Diary

Before July 4th: My Father's Escape From Communist Hungary

(Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via AP)

In the last few weeks, much of news lately have focused on America’s ugly side. It was true that the whites oppressed the minorities, took lands from Indian tribes, and did many despicable things in the pursuit of their ambitions. We are still a long way from perfecting the art of racial relations even though we elected the first black President.

I want to showcase the more positive side of America, so here is the tale of my father’s escape from communist Hungary. The reason I am telling this tale is to remind you that for all bad things America have done in the course of history, her goodness outweighs all negative things.

My father grew up in communist Hungary. He was six years old when he witnessed the Soviet tanks rolling into his tiny village, which was just a couple of miles away from the border with Austria. The October Uprising of 1956 took thousands of lives and many more fled to Austria. For 19 years, my father heard many bad things about America. He grew up in poverty and witnessed his government’s iron fist rule.

I am going to repeat the portions of my father’s tale from an article written by my older brother at his own website.

Given that no one was allowed to control their own property or put it to productive use, my father grew up in extreme poverty. The state maintained total control over all means of production, including family farms. The family maintained one cow and several pigs. The communists mandated that the family was allowed to butcher one pig per year to feed the entire family. There were five children in his family. The communists would come to the farm routinely and inspect the livestock to make sure the family hadn’t butchered “more than their fair share” of the livestock. The remainder of the pigs were taken by the “security” forces for themselves.

Think about it, many young activists today don’t have an actual idea of what it is like living under tyrannical rule. They never grow up having to look over their shoulders before uttering a single sentence. They don’t have to worry about warrantless searches of their properties, and if such one is conducted, they have the right to take government to the court. My father didn’t have all these rights enjoyed by young activists. Truthfully, I’m daring to say this, even blacks growing under Jim Crow laws lived better than my father did, and today’s minorities are living way better than my father did at any time during his childhood in Hungary.

While walking to and from work, soldiers would routinely check his “papers.” At the checkpoints, one soldier would hold a gun to his head while another reviewed his documents. He lived close to the Austrian boarder, so the border patrol would routinely check everyone, even if they knew the people and saw them everyday. No one was allowed to leave the country, since the people were also property of the state. The border was heavily mined, fenced in, and secured by roving armed patrols.

I dare any activist to tell a story something similar to what my father went through. I’m willing to bet no. The police in America is tame compared to the authorities during Soviet era. Activists today can travel to any state and engage in activism. They can protest anywhere. If they are confronted by the police, they still have constitutional rights to due process and are presumed innocent until proven guilty in the court of law. My father never enjoyed this type of protection from the authorities. Had my father done wrong, he could have been shot on spot and no one would care a thought over his untimely death.

On a final note, here is what my father went through to in order to taste freedom on the other side of communist Hungary.

My father’s escape occurred in 1969 when he was 19 years old. Him and a friend were planning to go to a soccer game on a Sunday afternoon; however, when they tried to get the travel papers necessary to go to the game in the next village, they were denied. Obviously this was quite infuriating. Imagine if you had to get permission to travel to another city here in the states, and were denied permission for no particular reason. As a result of this, him and his friend ended up at a pub and started planning on how they could escape.

They decided to make plans for next Sunday. It was very important to trust each other because if the state found out, my father would have been arrested and most likely executed. My father couldn’t tell his family or even say goodbye. His mother didn’t know what happened until he didn’t show up for work the next day.

My father and his friend rode their bikes to the edge of the border and hid them in a ditch. It then took them about eight hours to move one mile. In order to escape, they first had to traverse a long stretch of land that was mined with trip flares. One inadvertent move would send a flare up into the sky, alerting the border patrol to their presence. The border patrol was authorized to shoot-on-sight anyone trying to escape. To get around the flares, my father rolled up his sleeves and dangled his arms near the ground so he could feel the trip wires on his skin.

After the trip flares came another long stretch of land that was laced with deadly explosive mines. My father had watched the security forces lay down the many of the mines over the years, so he knew a good deal about the minefields themselves. He knew that the mines were laid down in a checkerboard pattern, and he knew that since most of the mines had been placed in the field for some time, the elements had exposed many of the mine tops. This allowed him to feel for the tops of a mine, and make a guess as to where he could move to next in order to get out. He did this all under the constant vigilance of roving border patrols.

After the mines came the barb wire fence with the “V” shape barb wire on top. My father threw his jacket over the top to protect his hands, then climbed the fence which tore his clothes apart in the process. Right after the fence came a raked sandpit, which allowed the border patrol to see footprints of people trying to escape. They walked backwards through the sandpit, in the hopes that the border patrol would think that someone was trying to smuggle things into the country. He knew that any strangers in the village would immediately be questioned if the patrols found such footprints.

From there, they had to swim across a river that separated the Austrian-Hungarian border. Once across the river, they had to jump yet another barbed wire fence on the Austrian side. After jumping the fence, they walked to a farm house and were able to stay there until the authorities came and sent them to a refugee camp.

My father heard many bad things about America, the communists tried their best to brainwash my father. Yet, my father made a bold decision to throw off the shackle of communism and see for himself what America was all about. Luckily for him, his aunt sponsored him and he came here to partake of the grand experiment in liberty in America. My father took a chance and that paid off handsomely. He is now enjoying his time in California (yes, I know what an ironic twist now that California is increasingly becoming like a mini-communist country in its own right) with his family. To me, July 4th holds a special place in my heart. Without America’s Independence, I wouldn’t be here at all. Because of America’s Independence, my father had something to look forward to as he made his way to America by escaping his native homeland.

I encourage you to read the rest of my father’s tale.

God bless America, and enjoy your day as you celebrate America’s 244th birthday!