WELCOME TO THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF CARPATHIAN VALLEY BOOKS
I was born to a 1956, Hungarian Revolution Freedom Fighter father, and when I was two years old, escaped with my parents from the clutches of Soviet Oppression to the shores of America, where I was to die as a Hungarian, before I was reincarnated into an American Citizen.
I penned the 532-page story of BITTERSWEET FREEDOM to honor the brave, heroic deeds of my father as he battled against the tyranny of the Red Army during the dark, mournful days of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, where he took Evil Lives to save Valiant Lives. Multitudes of Hungarians gave the ultimate sacrifice in their fight against the ruthless Soviet Army during those fateful months of October 1956 and November 1956. Thousands died, thousands were tortured, and over two-hundred thousand of the country’s citizens forced to take flight to other borders and lands.
My memoir ensures that the world’s future generations Will Forever remember the 1956 Freedom Fighter’s heroic courage in their unquenchable quest for emancipation and truth, for in our remembering their valiant struggle against tyrannical forces bent on extinguishing their God-given right to freedom, and in our remembering all those on this earth who continue to fight for the inherent entitlement of freedom for all humankind, we will anchor future foundations of liberty and hope, knowing that such an iniquitous moment in time will never happen again.
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The bloody Hungarian revolution had officially begun.
The news of the revolution spread within hours by the radio broadcasts to the small town of Tatabanya, where the men of the town found themselves in dire straits. With the massive unrest in Budapest there was no way to collect their pay that week from the office in the city. It would be suicide for anyone traveling the roads to Budapest to collect the payroll for the miners. Despite the ongoing revolution, goods could still be obtained if money was placed into the palms of “the right people.”
Jozsef’s blood boiled with insurgence. Was it not enough that he and his fellow miners were already living on substandard wages? Would there be no end to the death of fellow Hungarians as they relentlessly fought with every measure of their might to stave off the insane madness of the Red Army?
There had been too many losses in his life, too many losses for his loved ones and for Hungary, and Jozsef could not help but recount them all in his anger towards the Soviet swarm.
When would the suffering stop? When would the hunger stop? No one had enough to eat, except those who pledged allegiance to the communist party. The country remained in shambles since the end of World War II. When would the beauty of Hungary return? So many friends and family had been brutally exterminated during that war – his own beloved grandfather dying in the war’s bombing raids, and now, at this very moment, the barbarous, inhuman Soviet Army was in control of his country!
Was it not enough they had taken his Hungary, taken his government, massacred his Jewish friends, taken his music and livelihood from him, taken his wife’s land inheritance and the life of her grandfather and his grandfather, bombed them out of their homes – they had taken everything!
In the early afternoon of October 24, 1956, after a prior restless night of soul-searching, Jozsef stormed out the door of the Tatabanya mining office in a fit of antagonized rage. A ragged motorcycle with saddle-bags draped across the fender of the back wheel was parked outside. Jozsef did not know who the cycle belonged to, nor did he care. Without even checking if there was fuel in the tank, Jozsef mounted the bike, engaged the engine, and pulled off in a noisy cloud of tawny, golden dust, and exhaust fumes. Above the noise of the cycle, Jozsef shouted out to his coalmining friends as he rode past them in the streets, “I am going to get your payroll money - if it is the last thing I do!” The shocked and astonished men watched Jozsef ride away on the tattered cycle. Some began to cry tears of fear for their brave friend, and others cried tears of shame - for their own cowardice in allowing Jozsef to strike out alone and defenseless against the certain hellfire he was to encounter. And, some simply cried. Then, out of all the cries of despair, came the comforting strains of the Hungarian National Anthem, as the workers joined voices to rally hope within the walls of their own haggard souls, and to steel Jozsef onward, their eyes following a crazy young man riding away on a set of suicidal wheels bound for Budapest.
