Speech of László Papp on October 23 in Wallingfordban

Speech of László Papp on October 23 in Wallingfordban

Ezerkilencszázötvenhat, nem emlék,
nem múlt vagy nékem, nem történelem,
de húsom-vérem, lényem egy darabja,
szívem, gerincem - kijöttél velem...

Yes, as the poet Faludy György reminds us, we are here today not to remember a historical event, but to testify that 1956 is part of our being and it is with us every day.

Our testimony proves that the might of an oppressive power can crash a small nation, but can never suppress our yearning for freedom. Our uprising finally proved to the world that freedom will ultimately win.

Let me remember those memorable days: By the time the Radio had broadcast the Government’s decree forbidding any demonstrations, at two o’clock on October 23 the column of students from the Technical University had already passed the Freedom Bridge and Calvin Square. Students from Eötvös Lorand University and many people from offices and apartments joined. The marchers were moving toward the Bem statute and Kossuth Square.

The demonstration after the fight at the radio station and the “bloody Thursday” at the Parliament, turned into a nationwide revolution, which was successful for thirteen days.


Every factory, workplace and office elected a Revolutionary Council to replace the communist leadership, and in my architect office I was elected to be the chairman of our Council.

The glorious days of victory ended in deceit and brutal attack by overwhelming Soviet forces. Imre Nagy’s call to arms was heard at the wee hours of November 4th. Next day a few of us, mostly students from the nearby Technical University kept vigil in an apartment facing one of Budapest’s major thoroughfares, Moricz Zsigmond Plaza. It was a mild fall day, all windows were open. “Molotov cocktails” were lined up on the windowsills. And we waited....

We were waiting for the Russians and for the Americans. Russian tanks and American diplomats. We assumed that we can destroy the Russian tanks like it was done before at the Ring. But now they did not come close, they were shooting with their cannons from the distance.

While watching the streets, our ears were glued to the shortwave radio broadcast of the Voice of America transmitting directly from the U.N. headquarters in New York. The debate of the “Hungarian situation” was going on.


We were convinced that if we could delay the Soviet’s “final solution” for a few days, the international community would prevent the destruction of our newly gained freedom. Help did not come, but the Russians came, and our building, along with most of the city was destroyed.

Failed revolutions can, however, become historically potent forces. The Hungarian revolution proved to be the first nail in the Soviet’s coffin. It took 35 years, but the decline of the Soviet Union -  in economic crisis and increasing pressure by reformist groups demanding freedom, democracy and national autonomy - finally prevailed. The last occupying Soviet troops left Hungary on June 19, 1991. Russian aggression, however, did not disappear from the world as we can see it today. Vigilance is needed as it did 63 years ago.

“ Hungary did more than any other nation for freedom and for truth....The blood of the Hungarians has been too precious for Europe and for freedom...” -wrote the French writer, Albert Camus. The thirteen days that shook the Kremlin finally triumphed.

Now it is time to bow our heads remembering the heroes who gave their life for freedom.

Thank you for remembering together!