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Everydays in Hungary under Russian occupation

Updated on February 2, 2015

Foreigners in my country

I heard a lot about the Great Soviet Union since my early childhood . I knew that they were the ones who saved us from the fascists during the WWII .

But I had to face the fact that they not only saved us but they were living in my country .I discovered that only when we moved to a new town with my family .And ooh my, in what a large number they remained with us ...!

Why are the Soviet people live in our country ?

Why are they here ?

But as I did not get clear answer on how the baby is created in the womb of the woman similarly I got only vague explanations for the presence of the Russians in Hungary .

1970 's Mum , who are these people ?

I was around 8 years old when we left our charming hometown and moved to an another area .The new town was very strange for me . It was full of historical buildings and some strange families.They used to stroll along our compound .They were carrying carpets usually . They were heading to their own compound which was around a kilometer far .

"Mum - who are these people ?"- I asked

"These are the Russians or they are called the Soviet as well ."

"What are they doing here ?"

"Protecting us from the enemy !"

But we can protect ourselves ! My father is working for the Hungarian army !Why are they here ?

But as I did not get clear answer on how the baby is created in the womb of the woman similarly the presence of the Russians remained a mystery for me as well .

Cultural differences

I went to have music lessons to the historical town center . The historical building where my school was found and where Franz Liszt had given a concert long time ago was partially given to Russian officers and their families . At the historical windows there were strings of smoked fish hanging . That was the sign of a Russian family .The Hungarians used to put strings of red pepper or nothing . For us eating smoked fish sounded very strange . As Hungary has no access to the sea - fish is not so common and not eaten smoked .It seemed that for the Russians it was a kind of staple food .

Then their bread .We often saw them carrying some black bread unwrapped .That was also known only from stories - that the poor used to eat black bread in the past .

At weekends they used to walk to the town .Grown up men or women hand in hand .It was a sign of friendship for them .For us it was just a childish thing to laugh at .

My Russian play mates

Lena , Irina , Alek . After some years they returned to Russia . That was the law of their own.One family was allowed to stay only 3-4 years then others were sent . They disappeared for ever from our life ...Most probably they were not allowed to keep in touch with us anymore after they moved back.


Young Soviet Boys Looking from Car Window

Playing with Russian children

My brother was in the 5 th grade .It was the time when every child in Hungary had to start to learn Russian . There was no choice : learning English , German ,French ?

Only from age 14 and one was forced to learn Russian all over his studies until he graduated . The Russian was hated -other languages were not available .

That was not the case for my brother . He enjoyed learning Russian - and he was able to communicate to the Russian kids soon .

He found a very good friend : Andrej - a blond Ukrainian boy . They were a lot together and were playing chess , were riding their bikes ,or went for a picnic .

I wished very much to learn Russian myself .Then I was so happy to be able to communicate a little . We used to go in summer to their compounds . they had very nice things there and a little swimming pool .We were welcomed and I had some play mates : Lena , Irina , Alek . After some years they returned to Russia . That was the law of their own.One family was allowed to stay only 3-4 years then others were sent . They disappeared for ever from our life ...Most probably they were not allowed to keep in touch with us .

It was sad .. So after our friends left we did not look for friendship with the newcomers .

Visiting the Russian Barrack

I was around twelve when our teachers gave us some drawings and a letter and told us to go to the Russian school to invite them for a friendly contest . The school was found inside the barrack of the Red Army .

That was the first time that I was there . I was surprised to see that like they had a little town there inside : there was cinema ,clothes shop , grocery , outpatient clinics .

We were welcomed by the principal .He was strikingly intelligent and had very fine manners as he talked to us .Everything around the school and the teachers had so special atmosphere .Only selected teachers were allowed to come to Hungary to teach the Russian officers' children . It was like a great reward .Hungary was so much better place than Russia !

Gourmet Russian - items from Amazon

The interschool contest

How I won against a Russian guy

I do not remember much .There was a Russian team competing with the Hungarians .They kept winning . We were in the gymnasium .

Then the teacher told .

"each team has to send a contestant to climb up the rope " There came a big Russian guy with big muscles. As nobody else was willing to contest with him then I went there . Climbing up the rope used to be my favorite sport ! The thin little girl was up in a second and saw the big guy being very very furious .

