Australian Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary
of the Hungarian Revolution
On 23 October 2006, Hungarians came together all over the world to commemorate the 50th
Anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, one of the great historic and tragic events of
the 20th century. Hungarians remembered the 13 heroic days of struggle against Soviet
domination, they mourned those who gave their lives in the Revolution and gave tribute to
those surviving freedom fighters who fled Hungary after hundreds of Soviet tanks crushed the
In Sydney, several days of commemorative events were held culminating in a memorial Mass
on Monday, 23 October at St Mary‘s Cathedral. After the Mass a wreath was laid at the bust
of Cardinal Mindszenty, one of the heroic figures of the Revolution. A fierce opponent of
both the Nazi and communist regimes, he was imprisoned in 1949 by the communist
government and released by the freedom fighters during the Revolution.
In the afternoon of the same day, Hungarians and Australians attended a reception, an
exhibition from Hungary chronicling the events of the uprising, and a commemorative
concert at the NSW Parliament House. (See page 2 for a detailed account of the Mass and
events at Parliament House).
Participation by Australians and other people from a non-Hungarian background was a
significant aspect of the commemorative program. The Commemoration Committee thought
it important to acquaint people outside the Hungarian community with the events and
achievements of the Revolution. Politicians, legal identities, religious, civic and community
leaders attended and spoke at public functions. Motions marking the anniversary were moved
in both Federal and State Parliaments. A press release informing media outlets about the
anniversary resulted in good coverage on ABC radio, SBS television and major Sydney
newspapers as well as local publications and the Catholic Weekly. The Commemoration
Committee published A Place in the Sun by Dr. Zoltán Bodolai and Endre Csapó, an
informative book, documenting Hungary‘s turbulent history and the dramatic events of 1956.
Prime Minister John Howard sent greetings to the Hungarian community and congratulations
to the commemorative committee and the Hungarian community:
I am pleased to join the Hungarian community of Australia in commemorating the 50th
anniversary of the Hungarian Uprising, an event of great significance for the Hungarian
people and the struggle for democracy and freedom worldwide. I commend the remarkable
courage shown by the Hungarian people and the sacrifices made as they fought against the
overwhelming might of the occupying Soviet forces.
The 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Uprising also provides us an opportunity to
acknowledge the tremendous contribution Australia‘s Hungarian community has made to the
development of a stable, prosperous and culturally diverse Australia. The success of the
community in embracing the spirit, values and opportunities of this great country is reflected
in the remarkable number of Australian Hungarians who have risen to prominence in
business, science, sports and the arts. Today, we honour these achievements.
I take this opportunity to send my warmest wishes to all those commemorating the 50th
anniversary of the Hungarian uprising and congratulate the organising committee on what
I‘m sure will be a memorable event.
Commemorative events were also held in other parts of Sydney and NSW. A concert on 21
October in the Hungarian House in Punchbowl was well attended by the Hungarian
community. The welcome was given by Ferenc Bene, President of the Independent Freedom
Fighters‘ Association, and Dr. András Ábel, who had been a leader among the freedom
fighters, gave the keynote address, an in-depth account of political and strategic aspects of the
Revolution as well as his own involvement in the struggle. Béla Kardos, President of the
Hungarian Council of NSW, outlined the motion which had been moved in Federal
Parliament marking the 50th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution. (See Mr Alex
Somlyay‘s speech on page 3).
Perfomances by local artists Zsuzsanna Debreczeny, Emőke Harasta, Rózsa Katona, János
Mécs, Ibolya Mikajló, Lajos Somodji and Hannelore Stopic were much enjoyed by the
Two highlights of the afternoon were the performance by the Bartók Choir from Hungary,
with their fine rendition of traditional Hungarian folk songs and the presentation of a
documentary drama called the Never Ending Revolution – 1956. The work was written and
directed by Katalin Ernst who also performed in it with fellow actors László Nemere, Imre
Boráros and Anna Petrécs. The play was specially created for the Sydney commemorative
program and brought to Australia by the four performers. Boráros and Petrécs are from the
renowned Jókai Theatre in Komárom. The Never Ending Revolution - 1956 told the
passionate story of the Hungarian uprising through poetry, testimonials, historical records and
dramatic dialogue. Projected images and sound recordings dramatically enhanced the spoken
The concert was professionally compèred by István Gerecs, the striking set design was by
artist János Mécs and technical support was ably provided by Ferenc Bősze.
On the next day, Sunday 22 October, commemoration ceremonies were held at Rookwood
Cemetery, Sydney. Wreaths were laid at the cross of the fallen heroes and a memorial plaque
honouring the heroes and martyrs of the 1956 Revolution was unveiled by József Tassányi,
Captain of the Knightly Order of Vitéz.
Inscribed on the plaque were the following words: In memoriam to those who bravely
challenged the mighty godless Soviet Union and took part in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution
which was the first domino in the collapse of the communist empire. Erected by the
Hungarian community of New South Wales on the 50th anniversary of the revolution. –
Dicsőség az 1956 évi magyar szabadságharc hőseinek mártírjainak!
