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Chapter 8 - October 1951 to March 9, 1953

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I.                   October 1951 to March 9, 1953

A.     Apartment on Lövöház Utca

Our flat was on the first floor of Lövöház street 32. [VAS: In Hungary, the “first floor” is the floor above ground level, so for American readers, think of this as the second floor.]  The apartment was a beautiful modern building, 4 stories tall. This was the last apartment building on the street.  Next to this was Marczibányi Square, where is where the famous Rose Hill quarter of Buda starts, with its beautiful houses, villas and palaces. The name Rose Hill came from Gül Baba, a high-ranking government official who had planted roses all over the area when he lived there.

 

 


 One of the communist "comrades" had been given a three-bedroom, fully-furnished home from the Ministry where he worked. But being a simple worker, he needed money more than a glorious place to live. So he placed an advertisement in the newspaper to rent part of his home, and we responded to it.

 

The home had a front room.  To the right of that was a servant’s room, water closet and bathroom.  To the left was a big kitchen.  And at the end of it was another large room, which had doors to two separate bedrooms. The bedroom on the right had a door that opened into the bathroom, and from there into the front room.  The landlord was renting out the servant’s room, bathroom, and bedroom on the right side. We immediately saw the opportunity to use the servant’s room as a small kitchen, and we could get to the bedroom through the bathroom.  We closed the bedroom door that opened into the large room, and we placed a dresser to prevent it from opening.  The dresser also dampened the sound. The landlord never used the bathroom, and in this way we never bothered him by coming and going into our bedroom.

 

 

[VAS: This is the layout he described (not to scale), where the W/C and servant’s room might be swapped. The landlord had the blue rooms, while Elek and Adi rented out the yellow rooms. They both had some access to the green rooms.]

 

Because the servant’s room did not have a fireplace, we had to cook in the main kitchen.  We paid half the month rent, but of course, we were only subtenants. 

 

Unfortunately, the landlord would not share the basement where we could have stored wood and coal for fire.  During the winter months, this created a great hardship for me because my parents lived on the other side of Budapest, and that’s where I had to bring coal from.  To do that, I had to transport 100 kg bags of coal from their cellar to my apartment.  To do this, I had to carry these bags on my shoulder from their basement to the trolley station, which was about 600 meters away.  It was not permitted to take coal on the trolley, so I had to wait until late at night when hardly anyone was travelling, and that’s when I dragged the sack of coal and onto the last door of the last car.  Fortunately, the ticket agents did not bother me and require me to get off.  In the middle of the city, I had to transfer trolleys to get on the line that stopped at Szena Square, the one closest to my apartment.  From there, I had to carry the sack another 700 to 800 meters, and then lift it to the first floor [VAS: second floor].  I had to do this every week, because I didn’t know anyone with a car, and taxis were so expensive that it wasn’t worth it.  But I was young and strong, so I made a sport of it.

 

Apart from this, it was also unpleasant that we did not have warm water. We had to wash and shave in cold water.  In the winter, the room had a coal-burning stove that could provide heat.  Every night we had to clean the ashes from the stove, and then we could start a fire with wood to start burning new coal.  At least once every month we had to dismantle the stove pipes to clean out the soot and ashes that had built up in them.  Fortunately, we had access to a bathroom, and I could use the bathtub to do this cleaning. I could wash myself off after all this dirty work was done, albeit only with freezing cold water. 

 

Those who lived through that time know what life was like.  But those who are reading this history will never truly understand how awful it was. 

 

One winter evening while I was studying, I heard an unusual sound coming from the bathroom.  I opened the door and saw a terrifying light in the darkness of the bathroom.  I could see a fiery flame burning in the upper left corner of the room.  I was so panic-stricken that I could not move. When I recovered my senses after a few second, I saw that a mass of newspaper that had been shoved into the stove opening was burning.  With a broom handle I picked out the burning paper and flung it into the bathtub, where I doused it with water.  These kinds of incidents could create a "chimney fire" that could result in an entire building burning down.  Fires are always dangerous and you have to be very careful of the risk of fire. 

 

But despite all these things, I was a young 22-year-old wrestling champion.  Others were old, sick, and crippled, and they lived in much worse and destitute circumstances.  But despite all this, we were very happy because we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted to do in our apartment, we didn't have to adapt to anyone’s rules, and nobody bothered us.

