The only region of East Central Europe where the Hungarian Revolution of October–November 1956 found powerful echoes was Transylvania, whose large Hungarian minority could follow events unfolding in Hungary in their own language, as Budapest-based Hungarian radio threw off the dead weight of censorship. Even before the revolution was crushed, the Romanian authorities turned the full force of their repressive apparatus, the secret police and the courts on those who dared speak out in support of the revolution, or who began to organize groups of their own to press for change in Romania. The Communist authorities did not just try to stamp out every spark of rebellion, they took the opportunity to attack the Hungarian intelligentsia of Transylvania, and break any residual resistance to Communism among the common people. In July 1959 the Hungarian-language Bolyai University in Cluj/Kolozsvár was merged with the Romanian-language Babes University, and the Hungarian community lost a key institution for the survival of their language and culture. A speech by the new Hungarian Socialist Workers Party leader, János Kádár, installed by the Soviets, in Târgu Mures/Marosvásárhely in February 1958 confirmed that the Romanian leadership now had a free hand to do what they liked with the Hungarian minority – Budapest would not speak up on their behalf in Moscow. In 1958, Soviet troops were withdrawn from Romania, as an acknowledgment of the reliability of the Romanian Communist government. The repression grew more intense. In 1960, the boundaries of the Mures/Maros Autonomous Region were redrawn, to reduce the proportion of Hungarians in it.

19 major trials were held, of Hungarians accused of subversive activities. In one trial alone, prison sentences were issued totalling 1,200 years. 45 people were sentenced to death and over twenty executed. Dozens died in prison-camps, especially in the notorious Periprava camp in the Danube delta, as a direct result of the torture and mistreatment they received.

The total number of those sentenced for political reasons in Romania between 1956 and 1961 is estimated at 10 to 15.000.

The testimonies published below are extracts from the film Transylvania 1956 directed by Anna Sebõk Páskándi, photographed by Balázs Sára, produced by Gábor Sarudi, and co-produced by Quality Pictures Kft. and Duna TV in 2004. The specialist advisors were Miklós Horváth, János M. Rainer, Károly Vekov and Sándor Sára.

Anna Páskándi: “This film is dedicated to the memory of my husband, Géza Páskándi, and of all those who suffered in Transylvania as a result of the events of 1956, now treading the heavenly path of their forefathers.”

The first solidarity actions in Romania

Students at the universities in Timiºoara/Temesvár organized a joint meeting on 30 October 1956, where a 12-point memorandum of demands was read out. The points were largely the same as those formulated by the students in Budapest, eight days earlier. They also protested against misleading official accounts of the events in Hungary. Tanks and armoured vehicles with hundreds of riot troops and Securitate officers surrounded the meeting.

Caius Muþiu, engineer:

The first signs of activity were at the Engineering Faculty. We gathered there at two in the afternoon. And as the hall, the corridors and the assembly hall filled up to bursting, we decided to move to the refectory. We demanded that the Russians leave Romanian territory. We had a whole raft of additional demands relating specifically to ourselves. We read out the memorandum and it was voted on, point by point. We decided to set the university authorities a deadline to respond – 2 November. Our plan was to call a general strike if there was no response. By the time the meeting broke up around eight in the evening, we realized we were surrounded. The head of the Securitate [the Romanian secret police] came with a list, on which I had pride of place. I was bundled into a jeep and taken straight to Securitate HQ. The others, several hundred university students, were taken in lorries to a village near Timiºoara/Temesvár, the barracks at Becskerek. Those who agreed to sign a document dissociating themselves from the meeting’s activities were allowed home. The first group was set free after two days, the last ten days later.

The next day a few hundred students gathered at the Veterinary Faculty by the Mária Bridge. From there they set off for the Cathedral, where the women’s hall of residence was located. At the Cathedral they were surrounded by the police, the students were bundled into trucks and taken away.

