get critical because the distance between us was shrinking to a few meters. I was running through the back door of the ruined building heading toward the front door when I noticed the steps going down to the cellar. I kicked into some of the waste material which rolled down the steps with a loud racket to give stupid Ivan the wrong impression. By the time he realized of his mistake I was far away from the place. He had no other choice but to retreat disappointedly.

I became our potato provider also. I had collected more than 100 kg of potatoes from the Red Army's supply. While the glorious soldiers were loading the potatoes from the railcar into their trucks, plenty of them fell onto the ground. I was picking them up from under the railcar into my 10 kg capacity canvas bag and took several trips between the station and my home. Just in case, I was wearing my most raggedy and slightly soiled clothes to create a hungry proletarian impression. These were our means of preparing for the winter of 1946.

We were already in December of 1946 and I had not finished my second year in the high school yet. I almost forgot everything that ever I have learned in Koszeg. The catholic St. Margit Order (teaching nuns) had a retirement home in Klotildliget, but because of the extraordinary situation, they opened their doors to prepare high school age children for their exams. With my parents approval I started school there which did not bother me this time, because both of the Metz children also were enrolled, and I was able to renew their friendships after the over a year long forced interruption. The relationship with Rezso and Jutka even grew tighter between us. I was very proud of Jutka; she came along faithfully where ever we went on long hiking, or rock climbing without the slightest complaint about the blisters her boots were causing her. She was on the top of the Ordogoltar (Devil's Altar) way before Rezso managed it. My thinking toward her took a different direction. I longed to be with her, loved to listen to hear her voice, and missed her very much when I did not see her for few days. I did everything possible to be in her company. Unfortunately my feelings had not been reciprocated. I still love her dearly but my puppy love during the years slowly changed to a beautiful friendship. I did not know then that this friendship with the Metz children would last for a life-time.

Ordogoltar

Picture of Piliscsaba with Klotildliget in the background, and the Devil's Altar (Ordogoltar).

In the fall of 1946 Rezso continued his education in Budapest and commuted daily by train. Jutka and I, after an entry-level test, registered at the local catholic school of the M.Ward English Sisters, where we happily annoyed the good nuns for the next two years. Nothing exciting happened to me in my junior-high classes. One time I got a slap in the face from my religion teacher, probably I deserved it. Other times my form-master, Mater Nemeth tried to turn me back to the right direction with a few well-directed slaps.

The other remembered episode happened in the chemistry class. Professor Apor informed us that we would produce some hydrogen to prove that the ignited mixture of air and hydrogen is an explosive. He sprinkled hydrochloric acid on zinc and put it under a glass bell. We were watching as its fizzing was producing the hydrogen. Then he slightly tilted the bell and lit up a match to prove his second theory. The attempt was overwhelmingly successful. Nobody got badly hurt by the huge explosion; it was a close-call with only a few scratches.

The Family tried to adapt to the circumstances. Finally my Dad got a job at the lumber yard of the colliery in Dorog. It was a satisfactory work place; however the payment amounted to very little in the inflated milliard pengo. Most of his wages was in food items, he even received some matches. We bought two goats and planted a vegetable garden, all in the name of survival. There was a welcomed peace in our family, but sometimes Ocsi and Zsuzsa annoyed each other which ended up in hair pulling and sometimes in a brawl. I was mostly the justice of the peace, not always though, but never terrorized the younger ones. We had no problems with Arpad until past his 3-4 years, and many times we rocked him to sleep. Sometimes we quarreled, but always defended each other from any outsider. I have a good reason not to advertise here the results of my studies. Let me say this: I never reached the commendable status, but even though I was not jumping too high, I never knocked down the marker.

My next school was in Komarom. This city is close to my heart, not just because I was born there, but my Grandma lived there. I loved her dearly and I felt she loved me too. I was less close to my Grandfather; of course he was a stern police man. I always turned to my Grandmother with my problems while living under her roof. I remember well that when I was 4-5 years old, after dinner she used to caress my back until I fell asleep. Later I tried to do the same to my younger siblings without any success.

I was very happy to move into their home again, but the thought of the new school was worrying me. What will be my future there? How the 48-49 school year will help me to pass the classes? The truth is that I really never liked going to school, as I had announced in my first grade: "I have learned enough".

The opening day of the school was uneventful. My friend, Pali was also boarding with my Grandparents which fact helped me to like the school a bit better. One day was just like another, and the school year went fast without finding new friends. My slightly eccentric Auntie was always in a good mood and loved to pull jokes on me. Like one time when she put a water-filled bowl under my sheet. A few days later I placed my Grandfather's wire brush in her bed.

In our free time we took walks along the Danube River. There was a 100 m high voltage pole at Csillagvar. The wires were connected to the other side of the river. It did not take too much time for us to figure out how to climb up to the top and enjoy the marvelous panorama. The bank of the Danube was thickly ingrown with willow trees and dense shrubs. It was a perfect hide-out for the love-hungry young couples.

Finally the last day of the school year arrived. I had to ask my form-master for my report card, because my train was departing at 4 PM on the same day. He gave it to me and wished me a good trip. Good bye Komarom! On the train ride I already directed my thoughts to the new school (Arpad High school) and to the possible new friends.

Rezso and his family moved to Avar Street, in the XI District of Budapest. He gave his 7.65 mm revolver to me. In the mean time, Ocsi found a slightly damaged Mauser rifle. On one of our hiking trips we discovered a Mauser type hunting shotgun at the ruins of Oroszdy Castle.

The school bell was ringing for me again, this time it was the Arpad High in Budapest. I got enrolled as a junior by disregarding the notation in my report card that I was qualified for the higher class. In that year the 8 years high school education system was reduced to 4 years, à la Moscow style.

I was very lucky in finding friends in Arpad High, but even luckier to gain excellent new friends in Klotildliget. One of them was Laci (Pepita), who escaped from the Southern region with his three siblings and widowed mother. As a caring parent she asked the local vicar's guidance to find friends for her Lacika. Vicar Ferenczy recommended the Szekely children. It was a good choice, in no time the shy Lacika became a solid Laszlo. He was attending classes in Arpad High also, but was taking human interest courses. My other friend's mother occupied our guest house with her sister. Her other, married sister also lived in Klotildliget. Because of his parents divorce, H. Laci previously lived with his father in Pecs, but this year he was attending school in Budapest. He was studying for an Accounting degree. H. Laci was an "all-around" friendly boy, may be a bit of a coward, the "better be scared than sorry" type of guy. He called himself Bruszlajer Cu Stangli, which we shortened to Bruszlejar.