Jozsef had given no thought to the precarious and unstable situation in the city. He was unarmed and unprepared for the Armageddon ahead. As he approached the outskirts of Budapest, dark plumes of smoke rose from the many fires set off by explosive barrages projected from Soviet tanks, and the explosions rendered by countless Molotov cocktails used by the revolutionaries against the invaders. The Freedom Fighters used a glass bottle half-filled with gasoline, or some form of alcohol, such as methanol or ethanol. They would stop-up the mouth of the bottle with a cork, or anything that would create an air-tight seal, with a cloth rag affixed around the mouth of the bottle. The rag would first be soaked in flammable liquid. Just before using it, the rag would be lit, and the fighters would then throw the bottle at the target. On impact, the bottle would shatter, spilling the flammable liquid over the target, igniting the object.
Amid the chaos of the burning city was the irrefutable sound of rapid gunfire and Jozsef knew it meant his fellow citizens were dying. Sudden nausea gripped him, and despite the cover of a cool, cloudy day, steamy streams of sweat exuded from his body. With gutsy determination, he drove the cycle into the midst of the fray, steering his way amongst the acrid odor of fuel and smoke. He swerved his bike between colossal tanks, enemy combatants and Freedom Fighters, his ears painfully aware of his countrymen’s bloodcurdling screams as they breathed their last. Countless times, projectiles narrowly missed striking the young vindicator. Armed Hungarian men and women were all about, in the streets, atop tanks, behind buildings, on the tops of buildings, and lying on the ground - shooting at the enemy and nearly shooting him! The air was smoky from gunpowder and burning buildings. The dead and the dying were behind him and in front of him, as he indefatigably pushed forward, determined to make it to the payroll office – if it was still there.
The door to the payroll office was hanging half off its hinges. The payroll staff, not knowing what to do, or where to go, was holding out in the back of the building attempting to avoid the pandemonium in the streets. Jozsef skidded his cycle through the narrow doorway breaking the hooks off the door causing it to fall inwards. Without shutting off the motorcycle engine, he shouted to the payroll master, “Hurry, give me the pay for the mine workers!” The paymaster stared incredulously at Jozsef’s sweaty, grimy face and dust-ridden clothes. How had he survived the assault of bullets and “tank fire” all the way from Tatabanya? He remembered Jozsef as a young boy when he and his father performed accordion concerts, knowing all too well why Jozsef was condemned to the Tatabanya mines.
With no doubt in his mind that the young musician’s request was a veritable one, the paymaster scrambled to the safe, and stuffed stacks of currency into the saddle bags, not even bothering to count if he had overpaid the workers. Rather the mine workers get the money than the enemy! Jozsef sent forth a relieved look of thanks to the paymaster, revved the motorbike’s engine to the mechanism’s limit, and once more whipped the steel beast into the melee of despair.
During the fleeting time Jozsef had been inside the payroll office, conditions in the streets had deteriorated rapidly, buffeting a new terrifying reality against Jozsef’s already frayed nerves - how was he going to stay alive for the almost forty miles back to Tatabanya!
Insurmountable chaos encompassed Jozsef’s surroundings as he plowed his cycle through, and around, jumbled heaps and piles of fiery rubble, as showers of angry bullets whizzed over his head. But even as he swerved about the mayhem, Jozsef’s only thought was a wish for silence, deafening silence, to block out the hundreds of agonizing screams and cries of tormenting pain as maelstroms of piercing bullets penetrated their brave targets.
Jozsef’s heart was convulsing without mercy within his chest, the pumping of his own blood echoing erosive swishing noises in his ears, as the stifling odor of scorching smoke and caustic chemicals engulfed his nostrils and throat, sending feverish, searing heat into the depths of his lungs. As hard as he tried to hold his breath for relief, he eventually had to exhale, having no choice but to breathe in more of the toxic mess. But far worse, was the heaviness in his gut, the sick feeling of revulsion as he twisted and turned his cycle around, and in-between, the mangled, bloody remains of hundreds of men, women, and small children strewn in the streets.
The pitiless conquerors had mowed down everyone and anyone in their path. Many wounded victims begged for Jozsef’s help as he jetted past them. God forgive him - he could not help! He could not stop! If he stopped to help the wounded he would end up a fearless, dead hero, no good to anyone. Hell had come to earth!