At the Medical Faculty students went on hunger strike and barricaded themselves into the hall of residence. There was the sound of something bursting or popping, the soldiers thought the students had weapons, and opened fire – though no one was hurt. The guards had beaten me black and blue by the time the interrogation began. We were sentenced in two groups. The first eight people got the most serious sentences: myself and two others got eight years, the others between five and seven years. Altogether 30 students and one teacher, Professor Hajdú were sentenced. According to article 199 of the criminal code, the maximum could have been the death sentence. But since they wanted to make light of the matter and as it was widely known that it had attracted the attention of Amnesty International, they decided to prosecute under article 327 of the code, for incitement against the public order. The change was the result of a direct order from the Central Committee of the Party. Documents in the archives show that the Central Committee condemned us, not the judge.

I was in Gherla/Szamosújvár prison from 1956 to 1959. In the spring of 1959 I was taken to the Brãila lakes for forced labour. In early December, they took us to the Danube delta, to cut reeds. In the winter of 1962 I was taken to Dej/Dés and in the spring of 1964 back to Szamosújvár, until August, when I, as a ringleader, was set free with the last 50 detainees.

Miklós Horváth, military historian:

At the time of the Revolution the Soviet army was stationed in Romania and the Temesvár division was put on alert in the evening hours of 23 October. This armoured division crossed the border on 24 October and was already in action in Budapest on the following day. Its chief aim was to police the south of Pest, including the Corvin Close and its surroundings, and isolate and destroy the various groups of armed rebels. As in Czechoslovakia, the Romanian Army was also placed on alert – to prevent any attempt to “export” the revolution from Hungary into Romania. The Romanian political leadership also considered sending troops to Hungary, and proposed this to the Soviet leaders. That they did not is largely due to opposition from the Yugoslav leader, Josip Broz Tito.

Even after the crushing of the revolution in Hungary on 4 November, students at the Hungarian-language Bolyai University in Cluj/Kolozsvár, led by István Várhegyi still had university reform on their agenda. Discussions went on until mid-November, when István Várhegyi was the first student leader to be arrested. This set off an avalanche of arrests, and in due course, the closure of the Bolyai University.

György Koczka:

A general student meeting was scheduled in Cluj for 24 November, about the time that the League of Romanian Students was taking shape. No one had much idea of what would happen; but clearly something broader, more representative of the “people” than the League of Young Workers was being planned, which would none the less remain firmly under the leadership and direction of the party. The meeting took place very much in the spirit of 23 October; 16 students were elected to leading positions in the new students’ league.

Benedek Nagy:

When we showed a first draft of our demands to our teachers, they were visibly moved, “how serious you all are, how selfless, and how demanding of yourselves,” they told us. We strove to stay close to our clearly articulated and very concrete, very limited goals which, however, for the coercive forces of the Communist Party were no small matter. The Party and the Securitate apparatus quickly came with the slogan that would ensure conflict between the Hungarian and the Romanian students: that the Hungarians wanted the return of Transylvania to Hungary, which was a pack of lies, but a distinct frostiness descended on the relations between us and the students’ unions of the Romanian Babes University.

János M. Rainer historian:

There was not a single reference in either the programme statements or in any other documents of the 1956 Revolution, to the re-annexation of territories lost by Hungary at the Paris Peace Treaties (1920). Nor – of course – did the revolutionary government of Imre Nagy concern itself with such issues. In fact, we can safely say that there was not even an allusion to this notion, and no slogans of this kind were heard even in the mass demonstrations and protests that took place in the first phase of the Revolution.

Benedek Nagy:

When the interrogations ground to a silent halt the chief interrogator, one Captain Marion Gruia, would sometimes burst in and make dramatic, theatrical threats to try to make me “come to my senses”. “We will destroy your nationalist cell at the Bolyai University!” He roared at me during one such outburst, in January 1957. Even in prison, I knew that the days of the Bolyai University were numbered.

Kálmán Kelemen:

Sometimes the interrogations were rough, at other times less so. Things got rougher when Holcsinszky, one of the Babeº University academics arrested for conspiracy, tried to escape and was shot before he even made it to the gates. He did not die, but he was chained up and brought into our cell as a warning. Once I was placed naked under a shower all night; the shower-head was fixed so it would drip continuously on my head.

György Koczka:

Nothing counted, only what they had already planned in advance. The military tribunal in Cluj/Kolozsvár was terrifying. Hungarian judges were used to sentence Hungarians. Hardly to allow the free use of Hungarian during the trial – it was probably just part of the whole perverse system.

