October 23, 1956
”Rise Hungarians, your country calls – now or never is the time...” These were the opening words of the poem Petőfi recited on the steps of the National Museum in Budapest on March 15, 1848. They marked the beginning of the War for Independence. This day became the national holiday of youth and of the Hungarian people, but its celebration was forbidden when the country was again subject to political oppression.
The events of the October 23, 1956 Hungarian Revolution were strikingly similar to those which had taken place 110 years earlier. As in 1848, enthusiastic young students gathered in a mass demonstration. Even the place of outbreak was identical by fatal coincidence: the steps of the National Museum in 1848 and the Radio Budapest, in a building a block from there, in 1956. Here students tried to broadcast their demands and were fired on; this started the bloody fights. Again requests were formulated which were almost identical to the theses of 1848 – following a tragic tradition – freedom of the press, end of censorship, national independence, end of foreign military occupation, political and economic reforms. Again, censure was abolished for a short time and the first freely printed pamphlets were distributed to the enthusiastic crowds. The Kossuth crest reappeared on the walls...
As in 1848, this revolution was likewise overthrown and the Soviet Russian rule continues to the present day. (Domjan’s book was published in 1963. Russian troops were finally withdrawn only in 1990. Ed.)
Who were the greatest heroes of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution? The unarmed student demonstrators who were the first victims; the fearless young who were battling a far superior military force; or those arrested and executed after the uprising – among them the leaders: Imre Nagy, Prime Minister, and General Pál Maléter, the embodiment of personal courage...
For a biography of Joseph Domjan, see the July-August 2017 issue of Magyar News Online.