But what kind of a man would he be if he did not try to help? How would he ever live with himself - if he did live, to live with himself? He had to do something!
Jozsef slid the cycle behind the remains of a disempowered tank, landing beside the body of a thin girl, probably not more than fifteen or sixteen years of age, her disheveled blonde hair streaked red from where scraps of shrapnel had cut through her skull. Jozsef lurched his head from the view, his unbelieving eyes wanting to escape the tragic waste of such beautiful youth.
Screaming shots rang out from above, most likely from one of the upper story windows of the surrounding buildings.
Jozsef then watched in horror as a young boy, not even in his teens, carrying a machine gun, ran toward the cover of his hiding place behind the tank. The boy stuttered and stumbled as bits of steel entered the softness of his young form. His body fell only an arm’s length away from Jozsef - the young hero’s innocent ruby essence spewing over Jozsef’s face and clothes, officially knighting him, “Freedom Fighter.”
Raw with rage, Jozsef grabbed the boy’s weapon and ripped off the extra set of bullets encircling the boy’s neck. Jozsef took aim towards the sounds of sniper fire coming from the upper window across the street. As his shaking finger pulled the trigger in rapid succession, the riveting recoil of the rifle butt tore into his shoulder after each successful strike.
In the meantime, dozens of screeching tanks had entrenched the street, their cannons aimed to take down buildings filled with the counterfires of the desperate masses. Jozsef frenziedly glanced about for a way to stop the brutal behemoths of death. His eyes latched onto the waist of the dead girl - two grenades were fastened to her belt. They would have to do. Grabbing the grenades, Jozsef left his protective shelter, and then, ducking low, he zig-zagged his way through the mayhem of smoke and bullets, grabbing onto the ice-cold tracks of a tank with an open turret. He pulled his way up to the opening, yanked the pins out of both grenades, and threw them into the hold. Within seconds, he was on the ground, tumbling, rolling over and over, landing behind a shielding mound of fallen rubble as the earsplitting thunder of his triumph blasted the atmosphere.
He had to get out! Fast! He had no more ammunition, and he had to find his way back to Tatabanya before nightfall!
Guided by unseen powers, Jozsef’s “payroll cycle,” miraculously escaped the Gates of Hell, arriving safely back in Tatabanya before the last streams of daylight shed their glimmer over the tiny town, where the sweaty and blood-spattered hero was immediately surrounded and greeted by an assemblage of jubilant, cheering miners and their families. Intoxicated cheers of elation resounded in Jozsef’s ears as he victoriously cast the leather satchels holding the fruit of the men’s labors into their exhilarated hands.
Jozsef’s beaten body and mind could take no more. His knees broke beneath him as the adrenaline powering his cause rapidly faded away, and as the realization of what he had done in the past few hours crashed in on him. How in the world had he accomplished what could not be accomplished? His body trembled as the memory of the exploit overwhelmed his senses. Had he died, what would have become of his wife and daughter? He did not even remember making the decision to do what he had done.
Jozsef had won his own private war that day, however, it was a small victory in the greater scheme of things, but a victory all the same.
Erzsebet, holding little Judit in her arms, ran out to meet her husband, crying hysterically, “My Jozsef, my love, why did you do it? Why did you leave us? I thought you would be killed! I thought you were dead!” Waiting all day to know if her husband was dead or alive, and unbelieving that he was alive, and was here with her in the flesh, was too much for Erzsebet’s worn mind to assimilate, and she gratefully allowed herself to collapse against the haven of her husband’s bloodied chest.
The miners assisted the war-torn Jozsef and his little family home. Upon seeing her precious boy, the godmother’s face beamed bright with love and pride. “Now, now, Jozsef, come in. Wash. Rest. Eat. Everything will be good now! You are home and safe with us. You are the bravest man I have ever known.”
Late that night, as the mining town celebrated their financial victory, Jozsef and Erzsebet escaped to a shed behind the godmother’s tiny hut. There, within its cold, bleak walls, lying on a narrow cot, and covered with only a thin, worn blanket, they lay entwined as Erzsebet held Jozsef close to her breast, showering him with butterfly kisses over his entire body, unbelieving her Jozsef had returned to her unblemished and unscathed.
