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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 9 page 09

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But getting back to the situation in the Parliament square, we had an intense and focused exchange with some of the leaders who appeared on balconies and tried to calm the crowd. Eventually Imre Nagy spoke to us. He was one of the few remaining Communist leaders that still had some credibility. (He would be viciously executed in 1958.) But whatever he said had no influence as by that time we were all tired of speeches; we wanted a no-nonsense commitment that the Russians would leave. That promise we never heard, and so the crowd moved from Parliament square, and I moved along with them to the radio station, controlled, as were most things, by the government.

men throwing bricks at tanks
The feeling that you could take on tanks

The radio station was guarded by the Hungarian Secret Police (AVO) with support from the Russians. Gunfire was heard, and tanks were surrounding the radio station — and I mean big tanks on the roads coming at us without warning. I was an 18-year-old kid wanting somehow to upend the Russian-controlled regime and feeling powerful enough to take on monster tanks in the middle of the night without any weapons. But there were others, mostly university students, who were better organized and determined, and soon gunshots from the resistance fighters were heard as they attempted to take the radio station from the Secret Police and Russian tanks.

Throughout the night, the Hungarian workers and youth appeared to be winning the battle. I have little recollection how I got home that night, or rather it was morning. My parents were aghast to learn of the events and my part in it. They told me to stay home. This was just not in my nature, so I managed to get back on the street and, trying to be the hero, I got a pistol from a freedom fighter in my neighborhood along with enough ammunition to look like a heroic freedom fighter myself. But the truth was, I was scared as hell and had no real desire to be shooting or to be shot at; I just wanted to look the part. I can’t say what would have been the outcome if I had my pistol out and a Russian in front of me trying to take it away.

I tucked the gun under my belt and went to the Buda side of the city where I lived, crossing the bridge to look for my girlfriend. I was trembling inside and was very uncertain what my role in all this was to be. I paused on the bridge between Buda and Pest, terrified that I would be caught with the gun. But nothing happened, and before I knew it, the city was beginning to be free. The Russians were leaving, and the entire population was starting to breathe a sigh of relief. We won! And we seemingly had done it in less than a day. I never did find my girlfriend Bori, so eventually I returned home.

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