At the conclusion of World War II Russian troops remained in countries they liberated along their march to drive Hitler back to Berlin. This was the beginning of what is known as the Soviet occupation of many Eastern European countries. In Hungary for instance, Russian troops were celebrated as heroes who delivered them from the hated Nazi Fascists. The Russians, or Soviets, even sweetened their position with bold promises of equality and the elevation of the working class and thus Communism began to take root. Soviet propaganda quickly flooded the country and the KGB (Soviet secret police) trained a Hungarian secret police force called the AVO to “root out enemies of the communist state.” Their tactics ultimately terrorized the people and an account of their atrocities would bring a tear to your eyes by day and nightmares to your dreams by night.
For over a decade Hungarians labored under the promises of better conditions that would come if they would just comply as faithful communists, but conditions worsened and great disparity seemed to increase along with the brutal control tactics of the AVO as they “weeded out” the enemies of the promised Utopia. By 1956 hope for a better future in Hungary was fading fast. On October 23 students marched in protest to demand some very basic government reforms. Upon entering the radio building in an attempt to air their grievances they were detained by the AVO. The growing crowd outside the building began demanding their release. As tensions mounted, the AVO, now losing their tyrannical grip chose to suppress the crowd with gunfire. As bullets rained down on unarmed civilians, a military officer who had come to put down the demonstration watched in horror and soon leaped onto his truck and cried out, “you swine, who are you shooting at? Stop this shooting!” The crowd became almost silent and the bullets momentarily stopped before machine-gun fire cut the officer down. This scene unleashed a flood of pent up frustration and anger and the Hungarian Revolution broke wide open.
To the great surprise of so many communist supporters and to the Soviet’s horror, the very class of people Communism was intended to elevate left their factories in the industrial district known as Csepel, one of the crown jewels of Soviet propaganda, to join the fight. Their disloyalty was a nightmare for the propagandist who had touted to the world how content and fulfilled this class was. It was supposed to represent the heart of communism. The Soviets immediately went to work to explain away the revolt with lies and deceit. Unfortunately, preservation not enlightenment was their goal. Instead of seeking answers from a man like Gyorgy Szabo, once a “poster boy” for the communist working class, now turned revolutionary, they looked to destroy him.
Szabo, a strong handsome and skilled craftsman joined the secret communist party as a young man. He loved the ideas and the equality it promised to bring. In 1945 with a major propaganda push from the Soviets and others, he recalls exploding with enthusiasm over the fact that his ideals could now actually be put into practice. He knew it would take time and for over a decade he patiently waited. He worked harder than his increasing communist quotas called for, attended meetings and yet he still saw a disparity between the party leaders and the working class grow. Even after being severely beaten and detained by the AVO upon suspicion, he was undeterred in his loyalty. What a beating couldn’t changed however, a simple conversation during an international soccer match cracked his proverbial rose-colored glasses. Sitting beside him that day were Austrian’s who had come to watch their team play a Hungarian squad. As the game commenced he felt a loathing for these “capitalists” he was forced to sit by. In spite of his anger, he ventured into a conversation asking them, “why are you sitting here in the cheap seats if you are wealthy enough to travel to this match.” They explained that they were working-class like him—“but how can you afford such nice clothes” he pursued. Their response was that they were standard in Austria. After leaving the match and considering the facts of that interaction he began that people acting on their own industry in Austria outshone, the failed promises and even lies of communism. The loss of hope in his beloved communism crushed him more than the blows of angry AVO officers ever could. The hard fact remained that in all those years of hard labor he could barely feed and clothe his family let alone buy himself a nice suit or a ticket to travel to a foreign match. And so when the Revolution began, the vast majority of men like him showed no loyalty to communism and revolted. Within four days they had claimed control of the Government and began serious reforms. Hope again was rekindled in their hearts, but it would be short-lived as the Soviets decided to retaliate in a brutal fashion. Sending in 100s of thousands of troops supported by hundreds of tanks, planes, heavy artillery and more, they turned the city into a devastating war zone. The people fought valiantly with any means at their disposal but eventually fell to the overwhelming force.
Szabo, even when the Russians controlled the city, helped lead a strike that shut the economy down. As a result, they were now facing execution, torture, and slavery in Siberia for their bold open defiance. He disregarded the danger counting it no worse than existing with a hopeless future. Eventually, as the situation became dire, his wife’s hysterics helped him decide to leave the country. Listen to James Michener’s account of that decision.:
“I was afraid,” he admitted later. “For many years I had been living in a world of bleak hopelessness. I had no chance of saving for things I wanted to buy. No chance at all. But worse was the emptiness inside. All the big promises that I had lived on as a boy were gone. Not one thing the communists had promised had ever been fulfilled. You can’t understand how awful it is to look into a hopeless future. At the start of the revolution lots of us were brave, but do you know why? Because we didn’t’ care whether we lived or died. Then we had a few days of hope, and we spoke of a new, honest system, but when the Russians came back I knew the bleak days would start again. That time I was brave because I didn’t give a damn about Siberia. It couldn’t be any worse than Csepel, because in Siberia you admit you’re in prison. That’s why, when I hid in the shadows afraid of the automobile and heard my wife’s screaming in my ears, I finally said, ‘If there’s a better life in Canada or Australia, I’ll go.’ I was afraid. A man who had destroyed tanks by spraying them with gasoline from a hose, a man who had stood forth as the announced leader of the strike, beat his face with his hands and said, “I was afraid.”The Bridge at Andau, 1957
Using only the shadows, he turned to his home, where he found his wife and the three boys bundled up in all the warm clothes they could muster. Mrs. Szabo was no longer crying, for she had made up her mind to leave Budapest that night and walk to the Austrian border whether her husband joined her of not—to do anything to escape the terror under which her children had been living and would live for the rest of their lives in they remained in Budapest.
Szabo looked at his wife, reached for his own heavy clothes and said, “We’ll leave right away.”
So Gyorgy Szabo and his family left Hungary. They carried with them one small handbag of food for their children. After ten years of dedicated service to communism, this gifted workman had as his worldly possessions one small bag of food and a legacy of fear…
Those of us who have lived in an environment of freedom may not understand this man’s plight, and yet there are many seeking for the same policies and systems that snuffed hope from Mr. Szabo and his nation. Today, we call on all FreedomShifters to identify those who seek to enforce their policies or “equality” with force. Remember, forcing philosophies, tends towards control by an elite class, no matter what name they go by. Freedom lovers must see through the rhetoric and ask, will this expand or restrict the ability to choose to live prosperously (and I am not just talking about material wealth here). Don’t ever forget that freedom of choice equals hope and we either embrace that or by default accept that others will and must make more and more of decisions for us. Think about it!