No words needed to be said between them. Their love for one another said it all. And, after nothing was said, and everything expressed, they fell into an exhausted slumber.
The next day, Jozsef returned to The City, valiantly fighting alongside thousands of the country’s courageous revolutionaries, battling to destroy the detestable abomination spreading over their land. Jozsef prepared Molotov cocktails, and, with the aid of fellow combatants, threw countless bottles of liquid lightening against enemy tanks and vehicles. He and other fellow revolutionaries tore down Hungarian flags containing the symbol of Russian oppression overlaid upon the brave colors of red, white and green, cutting away the hated insignia, as well as tearing down the crest of the despised Red Star adorning the buildings of Budapest, and then, riding with countless other fighters upon confiscated Russian tanks, Jozsef held the Hungarian flag, now barren of the ugly Russian motif, high over his head to show the enemy they would no longer be victims of their treacherous rule. Jozsef seized rifles from the dead fingers of the enemy, and pried weapons from the arms of his slain companions, as he fought his way through the streets of Budapest, opening fire upon any Russian soldier in his path, pushing forward into the embattled fracas with a countenance of fiery anger and unbridled rage, with only one burning thought – “Freedom for my country!”
Across the land Freedom Fighters took hold of Soviet tanks, weapon warehouses and government factories, and the fighting between the insurgents and the Russian Army increased in intensity.
A Budapest prison was captured by the Hungarian warriors and all political prisoners were released, and at long last, the public was shown the truth about the tortuous beatings inflicted within its walls.
Because of the increasing riots against the government, as a patronizing gesture, Russia gave in to the people’s demands, reappointing the Hungarian-born Imre Nagy as the new Prime Minister of Hungary and Janos Kadar as foreign minister, attempting to appease the protestors.
Then the Russian army pulled out of the country allowing Imre Nagy to allow the formation of a new government. Moscow also released Cardinal Mindszenty from a Russian prison, an enormous “sacrifice,” as the doctrine of communism “outlawed religious thought,” viewing religion as “capitalist.” However, the Soviets hoped that by releasing Mindszenty, one of the most religious men in Hungary to criticize the Russian government, the revolt could be quelled.
The Hungarian people were overjoyed, and for twelve, resplendent days, they danced and sang in the streets celebrating the defeat of the Soviet occupation of Hungary. The head, atop Stalin’s statue, toppled by the angry crowd which lay on the ground, was decimated as the victorious fighters cut the statue’s despised face into pieces. But their days of celebration were numbered.
On October 31st, 1956, Imre Nagy, used his newly given power to announce Hungary’s withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact. As for the Russians, this was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Then, the unthinkable happened. At dawn, on Sunday, November 4, 1956, the screeching metal of one thousand Soviet tanks roaringly crashed their way into Budapest to “restore order.” This marked the beginning of suffering for untold numbers of Hungary’s populace. Those fighting for Hungary’s freedom would now pay the ultimate price: thousands would die, and thousands would be forced to leave their beloved homeland towards havens of safety.
Hungarian radio desperately put forth broadcasts imploringly begging help from the United States and from the United Nations, beseeching the world to castigate the Russians for their actions toward Hungary. The Hungarian radio announcer’s last message to the world ended with the chilling words, “We will hold on to the last drop of our blood.”
Messages from President Eisenhower of the United States, were heard over the radio, expressing his feelings of deep sadness for the Hungarian people. The president said, “Hungary can count on us."
A surge of hope spread amongst the Hungarian people upon learning the United States would support their cause, but their elation quickly dissipated when it was realized they were only being offered moral support, as no tangible help appeared from the West. The Great United States of America did not come to their aid as the Hungarians believed it would.
But aid to Hungary was not as simple to give as it appeared. After much exploration on how the United States could help Hungary, the American government realized the geographic location of Hungary was not ideal.
Hungary was surrounded by other countries controlled by the Soviets. If the United States helped Hungary they would have to fight their way through many Russian-controlled countries, which could possibly lead to an all-out war with Russia.
