This very short book is the story of the author’s parents and their decision to flee Communist Hungary after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. It’s a part of history I’ve never read about and that alone made the book something I was eager to read.
The author’s parents, Kati and Adolf, survived the Holocaust – with Kati losing her parents and four siblings at Auschwitz while Adolf survived the camps. The fear that must have instilled in them, the fear of both going against the ruling government and the fear of not going against the ruling government, must have been almost paralyzing. But when their friends started to slip away from Hungary, they took courage from it and decided to go. But there was also fear there, in that the people left behind were always watched more closely by the government and police.
Fear is the driving factor of their decision to escape. Even in their first group to attempt an escape, someone asks whether the farmer letting them go through his land is sympathetic to their goals or just fond of money. It’s a stark reminder that, at times like this, there really is no in-between.
As a reader, as a viewer of this family’s story, you can’t help but question what you would do. Could you flee? Would you stay? Could you be like the guides and risk your life so that other’s can get away? What would make a guide do that? Could you give up your family and confront fears of the unknown? Would you be able to start life over with nothing? How did they do it?
This is a simple and powerful story of family fighting to make a better life for themselves, no matter the risk. I’ve never read a personal account of Communist Hungary and this was an excellent look at the basics of this part of world history and the people who endured and survived it.
(I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)