By John Toth
The country wanted freedom, democracy. The people wanted a chance to live like their counterparts in the West.
The uprising began to spread. Soon, the symbols of the controlling dictators fell, and there was hope that freedom would ring throughout the land.
They organized and began planning a democratic government that was neutral and free from outside control. They didn’t want Big Brother to dictate what they could do. They wanted to govern themselves.
The system that oppressed them seemed to have succumbed. There was hope again.
Then the Russian tanks came rolling in. They said it was just a routine troop movement. But the people knew better. There was nothing routine about it. They were there to take back what they claimed was theirs.
The people resisted. They started rounding up weapons and making Molotov cocktails to fight the powerful Russian military. They fought bravely. Many of them died. Many civilians died just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Some were standing in a breadline when a Russian troop carrier passed by, and someone opened a machine gun at the crowd. Others died as buildings collapsed. Tanks rolled through their streets shooting at anything that moved.
Russian soldiers were brutal. They shot at everything in sight.
They said they came to “liberate” the country. They said it was for the peoples’ own good.
They were going to be safe now, protected.
I’m not writing about Ukraine. This was Hungary in 1956. It could have been Czechoslovakia in 1968. The tactics don’t change, just the dictators.
The Russians rolled into Hungary at 4:15 a.m. on Nov. 4, 1956. The uprising began 12 days earlier. On Nov. 22, the fighting was over.
The Russians installed another puppet regime that ruled and enslaved Hungary for 43 years.
Hungarians are patient people. They waited for an opportunity to strike back, even with 50,000 Russian soldiers occupying their land. In 1989, they invited the Western press for a photo opportunity. They symbolically cut the barbed wire at the border between Hungary and Austria, the country next door that had thrived all that time under the West’s umbrella.
The photo made it around the world and even to East Germany, where thousands of people decided to travel to the border in hopes of escaping from East Germany and be reunited with their families in the West. The East’s brain drain began.
A few months later, the Berlin Wall became useless and fell. Not long after that, Germany was reunited, and the Soviet Union dissolved.
The Hungarians had to wait more than four decades to get their country back and avenge what took place in 1956. I hope the Ukranians don’t have to wait that long, or maybe even never lose their country.
The West is behaving differently today than in 1956. Not perfectly, but differently enough to give the Ukranians a fighting chance. Unlike in Hungary. Molotov cocktails go just so far before the tanks take over and those who throw them are killed.
The failure of the 1956 Hungarian revolution changed many lives, including mine. I was one of the lucky ones to get out. My mother and I finally succeeded in 1966.
God bless the people of Ukraine and their fight against their big-bully neighbor. I wish with all my heart that they succeed.
(Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, write to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX 77516.)