Benedek Nagy:

Our trial lasted 12 hours, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on 17 February 1957. Many students came to throw bunches of violets and snowdrops into the fenced-off area where we were kept. I spent 27 months in Gherla/ Szamosújvár. In May 1959 they put us in cattle trucks and as we crossed the Carpathians towards the Gyimes I broke down. I thought we were being taken to Siberia. But it was only to the port of Tulcea, where we were put in barges. As the boat set out I met those friends convicted after me in the Bolyai case, Géza Páskándi, Gyula Dávid and others.We were taken to Periprava in the Danube delta, by the Soviet border.

Kálmán Kelemen:

At first we were all crammed into a single huge cell, then they split us up. There was a period of three days when I witnessed all manner of horrors. They fired several rounds at us, as we stood there, stark naked. Then they took out the dead like beasts, with no number, no name, nothing. It was then that it really hit me, that this whole mad, hysterical, fanatical crew were bent on manufacturing death and suffering.

When I left Gherla/Szamosújvár on November 17 I was told that I had been sentenced to two years’ internal exile, in Fundáta on the Borogan. It was the autumn of 1963 before they let us go home, and I found work again.

György Koczka:

1956 and the repression that followed opened the eyes of many people to the true meaning of Communism. And the Hungarians at last realized that all this had to be brought to an end. But as 1989 approached, I could hardly believe that it would ever come to an end. These people had settled in for eternity.

Another wave of arrests

The Érmellék region arrests resulted in 32 convictions. Of these the Calvinist pastors Kálmán Sass and Vilmos Balaskó, and also Dr. István Hollós received death sentences for armed conspiracy against the state. Vilmos Balaskó’s sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. The evidence consisted of rusty weapons from the First World War, which (no one seemed to know how) had found their way into to the houses of the accused. The intention was plain: a concentrated attack on widely-respected personalities – particularly the intelligentsia – in the regions of the Partium, Bihor/Bihar, and the Bánát.

Béla Sass:

My father’s crime was to be Hungarian. Some thirty or so folk were rounded up, all of them Hungarians of course, and they tried to link them to the “Hungarian affair”. My father was a Calvinist pastor in Valea lui Mihai/Érmihályfalva. He was arrested on 17 February 1957. They searched the house and took away what they could. We just kept an eye on them to make sure they didn’t plant any weapons. They were tried in Cluj/Kolozsvár, we don’t know when, and we discovered the verdict only in April 1964, when there was a general pardon. When we wrote in to ask why my father hadn’t been released, they told us he had been executed on 23 October 1958. Later I met an officer in Szamosújvár who had worked there at the time, and he showed me where he had been taken and shot in the head. There was another man, called Hollós I think, who was forced to dig the ditch in which they were both buried.

The Szoboszlay trial was one of the largest and most notorious, because in this alleged conspiracy to provoke armed rebellion, the participants were intellectuals and workers from several counties. 10 people were sentenced to death simply because they dreamt of a different sort of world.

Károly Vekov, historian :

The interesting thing about this trial was that the movement was launched by a Catholic priest, a well-known personality and outstanding orator. Transylvanian solidarity found expression in very small ways. People got together to listen to the wireless. In Rovine-Pecica/Pécska some even got together to go over the border to help the revolution. The charges against them can be summed up in three points. A conspiracy to bring down the existing state order. A plan to establish a Christian Labour Party. And, most ironically of all, Szoboszlay and his associates were executed because they were found guilty of trying to forge a Romanian-Hungarian union.The executions took place around midnight on 1st September 1958. To this day we don’t know where they were executed or where they are buried.

Father Ervin B. Ferencz:

I first met Aladár Szoboszlay in 1953, and we dreamed together how marvellous it would be if the Transylvanian question were resolved both for Hungarians and for Romanians. So we devised a party programme with this in mind – a Solidarity Party, on Christian social principles. I was staying with my former house-master at Radna on 23 October, when we heard that the revolution had broken out in Hungary. We sat glued to the wireless and we were in despair, as we already guessed how this would end.

