Cut down like those fighting for freedom

The western journalists who came to Hungary in droves during the 1956 Revolution did not shy away from putting their lives in danger to get a good story. Despite this, and probably due to the effective military escorts they received, the only foreign reporter to lose his life during the revolution was the Franco-Swiss photojournalist Jean Pierre Pedrazzini.

Pedrazzini began working for the Paris Match in 1948. As part of his work, he photographed the Indochina Wars and had also been to the North Pole. In the summer of 1956, Pedrazzini went on a road trip through the Soviet Union together with another journalist and their wives, driving from Moscow to Georgia. It was during this trip that he saw how things were simply not functioning properly within the communist countries. Perhaps this insight provided him with the inspiration to travel to Hungary during the revolution.

Pedrazzini arrived to Hungary on October 28th, 1956 with his colleague Paul Matthias, who was of Hungarian descent. Their first report was a series of photographs about the burial of the victims of the Mosonmagyaróvár massacre. The siege of the Budapest Communist Party headquarters at Köztársaság Square occurred two days later, and Pedrazzini quickly made his way to the scene when he heard about it. There were plenty of foreign photojournalists at the square that day, such as Mario de Biasi who worked for the Italian Epoca magazine. Also John Sadovy, a photographer for Life, who took the infamous series of photographs of the summary execution of several secret policemen which were then published in a special issue and soon made their way around the world. Tim Foote, another photojournalist for Life who was also present, was shot in the hand during the melee.

Foote was still lucky in comparison to Pedrazzini, however, who was struck by a round of bullets in his torso and leg, most likely from a machine gun in one of the tanks. Both of the injured were then transported to the Péterfy Sándor Street Hospital nearby to be treated. While Foote’s injury was not life-threatening, Pedrazzini was taken in for surgery immediately, but his injuries proved to be critical. On October 31st, an Italian convoy left Budapest for Vienna and also took Pedrazzini and his surgeon brother-in-law, so that Pedrazzini could be transported back to France for additional surgery. An Austrian medical aircraft then flew the dying Pedrazzini to Paris on November 3rd, but the surgery could not be performed owing to his deteriorating health. The photojournalist died on November 7th, the only foreign reporter to die from injuries sustained during the 1956 Revolution.

He was only 29, cut down early in his life like so many of those he had come to photograph in their fight for freedom.

Bence Csatári