The ceremony concluded with a moving ecumenical service by Father István Bakos and
Reverend Kund Péterffy in the cemetery chapel.
On 25 October the Bartók Choir gave a concert to the residents of the St Elizabeth Home for
the Aged in Dean Park, Sydney. This residential complex was built specially for elderly
Hungarian retirees. Singing to a packed gathering in the chapel, the 37 member choir once
again enraptured their listeners. The traditional folk songs of Lajos Bárdos, Tamás Daróczi
Bárdos and Zoltán Kodály were of particular appeal to the audience.
After the concert, a commemorative plaque was unveiled by Ferenc Bene and blessed by
Father István Bakos. Sister Klotild Horváth, Honorary Director of the St Elizabeth Home,
thanked the organisers and said that the plaque would be a permanent reminder of 1956 and
The Bartók Choir and The Never Ending Revolution - 1956 also toured to other parts of NSW.
Performances were given in Wollongong at the Hungarian Australian Club, in Glendenning
for the members of the South Hungarian Club (people originating from what is now
Voivodina, Serbia) and in Edensor Park at the Hungarian Australian Club.
The program for the 50th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution was prepared by the
Commemoration Committee set up by the Independent Freedom Fighters‘ Association with
the co-ordination of the Hungarian Council of New South Wales. Members of the
committee were: Chairman Dr. András Ábel, Ferenc Bene (President, Independent Hungarian
Freedom Fighters‘ Association), Endre Csapó (Editor-in-Chief, Hungarian Life Weekly
newspaper), Elemér Falvi (Chavallier, Knightly Order of Saint László), Béla Kardos OAM
(President, Hungarian Council of NSW) and József Tassányi (Captain, Knightly Order of
Moral support given for the commemorative celebrations by a group of distinguished
Honorary Patrons: H.E. Ambrose De Paoli, Apostolic Nuncio; H.E. Lajos Fodor, Ambassador
of the Hungarian Republic; Hon. John Aquilina MP, Speaker of the NSW Parliament; Hon.
James Jacob Spigelman AC, Chief Justice of NSW; Most Rev. Kevin Manning, Bishop of
Parramatta; Most Rev. Julian Porteous, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney; Most Rev. Dr. Anthony
Fisher OP, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney; Hon. Nick Greiner AC, ex-Premier of NSW; József
Papp, Consul General of the Hungarian Republic; Hon. Alex Somlyay MP, Federal Member
for Fairfax; Tiiu Kroll-Simmul, President, Joint Baltic Committee; Judy Cassab AM, Painter,
Archibald Price Winner; Les Murray AM, Head of Sport, SBS Australia; Fr. István Bakos,
Catholic Priest; Rev. Kund Péterffy, Calvinist Priest; Rev. Árpád Breglec, Lutheran Priest.
The events of 1956 in Hungary were the manifestation of a spontaneous national uprising of a
proud people who were denied freedom and justice. Their anger was aimed mainly against the
on-going presence of Soviet troops in Hungary and the regime of torture and terror sustained
by the State Security Organisation. Known as the AVH this organisation had been set up by
the government to support the communist regime. It operated by means of a network of secret
informers infiltrated into the daily life of the nation.
The Revolution started in Budapest on 23 October 1956 with a peaceful protest march by
university students to the statues of Bem and Petőfi, two iconic figures in Hungary‘s
revolutionary history. The students read out a manifesto, consisting of 16 points, to the crowd
gathered around the statues. The demands included recognition by the Soviet dominated
government of basic human and political rights and freedoms, the evacuation of Soviet troops
from the country and the setting up of a new government headed by Imre Nagy. Nagy was a
former member of the communist government but a man of integrity and a patriot whom the
Later, the crowd moved on to the Parliament building to present their petition. By this time
the students had been joined by other citizens, swelling their numbers to an estimated
100,000. However, when the Communist Party Secretary Ernő Gerő rebuked the crowd the
protesters began to call for the immediate installation of Imre Nagy as head of government.
Slogans such as "Down with Gerő" and "Russians go home" fuelled the anger of the
increasingly vocal demonstrators.
The crowd then divided into two, one half moving to the statue of Stalin, which was pulled
down, the other to the Radio Building to broadcast the 16 points.
The Radio Building housed the state controlled national broadcasting station and was well
guarded by crack AVH troops. When the protesters tried to enter the building the first shots
were fired by the hated AVH against unarmed men and women. What had been political and
social ferment turned into revolution.
The first Soviet tanks dispatched from bases around Hungary began rolling into the city at
2am, positioning themselves at strategic points around the city. The deployment of troops and
the shooting of unarmed protesters outside the Radio Building caused outrage among the
populace who, together with the police and military, joined the ranks of the freedom fighters
in the streets and at the barricades. The Hungarian national flag with the communist Red Star
torn out, known as "the holed tricolour", became the symbol of the Revolution.
After days of bitter street fighting it seemed as if the Revolution had succeeded. A new
government with Imre Nagy as Prime Minister was installed, the secret police were
disbanded, a free press was set up, Hungary withdrew from the Warsaw Pact and Soviet
troops began their withdrawal from the country. However the elation and mood of rejoicing
was short lived when it was realised that fresh Soviet reinforcements were massing on the
Hungarian border. A few days later, after hundreds of Soviet tanks crushed the uprising, the
Revolution was over.