After the collapse of the revolution we all kept silent, we didn’t even meet, we said not a word to anyone about what had happened, or that we were preparing for a possible rising in Bucharest. The whole trial was built around an alleged plot for an armed uprising in Transylvania. They alleged that Szoboszlay had a rusty old revolver, which he threw into a pigsty on the 23rd somewhere in Sfîntu Gheorghe/Sepsiszentgyörgy, and there was a cannonball from 1848 – 1848! – buried in the garden of a teacher in ªumuleu/Somlyó. Those were the weapons we were going to topple their “democracy” with.

Péter Orbán:

Our turn came in October 1957, when they came for my father. The Securitate and two policemen arrived in a black Volga. That was the fashion, those black cars for the Secu people, and they stripped the house bare. On 23 November the same characters turned up again and took me, then on 4 December they came for my sister. So three members of my family were arrested and sentenced.

From the far end of the corridor I heard a cough I recognized, my father was slightly asthmatic and I knew this little cough. And that was when I realized that he and I were in the same place. 57 of us were tried and sentenced, ten to death, four to life imprisonment, four of us got 25 years. The 57 of us received a total of 1,200 years in jail. 29 June was my name day – the feast of Peter and Paul – and my father congratulated me on that day for what was to be the last time. He tore off his shirt-cuffs and put a piece of bacon between them, like a sandwich. When they took us out to the toilet in the morning, he was always taken a bit earlier than me, and when he came back he tapped out a message to me in Morse code on the pipes, that my name-day present was in the toilet window. I took it happily back to the cell, and cut the bacon up into six pieces for the six of us, and we treated the tasty morsels like manna in the wilderness. It was the last name-day gift I got from my father.

At the end of August my father tapped in Morse code that we should get ready to be taken away. We heard a truck roll into the back yard of the jail and we could see something through the bars, but first they put some chests on the truck and took them out of the yard. A couple of hours later the truck came back and took away those that had been sentenced to death. We were up on the first floor and heard the clanking of the chains echoing round the yard and we could also see through the shutters that ten people were loaded and taken away. We didn’t know where to. From the documents it seems they were executed on 1 September, between 11 and 12 at night, and it is also clear from the documents that this took place in the basement of Temesvár prison. We still don’t know where they are buried! How can we pay our last respects if we can’t even bring their ashes home to be buried in the land of their birth?

Father Ervin B. Ferencz:

I would say that a person who has faith has the chance to survive. A person without faith, and I speak from experience, breaks down, cuts his wrists, commits suicide, or simply goes mad. I can say in all honesty that none of the prisons was hard. God was with us. Even there, He was with us.

János M. Rainer:

In February 1958, the Hungarian Communist Party leader János Kádár visited Romania, and made a particularly unfortunate and tragic statement in Marosvásárhely, in which he made it clear to the Romanian leaders that the new Hungarian Party and leadership would not play the Transylvanian Hungarian card. It is no accident that the waves of arrests, the truly serious sentences and their execution (including several dozen death sentences) took place after this visit. The closure of the Hungarian Bolyai University in Cluj/Kolozsvár the following year was similarly no accident, nor the fact that after 1958 Bucharest was able to take anti-Hungarian measures much more easily, with a much freer hand.

Cluj/Kolozsvár and the closure of the Hungarian University

The show trials did not end in 1958; that was when all hell broke loose. In Kolozsvár they began to arrest teachers and students of the Bolyai University. Assistant lecturers János Varró and Elemér Lakó, and students Irén Péterffy, Lajos Vastagh and Lajos Pál were sentenced in the spring of 1959 for sympathizing with the ideals of the October 1956 events, and conspiracy against the People’s Democracy. The trial was the final nail in the coffin for the Bolyai University, which was closed down on 22 February 1959 on the grounds that a separate Hungarian university is a hotbed of separatism and an impediment on the path to fraternal relations. The Rector of the University, László Szabédi, his deputy, Zoltán Csendes, and his wife, as well as professor Miklós Molnár, all committed suicide.

Irén Péterffy:

The trial was orchestrated from beginning to end: every detail was decided in advance, including the sentences. János Varró and Elemér Lakó were given the longest sentences, I was next, with ten years.

