Roma played their part in the 1956 Revolution
For the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Revolution, a short video series was produced to remember and honor those Roma who, like their fellow countrymen, participated in this fight for freedom.
Under communism, government policy regarding the Roma minority promoted the assimilation of the Roma into the majority. State policy pushed them to work in the same areas of employment as the majority, so that they would no longer perform what were considered traditionally Roma jobs, such as adobe brickmaking or music, but find new forms of work such as in construction.
Three men of Roma background were executed during the reprisals following the revolution due to their participation: József Kóté Sörös, Mátyás Kolompár and Sándor Csányi. This Sándor Csányi is an older cousin of the famous Hungarian actor with whom he shares a name. The actor is best known internationally for his starring role in the comedy-thriller movie Kontroll.
József Kóté Sörös’s story began in 1927. He originally worked as a musician and was later employed as a tinsmith in the iron factory in Monor. Although he had a factory job, he continued his music career on the side by performing at wedding receptions. At the outbreak of the revolution, Kóté Sörös was the married father of two and his wife was expecting their third child. On October 30th, he and his friend József Tóth arrived in Budapest driving a truck filled with food to be distributed in the capital. Both of the men then joined the Vajdahunyad group of revolutionaries.
Following the invasion of November 4th, Kóté Sörös suffered an injury on his thigh. He escaped to Austria, where he played music and begged on the trains before he returned due to the amnesty that was promised by the government. Both Kóté Sörös and Tóth were arrested upon their return. At their trial, Tóth attacked the people’s assessor and also struck the judge, which he did in his rage as he fought for his life. Both men were sentenced to death and later executed. In 1989, Mária Wittner, who had also been convicted and served a lengthy prison sentence for her participation in the revolution, attended the reburial of her fellow inmates.
In Soroksár in the south of Budapest, a group of Roma youth organized a resistance group who fought until the bitter end on November 11th. Their leader Károly Strausz was first sentenced to death, which was reduced to life in prison, and he was finally released in 1970. Károly was born in Pomáz north of Budapest, and his father was a traveling knife sharpener. His parents died when he was young and Strausz was sent to a children’s home, before being raised by his aunt. Like his father, Strausz also became a traveling knife sharpener, and later worked in a factory in Csepel, which is where he was at the start of the revolution.
Another story involves Erzsébet Hrozova, who worked as a nurse at the clinics located by the medical university on Üllői Road. Her husband, Béla Székely, who had been an air force officer at the base in Taszár was executed, while Erzsébet received a sentence of 14 years. Their crime? Occupying the police station in Budapest’s District VIII during the revolution.
Members of the Roma community also played a part in the revolution and made the ultimate sacrifice so that others could one day live in freedom. Brief films about the Roma who were executed can be seen here (for now only in Hungarian):
Author: Eszter Zsófia Tóth