Remembering the Hungarian Revolutionaries of 1956

News: World News
by Martina Moyski  •  •  October 23, 2023   

Their bravery lives on

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BUDAPEST, Hungary ( - Hungarians all over the world are remembering the brave men and women who, in 1956, gave their lives and livelihoods to fight for freedom.

Thousands of people marched in Budapest today, Oct. 23, in a torchlight procession commemorating the country's revolution and war of independence. They marched from the University of Technology to Bem Square, where the revolution began when Hungarians wrenched a nearly 23-foot statue of Joseph Stalin off its base.

While in Australia on government business, Hungary's president, Katalin Novák, also acknowledged the day. She posted on X:

With the Hungarian community in Melbourne, we commemorated the 1956 Revolution. This is a celebration of freedom shared by all Hungarians, wherever in the world they may live. We are all proud of the "Lads of Pest," the heroes of freedom, who stood up even to the Soviet tanks.

The president's reference to the "Lads of Pest" (pesti srácok) remembers the hundreds of young men and women in their teens who took up arms to fight against the Soviet occupation and for a future freedom. Many of them paid the ultimate price.

The permanent Hungarian representative to the European Union, Bálint Ódor, honored the day at a commemoration at the historic Brussels Cathedral, and parishes in the United States with Hungarian ties remembered the fallen who had fought heroically for their freedom. Many sang the Hungarian National Anthem, which, Hungarians are quick to point out, is really a prayer. The last stanza reads:

Pity, O Lord, the Hungarians
Who are tossed by waves of danger
Extend over it Your guarding arm
On the sea of its misery
Long torn by ill fate
Bring upon it a time of relief
They who have suffered for all sins
Of the past and of the future!

A Hungarian patriot named Boris Kálnoky summed up the sentiment of the day. The head of the media school at Mathias Corvinus Collegium posted, "Hungarians don't like being told what to think and what to do. Happy National Holiday!"

On Oct. 23, 1956, Hungarians rose up against the totalitarian rule of the Soviets. Their resistance lasted for 12 eventful days before being crushed by Soviet tanks and troops on Nov. 4. Tens of thousands of Hungarians were killed, injured or imprisoned. An estimated quarter of a million managed to escape the country.


Sándor Petőfi


The revolution began with Hungarians demanding sovereignty at the site of the General Bem statue. The assembled crowd chanted the Hungarian patriotic poem National Song written by the famous Hungarian patriot Sándor Petőfi.

The crowd ignored the Soviet government's banning of the poem and repeatedly chanted the refrain: "We vow, we vow, that we will be slaves no longer!"

At certain points during the 12 days, the revolution looked like it was on the verge of an amazing triumph for the small satellite country fighting the Soviet goliath. Ordinary citizens across the country, some armed with nothing more than kitchen utensils and farm tools, were taking on Soviet tanks and troops. 

It appeared that the Soviets were about to concede. But in what many consider a duplicitous pivot, the Soviet leadership completely reversed itself and decided to put a brutal end to the rebellion, and its tanks rolled over anyone or anything in their sites.

News Report: Unbowed Freedom Fighters

The United States has been criticized for abandoning the Hungarians after President Dwight Eisenhower purported that his government would support the "liberation" of "captive people" in communist countries. 

We vow, we vow, that we will be slaves no longer!

In 1957, on the one-year anniversary of the Hungarian uprising, Sen. John F. Kennedy spoke of the bravery of the rebels: "To give up their chains, intellectuals gave up their studies, shopkeepers their livelihoods, mothers their homes, and even when they saw the odds were hopeless, they did not feel theirs to be a lost cause."

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