The Metz kids came out to see us quite often on weekends. We took hikes together in the surrounding mountains and roamed the country side. On one of these weekends Jutka took me aside and told me confidentially that she loved me as a brother! I was not very happy with what she told me. I had to realize that my love for her had not transformed to friendship yet. I might have even questioned her as to why she was telling me this, but I can not remember the details. One thing is sure, I was bitter for a long time afterward. During these nights we practiced our route marches without her.

At Arpad High school I found myself a true friend, named G. Tamas. He sat next to me during classes through the following three years. Later on he became a very important member of our organization. Otherwise I was not doing my best in this school either, but I made passing grades. Tomi's 7.65 mm Frommer was just an addition to our inventory. A few other kids in my classes also sympathized with my ideology. We all experienced the strain of our every day lives which was a hardship for a certain social class. My Dad had to work hard as a physical laborer to provide for his family; he had no other choice. True, one time the Army called him in for a "discussion", but because he consistently called the "liberation" a "collapse", he was let go.

We young "Titans" made the decision that we had to do something to destroy the cursed Rakosi regime. The concept was followed by an act, and the Free Hungary Movement was formed in 1950. Our objectives were to spread anti-government propaganda and to disrupt the AVH's violent activities. Our main goal was to plan for and assist with a national uprising against the Rakosi government, based on the "every bit will help" concept. By the honored trust of our members I became the head of the organization.

"Everything is for the working people". In the previous year the members of the Labor Party of Piliscsaba organized, if I remember correctly on May 1, a bicycle race; and they were doing it again in 1950. The distance of the race was about 8-10 km with turning around at Szarazag. The start and the finish were in Piliscsaba, at the front of the Konig pub. What caught our interest was the one hundred forint first prize, while the second and third prizes were only books, which did not excite us too much. We were determined to get the hundred dollars because our cash register was empty. When our organization was formed, we elected Ocsike (Kazmer) as treasurer. We expected him to live up to our confidences. This money came from our honest work at the chemistry department. It was a very slow process and did not amount to very much. We were saving to buy a small rubber printer, because currently Jutka was typing up the pamphlets. But unfortunately Ocsi got a bit confused and spent our few forints at the Phoenix and Roxi matinee movie theaters instead of his pocket money. When we found this out he had to step down from his position. Instead of being sorry, he defended himself that he was only borrowing the money; so, I became the new treasurer.

After considering our desperate need for the money, we started our energetic training to win the first prize. Finally the day arrived for the bicycle race. The interest in the participation was very low, may be about eight people lined up. Our winning margin was overwhelming; I came first, Ocsi came in second, and K. Nandy finished in third place. I assume that the Party was expecting a different result, because I was not given the money, but only a book, and the others had to be satisfied with a warm handshake. I was boiling mad and made the decision that sooner or later they would have pay for this.

I also got smarter in my studies; the organic chemistry interested me most. Professor Pacsuli was an excellent lecturer. Gaspar and I learned easily whatever we wanted to know. Of course, we were not doing this well in the other subjects. Professor Pacsuli trusted us with the managing of the chemistry stockroom, and with the preparation for the classes.

Since we had established our organization I was more aware of the daily political happenings and its propaganda slogans which appeared to me greatly dishonest. I got confusing messages by listening to the radio; our heroes who gave their lives for our country were completely forgotten by now. Not too long ago, during the war, Katalin Karady was singing: "No need to cry, because our soldiers will come back from the battlefields". Just how many came back? Most of their bodies decomposed already in the nameless graves of the Soviet forests. What was the newest song of the current days? "Does not matter that our palms are getting callused when our breads are getting whiter." At the same time the authorities were sweeping off the last grain from the farmers' attics, causing an accelerated suicide rate among the honest and hardworking Hungarians. And everything was done "for the people".

Rezso and family moved up to Taborhegy into a lovely garden-surrounded house which reminded me with all the vegetation and its clean air a bit of Klotildliget. I visited them quite often and sadly found out that my love for Jutka still existed. I really wanted to get over this feeling because I knew I had to. Then I met a girl, named Marta and slowly a new star came into my life. She accepted my approach. She was also taking the train to Budapest, so we met every day. Few years ago she was a classmate of Kazmer in the grade school. We had a good time commuting together and sometimes on the way home by pretending to be tired, I lay down on the seat and put my head into her lap. She was a dear, instead of being apprehensive, she bent a bit more forward while continued reading her book. Maybe she would have become my wife if the AVH had not interfered.

My rail pass, 1951.

At the end of the school year in the early summer of 1951, Bruszlejar moved back to Pecs to live with his father. Kazmer and I spent the first part of our summer vacation working in the depth of mine 8 of the colliery at Dorog as trammers to enhance our "wealth". In the second half we took a bicycle tour to Pecs and got busy with various anti-government activities.

The days went fast. I was applying to the Chemistry Department of the University and was getting ready for Christmas. My achievement in school was not very high but I managed to pass all my classes. I made up my mind that no matter what I would succeed in graduating. And with this goal in my mind I started to study hard. I was very lucky, because I did not have to spend too much time studying before all sunk into my brain. But my plan did not go the way I had intended, as the saying is: Men plan but God finishes it.

The Punishment

We got word from Bruszlejar that he was coming for New Year's Eve. To my great surprise, instead of him, a telegram came with a "no money, not coming" message. I had no idea then that he was already in the claws of the AVH. When his train made a stop at the Dombovar station they arrested him, and what is more, they took the bottle of vine from him which was intended to be a present for us. The telegram was sent by the AVH to reassure me.

If the reader would like to learn more about the AVH, please click here. Wikipedia entry (a new window will open).

