Monday, November 4, 2019

A Day to Remember

On this day in 1956, Soviet tanks entered Budapest and crushed the nascent Hungarian revolution. A few days later Prime Minister Imre Nagy was tried in secret and executed.

Unlike the Czech revolution in 1968, this one didn't make a big impression on me at the time: I was eight years old and not particularly into reading any part of the newspaper except the comics. Something must have trickled into my head, though, because I do remember reading Uncle Tom's Cabin that October and being very confused by Harriet Beecher Stowe's comparison of the escaping slaves to Hungarian revolutionaries. (Sorry, don't remember if I've posted this reminiscence before; stop me if you've heard this one.)

I remember going back and forth, back and forth, between the copyright date on the book and the front page of the newspaper. I don't think it occurred to me to ask my parents, who might have cleared things up by mentioning the European uprisings of 1848; in my experience at that time, asking my parents to explain something in a book all too frequently resulted in gasps of horror and the confiscation of the book as something I shouldn't have been reading in the first place. I didn't really care what was happening in Hungary, which might as well have been the dark side of the moon for all I knew; whereas I did care about having my project of reading all the books on the top shelf in the hallway interrupted.

Now, as Brussels fulminates about the lack of cooperation shown by the Visegrad group with respect to accepting refugees, they might do well to reflect that these countries honed their non-cooperation skills under a much tougher regime. I wonder how many tanks the EU has?

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