Spring, summer, and autumn were beautiful.  Huge trees provided cool shade and clean air on the streets.  At the time, humankind’s greatest curse – the automobile – was not yet poisoning the air, and there was peace and quiet everywhere. Transport was very good with trolleys and buses, which were clean and fast.  People were helpful, polite and friendly to each other.  I took me 20 minutes to travel to the Technology University, and I could read while travelling.

 

B.                 Continued studies and summer military training

Learning went well and the winter months flew by.  During that academic year we studied national defense and other military topics. 

 

During the summer holiday, they took everyone for a month of military training where we had practical combat training.  It was nothing new to me because of my military school background.  And it became immediately obvious to everyone that I had previously been involved with such things. The result was that every summer when promotions were given out, I always got the highest promotion.  The biggest and most dangerous problem for me was that I could not tolerate the communist lies and I constantly got into arguments with the political science professors, and created danger for my future.  The Communists reported everything to the Party, and they had already received many complaints about my along political lines.

 

After the first two years everyone had to decide which engineering specialty they wanted to pursue. With the rapid development of technology, the field of mechanical engineering was specializing in different areas: heavy industry, light industry, tool design, gear design, aerodynamics, hydraulics, thermodynamics just to mention a few.  Since I already chosen to work on engines at flight school, I selected thermodynamics as my specialty.  This consisted of working with diesel engines and gasoline engines for vehicles, as well as jet engines. 

 

The mechanical engineering class had started with 650 people, but after two years, almost half had been weeded out.  Of the remaining 350 students, only about 30 of us (fewer than 10%) selected thermodynamics.  Of those 30, the Vehicle Transportation Research Institute (“ATUKI”) offered the top four students an opportunity to take a part-time job for 20 hours per week, and it paid them 600 forint per month, which was about half of an engineer’s salary.  This also created a path for us to work there after graduation as a career.  I was one of the four selected for this, so I worked at ATUKI during my third year. I added 600 forint per month to my 500 forint scholarship. A few months later I started teaching the ATUKI-led Art Training Course, where I earned another 600-800 forint per month.  This meant I was earning 150% percent of an engineer’s salary.

 

C.                 Pregnancy

Since we were doing so well financially, Adi very much wanted to have a child. Like most men, I didn’t want to have children yet. I was afraid of having children because the political situation was not going in a good direction, and there was an ominous but undefinable tension vibrating in the air. I think if the decisions to have children were left to men, there wouldn’t be half as many children born.  But now, future mothers are the deciding voice. 

 

Adi became pregnant in the spring [of 1952].  Her excitement was infectious, and she even got me excited about the coming baby.


 

D.                Summer after third year.

After we finished my third year, we went to the Veszprém area for the summer military exercises.  As mechanical engineers, they trained us as artillery gunners. I never understood why they didn’t train us to operate tanks, which have more in common with diesel engines.  But it’s impossible to figure out what people in power think when the military is concerned. 

 

So we got artillery training.  Every 8-10 soldiers received a cannon, and throughout the month we pushed that cannon mountains and down valleys, until even this sight of it made us nauseous. They didn't give a horse or tractor, it was left to us to push it everywhere we went, sometimes marching, other times in a hard run.

 

It is not very easy to place a cannon into firing position, where everything has to be precisely level, otherwise it is impossible to target precisely. 

 

Well, it was a good thing they didn’t give us any ammunition, otherwise we would have surely shot ourselves to pieces with our great expertise.  But without ammunition, who the hell had any interest in pushing around an ugly steel pipe on two wheels for a month?

About midway through on one Sunday, they gave us permission to hike down to Lake Balaton, where we spent a full day swimming.

 

But it was also a typical military outing.  We hiked about 15 km, and by the time we got to Lake Balaton it was almost noon.  The military had not told us in advance about this trip, and they only told us after we arrived at the lake that we could invite our families to spend a few hours with us.  I called Adi and she came down from Budapest on the afternoon express train. But by the time she arrived, we could only spend 1-2 hours together before the last train left.  With her being halfway through her pregnancy, we ran back to the train, but she almost missed it. 

 

This is how the month of military training passed. At the end, I was once again received the highest rank promotion as an artillery commander sergeant. 

 

This would became the highest rank I ever earned in the communist army.  A year later, when my classmates became officers following three months of officer-training in the summer, I was slaving away as a political prisoner in a mine, where I had been sentenced to 30 months of imprisonment for anti-communist "incitement.”   As a former political criminal, I could never become an officer in the Hungarian Communist Army.  But as the past 40 years have witnessed, I survived this enormously shameful punishment, and I will not shed a tear about it.

