Ecstasy in the fall

1956, Revolution and national holiday

As we are sliding towards the national holiday of 23. October, I am being washed over by memories.

On the 22nd of October, 1956, the day before the Revolution, nothing was different from any other dull, gray days that were the norm in those years. Lining up at stores for the most basic food stuffs, hanging on the outside of street cars that were always too jammed, and the struggle of my parents to maintain our barely tolerable existence. We were the unwitting victims of the postwar poverty and the murderous communist terror, living in fear and deprivation. Of course, I knew nothing about those dire conditions, because despite it all, I was in the midst of a relatively happy childhood. However, the atmosphere of those days and years was stifling, filled with dread and hopelessness. That was on the 22nd.

The following day, on the 23rd  the weather was better, people were milling about and walking on the streets, and those who came to us reported that the youth are marching; and soldiers are tearing the red star from their head gears, throwing them on the ground, and joining the demonstrators. The pall of hopelessness was lifted in one instant, my parents were smiling and my grandmother was so touched by the events that she was shedding tears.

The ecstatic feeling of liberation in the morning and early afternoon rapidly turned into a confrontation on the street in front of the main radio station. The university students and other demonstrators came to the Radio asking to read a statement to the ”nation.” The communist management wouldn’t hear of it and refused to negotiate with the demonstrators who, by this time had completely filled the street. Finally, the soldiers of the secret service, at the instigation of the communist party leaders, opened fire on the peaceful demonstrators, causing many injuries and deaths. At the same time, in the City Park, the monumental statue of Stalin was cut down from its pedestal, leaving only his boots standing in place. These two concurrent events signalled the beginning of the Revolution. And the coming days, altogether two weeks, were spent on an emotional rollercoaster, from despair to ecstasy and back again. Those two weeks supplied me with a lifetime’s worth of experiences that are never going to fade or dissipate — no matter how busily the government in power works its often changing propaganda machine to exploit the Revolution for political gain. The ultimate outcome of the Revolution was not happy at all. Soon after, we were back to the terror and oppression. But the feeling of liberation and freedom has remained in my heart and it is as vivid after the intervening sixty-seven years just as it was in those ecstatic days.

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