We spent New Year's Eve in a depressed mood. I just could not get over Laci's absence. Kazmer and I had the feeling that something was terribly wrong. My Family and I spent the afternoon at home on January 2, 1952, and for some reason Marta came over too. We were chatting and sitting around the table when without knocking the front door opened and a young woman and man entered the room. I never saw them before. They gave their names and informed us that they were sent by the District KISZ Committee to find out how and in what circumstances I was getting ready for the graduation. We took to their story and were even talking a bit when again without knocking the door flew open. A man came in with a gun in his hand and started to yell at us: "State Protection Authority, nobody moves, put your hands on the table!". With nothing better to do, we followed his instruction. Everybody was surprised, except the young woman and man. I understood right away the correlation; they belonged to the same gang. After this prologue the AVH man casually told me to get dressed and to follow them. My brain switched into fifth gear. I had no doubt that our anti-government pamphlets, and the existence of our organization led the friendly comrades to me. I was wondering just how much they knew about our activities. How many more were waiting for me outside? I stood up from the table, but they would not let me take one step without an escort. I went into the hall to get dressed and then stepped outside onto the porch to see if my "guardian angel" would follow me. Well, he did, and demanded to know what the heck I was doing outside.

I realized there was nothing I could do, what comes, comes. So, the three of us started up and I had to walk between the two first visitors like a good friend of theirs. When we got to the underpass we met with Olga, we greeted each other, but she did not notice that I was in custody. Pretty soon a Pobeda (dream car) rolled up silently beside us. There was no talking, there was nothing to say to each other, and we just got into the vehicle and started to roll toward the not very promising unknown future. The curtains were drawn on the side windows, but I could easily follow the road from the view above the driver's head. I recognized the area when we arrived at Fo Street in Buda. When we stopped by a corner building and I was told to get out, I knew instantly that I was at the AVH complex at Buda. They made me hurry; the political police were very careful not to expose their activities to the on-looking civilians. My reception started up with a body search. First they emptied all my pockets, then they undressed me to complete nakedness and closely examined every piece of my clothing and shoes until not even a pin could have escaped. When I was back in my clothes, I was escorted into a large room. On the raised rows of seats about 20-25 AVH uniformed men and women sat. I had to sit on a chair positioned in the middle of a podium (like in a theater) with my back turned to the audience. There was a table at the front of me with a man sitting by it. I was asked the poetic question: "Do you know where you are?" My answer was yes. With the second question he wanted to find out if I knew why I was here. Naturally I kept quiet. That was the time when I got my first slap in the face which was given from behind my back to my right cheek. It was a respectable strike because my ear started to buzz right away, but before I could count to two; my left side collided with a slapping palm. The question was repeatedly asked with each slap but I just kept quiet. This was going on and on, about 4-5 times on both cheeks with growing intensity. By then both my ears were buzzing and my whole face went numb. I did not even felt the pain anymore; I got into a lethargic state. Then through the fog I heard the question: "Why are you so stubborn comrade 216?" That was my cover number in our organization. I gave up then, thinking that if they knew this number they must know a lot more, there was no point in denying the answer. "We will continue tomorrow" I was told, and the audience left their seats and poured out from the room. I realized then that I was the unlucky subject of a demonstrative interrogation.

After a while they sat me in a car, the left of the backseat was mine, and my hands were handcuffed. I got my instructions, do not pull on them! The more I pulled the more they tightened on my wrists. A hunk of a man took his place next to me, he warned me to keep my mouth shut when they put the next collected person in the car, otherwise the slapping festival would start up again. We ended up close to the home of the Metz family; they just took me along so the hounds would be spared from the unnecessary searching for the house in the dark of the night. The detained person was Jutka. I could see her clearly by the street lights. She could not see me because it was dark in the car, and they sat her on the right-side backseat. I was afraid to talk, but was wiggling my handcuffs to get her attention. We came with two cars and I was thinking about Rezso, but did not see him.

When we returned to the AVH complex at Fo Street first they took Jutka away, and then I got escorted to my apartment (cell). I saw several green-painted iron doors on both sides of the long corridor; one of them received me. Before they locked the door on me they read the policies out loud several times. This document was hanging on one of the walls of my cell. The 3.5 x 2.2 square feet (approximate measurement) cell was completely self-contained with a central heating fixture and a small and high milk-glass window was across from the door whereat nobody could look in or out. On the left side of the cell was a cot built upon a concrete base (probably from pine wood to provide a "softer" bed) with a folded horse blanket. On the right side of the door was a real flush toilet. A 100W light bulb was hanging above the door which was burning day and night (with no energy savings in mind).

Ah, the policies! Every day they woke me up at 6 AM (if I was able to sleep till then). Shortly after that through the small window of the door a mini basin was handed in with a small chunk of soap and a towel. Two minutes later these items had to be handed out through the window again and an aluminum comb was handed in. A bit later the same ritual was exercised with the breakfast tray. All had to be done in a hurry. The mornings went slowly, they either took me for interrogation or I was pacing the floor: three steps forward, three steps back, or I could even walk around in circles. I got a meal at noon, and then I was taken to interrogation again, or just sat on my cot meditating for the rest of the afternoon. After the late supper (which came through the window again around 9 PM if I remember correctly) at 10 PM I was allowed to go to bed. I had to sleep according to the policies: cannot sleep with my face turned toward the wall, have to keep both hands above the blanket. The prison guard was checking through the peephole every 15 minutes and if he caught me in the wrong position he came into the cell and I had to read the house rules. Some nights I was subjected to this torture several times until finally I got the hang of proper sleeping. The daily food came out from a soup kitchen and it was adequate for me.

Much later I had a chance to talk with other prisoners who were telling me that the AVH prisons in the countryside were more brutal and inhuman. I had to take my showers on the weekends in the middle of the night. When they took me down to the basement on the first time and I saw the showerheads extending from the ceiling of the large room, I got really scared. This is the end, I was thinking, I will be gassed. But instead I got my command to undress, get under the ice cold water, soap, rinse and towel, and dress. The whole procedure only took 3-4 minutes; and I was on my way back to my cell with shivering teeth, still half-way wet.

Turning my thoughts back to the interrogations, they were conducted in the following manner. I had to sit on a most uncomfortable chair at the front of a desk, and behind the desk sat the ruler of life and death, the cock-sure higher ranking AVH uniformed man. Above his head from the wall comrade Rakosi was looking at me with his kindly eyes. I always had the feeling that he was trying to tell me that "Do not pee against the wind because you will pee on yourself my son"! Every time the guard who delivered me to the room put five Kossuth cigarettes on the table. I thought they were for me, but the interrogator smoked most of them. Occasionally I was given one or two which made me dizzy and dopey after my long break from the nicotine inhalation. They made me so sick that I had the false suspicion that the cigarettes were fortified with drugs in order to make me confess to the sins that I had not committed.

