National Anthem

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since 06/25/99

Created 12/30/96



Why did we leave the relative security of our life in Budapest for the uncertainty of the unknown? I'm sure everyone who left Hungary had their personal reasons, but I am also certain that those reasons are not too different from ours.

Let's look at our lives in Budapest. My mother and I lived with my grandparents in a spacious apartment. My mother had a decent job and attended technical school at night. My grandfather worked in a bank and also did extra work at home. We had everything we needed; I was attending a good public school, went to camp every summer and vacationed with my mother at Lake Balaton for two weeks every year. We certainly never went hungry and always had nice clothes. My mother had a large circle of friends with whom we frequently went on outings on weekends. My grandfather took me to museums, baths, the zoo and the amusement park. Since Communism officially frowned on religion, we were reasonably safe from the ravages of anti-Semitism.

Click here to read more about my life before the revolution.

So why would we want to leave?

It is forbidden.   For a young, adventurous person like my mother, the most overbearing reason for wanting to leave is because it is forbidden. If a person is locked up, he will want to escape. Why the Communist regime chose to lock people in is a mystery to me; if the border had remained permanently open, few would have bothered to leave. But close the border and now everyone wants to leave. Hungarians were even willing to make Communism work, but the tyranny of the Soviet-backed regime was unacceptable. Now, a rare opportunity presented itself; the chance of a successful escape was good and this chance may never occur again. It's now or never. If we hesitate now, we will surely regret it.

Everyone is doing it.  This was the "in thing" to do, particularly since my mother's best friend left early on, in November. Many of our other friends left also. When word came that they all made it safely, the urge to follow suit was irresistible.

Freedom, Security.  To intellectuals, the thought of not being able to read great authors or speak our minds freely is tantamount to imprisonment, for it imprisons the soul. The New World - America, Canada, Australia - would go to war to preserve these freedoms. This notion was very appealing, indeed. Imagine, a whole army would fight so the citizens would remain free. The Old World, particularly the Soviet-led Communist world, represents tyranny, savagery, persecution and immorality, while the New World represents enlightenment, justice and peace. From behind the Iron Curtain, the West appeared to embody everything that's good, while the East embodied everything that's evil. We would feel much more secure in the Western environment .

Economics.  Certainly, the prospect of a higher standard of living was tempting. The lure of owning a car and a TV, being able to travel, see foreign films, drink Coke and chew gum filled our thoughts. Foreign films and music, chewing gum and drinking Coke were all banned in Hungary because it was called "hooliganism". The regime claimed that these innocent pursuits promote immoral behavior among young people; as if the Communist regime practised moral behavior!

Educational Opportunity.   The Communist policy was that only children of working class or peasant families could attend university and be eligible for good jobs. Since my grandfather, who was murdered by the Nazis during the war, had a small business prior to the war, we were considered "bourgeois" and thus I would never have been allowed to attend college. Since our family considered higher education an absolute necessity, this situation was unacceptable.

Freedom of Religion.  As I mentioned earlier, Jews were relatively safe in 1956. However, with Europe's history of anti-Semitism and the untenable stability of Communism, we felt it was just a metter of time that we would be persecuted again. I wish this fear were unfounded, but recent developments in Eastern Europe seem to bear out the validity of this fear. As countries threw off the vestiges of Soviet-style Communism and freedom of religion and expression returned, anti-Semitism is beginning to re-emerge.

So there you have it. One story out of the 200,000 who escaped from Hungary in 1956. Even the 200,000 is but a fraction of the millions of untold stories of people who left their native lands to start a new life in a New World.

I hope you enjoyed my story. Please sign the guestbook before you leave.

V. Canada

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