 

E.                  Baby Adi arrives.

Our first child was born in November 1952.  Our little girl was as beautiful as a fairy. We christened her with the name Adrienn after her mama.

 

With this little baby, the winter quickly passed. We washed an enormous number of diapers, and I carried even more coal on my shoulders because with Adi at home with baby on maternity leave, the fire burned all day.

 

It would have been really nice to have a slightly bigger and more comfortable apartment, but unfortunately we weren’t that lucky.  With all the baby crying, bathing, feeding, and the like, I had a much harder time learning than before. But in just three short months, this problem was solved in a horribly drastic way. 

 

II.                Political prisoner

A.                 Stalin and his death

On March 6, 1953, Stalin died.  He was the dictator and bloodthirsty executioner of the Soviet Union.  A library could be filled with books describing how he was the most horrific butcher in world history, and I do not intend to write another book about it.  There has never been another mass murderer like him in all of human history. 

 

Since the 1917 communist revolution, following Stalin’s orders, the communist police slaughtered more than 70 million Christians in the Soviet Union.  This does not include the countless millions of others around the world who have also fall victim to Stalin’s politics.  Since 1917, there were at least 200 million victims of communism across the earth.  Stalin's policy caused a Soviet Holocaust. From the communal land pogroms until 1929-1933, when everyone had to turn over their land to the state-controlled economy under communal ownership, continuing with the rounding up of the poor peasants, Stalin’s generalized reign of terror only ended when he died.

 

Millions of innocent men, women, and children were tortured, beaten to death, brutally deported, executed or imprisoned in murderous prisons and forced labor camps.  This was a time when an evil cult of men who followed Stalin carried out the devil’s work throughout the earth.  It was a kingdom of pure evil, where human life had no value. In a very short period of history – barely a quarter of a century – he confiscated all land from the landowners, all factories from factory owners, all intellectual property from creative minds, and he even took away the most basic rights of all people throughout the Soviet Union, such as the right to free movement and relocation. 

 

And through all this, innocent people were killed by the millions.  This was a true crime, the "crime of the century." 

 

It is understandable that when the news of Stalin’s death was announced, hundreds of millions took a breath and dared to hope that perhaps the communist terror would end, perhaps even communism itself.  Unfortunately, that was not to be. 

 

Stalin and the Stalinist cult would not end simply because it might bring joy and prosperity to mankind; it would instead survive and bring misery to millions more for decades, destroying all that is beautiful and good, all that is Christian, noble and cultured.

 

B.                 The troubles begin

After Stalin's death, everyone expressed their views about Stalin, communism, the intolerable oppressions and injustices, and their hope for change.  Meanwhile, the network of communist spies recorded everything and reported it to the Party, where they analyzed who said what, and decided how big much danger such people posed for the government’s power.  

 

I too shared my opinions about the deceased mass murderer Stalin, and his whole garbage gang of communists.  I’m sure that no printer would have dared to repeat the thoughts I expressed.

 

[VAS: When Elek told me stories about this, he would describe eating lunch with his classmates at the cafeteria and openly expressing to them his hatred of Stalin for what he had done.]

 

I did not imagine that one of my classmates would turn me in to the Communist Party for “rebellious” speech.  It was a Friday or Saturday when a spy turned me in.  Even before this, I already had plenty of problems with the communists and their many lies, not least of which was that I had attended a military school that was anti-communist. But with this latest accusation, they must have decided that I was too dangerous to the party and it would be best to silence me. 

 

C.                 Arrested by AVH

On March 9, 1953, at 10 p.m., they rang the bell to the front room of my apartment. The little baby had been bathed and was already sleeping, and we too were getting ready for bed. We couldn’t imagine who would visit us at such an unusual time.  The landlords usually went to bed around 9 pm, but even beside that, nobody ever came to visit them.

 

The door from the hallway to the front room had two windows that could be opened. The windows had forged-steel security bars, which prevented the ability to reach in and open the door when the windows were left open in the summer.  Because it was late at night, I opened one of the little windows and asked, “Who is it?”

 

Three harsh and intimidating men stood at the door. One showed me his photo ID, which was a blood red color.

 

He said, “State Defense Authority, please open the door.”  I did this right away.

 

“What is your name?”

 

“Sipos Elek,” I responded.

