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4: We moved to freedom... by Cardinal Mindszenty

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We moved to freedom... (1)


[p. 1, col. 2] The months of summer and early fall, 1956 dragged slowly on. But toward the end of October there came a sudden change. I heard on the radio that the workers and students had started demonstrations, but no details were given. I was isolated and, of course, did not know what was really happening.

Still there was a feeling in me that my country had arrived at a decisive turn. I began to fast and to pray extra prayers. I spent my nights in prayer asking the grace and mercy of God for my people.

Then on Oct. 24 the radio was taken away and the newspapers stopped. The guards became silent.

There was a week of total isolation. The tension could be felt every time I saw one of the guards. Then, on Oct.30, they broke their silence.

Guards Are Frightened

Their leaders came into my room. They asked me to come with them. My life was threatened, they said.

"But who threatens me?" I asked.

"The mob," was all the AVO man would say.

"I won't go," I answered him. "If it is the will of God that I should die here, here I will die. But I will not move."

The officers were puzzled. They spoke briefly among themselves. Then one of them asked almost timidly, "Would you go if we use force -just token force? For example, we could touch your arms as a symbol of force. Then would you go?"

"No," I answered them.

At this they hardened. They were afraid. They grabbed at me and started to pull me from the chair. I resisted.

They were still pulling at me when one of the guards downstairs rushed up to say that a [p. .1, col. 2/p. 14, col. 4] Russian-style armored car was coming up the driveway to the house. The officers ran to the window.

A few minutes later, John Horvath, head of the Government's Office of Church Affairs, ran into my room.

"Your life is not safe in this place," he almost shouted at me. "I have orders to move you!"

"I will not go," I told him. "You have everything from me there is to take. You can take nothing else."

Horvath left the room. He went to the telephone and called his superiors at Budapest, asking for help.

By this time they needed it, for the people of the village had been attracted by his car. First came the children and young people, because they are always first in these things. After them, from the fields, from their homes, from the shops, came several hundred men and women from the village. Many of them carried hoes and other farming tools which they raised as their weapons.

These people had known I was in the castle. And on seeing the armored car speed up to the building, were afraid for my life. They assumed the Russians were going to take me away.

Horvath's telephone call to Budapest was intercepted by the Hungarian Military Unit at Retsag, twenty kilometers away. The officers and soldiers there knew all about the freedom fight in the country. They were not yet in action because there [col. 4/col. 5] was no need yet. But on hearing Horvath's call for help, they decided this was their time.

(Horvath did not know his message was overheard, and when his call was completed left in his car for Budapest. He never got there. The Hungarian soldiers intercepted him on the way and we do not know what happened to him, except that he has not been heard of since that time.)

The AVO soldiers who were left in the house became restless, and I could hear them running from one room to the other and shouting to each other about the demonstrations outside.

By this time the people had surrounded the castle and were raising their weapons, calling, "Freedom for Mindszenty and bread for the Hungarian people."

Freedom Comes

Horvath was not gone more than thirty minutes before my guards decided they could not last against the people. They formed a revolutionary council and came to me with humility and presented themselves with great respect before me.

"Sir," said their spokesman, "we have declared ourselves on the side of the people and have decided that you have been kept a prisoner illegally. From this moment on you are free." They spoke not an instant too soon, for then came the Hungarian soldiers in tanks and in armored cars from Retsag. They rushed to my room and declared that now I was to be under their protection.

The Hungarian freedom fighters disarmed the AVO guards, but I asked that they not be harmed. Then they went to the [col. 5/col. 6] cellar, where they found a quantity of machine guns, small arms, and ammunition hidden under the coal pile.

The freedom fighters helped me and my secretary pack the few belongings which were ours. Then they brought us down the stairs to the car.

The people cheered as we drove away from the castle in procession. One tank went before us, the other behind. On both of them the red star had been removed and the Hungarian national colors painted on.

Thus we moved to freedom after eight years. [col. 6]

1. Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty (as told to Father Joseph Vecsey), ". - - We Moved to Freedom - . . ," New York Herald Tribune, December 1 A, 1956, pp.1, 14. Copyright 1956, New York Herald Tribune Inc. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, Inc.

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