It was a very hard winter. There was hardly any heating, with five of us in two beds and just one blanket between us, and as my friend and I were the youngest, we offered to sleep by the window, because there wasn’t enough air for five and we had to leave the top window open at night. So Márta and I were covered in frost every morning. But we were cheerful on the whole. Of course there were times when we were low, we missed our parents and anyway to think that you are jailed at the age of 20 and you get out when you are 30… 30 seemed to me very old, as if life had mostly passed you by. Few of us were Hungarian. Possibly I was with Ilika [Ibolya] in Arad but it’s not so important, she was a young teacher from a village somewhere in the Carpathians too, where her father was the priest, where deserters were sheltering, whom her family helped with food. So the whole family was arrested: her father was executed, and she gave birth in prison. She had a little girl, but by the time we met, she was without her daughter, whom she called Libertatea, Liberty. From Miercurea Ciuc/Csíkszereda we were moved to a suburb of Arad, Gály, where they set up a basket-weaving workshop and taught us to make baskets from cane as well as from plastic. This was much easier, and above all we could work, a wonderfully liberating thing, you didn’t have to think and worry so much. You may suspect that there will be an amnesty, but you can never be sure that it will include you. When they read out my name, I could not believe I was free, not even on the train. I was sure I reeked of jail: the crumpled clothes, which of course had been in store for five years, and I must have looked pale; people tried to make conversation, but I dared not get involved. And I came to Târgu Mureº/Marosvásárhely, to my grandmother’s. I arrived in the night, the gate was open, and the next day my brother took me home to my parents. It was 19 September 1963.

The attack on the Churches

In 1958 “dissident” pastors and theologians of the Calvinist and Lutheran Churches were targeted by the state.

The idea was to remove the shepherd from his flock, so that the flock would scatter and be lost. But this time they were wrong, the sheep sooner or later found their way back to the fold and waited patiently for his return.

Árpád Mózes Lutheran bishop:

After the tragedy of 4 November, when the Soviet forces crushed the revolution in Hungary, we were completely heartbroken. It was a Sunday, and I was to give the sermon. I sat in the sacristy and wondered what in Heaven’s name there was to say. And in this silence the great bells of the church began to ring out. And something went through me which I shall never forget, and I knew that as long as the bells in the Hungarian churches ring out, we must live in hope.

I was sentenced to 18 years and was taken to Szamosújvár. I was kept there until the autumn, when I was taken to the Danube delta, and thrown into a sheep-pen. Because of the way we were treated, some days we had no strength at all in our limbs. Then four or five of us would take each other’s hands and pull each other up, to get moving. Once we got going, we could build dams all day. It helped a lot that we were together with thinking people. I was with János Dobi, János Erdélyi, and Leander Hajdú, all Franciscan monks. There was also a Catholic priest called Karácsonyi, who was a marvellous musician. He had problems with his heart and we would bring him home, supporting his arms. When old Karácsonyi died we had to bring him back like that, so that the others would not notice. Because the previous time someone died, the guard on horseback stuck a hook in his body and dragged him back along the ground. So that’s how we brought back Father Karácsonyi. One colleague began to sing “Lord eternal, where art thou now?” And all of us, 20 or 25 of us sat round and challenged God with the hymn: “Lord Eternal, where art thou now?”

I spent five years in prison. Until then I had no idea of suffering, of hunger.

I didn’t know what people were like, stripped down to their real selves. I saw life quite differently. I am very grateful to those I was with, outstanding people, from whom I learnt more than I ever did in the seminary.

Central Transylvania: Brasov/Brassó and its environs

Young workers, disgusted with the misery they encountered in the factories and villages, were inspired by the Hungarian Revolution and established the League of Transylvanian Hungarian Youth (LTHY) to work for change in Romania as well. Many of the 77 members of the LTHY were Unitarians, and maintained close contact with Unitarian pastors, especially Berta Deák Nyitrai and her family. When the authorities cracked down, many under-age rebels, as well as the Unitarian clergy from the River Homoród area were targeted.