 

He said, "I'm arresting you on behalf of the State Protection Authority. We will now search your home.  Step away from the door.”

 

A fear of death overcame me and I completely froze. My legs felt as if they had grown roots into the ground.  I had never been arrested in my life, but especially not by the ÁVH, the police of the communist party that caused all mortals to tremble from the terrible reputation that preceded them. Those taken by the ÁVH were usually never again seen again because they were either condemned to various mines for many years, where they were destroyed over the course of years, or they were beaten to death during interrogations and horrific torture. 

 

In Debrecen, from the balcony of our apartment on Piac Street, I could see into the courtyard of a large apartment building that was usually concealed by a large gate.  The political police had used this building as a school and they used the building for years until they built their own barracks.

 

Those cops became members of AVH, and of course they had their distinctive uniforms and a terrible reputation for the cruel methods they used.  These police often mingled with the population in civilian clothing and listened for people who might say something critical about communism. 

 

Countless times I watched these police bring an unfortunate man or woman into this courtyard. As soon as they got inside the courtyard and closed the gate, they started to hit and kick those unfortunate souls until they could no longer stand, and then two AVH police officers would drag them across the ground and into the building.

Those murderous animals received special recognition and promotions for cruelty. They had become so animalistic that they would have been capable of dragging their own mothers into that building and beating them to death.  All of this flashed through my mind while I stood there completely frozen in panic as the three civilian suits came in through the door. 

 

Even there in the entry way, they searched me to see if I had any guns or knives.  Meanwhile, Adi came out of the room and saw what was happening.  The police went into our little room and started their search.

 

The three of them turned everything upside down, the mattresses of the beds were tossed to the side and the drawers of the cabinets were rolled out. We had 2,000 forint in cash in one of the drawers, they counted it, and when we told them that was our savings, they threw it on top of the table where everyone could see it.  They did not take it.  They asked if I had a gun hidden anywhere, or if a had any hidden political propaganda.  Of course, I had no such thing.  But they overturned everything through the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen for an hour. 

 

Meanwhile, the two of us sat in the bedroom on the edge of our bed.  I racked my brain trying to figure out what they might accuse me of, or why were searching for propaganda or weapons, for which were items that you use to accuse someone of espionage, for which they the penalty was typically death.  But before that, they would torture a person to the verge of death to learn the names of the others whom they would likewise arrest.  Many times, they beat to death innocent people who truly knew nothing, had no role in any underground movement, and died innocently only because someone had reported their name.  It was horrifying to even think that I could be beaten to death when I truly did not know anyone or anything about secret things.

 

The intense anxiety caused me to have diarrhea.  Of the three ÁVH police officers, one was constantly watching us. I told him I had to use the toilet.  We went out to the front room which had the door leading to the WC.  He did not let me close the toilet door.  He stood there and watched me struggle with diarrhea.  I could have cried from the shame and humiliation. But I did not dare show my emotion in front of Adi, she was crying and trembling from fear so much that I did not want her to see that I too was deathly afraid.  I think her mind was also racing.  At that moment, our future did not appear very encouraging. 

 

In their great search, they found my lifelong learning award and my flood protection award.  Unfortunately, they took those away, and I never saw them again, although they should have been returned after I was released from prison.

 

D.                Being taken away

After a solid hour of searching, I was told to get dressed because they were taking me with them.  It was terrifying to see Adi cry in a totally decompensated condition.  I kissed my little daughter, and then Adi. And then we left.

 

Waiting at the road was a car with a fourth AVH policeman.  The car could fit five people, two in front and three in the back. I was placed in the back seat between two police officers, and then taken to the AVH center next to the Keleti Railway Station. 

 

Words cannot describe what I felt while riding in the car to the AVH Center.  My mind was flooded with horror stories that circulated about the AVH,  about the unimaginable fate suffered by the many hundreds of thousands who had been dragged away who had never heard about again. 

 

I was 24 years old, a young married man.  I had not even graduated with my engineering degree yet.  It was incredibly difficult to deal with thoughts of being beaten to death, or tortured to death, or that they would grind me up in the meat grinder said to be in the AVH building that was located on the shores of the Danube. According to the news, six floors underground there was an enormous torture chamber where dead people were simply minced up in a massive meat grinder and dumped out into the Danube River. 

 

I do not know how I could endure those minutes without going absolutely mad thinking about the unimaginable terrors that awaited me.

 

 

 

 

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