Ooooh my , how nice feeling it was !

The mystery of my first Russian penpal

Was she real ?

As we learned some Russian our teacher had offered us to look for penfriends in Russia .I wished very much to communicate to someone in Russian so I applied for one .Soon I got a letter from her .It saddened me . She wrote that her father had just died near the Chinese border .He was an army officer .

We had heard about China -Russia border clashes which took the life of two soldiers .

"How very strange that exactly one of these two victims child is writing me now ! "

When I mentioned it to my teacher she seemed to be very upset .She wanted to see that letter at once and she took it to the principal .They forbade me to write again to this penfriend . No explanation !

So I did not hear about her anymore .

But I learned two interesting things later :

1. In fact not two soldiers died at the Chinese border clashes - but hundreds !

2. Most of the Russian "pen pals " were not real - just some Russian political propaganda agency's work .

So ,what would you think about the whole matter ? Was she real ?

After reading my story what do you think ?

Was my penfriend a real Russian child or just some propaganda agency wrote me ?

See results

My teacher speaks up against the regime

I was still at the secondary school . Our teacher of librarianship , a fine , highly educated man made a speech against the regime of Hungary .

We were all shocked . Some years later I learned that one of our classmates whose father used to be in high position at the local communist party used to call his dad at such occasions . "Dad ! Again he got this attack "let's change the regime " ! "

At such cases he was threatened that he will be forced for a treatment at the psychiatry .Sometimes he was forced to be there .

I was shocked to see how the local health care is collaborating with some evil powers . I felt at times I will suffocate in my own country . I felt I needed some fresh air !

I wished to go out form Hungary very much at least for a short trip !

Why was I not allowed to travel

As I was growing up I missed more and more traveling abroad . I had thought that my parents are not interested in it - and I decided to travel abroad as soon as I am 18 and can decide on this on my own .

When i told about it to my father he invited me for a chat .

" Have you noticed that nobody travels in the family ,nor your uncle or aunt does . ? "

"Do you think it was just due to our lack of interest ?

No , most probably nobody is allowed out from our family .

The he told me the story of my grandfather a prominent catholic thinker and artist.And about the 1950s when though granddad was already dead but still his past devotion to the church meant danger for the remaining family members . It was the time when a lots of families were deported into punishment camps .So much suffering ,humiliation and even death was their fate there . My grandma with her kids were living in fear during long years .

Then instead of deporting them - they gave them good education as they grew up .. Later even important and delicate position was waiting for them - but the label was still on them "suspicious background " .So when my uncle got a job - he was told that he should never apply for a passport going to western countries or elsewhere because simply he will never get any .The same applied for his siblings and children .

I was shocked hearing that story which had never been told me before .

My father told me that they may harass me after applying ." The simple fact that you apply may result in being under observation after ." "They will read your letters and tap our phone !"

"Better not to do so !" -was the final word of my father .

But I wished to travel very much . I applied for a passport for the"friendly countries " alone .It meant the other communist countries in the area and the great Soviet Union . To the greatest shock of our senior family members I got it ! The winds of change were blowing in Hungary then !

I rushed to the travel agency to book a package tour to Tbilisi ,Georgia .

We got only Sochi - told the travel agent .

But look it is only 200 km from Tbilisi . You will visit it during your holiday !

I visited Russia and guess whom I met there in large numbers

So my brother and me we went to the Soviet Union for a luxury seaside holiday .

Sochi was the name of the place . A great resort by the Black sea . We were staying in a luxury hotel and everything was wonderful around us .It was a great adventure .I met so many western people there ! It was full of Americans . I would not have ever supposed that .We were in 1984 .Moreover - they did look to be in high position .They were there with their families and stayed reserved .They did not mix with the others !

Later in my life I worked with American tourists a lot .I know that they are always open for a chat and they are rather curious and anything but reserved .

So even nowadays I can not tell you who on the earth those people might have been !

We met also a lots of British and Scandinavian people there !

And what about my trip to Georgia ? The hotel's travel agent informed me that it is forbidden to roam the great Soviet Union on my own . Simply they did not organize a tour to Tbilisi and there was no way to go there !

