By Joel Hall
On Oct. 23, 1956, Hungarian university students started a revolution against the former Soviet Union, which had occupied the country since World War II.
The spontaneous revolt spread like wildfire throughout the country, forcing many of its communist leaders into exile and giving many Hungarians their first taste of freedom.
For 12 days, Hungarians set free political prisoners, smeared jam on the windows of Soviet tanks, ran make-shift hospitals, and drafted a 16-point plan for a democratic union.
On Nov. 10, however, with the democracies of the West unwilling to intervene, Soviet forces brutally crushed the revolution. The repression left 2,500 Hungarians dead, spurred 200,000 Hungarians to flee to the West, and left the county under the thumb of communism until 1990.
A photographic account of the 12-day revolution is on display for the first time outside of Washington, D.C., at the Morrow Branch Library on 6225 Maddox Road. The display is owned by the daughter of Edith Lauer, chair of the Hungarian American Coalition and one of the many Hungarians to flee to America after the revolution of 1956 failed.
John Parkerson, consul of the honorary Hungarian Consulate in Morrow, saw the display in Washington, and wanted to bring it to Clayton County.
"When I saw it, I said this is a very quality exhibit and it would be nice if we could show it in a library in Morrow," said Parkerson. The display contains dated photographs, a reproduction of a Time Magazine cover from January 1957 naming the "Hungarian Freedom Fighter" as the Times' "Man of the Year," and a communist Hungarian flag with a circle cut out where the symbolic hammer and sickle would be.
"This was an attempt to drive the communists out," said Parkerson. "They had hoped that the free countries of the west would come to their assistance. As it turns out, the West was not ready to confront the Soviet Union in a military way. They thought that it would start World War III."
Parkerson added that the crushed revolt is the origin of most people of Hungarian descent living in America today.
Mike Twomey, president and executive director of the Morrow Business and Tourism Association, said the display is part of a larger effort to cement a working relationship with Hungary. Last year, Morrow became the home of the Honorary Hungarian Consulate, which currently is the only foreign consulate in metro Atlanta south of Interstate 285.
"We're looking to create a sister relationship with Hungary," said Twomey. In about four months, Twomey said the city of Morrow will send several delegates to the Hungarian town of Hajdúszoboszló (pronounced 'hai-du-sa-boz-lo') to finalize a sister city relationship between the two communities.
Twomey said he would also like to make Morrow a purveyor of Hungarian wine. The country specializes in producing several dry, red wines, such as cabernet and pinot noir.
Morrow Branch Library Youth Services Assistant Darla Rance said the exhibit of photos from the 1956 revolution is on display the rest of the month of February and possibly the beginning of next month.
"We're always looking for good ideas for our display case ... that are a little more different than the usual," said Rance. "We've been trying to work this out for a while.
"There were tons of pictures of buildings destroyed, but we try to focus on the human interest," Rance added. "They were a small group of people, just regular people ... who felt strong enough to fight for where they lived."