The Revolution had lasted barely 13 days but it set the scene for the eventual collapse of
European communism three decades later. This occurred not only in Hungary in 1989 but
also other Eastern block countries such as Poland, East Germany, the Baltic States and
eventually in the Soviet Union itself.
Events leading to the revolution
After World War II, under the Hungarian Peace Treaty of February 1947, to which the Soviet
Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and the other allied and associated powers
were parties, including Australia, the Soviet Union was required to withdraw her troops from
Hungary at the same time when Soviet occupation forces withdrew from Austria in 1955.
In order to circumvent the provision of the withdrawal, the Soviet Union entered into a pact
with the satellite countries, including Hungary. The Warsaw pact of May 1955, basically
disregarded the terms of the Peace Treaty (to withdraw its forces from occupied countries)
and provided for the use of Soviet forces to repel foreign aggression against the satellite
states. It was invoked by the Hungarian communist leaders to justify the calling in of Soviet
forces to suppress the uprising.
The Hungarian Community of Australia is grateful to Sir Keith C.O. Shann, a noted
Australian diplomat, who served as Rapporteur of the UN Special Committee on the Problem
of Hungary. The findings of this Committee were published as a book by the United Nations
General Assembly in 1957.
Mass at the Cathedral
Over 1000 people attended the commemorative Mass at St Mary‘s Cathedral in Sydney on 23
October. Among the dignitaries present were Her Excellency The Governor of NSW,
Professor Marie Bashir, the Chief Justice of NSW, Honourable James Spigelman, the
Hungarian Ambassador, His Excellency Mr Lajos Fodor and Hungarian Consul General, Mr
The Most Reverend Anthony Fisher OP, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, welcomed the
congregation with "Isten hozta", the Hungarian for "Welcome. God has brought you to us !
Bishop Fisher then continued: You are all most welcome in this Cathedral Church of Sydney.
It is fitting that we celebrate a half century since the Hungarian uprising in a cathedral as the
Church was one of the few voices for the dignity and rights of every human person and the
demands of the common good during Eastern Europe‘s dark days of communism. We recall
especially József Cardinal Mindszenty, a controversial figure, but a symbol like our late great
John Paul II of opposition to both Nazism and Communism. Fifty years ago this week, he was
released from prison and shared in the Hungarian people‘s brief period of freedom. He did not
live to see his dream fully realised. But he would be very pleased that many of his friends and
flock did. So it is with pleasure that I invite representatives of our sister Christian churches
and of the Hungarian community to address us before we proceed with our Mass.
The first speaker after Bishop Fisher‘s welcome was the Reverend Kund Péterffy,
representing the Protestant faith in the Hungarian community. Reverend Péterffy sermon
compared the miracle of the Biblical burning bush with the "holy sacred" of the 1956
Revolution. Reverend Péterffy explained that, just as the flame of the burning bush never
went out, the flame of revolution lit in the hearts and souls of Hungarians would also never be
Reverend Péterffy noted that foreign journalists, who before the Revolution, didn‘t even
know where Hungary was, wrote that ‗the blood shed by Hungarians was the most precious
treasure within the so-called free-world‘, and that even a small nation can give a new
direction to world history.
He went on to explain that the source of the magic fire, the Holy Spirit, which inspired men,
women and children to do heroic deeds then, continues to do so today. "It will give us not
only moral triumph but freedom and victory in every noble cause."
Béla Kardos, President of the Hungarian Council of NSW, then delivered the following
"Fifteen years ago, in 1991, we came together in this cathedral for a Thanksgiving Mass to
express our gratitude to God that the Soviet army left Hungary after 46 years of occupation.
Today we remember those glorious 13 days in 1956 when Hungary regained her freedom
from communist dictatorship, and the Red Army withdrew its forces.
In 1949 the communist rulers tortured and imprisoned Cardinal Mindszenty. The charges he
faced were unfounded, indeed fabricated. The true reason was that he was a dominant
opponent of both the Nazi and communist dictatorial regimes. The Revolution freed him from
He fought for the freedom of the Church, and the freedom of the people. He rejected the
secularization of the Catholic Church, its schools, hospitals, monasteries, convents and
nunneries. In this regard he was firm as a rock.
In his memoirs he stated: "At my arrest I took a devotional picture with me which bore the
inscription: Devictus Vincit." The vanquished will triumph!
After the abortive Hungarian Revolution he took refuge in the US Embassy in Budapest,
where he remained for 15 years. The Vatican freed him in 1971. - Cardinal Mindszenty
visited Australia in 1974 and died in 1975 in Vienna.
When he visited his Hungarian disciples in the free world he made a prophecy that the
communists would rather accept and cooperate with capitalism than with the Church. How
Since then it has become evident, that you can‘t build or construct a political system on a web
of lies and propaganda. The truth always prevails.
It is now clear that Cardinal Mindszenty‘s sacrifice, his ordeal and martyrdom was not in
vain. Hungary is free again. His beatification is now in progress which the Hungarian
community wholeheartedly supports."
