|Éva Apor Bálintitt
The healthy hatred of the working class...
I was married in September of 1956, so I was very much a newlywed when the revolution broke out. Both my husband and I were counted as enemies of the people, who were persecuted - in the words of Mátyás Rákosi - by the healthy hatred of the working class. This hatred took the form of several years' imprisonment (for my husband) and a prohibition on higher education (for me). So when we heard the news on October 23, we were more than happy.
A pastry shop, a tank, and the red star
I don't remember exactly which street it was on, but there was a pastry shop with its windows broken in. Someone had taken the baked goods from the little display baskets, but paid for them - leaving the money behind in the baskets.
A Russian tank stood at the corner of Kossuth Lajos Street and Magyar Street, topped by a Hungarian flag. Next to the tank, a Hungarian and a Russian soldier stood and saluted while a crowd on the street sang the Hungarian national anthem.
We lived on the fourth floor of a building on Egyetem Street. From our window we saw young freedom fighters, guns in hand, run down the street, peer around the corner and then enter the next street. One day we saw the freedom fighters tear down the large red star from the wall of a nearby building and toss it into the street.
At the Parliament
On October 25, we heard that a big demonstration was taking place in front of the Parliament. We were curious, so off we went. An enormous crowd had gathered on the square behind the Parliament building. We stopped underneath the arcades of the Agricultural Ministry, on the far side of the square. A tank rolled by; we tried to guess whether it was Hungarian or Russian. The tank proceeded around the square, rolled toward the river, then stopped.
All of a sudden shots rang out. We didn't know where the shots came from, and cowered behind the pillars of the ministry building. Behind each column, about 20-25 people piled upon each other in their effort to get out of the line of fire. We saw the red-hot bullets crackling on the ground.
After a while, my husband climbed up on the pile of people and pushed me through the window of the ministry building, then came after me, and someone pulled him inside. Some of the employees warned us that whoever did not work there would be arrested, so we climbed out of a back window. Later we heard that many people died outside on that square. - I sprained my ankle dropping out of the window, but a doctor who lived across the street set it for me.
We started off for home. We saw a funeral procession on one of the boulevards; everyone, men and women, was dressed in black and carrying Hungarian flags and black mourning flags. They walked slowly and silently down the middle of the street.
We continued on our way and turned onto Váci Street. Cheerful music filtered out from one of the cafés, full of well-dressed men and women, chatting pleasantly, as if nothing were happening.
Éva Apor Balintitt
Related on her father's side to Bishop Vilmos Apor, the Roman Catholic bishop who died a martyr in defending civilian victims of the occupying Red Army after the Second World War. When Mrs. Balintitt fled Hungary as a refugee in November 1956, she carried only a small silk cocktail dress folded into a tiny square, and a high school history book, so that her future children could learn about Hungarian history. Both were put to good use: she was and remains very active in Hungarian-American society, and she raised her son and daughter to be proud Hungarians. Together with her husband, she worked tirelessly for Hungarian American institutions, including New York's Hungarian School, the American Transylvania Society, and the New York Hungarian House. As a measure of compensation for her family's persecution under Communism, in 2000 the Hungarian Government officially recognized the family's contributions to the emigre Hungarian community. She currently lives in Staten Island, NY.