Eszti Pigniczky
Storyline for scouts
After the Second World War, the Communist regime in Hungary banned, among many other institutions, the scouting movement. Hungarian scouts reorganized in exile, first in Western Europe, then in other countries where Hungarians fled. Since 1951, Hungarian scout troops have been meeting and camping in the Cleveland area.

Scout meetings and campouts often feature a storyline, such as about King Stephen of Hungary, or the Turkish occupation of Hungary, to help the second- and third-generation Hungarian-American children to better understand their heritage. (Role-playing, costumes, and active involvement by every scout make history come alive.) The 1956 storyline detailed below was developed to help young Hungarian-American scouts to better fathom what many of their grandparents experienced. Each scout meeting and outdoor activity planned for 2006 features a situation or game - detailed below - to help the scouts understand the oppression of everyday life in a Communist country. -- [ed.]



The goal is not for the scouts to learn every fact and detail about the Revolution, but rather for them to understand the causes. We will somewhat live under oppression.
February 10

Zsuzsa Daróczy, who, it later turns out, will be the informant / party secretary, takes mug shot photos of each scout for their personal identity cards. She hands out a booklet about 1956 and in a boring fashion drones on about the events.

February 17

Continuation of photos, dry background historical info. Send an email to parents and other adults warning them that we are experiencing the events in an unorthodox way and not to be surprised if they see some unscoutlike activities going on.

February 24

Indoor campfire. As each scout enters the room, they find a communist functionary (Andrea Mészáros) sitting at a table with a red-starred flag displayed prominently behind her. She stamps their identity cards and hands them over in a hostile manner. Zsuzsa Daroczy obediently helps and gives each scout a red star to pin on their uniforms. Scoutmaster Pigniczky expresses reservations but obeys. During the campfire the communist functionary tells the girls what they can and cannot sing, e.g. no songs mentioning God, church, or country, no national pride.

The entire storyline does not apply to the younger age group (6-9 yr olds) because they are not yet mature enough to discern and comprehend.

Campfire topic: „What is a Scout?” Sing patriotic songs so the communist functionary can interject with something like, „Comrades should not sing such songs because they don't fit the ideology of the international socialist movement.” Campfire leader is surprised, looks at Scoutmaster, then obeys. Later, after being stopped multiple times, she starts a patriotic song and immediately stops it on her own. She looks over to the communist functionary, who nods approvingly. Shortly later the functionary leaves, saying that the campfire leader now knows and understands. The functionary then goes on to inspect a different scout activity, and the campfire is concluded. Afterwards, the Scoutmaster furtively signals for the scouts to gather in close, then, in tears, tells them what a horrible experience it is to find out that your best friend is an informant. She asks the scouts to be very careful about whom they talk to and what they talk about, because even innocent conversations can get them into big trouble.

After the campfire, the scouts return to the Scout Home to see a video about 1956, followed by informal discussion.

March 3

Before the meeting begins, a poster is placed outside the entrances of the Scout Home: „1956 Storyline In Progress”.

At the end of the usual leaders' meeting, the Party Secretary takes out the offical Party ledger and demands that all comrades sign it. Anyone who does not sign will not be allowed to participate in any of the upcoming scout events (intramural scout competition, summer camp, leadership camp, European tour). The Scoutmaster, with a heavy heart, signs it, followed by the other leaders. Meanwhile, the Scoutmaster whispers to each leader in turn that she does not like this at all.

March 10

Before the meeting begins, a poster is placed outside the entrances of the Scout Home: „1956 Storyline In Progress”.

The doorbell rings. Secret Police agents, in pairs, enter the patrol meeting rooms, demanding IDs. One or two scouts from each patrol are „arrested” and forcibly led onto the stage (where the curtain is drawn and it's dark), but they aren't told why. The rest of the patrol remain in their room. When all the detainees are on the stage, the Party Secretary announces that they are guilty by virtue of having parents who are landowners, and so they're being sent away for forced labor. The detainees are led away. The remaining scouts are told that they can stay put, because their parents are „reliable.” Forced labor is cleaning the bathrooms in the church basement.

March 31

Meeting takes place outdoors, at Cottonwood Park. During the meeting, it is announced that private property is being nationalized. A Party official (bearing the Communist version of the Hungarian flag, with a red star in the middle) proceeds to confiscate the scouts' property - their neckerchiefs. The scout meeting continues, and includes a uniform inspection, whereby patrols receive demerits because their members are not wearing their neckerchiefs. Later, following the campfire, one scout leader will notice the confiscated pile of neckerchiefs and sneak them back to their owners, but no one puts them on again for the rest of the day.

April 7

In preparation for Easter, the scouts meet for a discussion with Reverend Eva Tamassy. Twenty minutes later, Secret Police agents „raid” the meeting, arrest the pastor and take her away. Each Scout receives a demerit in her ID passbook for violating regulations against organized religious activity.

April 14: Easter week - No meeting.

