The young lad from Pest who quickly became a man

The lads of Pest threw themselves into the fight against the well-armed Soviets with loads of energy and enthusiasm, which in addition to their natural desire for freedom was also the result of their having the least to lose, as they frequently recalled later on. One of these so-called lads to join the action was János Varga, who was only 16 in 1956 and fought in Corvin Lane and the surrounding streets. He joined the fight following the massacre at Kossuth Square on October 25, 1956, when the secret police fired upon the peaceful crowd and Soviet troops fraternizing before the building, which resulted in the Soviets panicking and jumping into their tanks, after which they began to fire indiscriminately. Over a hundred people lost their lives that day, with many more injured, including women and children. Varga was among those who helped remove the injured and the dead, and the following day he was in the thick of the fighting, distributing weapons at first in front of the radio building and later at Corvin Lane.

At Corvin Lane, the lads of Pest blocked the surrounding streets so that during the invasion of November 4th the Soviets would need to adopt a high-risk strategy for attack, with the result that many of their tanks were destroyed in the fight. Individual groups of revolutionaries occupied their designated stations and heroically defended their streets. Varga was deployed together with a machine gunner. While the gunner was reloading his weapon, Varga was to use his revolver to keep the Soviets at bay. He quickly learned a fundamental lesson of war: the person who fires more quickly and accurately is the one who will make it home that night. All the while the women and girls brought them food, frequently traveling kilometers to feed the fighters.

An incident during the fighting would permanently etch itself into the 16-year-old boy’s mind. Kiss witnessed a tank being struck by the revolutionaries and how the soldiers escaping from the tank emerged on fire but still alive and how they collapsed afterward on the street. Following this fierce clash and during a moment of calm, they approached one of the tanks, but as they did a round of gunfire was unleashed on them from a neighboring building. The fighters could feel the heat from the tracer bullets, the bullets landed so closely to them. Without other options, they quickly dropped to the ground and hid among the dead so that they could live to fight another day.

Bence Csatári