AFTER WORLD WAR II the formerly independent nation of Hungary, which had fought on the same side as Nazi Germany, was placed under Russian control. A large contingent of the Red Army remained in the country and a strict Communist regime was imposed by an unelected Soviet-controlled government, enforced by a brutal state secret police.
Infuriated by the strictures imposed under Communist rule during the decade that followed, in November 1956 the citizens of Budapest took to the streets in protest, calling for an end to Soviet control and the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Hungary.
At first it was a peaceful protest but when the Russians opened fire on protesters it rapidly escalated into a violent rebellion. As news of the uprising spread, young men from all over the city volunteered to become freedom fighters and, armed with a variety of antiquated weapons, fought back against the Russians. One of them was 14-year-old Gyorgy Nadasdy.
The uprising attracted a huge amount of media attention and newspaper headlines all over the world proclaimed the Hungarians as heroes for standing up to Soviet oppression. A photograph of one of the young freedom fighters wandering the rubble strewn streets with his rifle slung over his shoulder became an iconic image and was reproduced by newspapers worldwide. The boy in the photo was Gyorgy, who had no idea that he had inadvertently become world-famous.
To begin with the uprising was spectacularly successful, the Russians were driven out of the city and for a few blissful days it seemed as if the protest had achieved its objective. But it was not to last… After consolidating their forces, the Russians returned with hundreds of tanks and thousands of well-armed troops under strict orders to shoot all protesters on sight. The rebellion was ruthlessly crushed and Communist rule re-established.
Those who had taken part in the rebellion knew that it was only a matter of time before they were rounded up, arrested, imprisoned or perhaps executed. They had no choice but to flee their homeland and thousands of them made their way to the Austrian border. Gyorgy was one of them.
For him, it was the beginning of a new life in the West. He would not return to Hungary or see his family again for 25 years.
Gyorgy was reunited with his brother Peter in 1986 live on British TV on the popular show Surprise! Surprise! hosted by Cilla Black. Gyory's wife had written to the show asking if they could find Peter, who had emigrated to Australia in 1956. It was the first time the brothers had met since then.
All this and more is described in full in this entertaining and educational book.