I knew that our statements from the interrogations were just a loose sketch of what really happened. The problem was that everybody was telling an insignificant part of the story and the smart detective (like mine was) had to put the pieces together. His main inquiry was about my gun, and I could not deny its existence (confessed already by more than one person). But where was it? A long time before I was arrested my Dad took the gun away from me and hid it in a place he would not tell me about. But I had to tell the detective something, so I described the area where I was hiding it earlier in the hope that it was hidden nearby. They went out to the house and dug up the dirt around our pigsty. Of course the gun was not there. They started to question me again. I had to modify my statement claiming that they misunderstood me. They went out again with the promise of a colossal beating for me, if they would return again empty-handed. I had to prepare myself for the worst. After more futile digging the men questioned my Father who told them that he took the gun away from me as a precaution and then he led them to its hiding place. Poor naive man did not know that with his action he committed a major crime. They found the gun and gained the tenth criminal of our case. With this accomplishment they put the whole picture together and finished their investigation, maybe even decided on the verdict. During the investigation I got a warning once that before me some unfortunate grownup men fell out of the window for the lack of cooperation (and we were up on the third or fourth floor).

On a dark late winter afternoon I was escorted with several other prisoners into a prisoners' transfer vehicle. I had no idea who the others were, because the boarding and disembarking were done with one prisoner at a time. This vehicle was originally a Csepel truck but it was converted to transport the increasing number of prisoners. A specially built trailer with ten back-to-back cells and five doors on each side was hoisted into the large truck bed. After some time we arrived at the front of the Court and Jail House of Pest County on Marko Street, where the changing of the guard took place. We were passed over from the AVH to the red-star decorated lads of the BV (Punishment Executive Body).

My career at Marko started with the taking of my fingerprints which was performed by a young woman. I must have been really jittery, because she told me not to be scared anymore, this is not the AVH. Afterward they took me to my new "home". This cell was fairly large but it was already occupied by twelve inmates. That made me a "cuvax" (jail slang for the new boy, or green behind the ears). The cell contained 2 beds and 10 pallets which were piled up on the top of each other during day-time. The room was equipped with a flash toilet, and the water tank above the toilet also supplied us with drinking and washing water. We also had some mess tins, cups and cutlery; and about 10 horse blankets along with a filthy basin. The barred window was kept open day and night to provide us with adequate air. When bedtime came we put the pallets down and the floor space was completely covered with them. There was not much room for turning and everybody had to sleep on their same side. The "cuvax" had to spend his first night right next to the toilet, and probably several more until a new roommate arrived. With every new arrival he got further and further away from the fixture which gave less opportunity for the drowsy inmates to sprinkle on him during the darkness of the night. I was very lucky to avoid this torture, because this sleeping place was temporarily assigned by the cell commander to our two gypsy inmates. They growled a little but stayed there. By the end of my stay at Marko I had graduated to a bed which represented a top luxury, as far as night times went.

The days went fast, and finally I got my indictment: "Leading and organizing the activities for overthrowing the People's Republic of Hungary". At first this sounded very funny to me (was the Republic really in such a weak shape that little me could easily do the job?) until I saw the expression on the faces of my older inmates after they read the document. They did not say anything to me, but I overheard them talking that "this poor kid will be hanged". I just could not believe my ears (I still had good hearing then), and had to ask them to explain what they meant. Then I learned that this crime could only be punished by death. I was stunned. I did not want to die at the age of 19, but the situation was completely out of my hands. I resigned myself to the unchangeable, and began to inquire about the procedure. I learned that the execution can be done in two ways: either with a bullet or by hanging. Some of the hangmen are very clumsy. I made up my mind that after all I had to go through I would be strong to the end. At the same time we got a new inmate who was on death row. He was convicted as a Yugoslav agent, but spoke flawless Hungarian. With possible mortality being so close to me, I got very distracted waiting for my judgment day. I wanted to have it done as soon as possible and was hoping that may be I would not have to die.

Finally my judgment day was set for a closed trial of the "double zero" case, strictly confidential. According to my cellmates the only time I should appeal would be if the verdict was the death penalty, and I should not be worrying if the judgment called for a prison term, because the possibility of getting out on parole was very high. I was the first one who was escorted into the court room, and a gentleman there told me that he was my appointed attorney. I was in a dazed state when the comedy started and the judge went on and on recalling numbers and section codes. What finally got my attention was that the judge changed my indictment to "participated in the organizational activities". The verdict was 7 years of imprisonment, confiscating all personal properties and belongings, excluding from Public Affairs for 10 years, and banning from all high schools and universities in Hungary. I was greatly relieved after the misery of the previous days. The prosecutor asked for three days extension without appealing this time. My attorney had nothing to say, I guess getting paid for the job was enough for him. When I got back to the cell they all celebrated as if I was returning from my grave.

Then one early morning a few days later we heard loud door-slams and heavy chain screeches on our floor. Suddenly our door was slammed open also and the names of five inmates were called to get our stuff together and line-up outside the corridor where each of us was equipped with a steel bracelet. Every bracelet had a loop into which a chain was threaded through, and pretty soon we looked and acted like a centipede bug walking down the corridor, mastering the staircase, entering the street and climbing into a truck. Our chain snake consisted of 15 people, the smaller half of our shipment of 35 men. At Rakosrendezo rail station a separate car was provided for us. As it was a week day, the station was full of civilians who were commuting to their work places. Their faces reflected tremendous sorrow and sympathy. One-by-one they opened their hearts and lunch boxes to give their daily food allotment to us. I ended up getting two. After some train and more truck rides we finally arrived at the "Shrine", which name was given those days to the high security prison for the politically convicted at Marianosztra. My first impression was very negative; it was a bizarre sight. Two dozen meters from the house of God was the prison entrance with a huge red star (the symbol of the godless) above its doorway. But there was not much time for meditation, the door was opened and our human snakes wiggled into the building. Inside the corridor there was writing on the wall: "Not just for keeping, but for hating also". A chill went through me; ah, you got into a friendly place, Szekely.

