Carrying a Secret in My Heart

Carrying a Secret in My Heart: Children of the Victims of the Reprisals after the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 - An Oral History

Zsuzsanna Kőrösi
Adrienne Molnár
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 203
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  • Book Info
    Carrying a Secret in My Heart
    Book Description:

    For a decade now, the authors have been conducting interviews for Hungary's Oral History Archives, with the children of those Hungarians - national heroes, as they are generally seen today - who were imprisoned or executed for their involvement in the 1956 revolution. The vast body of material that has been collected, and is now at the disposal of sociologists, psychologists and others in the academic community, forms the basis of this volume.

    eISBN: 978-615-5053-91-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
    (pp. 1-12)

    In this volume we present the results of oral history research carried out under the title The Second Generation of 1956ers. In the course of our investigations we were looking for answers to the following questions: How were the fates of the children of those executed or imprisoned after the crushing of the 1956 Hungarian revolution affected? And how did the members of a generation that was punished for the revolutionary roles played by their parents grow up with the burden of their heritage? Through our exploration of their personal fates and their experiences in the public and private spheres...

    (pp. 13-24)

    People’s memories of the revolution depend largely on how old they were when it took place and on the nature of the events they experienced, but also on how their families interpreted those events, both at the time and later. While the memories of those who lived in the capital, or in places where there were mass demonstrations or armed fighting, are based on first-hand experience, others heard news of the revolution only indirectly. Those whose families discussed the events as they took place during the revolution itself have recollections that differ from those who were surrounded by silence. Some...

    (pp. 25-44)

    The arrest of the head of the family, a figure who represented security, marked the beginning of a new and difficult period in the life of the family. Children were left without fathers, and the intimate family atmosphere and security that had characterised their lives before the revolution suddenly disappeared. There were no more family outings and their fathers were no longer there to make toys for them or tell them stories. Forty years later the interviewees remember their fathers as family men who were cleverer, more erudite and more hard-working than others around them.

    “He joined in our games....

    (pp. 45-58)

    In terms of a child’s development the family—the space of primary socialisation—is of the utmost importance. At the time of their fathers’ arrests our interviewees were all children, thus their families played a decisive role in how much they learned about their fathers, about their fathers’ imprisonment or execution, and about the revolution itself. It was from their families that they received—or should have received—answers to their often unspoken questions about what their fathers had done, why they had been sentenced, in what respect their families differed from others, why they too were being penalised, and...

    (pp. 59-72)

    The ancient Greeks branded with clearly visible signs people regarded as unworthy or disgraced. A stigma was thus, for them, a mark of shame on the pariah of society. In the Christian tradition the concept was given a different interpretation: marks resembling the wounds of the crucified Christ were said to have been supernaturally impressed on the bodies of certain holy people. Today, stigmata refer to differences highlighted in order to discredit.

    According to Erving Gofman’s classification, one type of stigma comprises the ‘tribal’ stigmata of racial, national and religious belonging, which spread along the lines of family ties and...

    (pp. 73-90)

    On stepping outside the family circle, the children of the 1956 convicts came into contact with several different communities, such as the extended family, neighbours, school, workplace and army. Here they met with rejection, neutrality, or support. Officially, as we have seen, they usually encountered discrimination, although in their capacity as private persons officials did on occasion prove to be helpful. In civilian life, however, neutrality and solidarity were more common responses. Of course, there is no way of knowing what those who came into contact with the families of the convicts were themselves doing in 1956, what they thought...

    (pp. 91-104)

    The identity of an individual is shaped in the course of confrontation. We have seen how the children of the 1956 convicts became aware of their stigmatisation and how they experienced the fact that the political authorities and certain people in their immediate environment labelled them as socially undesirable.

    The father figure and the relationship of the child to his or her father play an important role in the formation of the child’s identity. In the case of the children of the convicts their experience of stigmatisation and the way in which they related to, and coped with, the blemish...

    (pp. 105-116)

    As a result of the relative consolidation that had taken place, and with international acceptance of the system, the party leaders felt by the early 1960s that their position in power had stabilised. Restrictions became less severe and those sensitive to the political mood sensed amnesty in the air. During the partial amnesties of 1959 and 1960, first those who had been sentenced to less than two years were released, followed by those who had been given sentences of less than six years. Others were able to return to their families having been granted an individual amnesty. The majority of...

    (pp. 117-130)

    The opportunity to say a final farewell and to pay one’s respects to the dead is a fundamental human need. Funeral services and the tending of graves help the living to come to terms with their loss and pain, and at the same time provide an opportunity for remembrance. Following the defeat of the revolution the new authorities considered even dead bodies and graves to be dangerous: it was not only husbands and fathers who were taken from their families, but bodies too. The executed were buried secretly in unmarked graves. The Kádár regime tried to extinguish even the tiniest...

    (pp. 131-148)

    In the foregoing chapters we have seen how the children of the convicts faced up to their unique situation and how they came to terms with the resulting conflicts. Today it has become clear to most of them what happened to them and why, and what examples can and should be followed from all that their fathers did in 1956. With respect to the taking of public or political roles, and to the revolution and the retribution, the standpoints they have adopted depend on the nature of the father’s participation, on his conviction, and on his attitude following release.


    (pp. 149-180)
    (pp. 181-190)
    (pp. 191-195)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 196-196)