At the end of the Mass Bishop Fisher will place a wreath at the bust of Cardinal Mindszenty
at the entrance of the cathedral to mark the 50th Anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian
Revolution." The sculpture was created by Sándor Kolozsy.
Bishop Fisher then celebrated Mass, assisted by Father István Bakos and Pater Lőrinc Foote
from the Dominican Convent in Canberra. The superb singing of the Bartók Choir directed by
Tamás Hornyák and accompanied on the organ by Árpád Zólyomi left an unforgettable
impression in the hearts of the congregation. Katalin Ernst‘s beautiful rendition of Schubert‘s
Ave Maria and Katalin Ilosvay‘s reading from the scriptures added to the atmosphere and
uplifting mood of the occasion. The lector for the Prayer of the Faithful was Martha Mikes.
Bishop Fisher gave the homily, which touched on what it means to be a free, responsible and
caring society. Below is an edited version of his address:
―I preach today from a pulpit in a Catholic cathedral in a free land. Here we take for granted
that though not all agree with what I say and what the Church says, I am free to say it and it
will generally get a hearing without recriminations. In modern Australia the freedom to think,
speak and live as we choose is regarded as the norm, not a luxury.
It is not so today in North Korea. This so-called "Democratic Republic" has never tried
democracy and its people lack the most basic freedoms.
It need not always be so. What we celebrate today is in fact a beacon of hope to people such
as the North Koreans. Half a century ago we might have gathered for Mass in Hungary not in
bewilderment caused by the bishop‘s ignorance of the Hungarian language, but in perplexity
caused by fear for our lives and liberty, and in confusion caused by anger at a regime no-one
Yet on this very day the students marched and thousands joined in. When they sought to
broadcast their aspirations on the radio they were detained. When the crowd demanded their
release, they were fired upon by State Security. News spread quickly and soon a
demonstration had become a national uprising and the government had fallen. It was a
moment of idealism and optimism.
This Mass is part-organised by friends of the Hungarian Freedom-Fighters. That name could
conjure paprika-flavoured terrorists. But the word ‗fighter‘ did not refer to vengeance,
violence and vileness, those base human instincts that too often masquerade as a love of
liberty. It referred to ‗fortitude‘: that ancient human virtue and ever-new gift of the Holy
Spirit, which enables us to persevere in the good even when it is hard.
Hungary has always been known for its ‗freedom-fighting‘ fortitude. Many enemies have
conspired against the freedom of Hungary — foreign invaders, home-grown tyrants, self-
interested and corrupt officials, or that awful mixture of all three which was Hungarian
communism in the shadow of the Soviet. But Our Lord warned that sometimes when you cast
out one devil a whole legion return to fill the vacuum. Such a diabolical legion could be the
mix of modern Western consumerism and old world gangsterism which has swept across
much of the former Eastern bloc. From the West can blow not only the gentle breeze of
freedom but the foul wind of obsessive autonomy and its lethal separation of freedom from
truth. This feeds what Pope John Paul II called ‗the culture of death‘ and Pope Benedict XVI
called ‗the dictatorship of relativism‘. Hungarian resistance is still necessary despite the
tearing down of the Iron curtain.
Hungarians have shown they can resist. Yet this is not always glamorous: the photographs of
those months in ‘56 are awful still to look at and the accounts harrowing to read. But people
live in freedom today because some of you and your parents and grandparents feared loss of
faith and liberty more than Soviet bullets. Why should freedom have mattered so much to
them and why should it matter so much to us still?
It does matter and it matters very much. First, because if we are not free, we may well live in
paranoia. Am I being lied to? When will they come for me? What is that siren I hear? Whom
can I trust? Such a climate of suspicion and intimidation makes it impossible to live in
integrity. God cannot be honoured and human beings cannot flourish in such a situation.
Secondly, if we are not free, we lose our sense of what it is that makes human beings matter,
marks them out as special, what is the core of their dignity as the children of God. We grow
gradually blind to the possibilities for a better life, for human nobility and for real happiness.
We give up on building a future, individually and together and under God‘s grace. We lose
faith in ourselves, we lose love for our fellows, and we lose hope in the future.
We rejoice that after decades of oppression the people of Hungary finally have their
independence and freedom… However, we have not yet reached that time when all the gifts
and fruits of God‘s Holy Spirit are apparent in the use that Hungary makes of its much
deserved freedom. Nor are we here in Australia perfect models of how freedom might best be
used. A peace built on justice, a freedom not just from oppressors but for the common good, a
joy taken in the good done and still to be done, a hopefulness demonstrated by people
building families, businesses, communities and churches together for the sake of the future -
these will be the signs that God‘s Holy Spirit is truly at work."
