Exiled to the hinterlands

The communist party, officially known as the Hungarian Workers’ Party, did everything they could in the interest of liquidating their enemies, real and imagined. We can add that despite being in power, their perceived enemies always outnumbered them, which is why this era was known for its increasingly hysterical paranoia. At the head of this party was Mátyás Rákosi, who would give his name to the era between 1945-1956, and who practically trusted no one, especially not the nobility or intellectuals who were deemed to be enemies of the regime. Rákosi made this abundantly obvious for them when he evicted them from their Budapest homes, exiling them to parts of the country where they had to perform manual labor, with which they had no previous experience.

The intellectuals who had previously worked at desks were sent far from the capital to grow grain on the Great Hungarian Plain, drain swamps or cast adobe bricks. You can imagine how efficient it was for a count, architect or poet to go and harvest the wheat, or to run a threshing machine to separate the grain from the wheat. In addition to this work not being particularly effective, it was also dangerous, since without the proper knowledge it was easy for someone to lose their hand with one of these machines.

These former nobles and upper and middle class people who had been deprived of all their worldly possessions had to live separated from everyone else. They could not interact with the local villagers, and they could only receive mail from their relatives and friends if the envelopes or parcels were first opened and read by the police, with their messages arriving heavily censored. The same worked in reverse, so that other than a greeting of “Hello, I am well”, little else could be communicated. And of course all they could write was that they were doing well, even if it wasn’t the least bit true, which they frequently wrote from the barracks they had built themselves.

The earlier social elite stood out like a sore thumb from the milieu of the Great Hungarian Plain, where the exiles were miserable and the locals also looked at them as curiosities, in the rare cases that they saw them. Tens of thousands suffered this fate, frequently even those who previously had been academy members, professors, factory managers, lawyers, doctors or lecturers. Among those exiled internally was Count Zsigmond Széchenyi, the famous hunter and Africa expert, who in addition to his exploits in Africa had also explored Alaska, and whose achievements were even acknowledged within the halls of the Interior Ministry. It was said of him that when he emerged from his small shack, which is where he also resided, Széchenyi raised his hat in greeting in such a way that the movement itself revealed that he was highborn He was also respected by the uneducated and unrefined communist-era police, although they did not make exceptions for him: he lost his massive estate, his houses, his mansions, and when his exile ended, he was unable to return to his home. Széchenyi, along with the others who had been in exile, could only return to a designated residence, living in poverty in comparison to their previous circumstances.