Church exterior Church interior

Prison

The Magyarok Nagyasszonya Church and the Prison at Marianosztra.

We had to go through all the necessary registration in the recruiting office again, and then headed to the warehouse to shed our civilian clothes. Three months had passed since my arrest and my underwear was in a terrible state. We had to make packages of our clothing, and then label it to be sent home. May be they sent them, or maybe not. Then came the uniform allocation without giving consideration to the needed sizes. It was just like in the Army: one item of underwear, one pair of pants, one shirt, one jacket and a cap. I looked really good in the new outfit, I was sure that the white and blue stripes would capture the hearts of all the girls; however, I had to wait for this for a long time. But the material of my new "wardrobe" was very flimsy and it made me realize that we were still in winter time. Clogs and footcloth were also available, but I decided to keep my own shoes. Finally I was escorted to my "solitary" cell. It was only in name as such, because it was already occupied by a prisoner, and it had four beds. Of course there were numbers of prisoners who really were in solitary confinement; they even had to take their daily walks in solo. Beside the beds we also had a small table, a stool, a shelf for the mess tins, a basin, and a pitcher for the water. On top of everything there was a lidded slop pail for our number one and number two functions. Into here we also discarded our washing water; luckily the pail was emptied daily. The cell was equipped with a central heating fixture which hardly ever got above the lukewarm stage. Unfortunately the cell was facing to the North. On the first night I could not fall asleep because of the coldness even with the blanket up to my neck. I heard that my cellmate also was tossing and turning. On my suggestion we set one of the straw mattresses against the wall and pushed the bed against it. We both got into the same bed and covered ourselves with two blankets. With our combined body heat we succeeded in sleeping through the night without even the guards waking us up. Next morning I was escorted to a different cell where I found myself in an elite company. One of my new cellmates was a human smuggler, another was a Piarists priest, a professor from Vac, and the third one was a sergeant from the Army's Saint Laszlo division. It did not take me too long to get on a friendly basis with them. This cell was facing to the South and the atmosphere was much warmer.

I cannot say anything good about the food that was given to us; it was barely enough to live on, and it was too much to die from. The daily portion of 25 dekagrams of bread was our main nutrition, half of a ½ kg bun. The soup we got for breakfast was tasteless and watery. There was very little food value in our dinners as they were mostly made from vegetables which in normal circumstances were fed to the cattle. I guess we were put into the same category. Sometimes we even found a few caterpillars in our meals. The guards had a kick out of this: "You should be really happy with finding a little meat in your meal". Otherwise we got our small meat portion only once a week. I was constantly hungry from morning to night while I was at Marianosztra, which condition prevailed. I got into the habit of every day very carefully cutting the crust off my bread, and dicing it up. A small portion of jam was given with our early dinner on Sundays which was meant to be our cold supper for the evening. I diluted the jam with a bit of water and soaked the crust dices in the solution. I devoured this sweet right after my dinner, but it failed to give me the feeling of fullness, which I was hoping for. There was not much else to do but stare up at the ceiling while dreaming of a good sour cream doused "paprikas csirke" until the Monday morning's watery soup. It happened repeatedly that sometimes I got dizzy after getting up, and fell flat onto the floor. It was not a coincidence that the wall was adorned with the poster: "We are only responsible for your skin".

The days went fairly fast though. We had a very small pencil in our cell; I had no idea where it came from. And we had some toilet paper, which was officially permitted. Probably because of these tools, Father Ede, who used to teach German and Latin, decided that I should study German with him. He was so sure that by the end of the year I would speak the language fluently. Probably he would have been right if I had stayed at Marianosztra that long. By the way, the conspiracy of his students sent Father Ede Karcsiak to the prison of this famous small village, named after our Maria. My other cellmate, whose name I forgot, was sent here for his war activities (defended our country). He served his line of duty as a lieutenant at the Front. During the days he told his stories so realistically that I imagined myself next to the Curve of Don (Don Kanyar), and completely forgot where I was.

During my daily walks I noticed that in the middle of the courtyard some of my comrades were very busy making ropes and cords from hanks of colorful yarns. I decided that I would get some of it thinking that it might come handy in the future. The decision was followed by the act. Next day I was watching my guard very closely and when he turned his watchful eyes in the other direction; I stepped out from our line and busily bent down among the "zebras". My action was successful and I returned to my cell with pocketsful of the colorful yarn. I had to hide my loot in my straw mattress because the guards routinely searched our cells biweekly. I had my yarn now but finding some kind of canvas material was out of my reach. The upcoming underwear exchange solved my problem. I converted my new cotton long johns to shorts when with a swift movement I cut off the leggings. I put my cellmates into a horrible despair: I damaged the property of the Government. They were sure that if they would find out my action I would be chained. Nothing like that happened; I sewed a beautiful haversack out of the material with the colorful embroidery of folk arts from Father Ede's design. Finally I had a packet for my few belongings. I might still have my handiwork someplace.

By that time I was permitted to receive a package from home of soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, towels and socks. I got really angry when I could not squeeze out the paste from the tube. Many months later when Kazmer visited me the first time at Varpalota this puzzle was solved. He had removed the paste from the tube and replaced it with five Kossuth cigarettes thinking that I might need them more than my teeth needed the washing. Of course, he got this so right.

Despite the fact that talking was not permitted during our daily walks, there was no problem with the receiving and forwarding of news. We communicated with Morse Code by tapping on our central heating pipes with our spoons: one tap was "ti", and two fast taps meant "ta". I learned the Morse ABC easily in a few days from my lieutenant cellmate. Of course, without having access to the outside world, this communication was strictly restricted to the in-house news, like what will be our dinner, a surprise room search is in the making, X.Y. threw away his spoon (died), or some convicts who were indicted in the same case were looking for each other.

From the window of our cell we could see a small courtyard below where every day a lonely old man, and sometimes a few of them in a single line, shuffled in shackles with a five kilogram iron ball attached to the chain. These poor unfortunate men pressed the ball with their two hands to their stomach while walking their restricted rounds. Rakosi's henchmen used Middle Ages torture to punish these patriots. It was a terrible sight which I never will forget.