April 21

The Party Secretary is off on a State-sponsored spa holiday. The Scoutmaster announces quietly to the scouts that she has begun, in secret, to organize a strike. The Scouts are asked to write letters (using their secret writing) (paper and envelopes should be on hand) to any scouts not present to alert them that a strike will occur on April 28. The Scoutmaster emphasizes that they are not to telephone their fellow scouts, because all telephone conversations are being taped.

April 28

Meeting and campfire at Cottonwood Park. Following the patrol meetings, all scouts take part in „active learning” activity familiarizing them with the events leading up to the revolution (October 16-22, 1956). Each of the four learning stations represents a city (not Budapest) in which university students were organizing protest activities. - Another game combines traditional knot-tying practice with the 16-point demands of the Hungarian students of 1956, in which each of the demands is written onto two sticks, then mixed up; the scouts have to unscramble the phrases, then tie the sticks together using lashing knots.

The next activity is to construct signs and torches for the upcoming street demonstrations (need wood, hammer, nails, posterboard, paint). Each patrol must construct one sign and one torch (and demonstrate correct use of construction tools).
Campfire and demonstration: each patrol arrives at the campfire from a different direction, carrying their torch and sign. Patriotic poems, folk songs and patriotic slogans keep revolutionary spirits high. The campfire concludes with the Hungarian national anthem.

May 5: Scout leader meeting.

May 12: Reenactment of the students' gathering on October 23 in Budapest, at statue of Joseph Bem.

During the scout meeting, the singing of the Hungarian Scout fight song is interrupted by the Party Secretary, who comes rushing in (bearing her usual red-star version of the Hungarian flag), demanding that the scouts never sing that song again, and they should now learn a new Communist hymn. The Party Secretary starts to teach the new song, but the Scoutmaster can't take it, and dramatically tears the red star off of her uniform, then tells the Party Secretary to leave - she will not endure this persecution any longer. The Scoutmaster grabs the flag and, using her pocketknife, slashes the Communist symbol out of the Hungarian flag. With that, the scouts all proceed to the Bem Statue (represented by a scout leader dressed as Bem and standing motionless), where others are already gathered. There, the scouts read the 16 points/demands aloud.

May 19-20: (a two-day meeting beginning at the Scout Home, and continuing to a nearby campground for an overnighter.) Reenactment of the events of October 23, 9 p.m., when unarmed student protesters in Budapest proceed to the building of the Hungarian Radio to demand that the radio broadcast their 16-point demands, whereupon the Secret Police fires upon them.

The Scoutmaster calls the scouts together, saying she has received word that many protesters have gone to the Radio building. The scouts all come out of their rooms, bearing their signs, and proceed to the „Radio headquarters” (the neighboring church garage), where they try to enter, but a Secret Police agent, from the roof of the garage, drops a smoke bomb onto the crowd. At the same time, a car drives up, screeches to a halt and disgorges additional secret policemen, who push and shove the protesters (scouts), trying to get them to leave. Two scout leaders courageously stand up to the secret police, who then proceed to „beat” them. A third scout leader is „shot,” then stuffed into the car and driven away. The Scoutmaster tells the rest of the scouts to return to the Scout Home, where they hold a meeting and decide to go to the Csepel factory to get themselves some weapons. The scout troop leaves for Csepel (the campground.)

May 26-28: Annual intramural Scout competition at Hungarian Scout Camp in Fillmore, New York, with participation of Hungarian Scouts from Cleveland, Chicago, New York, Washington, Toronto and Montreal. At this competition, patrols compete with each other in using their teamwork, scouting skills and knowledge of Hungarian to react and resolve unexpected situations - all this in the context of an elaborate storyline, with plenty of costumes, physical and mental challenges. This year's storyline is the 1956 Revolution, and concludes with the emigration of thousands of Hungarian refugees after the revolution is crushed.

June 3-4 End-of-year campout and picnic.

September - October: During the first meetings of the school year, scouts invite their parents/grandparents who are „56-ers” to take part in oral history interviews. Based on these interviews, the Scouts prepare poster presentations to be displayed at the Cleveland exhibit being organized for the 50th anniversary of 1956.
Scouts will learn about the aftermath of 1956: crackdown, executions, escape and flight.

Created by Zsuzsa Daróczy and Eszti Pigniczky


Eszti Pigniczky
Born in 1968 in Lansdale, PA, her parents left Hungary as refugees in 1956. She grew up in the Hungarian community near Philadelphia, then continued her Hungarian scouting activities in New Brunswick, NJ, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Since 1995 she has lived in the Cleveland area. In 2001, she organized and led 40 Hungarian-American teenagers from the Cleveland Hungarian Scout Folk Ensemble on a 3-week research tour of villages in Hungary and Transylvania. She researches and collects Hungarian folk songs and customs, and since 2005 has been Scoutmaster of the Ilona Zrínyi Hungarian Girl Scout Troop #34 of Cleveland. With her husband, Endre Szentkirályi (also an active scout leader), she has four children: Keve, Bendegúz, Vajk and Enese.