America and Russia both had nuclear power arsenals. The thought of going into combat, with the knowledge of this reality, made the consequences of such an action too hazardous to contemplate. The United States considered an economic boycott of the Soviet Union, but the Russians would not care, for it ravaged what resources it needed from the countries it occupied.
To further complicate matters, Hungary’s revolution was unknowingly ill-timed, for the United States was involved in the Suez Crisis – a matter needing more urgent attention than the revolution in Hungary.
The number of lives lost during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution were beyond comprehension. The revolutionaries, ranging in age from seven to ninety, fought the enemy with anything they could make and find: homemade grenades, rocks, clubs, and bottles filled with gasoline.
These fighters were everyday people with no military training engaging in desperate acts for desperate times. If conquered by the Soviets their freedom would be lost. They had nothing to lose for without freedom there was no life. Fighters barely in their teens, many younger, without regard for their own lives, crawled onto tank tops throwing Molotov cocktails down the turrets. In the bravest of acts, many young people strapped several grenades to their bodies, throwing themselves into the bellies of the iron monsters, obliterating their lives as they decimated the depraved murderers within.
Jozsef’s tormented eyes witnessed the ruthless killing spree and immense savagery set upon his people by the impudent, heartless Red soldiers, as they resorted to even slaughtering Hungary’s helpless wounded lying in the streets.
But the thirst of the captor’s bloodlust was still not satisfied, as they proved by reveling in more of their disgusting delights, causing Jozsef’s stomach to turn-over in revulsion, as he observed the Evil Ones tying the slain remains of Hungarian revolutionaries to their monstrous tanks, dragging the heroes sacred bodies through the avenues of Budapest as a warning to those who would oppose the enemy’s might, as well as spitefully hanging the bodies of Hungary’s patriots on the bridges spanning the Danube River.
Even Hungarian citizens who had aided the Freedom Fighters in any form or fashion were taken to railroad stations and shoved into overcrowded cattle cars for transport to somewhere in Russia for execution – most were under the age of twenty.
The conquerors shot everyone and everything in their sights, and the populace watched in horror as Freedom Forces consisting of the very old to the very young, were sought out and lined up against buildings, only to have their lives extinguished by the deafening bombardment of machine-gun fire. Despite their best efforts, the Freedom Fighters were not winning the battle. They were under-armed, under-fed, and out-flanked. Many Hungarians had already fled the country, with the United States sending planes and ships to Austria and Germany promising asylum to the refugees who could make it that far.
But Jozsef and Erzsebet had held out, praying for a miracle that would never come, and by the second week of November 1956, except for a few isolated incidences of a skirmish here and there, the fighting was at a standstill. The Soviets had won.
Jozsef and Erzsebet went to check on their Budapest apartment – to see if it had survived the conflict.
The hell with the coalmine!
The lower half of the building was riddled with the sprayed pattern of new bullet holes, now haphazardly mixed in with the ones remaining from those inherited from “The War.” The windows on the lower level were shot out; however, their apartment on the third floor, was miraculously spared. Glass was cracked in the window panes, but everything else was still there. There really was not much for anyone to pillage as their dwelling was practically barren upon their departure.
Leaving Erzsebet and Judit in the apartment, Jozsef went out, and with a “few connections,” gathered a meager amount of bread, some scraps of vegetables, paprika, eggs, and unbelievably, milk for little Judit. From these paltry rations, Erzsebet made a huge pot of watered-down soup that could last for a few days. Refrigeration was not a problem. The weather was cold, allowing the soup to be kept on the flower box outside the kitchen window to prevent spoilage. A little coal was still available for their stove, and at night, they pulled their mattress next to it for warmth.
The week of November 12, 1956, with their country in tatters, and the enemy crushing hope for any decent kind of life, Jozsef and Erzsebet thought hard about their future. They had very few options in their favor. Each was thinking the unthinkable and unspeakable – they must leave the country, but how and when was the pressing question. One thing they did know: there was a high likelihood that they would either be killed or captured by the enemy during their escape, but what was life if you could not “live it” anyway? What was life if you were told what to do, when and how to do it, never being able to trust friends or family, and knowing your children would be educated (brainwashed) by “the system” to conspire against their own parents “for the good of the country.” No - they did not want their little girl to go through life in that way. They decided they would rather die together than live forever repressed.