Balázs Sándor:

On 3 November I was sent to Braºov/Brassó, to temporarily replace a fellow Unitarian priest who was in hospital. I met László Orbán the following day, the morning of 4 November; he was a student in the high school, but a regular in the priest’s household. Together we decided on a name for the organization, LTHY, the League of Transylvanian Hungarian Youth. We talked a great deal that month and decided that when I got back to Cluj/Kolozsvár, I would gather young people, while he would do the same in Brassó. But when I saw that the Hungarian Revolution had been defeated, I did nothing further. Nothing. So I took part only nominally, but as a founder member I was sentenced to 25 years.

Imre Lay:

It was my suggestion, as the Russians had moved into Budapest, that we fight Communism. And that’s why we founded the LTHY, meeting daily and discussing these things late into the night. And when we had enough material István Erzse and János Minczi decided to escape over the border and take the material to the West. They were caught in Yugoslavia and handed back a few weeks later. Then the Romanians sentenced them.

After our arrest, many of us were kept in detention for nine months by the Securitate because we were under-age – they were waiting for us to reach manhood, so we could be sentenced like the rest. But many under-age kids were sentenced anyway. We were sentenced in three groups: each had a so-called leader, said to deserve a more serious sentence, and then came the smaller fry, sentenced only for failing to report subversive activity. Four got 25 years, many got 20 or 18, and a lot of minors got “only” 12.

Lajos Soós:

I was arrested in Vãrghiº/Vargyas, in the morning, with my kid brother. We were both taken to Târgu Mureº/Marosvásárhely. We spent our time shovelling effluent, and slept all winter on the ground. And all the dying horses – there were big changes on the collective farms then – were sent to the Danube delta. We only had horse-meat to eat, all the innards were mixed into the soup. We ate it, we weren’t choosy. When they took us out to work, they fed the pigs first. So I just reached in and took the food meant for the pigs and we had it all. When we went out in the barges, we got some corn, riddled with rat shit. We washed it out and ate the corn. That’s how it was.

The 1960 arrests

Young Hungarians in Transylvania were so isolated from the outside world, they did not feel the numbing cold war atmosphere that descended. When the Berlin Wall went up in 1961, the Hungarian and Romanian State Security services placed people under even stricter surveillance. Most of the young people belonging to the Black Hand organization first met in the summer of 1960 in Târgu Mureº/ Marosvásárhely prison. In 1956 they were still at secondary school up and down the country. But they all decided to help the Hungarian Revolution in some way. In 1961, the courts charged them with intending to support the 1956 Revolution with pamphlets, and by force of arms. Many young people from the entire Székely region were convicted of subversion under section 209 of the penal code.

Árpád Szilágyi:

In the autumn of 1956 I was a 4th year geography student at the Bolyai University in Cluj/ Kolozsvár. On 26 October, I wrote a letter to the [Budapest literary journal] Irodalmi Újság, expressing sympathy with the victorious Hungarian Revolution. This was the basis of the case against me. I was arrested in May 1957, just before my final exams, and sentenced to 20 years for treason. I began to serve my sentence in Szamosújvár prison, where there was a riot in 1958 because of the conditions, and after that those of us sentenced for treason were taken to Piteºti. There I stayed until 1961, when they took me to Marosvásárhely for another trial, the so-called Black Hand secret organization trial, when I was given a further 22 years, even though I had been in prison since 1957 and this so-called secret organization was set up in 1960. Back in 1952, in Lãzarea/Gyergyószárhegy where I was born, I had produced some placards against collectivization, which I signed “Black Hand”.

Lajos Bara:

I spent almost four months in Vásárhely prison, then they took us to a labour camp in Luci. I was locked up with Károly Bíró, from my village, and we worked in the same brigade building roads. He and another lad, István Hadnagy, were plotting to escape. That morning when we set out to work it was drizzling and the soldiers didn’t notice that they had slipped away. But one of our fellow prisoners got scared and shouted out “alarma!”. The soldier by the road realised what had happened, and of course he could run faster than the prisoners. When he caught up with them he shouted that if they stopped and gave themselves up they would come to no harm. They turned to face the soldier, who then fired a round of bullets from six or seven metres away into Karcsi [Károly], and Pityu [István]. Karcsi died on the spot. Then the soldier lowered his pistol and swore at Pityu, and shot him in both legs. I could see four bullets go through his trousers, one caught his thigh, the next two just tore holes in his trousers, then the fourth got his other thigh. He was lucky the bullets missed the bones.

