(This chapter leads us to events that took place in Budapest, during WWII)
I returned to Budapest the following year in 1944. In April the Americans started to systematically bomb Budapest. On the first day of the bombings the bunker underneath the tenants house got a taste of it. Luckily the bomb did not explode. From that day on, before the raid would begin, I went to the nearby brick factory where there was another bunker which was 30 meters below ground; covered with clay and sand. As far as safety was concerned, it was safer but the heat was a different story; the bunker was without ventilation. Heat or no heat it was better than getting a bomb dropped on your head. The brick factory survived the carpet bombing until July.
The news from the Russian Front was as bad as could be. The Russian Army had started to make its way through Romania, Yugoslavia and into southeastern Hungary. Regardless of the good news that came from the state controlled radio, everyone knew it was just a matter of time before we all got a taste of Russian culture.
The military police set up check points looking for army deserters and those men who were of draft age. The draft age was lowered from twenty-one to nineteen. I was confident nothing would happen to me because I had just passed my eighteenth birthday. I was very wrong. A military police officer stopped me on the street and asked for proof of my age. I was over six feet tall so it was easy for them to think I was a draft dodger. I proved my age yet it didn’t seem enough. He proceeded to ask me where I did my military exercises. That seemed to be an easy question too, because I knew where the other young men in my area went. So I gave them the name of the school. He then went further and asked me the name of my commanding officer and I didn’t know. I started to get very nervous and hesitant. That was the end of the end and I was on my way to the school accompanied by the officer.
By then the gym was already filled up with young men like myself. It didn’t take them long to find out my name was no where on the list.
Later that afternoon, a high-ranking officer arrived. The captain had a speech for us and surprisingly in that speech he didn’t scold us. We weren’t called deserters or any other name. He just repeated and repeated in his speech how glorious it was to serve to homeland and in the end we would be victorious. I don’t think he seriously believed in what he was trying to make us believe. At the end of his speech, he got to the real issue. He said the army was willing to forgive our past guilt if we were to exercise our willingness to fight for our country and enlist. Finally he told us we had two hours to think it over or else. Afterwards we were given food and water and time to think. I ate and tried to weigh my options carefully. One thing that wasn’t clear if we did not join the army was “or else.”
(My father never went into too many details in his writings about his time in Budapest before the war. I gather being as young as he was, it was a very difficult time; with more difficult times to come. The next post is called “The Front.” I have read three separate versions of this chapter; also written at various times. I will try to combine them as much as possible to include all the details. It had crossed my mind to create a chronological index of events and sorts? Growing up these were stories told to us and when, dates and such were not very important to me. Now that I look back, certain definitions in Hungarian do not translate the same way in English. Names of organizations have changes, as have places. This leaves me in some what of a bind. ~Kat)