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9: Hungary: Freedoms' Choice

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Hungary-Freedom's Choice(1)

At Kilian barracks there was such a big crowd that Peter was about to quit and go home when someone called for a truck driver, and he came forward. Peter drove "a tall colonel who seemed to be in charge" to an arms depot, called the Lamp Factory, where they loaded cases of rifles and machine guns...

Three days later Peter Szanto, full fledged Freedom Fighter, fought in the biggest tank battle of the revolution. When word reached the barracks that Russian tanks were coming, the colonel ordered complete quiet. The tanks came close to the barracks wall, but no one stirred. Some infantry appeared and shot up the building, but the Freedom Fighters did not return the fire. Finally there were 20 tanks, some 75 infantrymen, a truck, and an armored car outside the barracks. "Colonel Maleter came and looked down," recalls Peter Szanto. "He picked up a small nitroglycerin bottle and threw it at the truck. The truck disappeared in one big roar. Then we all threw nitroglycerin bottles and benzine flashes and used machine pistols on the infantry. It was a fine trick. We killed the infantry, got the truck, the armored car, and four of the tanks in about five minutes."

After that, morale at the barracks was sky-high. When citizens called up to report the presence of Russian tanks or the whereabouts of the AVH, the Freedom Fighters forayed out to do battle.

Lazlo and his friends heard Radio Budapest, in rebel hands on Oct.27, tell all factories to set up workers' councils. Lazio was one of 14 elected by secret ballot at his mill. "I thought to myself, 'My God! What is happening? Are we really practicing democracy?' I felt like crying."

"There were happy meetings everywhere," says Lazio. Everything went well until the day that the Soviet army at tacked again. The workers got 6,000 rifles from the Hungarian army, but when 87 Soviet tanks and armored cars suddenly descended on Vac, there was no resistance.

The Russians had no food, and the Vac people gave them bread and a little meat, for which the soldiers were grateful. Says Lazio: "Our people were not afraid of the Russians, and talked to them. Some of the Russians thought they were in East Germany and that they would soon meet American 'fascists' who had invaded the country. Other troops thought they were in the Suez Canal zone. Our people explained what was going on and what the Hungarian objectives were and what the Russians had done in Budapest. There was one captain who listened to all of this. He got redder and redder. We thought he was angry at us. Suddenly he threw his hat down and said: 'Bulganin and Khrushchev would rape their own mothers!' He was very angry, but not with us." [22]

1. From "Hungary - Freedom's Choice," Time, LXIX (January 7, 1957), 18-22. Courtesy TIME. Copyright Time Inc. 1957.

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