József Török:

In the summer of 1964 my uncle, Sándor Török, who then lived in Pest, invited me and his younger brother, my uncle István, to visit him in Hungary. We spent two weeks there, most of it in Pest. We got to know Sanyi’s friends, Gyula Szõnyi, Ferenc Csehi, and others. Sándor, and Gyula Szõnyi and Ferenc Csehi were all 1956 convicts and naturally there was much talk of 1956 when we met. In 1964 you could still see many signs of the 1956 fighting and my uncle showed us the main places – the Kilián barracks, Corvin Close, Széna Square and so on. When we went home to Transylvania everyone was keen to hear about our experiences, as it was still rare for anyone from Transylvania to get out and visit Hungary. We were full of the stories about ‘56. We had also had ideas earlier, that something had to be done about the Romanianization of the Széklerland [among the Carpathians, home to the biggest concentration of Hungarians in Transylvania]. Hungarian managers and other functionaries were being replaced by Romanians, and the pressure was on. So when we got back from Hungary we had the idea of setting up an organization, and five or six of us, occasionally ten or eleven of us started to meet. We were arrested on 14 November, and five days later the interrogations began. We’d be taken out at eight in the morning and interrogated until two or three in the afternoon. 12 of us were convicted, my uncle and I were the main accused. We got 12 years each.

The major Transylvanian trials 1956 – 1960

The trial of Dénes Fülöp and his colleagues

Number of those convicted: 5

Arrests began: 6 July 1956

The Artists’ trial

Number of those convicted: 2+1

Arrests began: 25 October 1956

The Second Bolyai trial

Number of those convicted: 2+1

Arrests began: 12 March 1957

The trial of the River Küküllõ leafletters

Number of those convicted: 6

Arrests began: 18 June 1957

The UN memorandum trial (the Dobai and associates trial)

Number of those convicted: 7+2

Arrests began: October 1957

The trial of Pál Fodor and his associates

Number of those convicted: 5+2

Arrests began: October 1957.

Trial of the Association of Young Szeklers

Number of those convicted: 9

Arrests begun: June 1958

The trial of the Csíkszereda/Miercurea-Ciuc teachers and students

Number of those convicted: 11+1

Arrests began: Summer 1959

The trial of the Association of Young People Yearning for Freedom

Number of those convicted: 59

Arrests began: Autumn 1960



Géza Páskándi: Survival with honour is happiness itself. I think this is the definition of happiness. Surviving certain things with honour. I support unreservedly the Christian teaching on love. For me there is no element of forgiveness in this. I have said that it is not mankind that needs to be saved, but its nations. Every species, every race. Every one of them and not mankind – mankind cannot be saved, mankind is an abstraction. But the nations, each and every one, from the biggest to the smallest, those can be saved, those must be saved. I don’t like this baggy, loose-fitting humanistic approach; for me this is intangible, a fraud, if the truth be told. It is a confused fraud, and it is all too easy to take advantage of its confusion. The quacks of the spirit and the hawkers of cheap ideas not infrequently do take advantage. I don’t like that. I am firmly on the side of the teaching of love and I see no contradiction whatever between “love thy enemy” and, naturally, thy neighbour, love thy neighbour as you love thyself. But let us not forget this, that he is, in his own way, your enemy, while the same Christ that proclaims this in the New Testament, also drives the moneychangers from the temple. No turning the other cheek there! In certain situations, it is necessary to coexist with traitors. It is not true that they have corrupted this society to the core. Everyone, discounting the dogmatic rationalists, the Marxists and the Post-Marxists, or the Bolshevik hard core, everyone wanted the Russians to go home. It does not really matter whether they said so out loud or not. And it’s another thing again, as I once said, that the Russian tanks would not take that spirit out with them; in people’s souls the tanks remain.

Translated by Peter Sherwood

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