Banana shortage and political mood control

In the market of CMEA there was a huge demand for the Hungarian food. The Hungarian food industry flourished, chocolates, jams, cheese, prepared frozen /canned dishes, baby food, salami were available for the customers at the stores. Bulgarians jams, canned Russian fish, Georgian tea was available as well. Imported fruits were also available - but the banana. Ever since then I do not understand why the banana was so rarely on the shelves. I was in the Soviet Union, and there was banana in the store. In Poland I saw that there was banana in the marketplace. In Hungary we had it only once or twice a year .. When the banana supply arrived then people would stand in long lines to buy from it. Living in Budapest I have also noticed that when the people were dissatisfied with the life they had then suddenly bananas appeared on the markets . So no one thought of uprising against the regime anymore ... but ran for the banana ...

the afghan war and changing russian attitude

I remember a nice summer day sitting in the yard of our compound when the men started to criticize the soviet occupation of Afghanistan .I could not understand a lot about it . Then a year later we noticed that some Russians walking towards their compounds have strange behavior: they were wearing Cardin clothes ,smelling by French perfumes, and were behaving like the new rich bum . Then we learnt that some of them became very rich in Afghanistan...

I protested in the street with 10 thousand other people

In my twenties I moved to Budapest to our capital .I felt better there at that time .Lots of universities with students -lots of intellectuals - the spirit of the city was better than the spirit of the countryside . On our national day after the official celebration I happened to find myself in a crowd .I just wanted to place a flower at our national poet Petofi's statue - when the crowd of students just came to the same place .I found myself shouting for freedom for more rights among 10 thousand protesters .It was a cold spring day and I was not dressed for staying out hours . But I did not catch cold at all . The happiness we all felt prevented me from that .It was like we were taking part in a movie .As we were walking in the residential area windows opened with happy people and they were cheering with us .When we were strolling along an avenue then a Soviet school bus was blocked by the crowd . Some people were banging the bus shouting "Go home " .The driver was scared to death .It must have been bad for the kids as well ...

Our demonstration did not result in regime change - but all we felt that the government had hard time because of those manifestations .

The last kiss

Things that we did not hope had happened . The Russians had left our country after four decades . Many of them complained - they did not have enough room for those families who lived abroad . Their accommodation was not solved when they returned .

Suddenly you could hear the voice of " brave" Hungarians . Many of my compatriots started to speak up against them when there was nothing to fight against ...

One of the political party made a poster . Our leader who called them into the country was kissing with one Soviet leader . The famous Slav kiss on the lips . it was written on it " Camarade -it is over "

Suddenly the church was full of ex-communists . One day they were cheering for the Soviets the day after they went to church .

It was a good lesson for me on human nature ...

God Bless the Hungarians

Yet there is one thing I do not understand ! after all the atheist propaganda we got how and why we managed to keep our national anthem even during the darkest periods . At every celebration we sang " God bless the Hungarians with good mood and wealth "

Just before or after the Soviet anthem !

Capitalism is exploitation of man by man. Socialism is the opposite.

Plain my plaine , Polhjuska pole - A great hit in the Soviet Era

The red army 's chorus is singing

Joke of that era

Comrade Brezhnev was a great hero.He received in his life almost all the awards what he could. Except for one. This one he could not get however much he wanted. Which was the award?

Hero Mother

© 2009 almawad

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    • almawad profile image
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      almawad 4 years ago

      Thank You ! Every era has frightening and more joyful aspects - I think .I suffered mostly by the "nothing changes year after year" feeling ... the same leaders /the same slogans /the same singers /the same pop stars during decades . I did not know that you had Soviets in Croatia... you see I still naivly believe that you belonged to the neutral countries :)

    • terracroatia profile image

      terracroatia 4 years ago

      A great and detailed lens about this sad era!

      I can also recall some memories from that time. I remember being in a camp with children of Russian families. When I tried to make friends with my poor Russian knowledge I was very surprised that all children replied the same to my question: "My father is a soldier." As a child I didn't understand how it was possible...

    • profile image

      sheezie77 5 years ago

      Great article, nicely done!

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 5 years ago

      Every American should read this lens.

    • almawad profile image
      Author

      almawad 5 years ago

      Thank you for coming and reading this .