Nothing lasts forever. We got news through our Morse system that a big transfer would be taking shape in the near future. Unlike the former practices they will send us to the coal mine, instead of the quarry.

The news created a great excitement among us and we were wondering who would be going and who would be staying behind; all four of us wanted to get out from here. I trusted my good luck; however, I realized that the "red" gods didn't know that I was already an experienced miner. At the evening headcount we were told who would go out tomorrow. I was the only one who got selected from our cell. I was very happy, but felt tremendous sorrow for my friends. I could not sleep all night and tried to picture this new venture. Next morning I was told to step into the corridor and bring all my belongings with me. The friendly guard informed me to "face to the wall". While I was doing what I was told to do I noticed the great number of convicts who were already examining the plaster on the walls. "Let's go" came the next command and we were marching out of the building toward the big gate. Our daily food allotment of the ½ kg bread and 10 dekagram salted bacon was distributed in the courtyard. The bacon was rancid, but I managed to gobble everything down. The rail station at Szob was about 6 km away; we had to march in the middle while the armed guards walked on both sides of the road. There was no incident on the road and we boarded the awaiting stock cars. The doors were locked behind us and the train started up with approximately four-hundred convicts.

It was late afternoon by the time we got to Varpalota. Our cars were pulled into the Cser Mine loading dock which was right next to the brand new prison complex. Every corner had a watch tower, the fence was 2-3 meters high, and I noticed the spot-lighted walkways to the latrines. A single wire was stretched on both sides of the fence with friendly warning signs: IF YOU GET CLOSE TO THE WIRE OR ATTEMPT TO STEP OVER IT, THE GUARD WOULD START FIREING WITHOUT ANY FURTHER NOTICE. I felt that we were completely secured; none of the outsiders can penetrate to disturb our sleep. They ordered us out from the stock cars hurriedly, and in less than half an hour we stood on the parade ground in the middle of our new home waiting for further instructions. The ground was large; the prison was built on a 5-6 acre piece of land. There were four oblong buildings, a bath house, the latrines, a laundry house, and a half-completed recreation house with a stage. Each of the oblong buildings had four large bedrooms with a washroom in the middle which contained a very long sink with 12 faucets. Originally each bedroom was intended for thirty prisoners, but it was already furnished with bunk beds to accommodate the growing number of us.

Finally the camp commander made an appearance. He stood at the front of us, rocked back and forth on his heels, took a final pose, and gave us a heart-to-heart welcome. "My men, you will have a good life here if you work hard, however, if you try to escape then you are finished." After his speech we went to our bedrooms and received our first dinner, noodles with potatoes (grenadir mars). Our food came from a community kitchen which also provided meals for the civilian miners who lived in hotels. Most of the time the meals were plenty and satisfactory, and they were well-prepared to feed the several hundred newly arrived starving convicts. My mess tin was filled up quite a few times that evening, and I ate and ate until I could not swallow anymore. Unfortunately my stomach could not handle all that food intake and I was sick during most of the night. Most of my house mates were affected also, there was a constant running between the bedrooms and outhouse; the two 10 meters long latrines barely satisfied our needs. Thanks to my Creator, my digestive system straightened out by morning.

A new era had started in my life. When I woke up next morning I had the illusion of freedom. This was not too far from the reality: inside the fenced area I could go anyplace I wanted to. The daily routine consisted of the morning washing, learning the daily tasks, appointing the daily room master, and breakfast whereat - for everybody's satisfaction - coffee or tea was served with a big chunk of sausage.

The BV (Prison Committee) fattened us up like the fairytale witch had done with Hansel and Gretel. For about two weeks all we did was just eating, strolling around the ground and spending a long time sunbathing in the fresh clean air. The General Staff knew very well that they could not expect mine-work from weakened prisoners. Sorry to say that this treatment ended soon also, like everything else.

When our first workday arrived, at first the Camp Commandant refused to select me for deep-mining work on the account of my young age. Of course, he did not have the knowledge of my previous revolutionary mining experience, and I was the youngest convict in the camp. But at the end all the obstacles were set aside and I was paired up with my room mate, Tamas Sz. who was a Jewish boy and occupied the bed next to me. He lost both his parents in one of the German death camps, and had been under the custody of his two aunts. Maybe due to our similar surname, he was very devoted to me. We spent our first day working next to a fast-working civilian miner and had a hard time to keep up with him shoveling the coal into the tram. Poor Tamas, who had a weak physique, almost passed out when he glimpsed the heavy shovel. I had had enough of the teamwork also and we decided to apply for different jobs. Therefore Tamas became a pump operator, and I was operating the tram mechanism at the bottom of the glide path. I was working in this position nearly a year. I volunteered for overtimes and was working through the weekends to generate extra earnings.

Civil miners in the depth of the quarry

Now that I was able to receive visitors once a month, I had to face the fact of what had really happened at home from the time of my imprisonment. I found out then that my Dad - also a prisoner now - was working as a mason on a development in the university city of Veszprem. Kazmer took a leave from his studies and was working at the rock quarry in Pilisvorosvar. Practically, he became the breadwinner of my family at home, Mama, Zsuzsa and Arpad; my loved ones had to live in a very difficult situation. There was a long distance between Piliscsaba and Varpalota, and Kazmer had to ride his bicycle to visit me. I could not expected from him to see me too often.

We got the news that our management was establishing a team of electricians from the convicts. So far they had only found two electricians in the whole camp. One of them was my good friend, Pista, who told me to sign up for the position because they would not be asking for a certificate and my basic training in Physics at high school would qualify me for a training position. I liked the idea and grabbed the chance to become an electrician. The team was formed from two civilians and two convicts. I was able to complete all the assigned tasks with my team members' help and was watching them very closely until I learned all the tricks of the trade. I asked to receive some literature on the technical stuff and was studying it day after day. By the end of the first year I became a full-fledged electrician. I was full of confidence and took the job of the independent electrician of the second shift; it was my full responsibility to take corrective actions in all power failures and malfunctions.

