Over and over again my father told us kids stories about our Hungarian heritage and made us proud of it. We only picked up a few words of Hungarian because Mom and Dad spoke to us and each other in English……..Hungarian only when they did not want us to understand. Among friends and relatives, it was all Hungarian. I wish now that they had talked to us in Hungarian. We would have picked up English in school and on the street. We loved our Hungarian dishes and pastries as well as the Christmas and Easter customs.
It is said that the crown of St. Stephen was given as a gift by Pope Sylvester II (945-1003) in appreciation for Christianizing Hungary. While the Soviets occupied Hungary at the end of World War II, the Hungarian Crown Guard gave it the U.S. Army for safekeeping from the Soviet Union. It was kept in Ft. Knox until January 6, 1978 when Cold War tension was reduced and President Carter returned it to Hungary under a set of strict conditions. At the time Hungarian Americans strongly opposed the decision. My family saw it at the National Museum when we visited Hungary in 1999. I was thrilled. The crown is currently displayed in the central Domed Hall of the Hungarian Parliament Building.
We learned about the Magyar tribes, St. Stephen establishing the Kingdom of Hungary in the year 1000 and bringing in Christianity during his reign. Pope Sylvester in appreciation donated a crown to Hungary’s first king. My father told us about the conquest of Hungary by Islamic Turkey for almost 150 years, from 1526 after the bitter defeat of the Battle of Mohács) until 1699 when Austria drove out the Turks and then occupied Hungary.
The United States and other countries issued a postage stamp to honor the great Hungarian patriot, Lajos Kossuth.
In 1867 a compromise was reached with the establishment of a dual monarchy where Franz Josef held the title of Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, which had its own parliament.
This was the Austria-Hungary Empire that fought with Germany in World War I. Under the Treaty of Trianon, Hungary was left with a fraction of its former 1000 year old territories. My father, as other Hungarians at home and abroad, was bitter about it. For more detail see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEoZMe8MSPM&ab_channel=TheGreatWar.
The 1919 Communist Takeover. My father was a university student caught in the chaos of a Communist takeover for six months under Bela Kuhn, which they called the “Hungarian Soviet Republic”. My uncle Geza Foley was beat up by the so called "Lenin Boys" (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTuni75mRkc&ab_channel=TheGreatWar). My father almost was caught, but flushed counterrevolutionary pamphlets down the toilet before they could accuse him. He described it as a reign of terror. No wonder he was vehemently anti-communist. Admiral Miklós Horthy took leadership and was able to overcome the Communist regime (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXEBzqFN3EQ&ab_channel=TheGreatWar).
Later Horthy was made regent. Interesting is a song admiring him, although it seems to be propaganda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvm3QFJeuAA&ab_channel=K%C3%A1rp%C3%A1tiaZenekar
World War II. Horthy was labeled a Fascist. Then Hungary had to suffer the ravages of World War II. Caught between two tyrannical totalitarian regimes…….Germany to the west and the Soviet Union to the east, Hungary chose as an ally perceived to be the lesser of the two evils……Germany. In addition Hitler promised to restore the lost territories and thus sided with Germany in the war.
Before long Germany occupied Hungary. In their defense against the Soviet Union 300,000 Hungarian soldiers were killed and 600,000 civilians including 400,000 Jews who lost their lives in the gas chambers. Budapest was bombed at least 37 times by American, British, and Soviet air forces.
A former Hungarian soldier, Laszlo Fugedy, a friend of the family whom we called Laci, told us how the Soviets would send one wave after another of soldiers to be mowed down by machine gun fire as the bodies piled up. The Soviets finally occupied Hungary. Rather than be taken by the Russians as prisoners of war, he and many others went over to the Americans. Laci ended up as a driver for the U.S. Army. Once the war ended he immigrated to the United States as a displaced person. My father, a research chemist and chemical engineer helped him to get into West Virginia University. Laci became a Civil Engineer who worked for the National Park Service in Philadelphia.
Hungary Under Communism. In 1948 the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, taking advantage of the Yalta and Potsdam agreements which designated the Soviet Union to occupy Hungary, set up a puppet regime in Hungary as well as Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, etc., annexed the Ukraine, and imposed Communism upon the people while the West did nothing to prevent it. It was a de facto conquest.
Fearing the defeat of Communism, the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev sent in a large contingent of reinforcements to crush the rebellion on November 4. Soviet tanks patrolled the streets, killing 2,500 people and destroying. In an act of treachery the Soviets lured Imre Nagy, the Prime Minister to a meeting to discuss peace and immediately imprisoned him.
