Q: How did the fighting in the end resolve itself? Or, put it another way, how did the Korvin group get scattered and overcome?
A: We were fighting until the 10th of November in the Korvin, and they never could occupy. The 10th of November, we give it up. We get the information that the 10th of November, early in the morning, they start fighting with cannons and from far away, which against we couldn't defend it. If tanks and troops are coming, we can defend the Korvin, but when from three-four kilometres are coming the... we cannot defend. And I said that it's only two examples in the Hungarian history what we could follow. But we have a third solution also. One is Mohacz, when the Turks came in and they occupied Hungary for 150 years, where they massacred the Hungarian army. And the other, Vilagosz, when, [in] 1849, Gorgey lay down the weapons against the Austrians. Or we're going to give up the Korvin, we're going to go to another place and we're going to continue fighting in another place. And at that time, the 10th of November, early morning, we went at the Rákosi Square, and we was over there until the 15th. And when I saw that no help is coming... I said, "This is suicide, what we are doing here. It is no sense in it. We lost." And then I told the guys to go home. We lost. And I was waiting over there until everybody left. And two doctors, Szusza who was working in the office of the Korvin headquarter(s) and myself, four of us, we... all four us, we were tried. That was the end of the revolution.
Q: What then happened? Could you describe your departure from Hungary?
A: The 27th of November, I left Hungary with my mother and my little sister - she was 12 years old, and she was the only one from the family who wasn't involved in the revolution. And we arrived to Austria t28th of November. From Austria, from Vienna, I went down to Italy with a group of freedom fighters - I knew who they were, authentic, involved in the revolution - and we started to organise something; maybe we still can do something. And in the middle of February, we gave up that too. Then I went back to Vienna, and from Vienna to the United States. My family was over there already.
Q: What happened to those fighters who were not able to leave Hungary?
A: (Sighs) Many of them, they went to prison. About 600 of them, they were executed. And they talk about the guyash [sic - gulag] communists during Kadar. Two things we have to have in mind. (Pause) After 1849, about 50 people were executed by the Austrians, Heunau, and he was considered as the bloodiest murderer in the Hungarian history. Far, far, Kadar overpassed that when around 600 freedom fighter(s) were executed. He is the bloodiest murderer in the Hungarian history. They talk about the guyash [gulag] communists. The United States gave loans to Hungary; that was the request that the political prisoners they're going to [be] released. First came the first amnesty in '61, and the second amnesty in '63. Even at that time, they wasn't released all of them, but most of them. And because [of] this, the United States give money, billions of dollars, to Hungary - exactly $42 billion. Now from that money, they raised the living standard - not [from] the production what Hungary was producing, but from that loan. And that loan has to be paid back now. And now the Hungarian people, that's why they're suffering, because around four and a half-five billion dollars every year is going out to pay back the loan and the interest. Now can you imagine if that money would stay in the country: the living standard and the Hungarian situation, it wouldn't be like what it is today.
Q: Looking back at your experiences of 1956, and your own role in the Korvin Passage combat group, would you have done anything different?
A: I made a lot of mistakes, but all those mistakes, I think I would do it again. I feel bad about a lot of things, especially that I was defending the AVO and I didn't allow any executions. It... until reached my hand, it was no execution whatsoever - and my hand at that time reached very far. That's one of the reason(s) the Hungarian revolution has two very big meaning(s). The first, and really the only revolution against the communist system; and the other, the cleanest revolution in the history. According to Kadar's statistics, 31 person(s) were executed, lynched, during the revolution. Now if you look who they were, any court would have sentenced them to death. In Budapest, 600 people massacred the 25th, in the Kossuth Square, when the AVO opened fire against the people over there, who wasn't armed. In Miskoic, where peasant women and children, they went to the AVO offices and they were demanding to release the students who they were imprisoned there - they opened fire. In Mosonmagyarovar, 105 kids, they were massacred. And when they caught these secret police officers, these AVO people, it was no question they were executed. The Republic Square here in Budapest - I was part of what happened over there, so I was here, I know what happened. I was elected the 30th of October to be the commander-in-chief of the Korvin. Just about half an hour later came a telephone call: "We need help at the Republic Square." "Why, what's going on?" "In the Party headquarter(s), the AVO opened fire against the people, and whoever is moving in the square, they shoot. There are about 80 people dead over there already, two with the white red cross also dead over there. They don't... anybody who moves, they open fire." And I said over the phone, "It's impossible. Two days ago, Imre Nagy dissolved the AVO - it's no more AVO." "Then who's shooting?" So I asked the commander of the tanks... we had 11 Russian tanks intact; the Russian soldiers came out from it with hands up; in three tanks we could put people who can handle the tank... and I asked the commander just how many tanks we can use. "Three." I said, "All right, all three of them. We're going to the Republic Square." I climbed in, in one of the tanks, and a lot of kids on the top of the tank - we were going to the Republic Square. When I find out what's going on... in the Party building they were still AVO in, and nobody was moving on the square... and I said, "We have to end this," and I told the commander of the tanks to open fire with a 76-millimetre cannon. Four or five shots the tank gave, and there are the pictures to prove it, which were made the 2nd or 3rd of November... the impact. The AVO gave up and the people went in, and the AVO was coming out with their hands up.
(End of #10257)
Q: ... Party headquarters in Republic Square - if you could continue.
A: After the people occupied the headquarter(s) and the AVO came out with their hands up, and I saw that the Party headquarter(s) is ... I started to work from the other side of the square to the headquarter(s). When I arrived over there... naturally the kids from the Korvin, they came with me... I saw that these AVO people who came out with hands up, they started to execute them. I started to yell that "Don't spoil our clean revolution! They're going to stand trial, and if the judge going to find them guilty, they're going to get what they earned. But don't spoil the cleanness of our revolution with these executions." I was lucky because my comrades, they were over there. They wanted to throw me between them. My comrades, they came around me and they pulled me out from that hysterical group of people - and it was a few hundred of them. And one of the kids, around 16, asked me a question, (Sighs) and he asked me, "Mostasz" - that was my name during the revolution - "if one of your brothers would lay down... lay over there between the dead in the square, even then would be the same your opinion?" And that gave me a little thinking. So I could understand those people, but I said that "This is not the right solution," and I asked the leaders over there in my group, "Go back over there. At least the wounded people, take to the hospital." Holoszevin writes a book about what happened in the Republic Square, and he writes down the names of that nine person who was executed, and all these photographs and films, they were spread all over the world, publicised. At the same time, nobody's talking about... when you read the book of... this book, after the names of these nine person(s), four or five pages over, you find a name who testified in 1957, and it wasn't the usual Hungarian name. I said, "That people were executed on the 30th," and I'm going back and I find his name over there between the executed people. Two pages later, another name. So it came out that six person(s), six AVO people, who they saved, my comrades, they saved and took to the hospital - they were just wounded, they didn't died - they testified in '57 against those who saved them. And about 50 of those kids, they were executed in '57-58-59-60 by the testimony of these six who we saved. And I feel guilty... because [it's] my responsibility that those people, they were saved and they had the chance to testify against my comrades. However... that was a tremendous mistake, but I think if it happened again, I would do that same mistake again. That's why I can't even say anything.
Q: Mr Pongracz, thank you very much for the interview.