Barbara Kiss
Our Escape
In the year of 1956, November 19th was a bright, windy fall day. Day by day, the spirit of the Hungarian Revolution calmed down as more and more Soviet soldiers streamed into my native land and on the street corners, more red stars, Soviet stars, could be seen.

It was eight o'clock at night, and by this time all was calm outside, but in our one room apartment the sound of prayer could be heard. I was only nine and did not fully understand what a revolution was and why my father had left so suddenly. All I knew was that we had to pray for him and that tears ran down my mother's face.

Then I did not know, but my father had fled to Austria as thousands of other Hungarians had done, bringing only the clothes on their backs and love of their country. He had to leave because he had taken part in the uprising, and after November 4, thousands of men who had loved their country so much so much that they fought for it were either executed or sentenced to very long imprisonment. My father was supposed to be hanged. Yes, many people had fled, for they could not bear the thought that they would have to once again obey Russia, that they must once again lead a life of fear, that they must once again go secretly to church, and that they could “believe” only in communist ideas.

My mother kissed us good-bye and said that we were leaving at five o'clock the next morning. I asked where we were going, but I did not get an answer. My mother just said good night and went out of the room. It all seemed so strange!

We awoke early and my mother said we were leaving for my grandmother's house in the country, very far away. We were so happy, my sister and I! My other grandmother who lived next door was trying to keep the tears back but could not succeed. I told her happily, “We're only going for two weeks. Why are you crying?” and gave her a big hug, but that made her cry more. At last the words came out of her mouth, “Take care of yourself, my child,” she said to my mother.

My grandfather, who had been very quiet, said he would come with us to the station. As we walked through the city, we saw all the wrecked buildings, tanks, and the other signs that showed that a revolution had taken place. We walked quietly, and in front of a building my grandfather stopped. He pointed to it and said, “My child, if you never want to be in this building again, go and never come back.” It was a communist prison.

At last we reached the train station, but it wasn't the familiar station we used to leave for the countryside. I realized I had never been to this station before.

We bought the tickets, and as my sister and I ran up to the train, through the train's windows for the first time I saw a teardrop in my grandfather's eyes as he kissed my mother. Why was everyone acting so strangely? Whenever we left for the country everyone was so happy.

As the train left we looked back. My grandfather was still standing there, motionless.

Mother said we must not say anything on the train and I asked why, but the reply was, “No one must ask any questions.” My mother knew she wouldn't have any trouble with me, but my six-year old sister was different. She was still a child who was too young to realize that there were some people we did not like, who were our enemies.

I saw a sign of fear on my mother's face as she told my sister she should be quiet in the train.

The train went on and on, and the farther we went the less I was able to recognize familiar places.

Even in the midst of all of this excitement, there was something more. My sister almost started talking to a communist soldier about our father.

At about six o'clock we arrived to Gyor. My sister almost crying because she realized that this was not where we were supposed to be going. I just didn't know what was happening anymore.

We spent the night there in the house of one of my father's friends, and the very next day my mother said we were leaving. I dared not ask where we were going, because I felt it would be a stupid question.

We went by train to a small town where a black car was waiting for us. My mother helped us in and we started moving.

Where are we going? Why was it a secret? Why? Why? Why? All these questions rose up in my mind and I was wondering and trying to find an explanation. I could not!

In the middle of a cornfield, the driver of the car sent us out and suddenly I was a little afraid. My mother told us we must go very quietly where she told us not to make a single sound. I was scared, but when I looked at my mother, I was even more frightened when I saw the same look of fear on her face.

We started walking. We went through a cornfield that had already been harvested. It was a beautiful sunny day but for an escape, it wasn't ideal. There was a communist lookout tower near us and my mother had a purple coat on.

Suddenly two people started coming towards us. Our hearts beat faster and faster but we found that they were also refugees. We went together. Where were we going? This question sprang up in my mind over and over again.

Then, two more people came nearer and nearer, but they were in uniforms. It was then I realized where we were going - across the Iron Curtain. The two guns came nearer and nearer to us. One of the men said harshly, “Put up your hands,” and I was so scared of what would happen to us! Would we be shot? I wanted to be a brave girl and not cry, but the tears still streamed down my face. I could not help it.

Then my mother spoke, “What kind of men are you to kill two children? Have you no heart? Can you let us go?”

The other one answered, “We are very sorry. We are Hungarians too. A gun is pointed at us each day and if we let anyone go, we might be executed for it. But do not worry, we will let you go. We are Hungarians too!”

So we left, walking at a faster pace all the time. I was frightened. Suddenly, we started walking slower because we could see the border. We stopped about four feet from the Austrian border and looked back.

I was crying; everyone was! We were leaving our native land where the sunset is much more beautiful, and the birds' song sounds much nicer, and my feet trembled, and I understood that I was leaving my home, and I might never see it again.

For a minute we were just gazing - each of us with different thoughts and then we stepped across the border, bowed our heads and said, “Óh God, thank You for your loving care and all that you gave for us. Thank You for helping us across the border to a free land where democracy exist. Thank You, Amen.”


Barbara Kiss
Barbara Eva Kiss came to the United States after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution as a 9 year old. She is the daughter of Dr. Sandor Kiss and Mrs. Eva Ibranyi Kiss. She is the sister of Iman Agnes Ibranyi Kiss and Elizabeth Esther Kiss. She enjoys working at the Library of Congress since 1982 and lives in Washington, D.C.

Barbara Kiss is the daughter of Mrs. Eva Ibranyi Kiss. Please see her submission, in both languages, on the website.