What Fueled the Revolution of 1956, as Explained through the Life of My Father

Karolina Tima Szabó

My father, Tima József, was the fourth child and third son of Tima Károly and Baráth Tima Irma.  He was born on May 16, 1912 at Nagyacsád.

As I was told, he was a very smart child.  The principal of the elementary school went to my grandfather, trying to talk him into letting my father’s education continue.  Yet, times being hard, my grandfather told him, “I can’t take the food from my other five children to send one to school.”  Thus my father did not attend school after the 6th grade.

In the beginning he worked in the fields, then he was drafted and became an artilleryman.  He was tall and lanky, very handsome, I was told.  However, as I remember him, his hair was graying and his hairline receding.  Édesapám, as we called Father, had a scar on the right side of his face, about 2-3 fingers long.  It gave him a raggedy handsome look. 

My father met my mother in his early twenties, and they married after he left the service.  He took over the farm from his father.

Then came World War II and he had to go to serve again.  Because he already had four children, he was excused from front duty and served as escort on the trains delivering ammunition and food for the soldiers. 

As the family grew and the political situation changed, times were very hard on my parents.  After the war, the redistribution of land gave hope to people.  But the Rákosi era destroyed all that hope. 

One early October morning, while it was still dark outside, we woke up to a knock on our window.  My father opened the curtain and saw the neighbor yelling something like “There is a revolution in Pest!”  Father turned on the radio (we had no TV at the time) and we all listened.  Yes, there was a revolution in Pest!  I was in my 2nd year of the gimnázium (high school) at Pápa, and I still got ready for school.   

As we arrived, everybody was talking about what was going on in Budapest.  Then the homeroom teacher came in and announced that the school was closed until further notice. 

Yes, there was a revolution.  But what had been going on in the country that led to it?  Let’s look at that picture through the story of my family in the years after WW II.

My parents had some acreage of land.  Some my father inherited, some he purchased.  He was a very hard-working man.  In the summer, we hardly saw him.  He left for work before we woke up and came home after we had gone to bed.  In the winter, when all work was done in the fields, he left early Monday morning for the Bakony Mountains to cut wood.  He came home late Friday night.  He did that to secure firewood for us for the next winter, since we had no money to buy any. 

We grew grains, sugar-beets, potatoes and corn.  At harvest time the wheat, rye and oats were brought to our backyard, and the threshing machine came, followed by a government agent and a flatbed truck.  After the grain was all threshed, it was weighed.  The agent calculated, based on a pre-determined ratio of kg/person, how much grain a family would need for a year and how much was needed for sowing in the fall/spring.  The rest was put on the flatbed truck and we never saw it again.  We received no compensation either. 

For the winter my father fattened two pigs.  Before he could slaughter them, he had to get a permit from Town Hall.  How many people were in the family?  How many pigs you want to slaughter?  OK, here is the permit and you will deliver so many kilos of lard to the State.

Father planted locust trees by the property lines to be used later for building material or for fencing.  When he needed the wood, he had to get a permit to cut his own trees.  There was also a quota for the number of dozens of eggs to be delivered to the State.  By springtime, we didn’t have enough flour or lard left for the family.  We had no money to buy any, since the surplus grain we used to sell had been taken without compensation.  Thus, we girls took milk and eggs to the city on bicycles, to sell.  My mother fattened geese and ducks to sell at the market, to make money to buy lard, flour, meat and clothing for us. With her we had to go to the city, stand in line for hours to buy the very food the government had taken from us.  Since quantities per person were limited, most of us girls had to go individually to obtain enough for the family. 

Where had all the confiscated food gone?  You were not allowed to ask.  But it was common knowledge that part of it went to the occupying Russian forces, part to the ones who never worked in their whole lives, part to the Communists.

Then came the era of the T.Sz.Cs., the agricultural cooperative farms.  The government took our land, equipment, all the animals, horses, oxen, leaving just one cow for milking.  My father refused to sign the “deal” to join and as a result, the government’s agents came for him at night and took him, we didn’t know where.  He came home next morning, his head bowed.  As he walked under the large street-speaker we nicknamed Tesla, he heard the announcement that he had signed up to be a member of the T.Sz.Cs.  He became depressed and never talked about what they did to him – was he beaten or was his family threatened?  What little land he had left, he was forced to share with others who chose not to work. 

You couldn’t talk about what happened to you or air your opinion about the government without risking being overheard, reported, and eventually taken during the night to the gulags (the slave labor camps in Russia).

All this had preceded the knocking on our bedroom window, “There is a revolution in Pest!”

My father died of throat and lung cancer at the age of 53, broken in body and soul.

Karolina Tima Szabo was one of six siblings. Today, she is a retired Systems Analyst of the Connecticut Post newspaper and Webmaster of Magyar News Online.  She is the proud grandmother of two.

  

Free Radio Kossuth aired the following Peasant Demands on November 1, 1956:

Paraszt Függetlenség (Peasant Independence), the organ of the Budapest Hungarian National Revolutionary Committee, published the demands of the Hungarian farming population.

  1. Complete rejection and elimination of the Stalinist peasant policy.  A decree must be issued which orders the liquidation of weak and forcibly established cooperatives. Peasants must be given the right to have cooperatives if so desired. Peasants will have their land returned, both the property and the animals which they took into the cooperatives.  They must be granted state support. The present system of state assistance to cooperatives must be discontinued. Instead, state support must be distributed by a cooperative center, the members of which have been elected by cooperative members.
  2. An agricultural delegation has to be established from peasant representatives, members of the new parties, agricultural experts and journalists sent to study the system of large-scale farming in Western Europe – in Denmark, Holland, England, in Scandinavia – and in the United States.  Their experience must be used for the benefit of Hungarian agriculture.
  3. The present system of machine/tractor stations must be discontinued...
  4. Far-reaching financial assistance must be granted to the individually-farming peasantry.
  5. We approve the discontinuation of the compulsory delivery system which exploited the peasantry.  But this is only a first step.  The extremely high peasant taxes must be reduced immediately and, for the sake of the peasantry, the present system of taxation in Hungary must be revised.
  6. The old system of selling and purchasing land must be restored.
  7. State farms must be dissolved if their output and profits are unsatisfactory.
  8. The Ministry for Collecting Agricultural Produce must be abolished.  The Ministries of Agriculture and of State Farms must be consolidated and the overgrown bureaucratic apparatus must be reduced.
  9. Peasant Revolutionary Committees must be established in every village.  Members should be recruited from the democratic parties, and they should take power until elections are held.

(as quoted in ”The Hungarian Revolution,

a White Book”,

edited by Melvin J. Lasky,

published by Frederick A. Praeger,

New York, 1957)