Last Monday was the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolt against the Soviet Union. Oct 23, 1956 was probably the most important date for Hungarians in the 20th Century. It was the height of the Cold War and thousands of young students had had enough of tyrannical and corrupt Soviet rule. Fighting ensued and the Russian troops were actually driven out for a week or so by the brave young Hungarian fighters who didn't have much weaponry or equipment to speak of.
Unfortunately, although the Voice of America and other U.S. and European diplomats had implied that the Hungarians--and other oppressed European countries suffering under communism--would receive western and U.S. assistance if they rose up to "roll back" communism, we didn't act to help the poor Hungarians. The Russians sent back in a massive group of armored tanks and then brutally crushed the Hungarian uprising, killing at least 2000 people (similar to our 9-11 death toll actually). You can still see many bullet holes on the beautiful old buildings throughout Budapest. Much of the worst fighting took place near the Corvin Cinema, which is nearby where Ivy's brother Miki lives. In front of the Corvin Cinema, there is a statue of a young Hungarian freedom fighter with a gun.
Last week Ivy and I talked a lot about what a tragedy for Hungary it was to have the Russians occupy them for over 40 years and impose their corrupt, inefficient, unjust, hypocritical and immoral communist system upon this nation. For decades, people couldn't leave the country and had to live in unpleasant "commie condos" and either queue up or sign up on a waiting list for things most of us Americanos talk for granted: fresh fruit, appliances or a car (only a Trabant, Wartburg, Skoda or--if you're lucky and could afford it--a Lada were allowed). Also, there were restrictions on where you could travel: the hot (or rather, the only) destinations were: Stalingrad, Bulgaria, the Ukraine... As much as America and Western Europe is overly materialistic and focused on acquisition and consumption, we should all be grateful for the genuine freedom to go where we want to, buy what we prefer and speak, believe and worship freely