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Forinyák Géza, Martyr of Hungarian Independence

Top: Forinyák Géza's grave in the Kerepesi temető (cemetery) - (agt.bme.hu); bottom: Memorial to Forinyák Géza, erected by the university youth in 2000, on the spot where a street named after him  had formerly been.  

Forinyák Géza, Martyr of Hungarian Independence


After over 300 years of Austrian rule, and several previous attempts, the Hungarians once again rose up to get out from under the yoke of the Habsburgs.  This time they seemed to succeed, especially during the 1849 Spring Campaign in which they won a number of victories (for exampe at Isaszeg).  This so alarmed the autocratic rulers that they called on Russia to come to their aid. 

But no amount of patriotic fervor could hold up the overhelming forces of both Austria and Russia, and so the rights of Hungarians were once again trampled upon and squashed.  The surrender to the Russian troops at Világos was followed by execution – by the Austrians – of the leading Hungarian generals and the imposition of absolutism.  Censorship was introduced, and foreign bureaucrats, who did not speak the language, were sent to Hungary to be the administrators.  They relied on the secret police and informers, and gendarmes were provided with incentives to arrest people, with or without cause.  

It was only natural that, by the end of the 1850s, the youth of Pest demonstrated more and more frequently against this Austrian absolutism.   The young people were encouraged by news that the Italian population of Tuscany and Modena had prevented the reestablishment of Habsburg rule in their provinces, and declared their intention to join the Kingdom of Sardinia and Piedmont. 

In the spring of 1860, the youth of Pest planned a worthy observance of March 15th.  The day before, the police took into custody several of the organizers, but could not prevent the demonstration from going forward.  Despite an official prohibition, the university students wanted to have a Mass said for the soldiers who had died in the Freedom Fight of 1848-49.  Police prevented them from entering, first the Franciscan church in Pest, then the Franciscan church in Buda.  Then the young people, wearing formal national dress and crepe armbands, gathered in the Reformed church at Kálvin tér, where they said a prayer.  Then they headed for the old Ferencváros cemetery, to lay wreaths on the graves of the numerous fallen honvéd and executed martyrs.

In front of the cemetery entrance, a cordon of bayoneted  police and soldiers met them.  Several people were arrested, but the crowd dissolved, coming together again at the Kerepesi cemetery.  There they were met with the same type of cordon. Nevertheless, they threw a wreath over the fence into the cemetery, with a ribbon that indicated it was intended for those who had shed their blood for the country. 

But the crowd would not break up.  Instead, they attempted to free those who had been taken into custody earlier.  At this, the soldiers used their bayonets, and then began to shoot.

Three were wounded, among them a second-year law student named Forinyák Géza.  His knee had been shattered by a bullet,  and he was taken to the Szent Rókus kórház (hospital).  However, he lost much blood, and  died after two weeks of intense suffering.

People were indignant at his fate. His funeral was, in a way, a demonstration against the Austrian oppressors. According to the newspaper report in Vasárnapi újság, dated  April 8, 1860:

”It is a very rare, exceptional occasion to witness such a splendid funeral.  The funeral ceremony began at 4 in the afternoon, but by 2 o’clock a  multitude had already gathered in front of the house where the deceased had been laid out.  The throng slowly grew into a vast crowd, which could very well have  numbered 25-30,000. (Another source gave the number as 50,000. Ed.)  Everyone who was not prevented from coming by unavoidable circumstances hurried to pay last respects to the youth who died at 19 years of age.  A great number of our aristocratic ladies and gentlemen, university youth, writers, artists, lawyers and every class of the capital’s citizens gathered around his coffin... there was together here the creme of the capital, dressed in Hungarian ceremonial dress from head to toe. The ladies (mostly aristocrats) were dressed in mourning attire.

”The vast funeral procession kept the most exemplary order.  The bier was carried by stalwart young men all the way to the cemetery, where the majority of the mourners also escorted the remains of the young man on foot.  His grave was heaped with countless wreaths.”

Another source described the procession thus:

Young people carried on their shoulders the coffin, on which there was a large flower wreath in front of the crucifix, and behind it was a laurel wreath with a ribbon in the national colors, and it was surrounded by 50 torch-bearers. Some 70 people volunteered to keep order...”

Even though the Freedom Fight was over in 1849, it had long-term repercussions.  It really wasn’t over until after the Habsburgs had been dethroned for good, in 1921!

(Source: Wikipedia, Creative Commons) 




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