    • profile image

      PrettyWorld 6 years ago

      Wonderful lens - so interesting!

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 6 years ago

      Great story! it reminded me when my mother went back to Germany(every 2 years) she decide to go to Hungary, this was in 1951..and she almost did not get back out. I can't imagine why she would have done that, having to small immigrant children back in the US..but she did make it back and someday I hope to visit there.

    • profile image

      DigitalDreambuilder 7 years ago

      A fascinating personal account of your background, my own experiences of the 'troubles' in Ireland in the Civil Rights movement in Ireland pale into insignificance compared to what you and your family endured.

      Hard to realise what changes have happened since then. I'm sure old soviet leaders would turn in their grave if they were to watch the Red Army now as they play Southern Rock music like this www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lNFRLrP014

    • almawad profile image
      Author

      almawad 7 years ago

      There was a terrible side of the story for sure : being occupied and living close to weapons of mass destruction -as later we learnt about it ....or going to Tengiz area ,Soviet Union and work for them in hope of a good salary and better living standard then dieing from a mysterious disease ... as one of my ex boss did .. bu there were other things as well ; we were young , we loved the life and there was job for everybody and crime rate was very low ...

    • profile image

      poutine 7 years ago

      A fascinating narration of some terrible years for you and your people.

      May you have a better life now.

      Poutine

    • BFunivcom profile image

      Allan R. Wallace 7 years ago from Wherever Human Rights Reign

      How different from my upbringing, and yet how similar. There was love with family and friends, but so many inconsistencies in my coerced education. As the inconsistencies have grown over the years, so many have become complicit in actively ignoring falsehoods to embrace in a soviet kiss. It is so easy for them to shout praise to whoever is ahead at the moment rather than think and act for themselves. They are like chicks content to stay in the egg.

      May you find and live your best in life.

    • almawad profile image
      Author

      almawad 8 years ago

      Thank you for reading this article .People were desperate in 1956 that is why they went to the street to ask for reforms . My mum used to be a student in Budapest starving in a country where there was plenty of food - just it was exported .It is still unknown who were the snipers who shot the peaceful demonstrators .After that everything went out of control .

      I was a little girl during Kadar then. Hungary had a second silent revolution 1968 or so - with economical reforms . Hungary was forced to stop those reforms then !

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 8 years ago from Michigan

      Alma, you must be extremely proud of your folks....and rightly so.

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 8 years ago from Michigan

      Alma, you must be extremely proud of your folks....and rightly so.

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 8 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you for this excellent lens about this very interesting subject, Alma, and for sharing your personal experience. I remember long ago reading an excellent novel by James Mitchener about the Hungarian revolution. It was called, 'The Bridge At Andau." And I remember, too, the "Prague Spring" in 1968 when checks tried a different way to shed Soviet chains...but with the same outcome. The problem is that too many in the West do not have what it takes tostand with the brave people in captive countries when they stand up to confront tyranny. We can see it today in the Middle East. Lebanon is just one example. Iran and Syria are doing to Lebanon through their Hezbollah proxies what the Soviets did to Hungary through Rakosi and Kadar.

    • almawad profile image
      Author

      almawad 8 years ago

      Hi Aquawel !

      yes , many people believed that in the West everything is perfect . And many of us believed that - how not - when we were closed into our country ?

      Since we can travel and we see the world we understand better our values and our weak points as well .

      I am happy that I was born a Hungarian tough the atmosphere in the 1980s was sometimes suffocating for me ..in the countryside ...

    • Aquavel profile image

      Aquavel 8 years ago

      A very interesting lens and life experience. 5*s. I visited a friend in "Czechoslovakia" when it was under communist rule. It was a small town with few foreigners or visitors. At first the townspeople thought I was Russian and they were scared. They had so much taken away from them in the name of Communism. It was 1969 - the summer of Woodstock in America. All my young friends at home were so anti-government. The family I was staying with secretly idealized the USA. The summer was a real eye opener.

    • almawad profile image
      Author

      almawad 8 years ago

      Thank you for your nice comment ! Yes , I am planning to add few more stories on that era .

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      ratso 8 years ago

      An interesting and fascinating read, I hope you post additional stories of your past here in the future. 5*