There was an amusing incident in the chaos and confusion of war. The Freedom Fighters captured a Soviet tank and was firing upon the headquarters of the secret police. A Soviet tank crew, which did not know Budapest, identified the tank firing on the headquarters as one of their own and also fired on the same target.
In desperation the free government of Hungary appealed to the West, particularly the United States for help, but key leaders were afraid to act. Having listened to the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, they had expected help from America. Over 180,000 fled to Austria as refugees. Several hundred were executed, including Imre Nagy for treason and 13,000 were imprisoned in the aftermath.
One picture is worth a thousand words, according to the old saying. Life Magazine published a collection of pictures that tell the story (http://time.com/3878232/the-hungarian-revolution-of-1956-photos-from-the-streets-of-budapest/)……..the heroism of the Hungarian people in their yearning to be free, but falling into revenge with even atrocities for eight years of tyranny under the yoke of Communism and Soviet occupation.
The few days of exhilarating freedom were wiped out by the brutal invasion of reinforcements from Soviet Russia and the revolution was crushed. The Hungarians desperately appealed to the United States and NATO for help, but they were preoccupied with the 1956 war between Israel and Egypt and feared Soviet retaliation. My father thought that refusal was cowardice. Although very risky, such intervention could have inspired other satellite countries to also revolt in a similar quest for freedom. See
The following video gives a good explanation and understanding.
Very graphic is
Walter Conkrite narrates the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqcnlfC-rv8&ab_channel=PeriscopeFilmII
The Hungarian Revolution apparently failed, but in the long run there were positive results. Although the initial repression was brutal, the Soviets, fearing unrest among its satellites, eventually allowed some freedom. Later they were more careful to minimize grievances. The brutal suppression of the revolt exposed the true colors and the lies of Communism to the world. It was not a worker’s paradise with economic justice as they preached, but more oppressive than any system that preceded it.
Artist Mihály Zichy's painting of the famous Hungarian poet, Sándor Petőfi reciting the National Poem for freedom to a crowd on March 15, 1848. My father showed us his book he was awarded for his first in the class ranking in high school. He read part of it to us in English. Some of Petőfi’s poems were recited by a flash mob of Hungarian immigrants celebrating the 1848 Revolution in London with some great music and folk dancing. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zV_z2TddTn4&ab_channel=LisztInstituteLondonILisztInt%C3%A9zetLondon.
Restoration of Democracy. Finally in 1989 Communism in Europe collapsed because socialism over the long run is untenable. Central planning and government ownership of the means of production were very inefficient. Shortages of basic commodities were common. There was little or no incentive to innovate and increase productivity. The economy was stagnant and inflationary. The people needed and yearned for basic freedoms.
The system collapsed in all of the communist countries of Eastern Europe along the Iron Curtain and democracy was restored……so sudden that it bordered on the miraculous, reminiscent of the sudden collapse of the walls of Jericho. Interesting is that St. Pope John Paul II in union with the bishops of the world consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary five years before on March 25, 1984 as Mary requested at Fatima. Communism in Europe was dumped onto the ash heap of history.
In jubilation the new Hungarian government staged the above 1989 Ceremonial Reburial of Imre Nagy and four other executed government officials of the Hungarian Revolution in Heroes Square Budapest when Hungary became a free democracy again. A sixth coffin represented the 2,500 Freedom Fighters who died in the conflict. A young Viktor Orbans, the prime minister today, was one of the speakers. A quarter of a million people attended. See https://budapestbeacon.com/imre-nagy-reburied-viktor-orbans-political-career-launched-25-years-ago-today/
Some 65 years later the freedom fighters of the Hungarian Revolution are remembered and honored over the world. This monument in Naples, Florida is an example, centrally located at the Collier County Florida Government Center. Another son of immigrants (my brother), Deacon John V. Sebastian stands in front of the monument with his wife Kathleen. They belong to the SW Florida Hungarian-American Club, which hosted a program on the 65th anniversary. "We had eyewitness testimony about the bravery of the Hungarians and the brutal invasion by the Soviets. Those immigrants to America are profoundly thankful to be here and are fiercely patriotic." Hungarian monks (refugees of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution) built monuments that honor the Freedom Fighters in Youngstown, Ohio and Dallas, Texas .
Business in Hungary now has the freedom to prosper, benefiting both capital and labor. The Church now has freedom to evangelize and serve the people with diverse charities. People now have the freedom to elect leaders of their choice from a slate of candidates of multiple parties. No longer does the Hungarian flag have the hammer and sickle in the center.
Once shining star, Hungary falters 10/06/06