During my first few months at the camp we still had to receive our visitors among the hawthorn bushes on the gentle slopes of a hillside (the place of what was to be the football field) and this was the scenery where I started the romance of my life. What actually happened was that I was walking around aimlessly, with no visitors of my own, trying to find a familiar face in the crowd. One of my new friends, who was entertaining his mother and a young girl, called me to their table and made the introductions, pointing to the pretty girl as his future bride. (They never became a pair though, and it was not the bride's fault.) His story was that the mother took up lodging at the girl's apartment few months ago while visiting her son still in the prison at Marianosztra; the girl saw Jancsi's picture and instantly fell in love with him. Inspired by this romantic relationship I braved myself to ask Erzsike if she has a pretty friend to whom I can write to in order to meet her. Yes, she said, I have a very good friend at Marianosztra, who is a practicing teacher and she promised to talk to her. Nothing happened for a few days after that, but I decided to look for a way to have my illegal correspondence delivered to her. It was not too hard to find a young civilian locksmith who was willing to help me out (most civilians were very sympathetic to us). And when finally I was entrusted with my dream girl's address he was the one who took out all my letters and brought her letters inside the camp. It took her a week to reply to my first letter. It was short and formal but inquiring. Then more letters came and went until we started to know each other better. The more I knew about Margit K. the more I was convinced of our kindred spirits, and the common goals for our future lives together. Beside, we were both highly romantic.

In the mean time the football field got completed. We had to work very hard to finish, I was very annoyed with the two "head-honchoes". The lame ex football player Karchi E. (for conspiracy) lives in London these days and we kept in touch. The other highly recognized goal-kicker, Jozsi F. (also for conspiracy) was later the leader in the 1956 uprising at Varpalota. He was convicted with the death penalty by the Hungarian "Independent" High Courts. Luckily the judgment was made in his absence as he was able to leave the country in time. He is still my good friend who took up residence also in London and visited me not too long ago. He was operated on and had a knee replacement in his left leg. So much for the football players. At the same time the building of the new culture-house was finished by the lighter-sentenced prisoners who were transferred in daily from the County Jail in Veszprem. The new building was dedicated to give a place for the visits, film screenings and for the prisoners' occasional plays.

Then the day of Margit's first visit approached. How can we learn more about each other? To make it easier for her, I made arrangements that she would come with my Mother. And when my plan materialized, I greeted her with a big kiss. She was visibly embarrassed by my unexpected welcome but got over it fast and everything was alright. Meeting her in person had a deep effect on me, it greatly enhanced my positive feelings for her. Afterward it did not take much time to become engaged, which was a very rare happening in our circumstances. During the years while I was in the camp of KOMI Cseri-akna at Varpalota, I heard about numerous "splitting-ups", but never of engagements. This relationship eventually led us to our marriage, and while I'm writing these sentences, we have already celebrated our golden anniversary. In the dusk of my life I can testify that our marriage is one of the better ones.

The months went fast and unnoticed, and slowly the years multiplied. I was very confident in my electrician's job, like I was doing it my whole life. My foreman assigned two civilian technicians (fresh out from school) to assist me while I was teaching them to work in our special environment. I was proud of the fact that my performance was highly recognized. After a few years, when finally I got released, my foreman gave me the following advice: "Throw your tool bag into the office corner, so you can find it when you come back in a month or two." And that is exactly what happened, I went back as a civilian because, as a free man, better jobs were not available for me; and sure enough, I found my tool bag where I had left it. I worked 16 more years in the coal mine.

On one afternoon - because I had nothing better to do - I was loafing around the gate. I noticed that at the front of the gate a very old Csepel tuck stopped by and a whole bunch of "zebras" were dropping off from the truck bed. "Cuvaxok" (prison slang for new boys) was escaping from my mouth as I watched the loading with great interest; would I find a friend or acquaintance among the new-comers? They were ordered through the gate with their small bundles in their hands. I was happy to see that my good friend, Janos G. was marching among the convicts. Not long after he had a freak accident and he was taken to the prison hospital in Budapest. He could have avoided this unfortunate incident if he would not make so much use of matches. Unfortunately the connecting drains of the washrooms to the sewer were a paradise for the rats. Even though we had separate containers for garbage, some of the leftovers from our mess tins also got dumped into the drainpipes. One day Jancsi got annoyed by the rodents and dropped a half-handful of carbide among the rats. But this attempt to kill them was futile and he came up with a fatal decision to light up the gas that was formed (acetylene) by his action. While my friend was standing on the sewer lid he dropped a lighted match into the small hole of the lid. His action resulted in a huge and powerful explosion and Janos with the lid flew through the air and landed 4-5 meters away in the middle of a flowerbed. From there the "demolition master" was carried away on a gurney.

I greeted Jani warm-heartedly and he introduced the man standing next to him. We shook hands and with our name-exchanges I considered the meeting finished. But he would not let my hand go. What the devil, I thought, while I looked at him closer, staring into his face. Oh my God, suddenly it hit me that it was Father Ferenczy, the vicar of Koltildliget, my old religion teacher standing in front of me. I was so surprised that I could not utter a word. He recognized me right away, which was easy for him because in the hospital Jani had informed him about me. The ex-vicar didn't stay too long in our camp, but during that time we became friends. He told me that he'd left the Church and got married. We also recalled the time when he held the post of the religion teacher at the Ward Mary Junior High, and a gossip went around about him and a young nun. On the way home during a fieldtrip to the Orozdy Kastely he twisted his ankle which injury laid him off for a whole week in the nuns' care. Ferenczy denied this story with the remark of "There was an even prettier nun".

The real story was that on the way home in the woods one of the young nuns twisted her ankle and the vicar stayed behind to help her for the rest of the trip. They arrived at the school much later than the rest of us. And this was what really happened because I was there myself. And yes, he was staying at the convent for a few days (editor's note).

Actually I resigned myself to my destiny fairly well throughout my time in the Cseri-Aknai camp but my desires for some feminine attention plagued me every day and night. This constant craving left its mark on my temper and my visitors and letters helped only for a short time. I kept telling myself that everything will end, but for the time being I had no other choice but to live with my feeling and to hope for a better future. It was not easy.