With mortality staring them in the face, they chose to have a family portrait made by a photographer friend. Their reasoning was this: they would give the photographer the address of Jozsef’s parents and have the photograph mailed there. If they made it to safety they would later contact Jozsef’s parents and give them an address to which they could send the portrait; however, if they died, then at least their parents would have one final picture of them as a family.
Their friend had offered them a complimentary family portrait session many times, but they never seemed to have time to take up his kind offer. If the studio had survived the Revolution they would make the time.
And it had survived. They dressed in their best clothes. Jozsef wore his gray suit, and Erzsebet, a dark blue suit with a white blouse. Judit wore a pale pink dress with a background pattern of white flowers. Erzsebet placed a small cameo necklace about Judit’s tiny neck and curled her daughter’s silky blonde hair with pipe cleaners and did the same to her own hair.
With Judit in his arms, Jozsef and Erzsebet walked the short distance to the photography studio with the solemnity of a funeral procession, each thinking the same thought: this may be the last photograph they would ever have made together, for perhaps, in a few days they would all be dead.
Jozsef and Erzsebet sat on the photography bench with their little daughter cradled between them. Judit was tired and leaned her head against her mother’s shoulder. Try as she might, Erzsebet found it impossible to smile, her somber eyes reflecting the thoughts of her tortured mind and soul. How was her little girl going to survive such an arduous escape? Would they all die? Her morbid contemplation was captured by the clicking sound of the camera’s shutter.
This was it: the family was now forever captured in this one immortalized moment in time. For better, or for worse, only God knew their fate.
In the early evening hours of November 16, 1956, there was an urgent pounding on their apartment door. Jozsef’s cousin, Ferenc was standing in the hallway, shaking with cold, his eyes wide with fear. “Jozsef!” he breathlessly let out, “They are starting to round up the leaders of the Revolution and executing them – you are on the list - they will be coming soon to get you!” Jozsef had known it was only a matter of time before “they” got around to him.
The breath was crushed out of Erzsebet. She stood frozen at the doorway, her eyes glued on Ferenc. Deep in her heart she knew what had to be done, but this soon? The thought of what was to come sapped the strength from her legs. Tears welled in her eyes. She leaned her back against a wall for support, and with Judit in her arms, slowly lowered herself and the child to the floor.
The family’s very existence in Hungary was rapidly disintegrating, as the world they had been born into suddenly shattered and splintered around them, scouring away all evidence of their presence on Magyar soil, for the road that had led them to this point in time was being rapidly decimated behind them, being savagely consumed by the unrelenting appetites of both fate and destiny, with no passage back to their prior existence, forcefully urging the three towards an unknown realm seething with every imaginable risk and peril.
It was time to disappear into the shroud of night - it was time to run!
In America, we take our Freedom lightly, unfortunately, for granted. But our political climate is changing, and not for the better, but for the worse, as the tentacles of Socialism and Communism silently seep into our schools and political systems. Stay alert. Pay attention to what your children are learning in school. Do not elect officials who seek to take away your rightful liberties for the "the sake of your self protection." If we do not stop the progression of the Socialistic evil that is slowly infringing itself upon our nation, we will wake up one morning in wonder and awe when we realized that we gave it all away without a fight, because we were told "we would be better off." America does not have to wait for an outside invader to defeat our way of life, our way of life is being defeated from the inside. Stay vigilant for signs that the freedom your cherish is slowly being chipped away. One day my friends, you may be called upon to fight for YOUR AMERICA, to save HER. Would you be willing to sacrifice everything you have to keep your freedom?
Ask how I may be a guest speaker on your television or radio program, your church or educational facility.
“Liberty and Love, these Two I must have. For my Love I will Sacrifice my Life. For Liberty I will sacrifice My Love.”
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