Recalling the Women’s December Demonstration

EPF

Recalling the Women’s December Demonstration

Top: Stenciled call for lighting candles on the graves of the fallen; the marching women at different points of the march; third row: left, tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Even after November 4th, 1956, when Russian tanks crushed the Hungarian Revolution, a group of young intellectuals continued to run an illegal duplicating machine in the basement of a Budapest hospital.  They produced stenciled posters, calling for a silent women’s demonstration on the one-month anniversary, asking women and girls to bring a flower to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

And disregarding the risk of being shot (as happened a few days later),  the women came – in rows of twos and threes, dressed in mourning and wearing kerchiefs, with black flags, some pushing baby carriages.  Soviet tanks tried to stop them by shutting off the road and trying to force back the crowd.   Undaunted, the silent marchers found a way around them.  They  marched, for two and a half hours, laying their flowers and wreaths of remembrance, completely covering the tomb. The soldiers standing guard at its four corners were unabashedly weeping. 

The women then marched to the American embassy, and handed over a petition, asking the United States to demand that the UN’s airplane be allowed to land in Budapest (previously prevented by the Russians), so they could see for themselves the war-like destruction and the innumerable graves in the public squares. 

At that, Russian tanks appeared, scaring the crowd.  Several hundred women lay down on the street to stop them.  Someone came to the balcony and said something meaningless.  A similar demonstration in front of the British embassy also brought on the Russian tanks.

The Kádár regime later tried to identify the participants, and some suffered serious harrassment as a result.

Similar women’s demonstrations took place in other major cities in those days:  In Veszprém and Gyula on December 6th, in Székesfehérvár, Esztergom and Pécs on the 7th, in Miskolc on the 9th, and in Eger on the 10th.  

These heroic Hungarian women were courageous enough to openly mourn for their sons, husbands and their country, knowing full well the risk they were taking.  They too deserve to be remembered!