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It was a Tuesday, that October 23rd in 1956. The whole thing began as a peaceful, student demonstration, young people with a manifesto asserting the right to be independent from all foreign powers and that all Hungarians should enjoy the rights of free people in a democratic system. The crowds grew as the demonstrations moved throughout the city. By nightfall, State Security Police had fired on a crowd of unarmed demonstrators outside the state radio building, killing many.
Some have wondered when that fateful turn began, that moment that marked “the beginning of the end of the Soviet Empire.” For those of us who endured Soviet oppression behind the Iron Curtain, it came in 1956, brought about by a scrappy pack of kids, many of whom paid the ultimate price for their courage.
Romanced by today’s creative, fun-loving Budapest, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always so. For a dozen days in late October and early November 1956, Hungarians fought to liberate themselves from the yoke of communist oppression. Everyday people from all walks of life suddenly became freedom fighters. Spurred on by indefatigable traditions of independence and self-determination, the people revolted and nearly won.
Hungary will mark the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution this autumn. Events are already underway across the country to honor those who courageously rose up against communist tyranny during those fateful days that began October 23, 1956.