Amerikaiak a Magyarokért Alapítvány        Amerikai Magyar Klub

Pro Ecclesia Hungariae - In Honor of Hungary




Honoring the freedom fighters on the streets of Budapest!

By Frank Kapitan, HRFA Branch 300 Manager and 1956er, at the October 2006 HRFA Kossuth House Remembrance.   (the communist Gyurcsany ruled in 2006 in Hungary)

All over the world we remember and celebrate 1956.  We talk about Imre Nagy, Maleter, Kadar, and Khrushchev.  We write books about those days in October;  and at assemblies and gala dinners we honor the “freedom fighters”.

But who were the freedom fighters?  Who are we honoring? Today I am honoring Szigetvári István!  And the freedom fighters on the streets of Budapest! 

He was born on March 23 1940 in Szekesfehervar.  His father was an engine fitter (géplakatos) and died on February 2 1943 of heart failure.  His mother was a housewife and died in 1948 of a lung infection which; she got while fleeing from the Soviet troops during the war.

In 1950 he was in an orphanage in Szekesfehervar.  In 1954 he signed up to become, like his father, an engine fitter (géplakatos) and was accepted in the Rakosi Matyas Young workers trade school in Pest.  He became a member of DISZ, the Communist Young Workers Federation and sincerely believed that the Communist Party was over everything.  “I was a Rakosi youth throughout”. (“Ízig-vérig Rákosi-gyerek voltam.”)

October 23 was a huge shock and surprise for him.  On October 25 he witnessed the killing of the crew a Soviet Armed Personnel Carrier.  On October 26, on the corner of Tűzoltó utca he met and joined a group of fighters led by a disheveled, tousled, gesticulating man:  Angyal István. And he became a freedom fighter and fought, as he said:  “…for an independent, free and neutral Hungary.”

During the revolution he fought with the Tűzoltó Street freedom fighters.  On November 4 they stayed together and fought the Russians, by November 7 the fight was hopeless

Later one of his friends from Tűzoltó Street asked him to escape the, but he stayed.  He went back to the orphanage, because the director there promised that they can always have a home there.

On December 24 he was arrested and transported to Pest. In Hungarian he recalled:

“Akkor néhány részeg géppisztolyos pufajkás beültetett egy Pobjedába, és elindultunk Pestre. Útközben az egyik azt mondja: „Mit tökölünk vele, intézzük el és tűzzünk hazafele.” Megálltak, kiszállítottak és odaállítottak egy fa alá. A másik azt mondja, „és mi lesz, ha felelősségre vonnak?” Ezen elvitatkoztak egy darabig, végül visszatuszkoltak a kocsiba.”

At the Fő Street jail for two days he didn’t see anyone.  He had nothing to eat for four days and he was drinking from the toilet.  He was interrogated.

On January 17, 1957 a Russian officer told him that after investigating his case they found that he did not participat  in any terror actions and was fighting like a soldier.  “YOU SHOT AT US, WE SHOT BACK, AND WE ARE EVEN.”

And he was set free.  But on April 7, 1957, the reorganized, reconstituted Security Police, the PUFALYKAS arrested him again.  He was brutally beaten with rifle butts, he had to take his shoes off and they beat the sole of his feet with rifle cleaning rods; and then he had to run in place and sing that “I lie. I always lie.”

From April 1957 to April 1958, during the investigation of his case and trial he was in various jails and prisons.  His trial was a group trial with 16 other accused.  On April 17, 1958 the verdicts were announced.  The Tutsek court sentenced him for 17 years.  His fellow freedom fighters Angyal Istvan, Szirmai Ottó, and Szél Sanyi were sentenced to death.  (Tutsek Gusztáv was known as one of the most bloodthirsty judges of the post revolution reprisal area.  We wonder where Tutsek Gusztáv is today.)

At his sentencing Angyal Pista demanded that he be executed.  “I can’t live without birdsong and without flowers.  I demand to be hanged.” he said.  He was executed on December 1, 1958.  His last words, before being hanged were: "Hungary always fought for the freedom of all mankind.  It was an honor to be the son of such a nation."

And for Szigetvári Istvan it was eleven more years of prison, pain and suffering.  Once when with a sinus infection he had to see the prison doctor, a Captain Sos, he told him “You deserve it, you should rot where you are.” (And where is Captain Sos today?)

On March 21,1969 he was released.  But his suffering did not end.  He was harassed by the police. He was ostracized.  On one occasion in a small town at a party meeting, the party secretary asked: “How long will we suffer this fascist among us?” 

But he was a good worker.  He got a job as an electrician, in a cooperative quarry.  Here he was appreciated.  In 1976 he was named an “outstanding worker”.  But in 1977 a new party secretary said with disgust:  “Don’t we have decent people here?  How can someone with his past be an outstanding worker?”

In the 1980s the police still kept on harassing him.  “…a rendőrség még mindig rajtam tartotta figyelő szemét, mert ki-kijártak a sóderbányába, hogy nem izgatok-e, például áremelés után nem hőzöngök-e, nem lázítok-e.”

In 1987 he left the cooperative and with his wife started a small animal husbandry; stuffing geese.  He had two married daughters and a 13 year old son.

In 1991He was interviewed by Laszlo Eorsi of the 1956 institute:  “If I wanted to play the hero, I would say that I am not sorry that I fought in the Revolution.” He said.  “But it is a fact that I messed up my life, because since I was seventeen I was always at a disadvantage.”   “And now,” he asks “who are recognized?  NOT the simple people who fought on the streets!”

“We should not only talk about the spirit of 56 (but the government, the citizens) should do something to help us.”  “There is no compensation for twelve years of suffering, but we should, at least, get paid a decent wage for our work while in prison”

“If there would be another revolution I would fight again.  BUT I would not stay here.”

(under the communist government-editor)

He Died In 2001.

And so, Today I am Honoring Szigetvári István, Angyal Istvan and the thousands of their fellow Freedom Fighters on the Streets of Budapest!