Later in Parliament the Honourable Don Harbin, Member of the NSW Legislative Council,
reflected on the occasion:
"On Monday October 23 it was my pleasure to attend a Mass at St Mary‘s Cathedral to
commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Hungarian uprising. I was pleased and proud to be
there at the invitation of my great friend and tireless worker for the Hungarian community,
Márta Bárány. At the processional at the beginning of the service a selection of community
figures marched into the cathedral with flags. There was a moving service, remembering the
events of 1956. In particular, the Mass was sung in several parts by an outstanding Bartók
Choir. It was a beatiful service.‖
Reception, Exhibition and Concert
After the Mass a reception was held at Parliament House where Mr József Papp, Consul
General of the Republic of Hungary, welcomed guests with the following words:
"Today we celebrate the most important historic and at the same time political event for the
young democratic Hungary. We commemorate the martyrs and the heroes of the Revolution
and the fight for freedom."
Mr Papp referred to the impact of the Revolution on Hungary and on world politics. He said
that although the Red Army crushed the short-lived revolution, the desire for democracy and
freedom lived on. The communist party was unable to restore its previous power and was
forced to take into consideration the demands of the Hungarian people. After 1956,
communism in Hungary differed significantly from the rest in Eastern and Central Europe
and as a result Hungary paved the way of the transition to democracy in those countries.
After the reception, Ferenc Bene, President of the Hungarian Freedom Fighters‘ Association,
opened an exhibition, specially brought to Australia from Hungary graphically depicting the
events of the 1956 Revolution — the demonstrations, the sieges, the massacres, the street
fighting, the celebrations of victory, the communist restoration of power and the retribution.
Included also was a record of the defining moments following the dissolution of communism
in Hungary in 1989 — the dismantling of the Iron Curtain, the reburial of the martyrs of the
Revolution and images of the Red Army leaving Hungary.
The last item of the day was the Commemorative Concert in the Parliament House theatrette.
This concert included musical performances by cellist Eszter Mikes-Liu and violinist Lisa
Stewart; violinist Ibolya Mikajló and pianist Prue Gibbs; and singer Sylvia Virág; The poem,
A Statue, by Edwin Morgan about the demolition of the statue of Stalin was presented by
Barbara Altorjai Albury who also compèred of the concert. The fine singing of the Bartók
Choir was again much appreciated by both Australians and Hungarians in the audience. The
projected images by Gus Ilosvay were evocative.
Welcoming addresses were given by His Excellence Mr Lajos Fodor, Ambassador of the
Republic of Hungary to Australia and by the Honourable John Aquilina, Speaker of the New
South Wales Legislative Assembly.
Mr Aquilina spoke of "the brave men and women of Hungary who valiantly sought to
overthrow their oppressors 50 years ago" and how "the memory of the thousands who died in
the fighting or were cruelly executed afterwards would live on forever." He described their
struggle as some of "the defining moments in the history of freedom."
He pointed out that their struggle was not "doomed" just delayed. It was not a coincidence
that Hungary was the first country in Eastern Europe to regain its full independence when the
Iron Curtain came down, inspiring its neighbours to do the same.
The Most Reverend Kevin Manning, Bishop of Parramatta spoke in his memorial address
about the search for freedom by Hungarians coming to Australia as refugees: "It was because
you valued freedom and democracy that you came here, to a place where hard work was
rewarded, and families could be reared in safety. I don‘t pretend that life was easy for those
who came first: our ways were as strange to them as theirs were to us. Among many other
things, they no doubt missed their rich musical and artistic culture."
He then noted that one of the precious gifts Catholic Hungarians brought with them was their
faith. "I‘m told that in the days of the 1956 Revolution, the feasts of All Saints and All Souls
days were celebrated for the first time in many years. I salute the example and witness to the
faith that Hungarian Catholics have given in their new country, Australia."
Other items in the concert were a thoughtful address by Dr. András Ábel, the Chairman of the
Commemoration Committee. He pointed out that from the beginning on, the success of the
Revolution was doubtful and the state of world politics gave a low probability to a victorious
outcome. We have to be satisfied with just the moral victory, which the world continues to
credit to Hungarians with great respect, even after 50 years of elapse. Finally a greeting by
Tiiu Kroll-Simmul, President of the Joint Baltic Committee, outlining the communal work of
the Captive Nations Council of NSW in opposing Soviet oppression by peaceful means.
Australian Parliaments remember 1956
The Commemoration Committee requested that the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and
the State of New South Wales to acknowledge the importance of the 50th Anniversary of the
1956 Revolution. As a consequence, motions marking the anniversary were moved in both
parliaments, drawing attention to the 1956 Revolution as an event of international historical
significance and to its continuing moral and political influence.
The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia
House of Representatives
On Monday 16 October 2006 the Honourable Alex Somlyay MP moved a motion concerning
the 50th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution in the House of Representatives of the
Australian Parliament. This motion reflected a similar resolution adopted by the United States
House of Representatives on 6th December 2005 as well as other parliaments around the
Mr Somlyay moved that the House:
1. commends the people of Hungary as they mark the 50th anniversary of the 1956
Hungarian Revolution, which set the stage for the ultimate collapse of communism in 1989
throughout Central and Eastern Europe, including Hungary, and two years later in the Soviet
2. expresses condolences to the people of Hungary for those who lost their lives fighting for
the cause of Hungarian freedom and independence in 1956, as well as for those individuals
executed by the Soviet and Hungarian communist authorities in the five years following the
Revolution, including Prime Minister Imre Nagy;
3. welcomes the changes that have taken place in Hungary since 1989, believing that
Hungary‘s integration into NATO and the European Union, together with similar
developments in the neighbouring countries, will ensure peace, stability, and understanding
among the great peoples of the Carpathian Basin;
4. reaffirms the friendship and cooperative relations between the governments of Hungary
and Australia and between the Hungarian and Australian people; and
5. recognises the contribution of people of Hungarian origin to this nation.