The years went by and as an old-timer I got more and more recognized. Two of my friends and seniors, Denes B. and Laci B. from my old cadet school at Koszeg were also brought to the camp for a short stay. Actually I never met them at school, but here, by chance, we became friends. I also got reunited for a few weeks with Tamas, who set next to me at the Arpad High School and was the fourth convicted member of the case in which I was involved. But they all left me soon and my hour glass kept trickling slowly until finally I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

From time-to-time after dark the guards put on firework shows for us. They were not as impressive as the ones I had seen in Budapest though. Sometimes the camp's power system malfunctioned and everything became pitch black. At times like that the guards, on duty in the five watchtowers, started to shoot rockets from their pistols with frenetic speed. It was almost like a shooting contest. The red, white and green flying rockets made the camp look like a disco club, all the buildings were illuminated by the colorful lights. From above the parachuting rockets brought almost daylight to the whole camp. I was sure that the people who lived in near-by Varpalota also greatly enjoyed our firework shows.

From information received from our visitors and from the civilians' newspapers we suddenly realized that a big political change was taking place. Suddenly the whole atmosphere changed, nobody treated us anymore as the "enemy of the people". Most of the civilian colliers were exiled from their hometown and coal mines of Bremberg to Varpalota, because Bremberg was too close to the Austrian border. We got the exhilarating news from them that Comrade Stalin had died (I sent off a joyful thanksgiving prayer), and Imre Nagy became our new Prime Minister. The new leader, among many new regulations, gave orders to review all the judgments of the political convicts. Three or four well-groomed young men arrived at our camp and they started the hearings right away. They even interviewed all the war criminals and everything was documented. I was interviewed also. After their job was completed they left quickly as fast as they had appeared from nowhere. But their fleeting presence amplified our hopes of regaining our freedom.

It was the Spring of 1956 and I was sitting outside in the sunshine listening to the birds while trying to improve my deadly pale complexion which was caused by working underground. Suddenly it was interrupted by the exited call of my room-mate with the result of the recent reviews, the first, larger group of prisoners will be released tomorrow morning. In the next few weeks we witnessed more and more releases. The lucky person had to spend his last restricted hours in a dedicated room appointed by the BV. Some of my friends had already got back their freedom like Pista S. who was a soldier in the SS Division at the end of the War and was convicted as a War Criminal. After his release he stayed in Varpalota but with a different mining company. He established a cohabitation (using today’s expression) with a woman who in 1945 escaped from Transylvania with her sister’s family and had a room in their current apartment in town.

I will never forget the last day of my imprisonment. I was working in the morning shift which had started like on any other regular working day. I was doing my job in the electrician shop when around 10 AM a prison guard came in (one guard was assigned for every shift in the mine) and after some throat clearing he made his announcement in a solemn voice that at 2 PM I should gather all my stuff and bring it up with me because I will be released on the next day. I would not believe him at first, but he told me that he just got a phone call from the main office and reassured me that this was not a joke.

Then finally it hit me: this is the end! The End! No more barbed wire. I can go anyplace wherever I want to, of course just in our country. The frequented degradation is ended. I didn’t know then that I was stigmatized for the rest of my life with the same humiliation that was put on me there almost five years ago. I was thinking about what tomorrow will bring and how everything was changed all these years. Interestingly enough the enthusiastic euphoria was far from me, I was not overwhelmed with instant happiness. I left the mining compound without shedding a single drop of tear. I turned in all my tools and prison garments; from some of my saved wages the BV has bought me blue working clothes and some underwear. I was lent a pair of high-top boots which I was supposed to give back in three days. After shaving and changing into my new outfit I said my goodbyes and moved into the special room that nobody else could enter, but me. We had to chat through the windows. The night was long, I kept tossing and turning but could not sleep. Finally it was daybreak and the morning came.

1956 AD, on the 7th day of July.

Breakfast was omitted that day but it was not missed. We were heading to the Front Gate which I wanted to cross so badly so many times during the years. Now my dream came true even thou I had to wait 4 years, 7 months and 6 days for it.

Finally I was outside the fence. I got my saved-up money at the BV office, almost a thousand forint was left after purchasing my grab. It was a sizeable amount in those days. But the highlight of the day was my release document. I was instructed by the master sergeant’s elevated voice that I was obliged to report at my district police station in the next 48 hours. With these things safely tucked in my haversack I started off toward my tentative, so called freedom. At the coal distribution department they gave one of my friends - who was already a free worker - Pista’s address with the message that I shouldn’t take off until I go and see him. I was walking along with my freshly freed comrades toward the city, then they headed off to the railroad station while I was trying to find my friend’s apartment. It wasn’t an easy task.

Rozsika already was waiting for me. She told me that I should get comfortable while she finished the dinner in the kitchen. Obeying her I kicked off my boots, stretched out on their sofa and fell asleep until Pista woke me up. After the greetings the first thing he said was: you want to go home in these working clothes? He opened his closet and his custom-made gray suit fitted me perfectly. He also gave me a pair of his brown oxfords. When I was looking in the mirror an elegant gentleman was looking back at me. I wanted to get on the train at the Petfurdo station so I could say my “goodbye” to my “residence” from the other side of the fence. Pista helped me to get on the homebound train and by the time it arrived to the South railway station of Budapest it was pitch dark. Because I wasn’t familiar with the public transportation’s current schedules anymore, or the first time in my life, I threw myself into a taxi cab and instructed the driver to take me to the Western railroad station. While waiting for my train I was strolling up and down on the platform when I saw two gents carrying a huge package on an extended stick between them. And by my God I recognized in one of them the same master sergeant in one of his colleagues company who had given me my release document this very morning. “Good evening Prison Guards” I greeted them loudly. This stopped them in their track, they even dropped their package while gesticulating to me to lower my voice. They were wearing civilian clothes as the general public those days were greatly hating uniformed prison guards. They got into an explanation that they never ever wanted to harm me and after my reassurance we took off on our own ways.

Shortly after this episode I boarded my railroad car and the Esztergom train pulled out from the station; after a truncated hour I found myself in Piliscsaba. I started walking in the darkness and the canopy of the old trees of Matyas Kiraly Street was breezily waving welcome to me. The gate of number 18. was squeaking a bit as I opened it. When I knocked on the front door I fell into the arms of my surprised Father: ”Finally, you are home too!” Everybody woke up and we kept hugging each other, and I had difficulties in answering all their questions. I felt that I’m home and I’m loved. The circle was closed. A new era had begun.

As a released man in August 1956

I would like to thank Jutka for all the love and hard work that made my home site possible. God bless you my dear friend!

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