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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 9 page 11


The next day, I entered the ranks of the new military police and began to be trained in firearms, crowd control, discipline in defence of my country, all of which sounded like a most dramatic and wonderful departure from the past where we were controlled and were supposed to be puppets to the Russian Communist way of being. Unfortunately, this exciting new feeling of being free did not last long. After about a week, the Russians came back with a vengeance to crush the uprising. Tanks, planes and well-armed Russian forces overwhelmed the resistance. Thousands of my compatriots were killed, which started an avalanche of scared and defiant Hungarians fleeing the country. I was one of them.

I still have a problem understanding why my parents encouraged me to leave. At first I thought they must have recognized in me some kind of entrepreneurial spirit and potential that could unfold much better in the Western world. While they probably did think that, I now know that the encouragement they gave me would still just have to have been the ultimate love a parent could have for their child. As I write this, I get tears in my eyes. An everlasting love and gratefulness for my parents will forever stay with me.

I remember the morning I left. Both of my parents and myself were outside our front door, in the hallway, for the final kisses and hugs. My dad equipped me with as much “information” as he could, including addresses and phone numbers for a distant relative in Graz, Austria, and an aunt living in Montreal. My dad made sure I had my birth certificate with me as it would be my only real proof of identity.

I began my journey on a train heading west toward Austria. The train was full of people; they all looked scared, and there was not much talk. After a few hours, we were all ordered to detrain. In the town of Szombathely near the border to Austria, I miraculously found a family that accepted to take me in for an overnight stay. God bless them. The next morning I went to the main hospital in town to seek permission to continue on the train to go even closer to the border. There was a doctor who received me and looked at my papers that claimed I was an X-ray technician and that I must be allowed to go to Saint Gothard to help with technical problems. My dad had somehow procured the documents for me. The doctor looked at the papers, gave me a skeptical look and said, “I think these are fake, and you are too young to be an X-ray technician with such high qualifications.” Nevertheless he was only too happy to help. He signed the papers.

That night, I was a passenger on a different train. My papers cleared me to go to Saint Gothard, a small town very near the border not normally accessible except with special permission. When we arrived, I noticed that most of the people leaving the train were met by Russian troops, stripped and searched, and most of them were led away. I was absolutely terrified; if I was caught, they would probably hang me, shoot me, or send me to jail — I had no idea. I did the best thing I could think of at the spur of the moment: I hid under the seats of the car and remained silent until all the station lights dimmed and there was no more noise or lights. I crawled out from under the seat and sneaked off the train. As I looked around, I saw a small house by the tracks not far from where the train stopped, which was called the semaphore house. This was where the track lights were changed manually, red to green and back to red, on instructions from a central control bureau. These houses were usually manned by a single male who lived there year-round. They live a similar life to what I imagine would be the case of a man living in a lighthouse. I walked up to this little house and knocked on the door.