Mr Somlyay then spoke to the motion: ―It is my great pleasure and honour to move this
motion today, and I am pleased that my jet-lagged colleague Michael Danby, the member for
Melbourne Ports, is going to second the motion. This motion mirrors a similar motion
debated in the United States Congress earlier this year. I recommend that people read Mr
Danby‘s article in last week‘s Financial Review and also the Hansard record of Prime
Minister Menzies and Dr Evatt‘s responses in 1956 to get a proper historical context. I
acknowledge all members of the Hungarian community present in the gallery, many of whom
have travelled a long way to be here today. I know that my friend Laci Kovassy has travelled
down from Noosa.
As the motion indicates, the people of Hungary and Hungarians everywhere are
commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Last week, the
member for Melbourne Ports and I attended a special commemoration ceremony in Budapest
organised by the Hungarian parliament which involved tributes by 21 speakers representing
parliaments around the world. Following the ceremony in parliament all participants
travelled by bus to a wreath-laying ceremony at the national memorial. Delegations laid a
wreath at the memorial and on two graves: firstly, on the grave of former Prime Minister
Imre Nagy – the heroic leader of the revolution, who was executed by the communist regime –
and, secondly, on the grave of the unknown heroes. As we lined up to lay the wreaths, we took
an emotional walk past scores of graves and headstones depicting dates of death in the years
immediately following 1956. It is estimated that over 2,500 Hungarians lost their lives in the
revolution. They became martyrs in the cause of democracy and freedom. A further 1,200
Hungarians were executed by the post-conflict communist government.‖
Mr Somlyay told the House that he was also a refugee from communism in Hungary. He
came to Australia in 1949 on the USS General Harry Taylor, one of the many wartime vessels
used to transport refugees from Europe to other places in the world.
One of Mr Somlyay‘s earliest memories as an infant was " being inside a refugee camp in
Italy looking at the outside world through a barbed wire fence."
He remembers witnessing the impact of events in Budapest in 1956 on Hungarians in
Australia: "There was an air of joy, excitement and anticipation as many people prepared
themselves, some to return to Hungary to join those who stayed to rebuild the nation. This joy
and anticipation turned to despair and disappointment. I remember vividly sitting in a theatre
in Sydney with my mother as tears rolled down her face as we watched the film of the Soviet
tanks rolling back into Budapest, the city she loved passionately. Hungarians in Australia
were angry with the West for not intervening. The people of Hungary felt betrayed.‖
Mr Somlyay pointed out, that 200,000 Hungarians escaped the country in 1956 and were
resettled in host nations abroad. Australia took 14,000 Hungarian refugees, which he
considered a "most generous humanitarian response."
The Honourable Mr Michael Danby seconded the motion. After acknowledging the presence
of the Hungarian Ambassador to Australia and representatives of the Hungarian community
in the gallery Mr Danby described a moving experience while in Budapest for the 1956
anniversary: " Few countries have had a more traumatic history than Hungary. As I said in
the Financial Review its history is well known. The tragedies of the Second World War are
also well known.... Just a few days ago I went to one of the best museums I have seen
throughout the world, the House of Terror in Andrassy Street in Budapest. At this new
museum, Hungary commemorates the evil deeds of both the Arrow Cross and the Hungarian
communists — especially the role of the Hungarian secret service. To see the kinds of tortures
and depredations that were brought to the Hungarian people was very, very moving."
He went on to comment on the lack of action by western governments in response to the
uprising: "One of the things that the Member for Fairfax raised, which I think now has
widespread acceptance, is that the Hungarian Revolution was not betrayed but that many
people in the West might have done more. Perhaps the world was distracted and divided by
events in Suez, but I am reminded very much of the theme of that cult American film Three
Kings, that it is very unwise to call on and support people to rise up against authoritarian or
totalitarian regimes if you are not prepared to follow through and help them.
The Hungarian people were very grateful for Australia‘s support at the time. Australia was
one of the countries appointed by the UN to investigate the reasons for the suppression.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to carry out the UN mandate because of the Hungarian
communist regime‘s refusal to accept Australia in to investigate the events of 1956."
Four other spreakers from both sides of the House spoke in favour of the motion. All
recognised the sacrifices made by the people of Hungary during the Revolution, their courage
and resilience in the face of insurmountable odds, and the transformation of the nation since
1989 into a democracy which is taking its rightful place on the European stage.
Mr Peter Slipper, the Honourable Member for Fisher, in speaking to the motion, pointed out
that: "Hungary is a country where we have had 40 wasted years, but now Hungary once
again is free and once again is able to take its part in the world. It seemed to me for a long
time that the essential genius of Hungary and Hungarians was smothered by the wet blanket
of communism. Now that has been removed, of course, the opportunities for Hungary and
Hungarians in central Europe are really unsurpassed and unlimited.
