Caught up in events: a soldier’s story in 1956

József Fazekas’s story is just one among the many others. He was not a revolutionary, nor did he plan to get caught up in the events. Fazekas lived in Túrkeve before and after the revolution, where he raised two children and worked as an accountant for the collectivized farm.

Fazekas was an enlisted man in the Hungarian army in 1956 when the revolution broke out. During the course of an interview conducted with him much later, Fazekas described the revolution as a tough struggle and succumbed to his emotions on several occasions, comparing his journey home to the Odyssey.

“I was stationed in Budaörs, where our barracks was attacked by the Soviets. On the night of October 23rd… I’ll never forget it… we’d received an order that afternoon, to immediately go to the barracks. We instantly figured that something wasn’t right. We went inside, it was around 8 in the evening, and we had to line up straightaway. Then they gave us ammunition. To this day it’s hard for me to discuss this… We received our orders. The Soviet armored vehicles came and shot one of my companions, and then left. That’s how things were until November 4th, when the Soviets came back. We ran into the forest where we hid for 11 days. We were afraid to go back, since we were afraid that the Soviets would label us as deserters. We ate what we could, finding carrots and water, before coming in to Pest. We travelled without putting our hands in our pockets, because then they would think I was reaching for a gun and would shoot at me. I kept going, and going. It was so bitter, every village and every farm. It took me 15 days to reach home. Once we were past Vecsés, we could relax a little, since we had made it through the toughest part. The fields there contained cabbage, kohlrabi and carrots, which we ate. I made it home, but then I had to go back to the barracks to report, but was given an extraordinary discharge. It was quite trying to go through all of this, and those who did not live at the time cannot even imagine it.”

József Fazekas, just as other young people in those days, had to perform his compulsory military service. But because he was in the army at the time, he had to fight during the revolution as well. He and his companions were so afraid of the invading Soviet tanks and being held to account that they hid for weeks instead. Fortunately, the story had a happy ending, since he was given a discharge and not indicted for his actions. He could not, however, discuss his experiences from 1956 for decades, and even after the system change it brings back many painful memories.

Eszter Zsófia Tóth