It always touches me how, throughout world history, the concept of ‗freedom‘ has provided
such heightened motivation for the people who do not have it. People who have been denied
freedom, stable government and security are prepared to risk much in order to attain these
things, if not for themselves then for their children and others who will come after them.
This was the case some 50 years ago in the Hungarian Revolution. It was an event in which
the people of the nation spontaneously came together to launch a powerful and united
offensive against Soviet rule and against communism. What had started as a well-meaning
march by students captured the imagination of their fellow frustrated citizens. It was such
that the inner anger of many individuals, suppressed for so long by the hand of communism,
was simultaneously released to become one united force."
He referred to – Árpád Szilágyi, a student at the time and a freedom fighter, who wrote: ―It
was a revolution in the true sense of the word: A fight of the whole nation against repression
and tyranny in the name of creating a better and more just society.‖
Mr Michael Hatton, the Honourable Member for Blaxland, described the 1956 Hungarian
Revolution as the first major expression of massive discontent and the willingness to break
free from the Warsaw pact which had been imposed on Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union at
the close of World War II.
He referred to the ideology of worldwide communism as being extremely broad and deep and
that it was Nikita Kruschev who, in a speech to the Communist Party Congress in Moscow in
1956, first revealed the true nature of Stalinism — its murder of tens of millions of people and
its subjugation of people across Eastern Europe to an unnecessary brutal regime.
―The depth of feeling that was around then was expressed by what happened during the
Melbourne Olympic Games,‖ said Mr Hatton. ―In those Olympic Games in the water polo
arena, Hungary came up against the Soviet Union. That pool ran with blood, as the streets in
Hungary ran with blood when the Soviets subjected the Hungarian people to their revolution
being crushed out of existence.‖
Mr Michael Keenan, the Honourable Member for Stirling, highlighted the courage needed by
basically unarmed citizens to oppose an overwhelming powerful enemy: ―It was a real David
and Goliath battle that pitted the might of the Warsaw pact, with all its tanks, artillery and
war planes, against the ordinary Hungarian people, who were fighting with Molotov cocktails
and small calibre rifles.‖
He then went on to congratulate the new democratic Hungary: ―Today in Hungary we have a
nation transformed: it is a member of NATO and the EU. I have visited the country twice, and
after 1989 you could not possibly be anything but impressed by the vibrancy that has been
Mr Laurie Ferguson, the Honourable Member for Reid, elaborated on the contributions
Hungarians have made to Australia. ―Today, 150,000 to 200,000 Australians are of
Hungarian extraction,‖ he said. ―Of these 85½ per cent who are Hungarian born say that
they speak English well. The rate of citizenship at the last census was 97 per cent.‖
He added that 61½ per cent of Hungarians are in skilled trades compared to 52½ per cent
among Australians and that nearly 60 per cent of Hungarians have educational or
occupational qualifications compared to 46.2 per cent of Australians.
Mr Ferguson also pointed out that 42½ per cent of Hungarian-born people are over the age of
65. ―This is a matter that affects many eastern European communities,‖ he said. ―In the past
I have argued that this country should be more lenient with regard to family migration. We
should look to nieces and nephews to support older eastern Europeans in this country.‖
He also commented on another aspect of the motion, the entry of Hungary into NATO in
1999 and into the European Union in 2004. ―It is worth noting that many of the problems that
we have spoken about concerning Bulgaria and Romania and the degree to which they can be
accommodated in Europe were not present with Hungary. It had already advanced in human
rights and there were no significant questions about its appropriateness in entering Europe.
That is also an important point to drive home.‖
Resolution in the Parliament of New South Wales
On 23 November 2006 Ms Kristina Keneally, the Honourable Member for Heffron, moved a
motion about the 50th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution in the the NSW Legislative
Assembly. The motion was agreed to on the same day.
Ms Kristina Keneally moved that the House:
(1) notes that 23 October 2006 was the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising against the
communist regime of the Soviet Union;
(2) remembers the approximately 20,000 Hungarians who stood for freedom on 23 October
1956, sparking a nationwide protest and encouraging similar anti-communist protests in
(3) notes that Australia had provided sanctuary to approximately 14,000 Hungarian refugees
by the end of 1957, and that today the largest Hungarian population in Australia resides in
New South Wales; and
(4) appreciates that many of these migrants have made significant contributions to various
aspects of Australian life and to their ethnic Hungarian community.
―I join Madam Acting-Speaker in welcoming the Consul Genaral, Mr József Papp to the
gallery. I am pleased that on my invitation he is here today. I also acknowledge Mr Béla
Kardos, President of the Hungarian Council of New South Wales. I thank him for joining us
here to mark this historic occasion in Hungarian history.‖
Ms Keneally said that she was proud to move the motion because her government area of
Randwick has the fourth largest Hungarian population in NSW and also because she herself is
from an ethnic background. Of German origin, Ms Keneally grew up in Toledo, Ohio which
was largely populated by people of German, Polish and Hungarian descent.
Ms Keneally observed that although the Revolution was only 13 days long, it was a key event
in the fall of communism. ―It was the spark that lit the revolution that then took place across
Eastern Europe and behind the Iron Curtain. It led to opposition movements coming forward
in neighbouring countries, culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall.‖ She went on to quote
the words of Hungarian President László Sólyom:
―The memory of 1956, when a small nation stood up courageously against the mighty forces
of a brutal communist dictatorship, will always live on in Hungary. This event of history has
also acquired new significance as more and more people across the globe express the desire
to live in free societies.‖
Ms Keneally pointed out that: ―The Soviet Union launched a massive military counter-
offensive against the uprising. Thousands of Hungarians were tortured, tried and executed by
the post-1956 Hungarian Government, including the Prime Minister, Imre Nagy. That is why
I think this motion should not only commemorate but also express condolence to the people of
Hungary and their families who lost loved ones during the uprising, as well as those who
were killed in the years following the uprising. The Hungarian uprising dramatically
underlined how strongly the people of Hungary supported democratic principles and their
right to determine their own national destiny.
My motion also notes that Australia provided sanctuary, bringing the total of first generation
Hungarians to 30,000 by the end of 1957. These post-1956 refugees included a large number
of young tradesmen and factory workers. The Hungarians who came to Australia were
hardworking and family oriented. They brought a strong sense of not only community and
heritage but also civic pride, and they valued democracy and freedom. They not only stood as
an example to us of family values and community pride but also provided an excellent
example of what it is to be a member of a democratic society. The experience of the
Hungarian migration to Australia reminds Australians today that we have been, and can
continue to be, a country that welcomes refugees and people fleeing oppressive and brutal
This can be a country that supports and welcomes people who come here seeking a better life.
Like members of the Hungarian community, many people who come to Australia remind us of
the importance of our gifts: democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly. They
remind us to value those things and they stand as an example of citizenship, community and
civic pride, and what a great country Australia is. They also remind us that we have been
enriched by the multicultural groups that make up this wonderful country. It is most fitting
today, on the anniversary of the uprising, to acknowledge that the Hungarian community has
made a significant contribution to Australia, and specifically to the State of New South
Mr Barry O’Farrell, Member for Ku-ring-gai and Deputy Leader of the Opposition: In
welcoming the Consul General of Hungary and the President of the Hungarian Council of
New South Wales to the Chamber, also spoke to the motion: ―It is hard for people of the age
of the Honourable Member for Heffron and me to imagine the events of those 13 days in
1956. We are the heirs of the sacrifices made then and in the world conflict that preceded the
events of 1956. Many of our constituents take for granted much of what people fought and
died for. It is important at times like this that we pause to consider not only what happened in
1956 but also the aftermath and the fact that some people in this country — indeed, some in
my electorate — still vividly remember those events, still suffer the pain of the sacrifice, but
remain eternally proud of the spirit that was demonstrated over those 13 days and what it led
What was clear at the time in this country was the spirit and warmth with which Australians
received refugees from Hungary. The level of the conflict was also very clear at the time.
Australia hosted the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, and those of us interested in Olympic
history and those who saw a movie made a couple of years ago will always remember the
blood in the water during the water polo match between Hungary and Russia. God willing,
Hungary won four to nil and went on to win the gold medal. In a violent, but thankfully not
lethal way, that represented the same spark of independence occurring in Hungary.
The events of those 13 days are significant in terms of the following 32 years of world history
— until the Berlin Wall fell and in 1991 when Soviet troops finally left Hungary and the then
Soviet Government finally apologised to Hungary for its actions during the uprising.
When thinking about my contribution today I was reminded of the words of Miklós Molnár,
one of the 1956 activists who was put to death along with his former Prime Minister in 1958.
He said in his A Concise History of Hungary that the uprising that established
‗totalitarianism was not an empire destined to last a thousand years‘. Wherever people fight
for the right to assemble and self-determination, we should honour them and seek to support
them. If by chance they fail, we should pay homage to their memory.‖
Mr O’Farrell acknowledged the contribution that Hungarians have made to Australia
including the former premier Mr Nick Greiner. He also told the story of Imre Salusinszky,
the political reporter for The Australian newspaper, whose family escaped from Hungary
during the Revolution. ―They packed up their lives to flee the Soviet troops,‖ said Mr
O‘Farrell. He quoted from Imre Salusinszky article in the 21-22 October edition of The
Australian Weekend Rewiew: ―The main belongings we could take were two small Persian
rugs on which the girls sat and some cocoa and coffee to be able to make drinks for the
children and ourselves. So at 1 o‘clock in the afternoon we closed the door of our house, fully
paid and very well furnished, took leave from an aunt and uncle who came to say goodbye to
us, and drove off.‖
―That story‖, concluded Mr O‘Farrell, ―sums up so much of what has happened to these
people who simply wanted freedom, self-determination and the right to go about their lives.
They saw in the death of Stalin an opportunity to do so. They saw in the events of Poland, as
perhaps a signal of a freeing up within the Soviet pact system. They were brutally proven
wrong and too many lives were lost. Thankfully, at the end of the day, we are a stronger
country and so is Hungary.‖