Copyright Eva Kende 2011 No part of this website may be reproduced without the author's consent.
I am pleased to announce that my book, a collection of short reminiscences, Snapshots… Growing up Behind the Iron Curtain, is now available for sale internationally, both in trade paperback and in ebook format.
While this is my personal story, it reflects the minutiae of everyday life in post war Hungary until the 1956 Revolution when thousands felt compelled to flee to the west to seek a freer life in democratic countries such as Canada. Coming out with this book is most appropriate at this time since the 50th anniversary of the Revolution will be celebrated on October 23rd, 2006. I tried to keep my stories free of political bias so that you, the reader, may draw your own conclusions.
The book is very clean, therefore it is suitable reading for young adults. I am very pleased to hear that a number of social studies teachers have deemed it useful as source material in their classes.
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- Readers say
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"Mother dusted the perimeter of each room with DDT daily to try to control the hordes of bedbugs that infested almost all dwellings in the city. She was determined to eradicate the pests after she found one morning our sheets covered with spots of blood from bedbugs crushed under our bodies. She also treated the back of all the paintings with the bug remedy and sealed them with brown paper. Aided by Nene, mother spread DDT around the room in white clouds of dust; using what looked like a giant salt shaker, they turned over armchairs and sofa to give them a dose of the deadly powder too. The smell of Shellac and DDT permeated the whole apartment. To this discord of unpleasant odours, mother added the smell of gasoline,when she discovered I had head lice. She washed my hair in gas and there I sat, with my head wrapped in a towel, smelling like a gas station for what seemed like hours. She then unwrapped me, sat me on a chair on top of a layer of newspapers and combed my tangled hair with a fine-tooth louse comb. I cried and complained as she yanked, while her action whipped my head this way and that, but she ignored my protests. Her satisfaction came with the ever-increasing number of black dots on the newsprint, signifying dead lice and her triumph over the enemy."
"On this sunny afternoon, about six of us girls congregated on a park bench, ignoring the boys this time, we got into a serious
conversation and weighed our future and the options to avoid the pitfalls. We agreed that getting into a technical school was almost impossible, although some of us would have liked to become
chemical technicians, textile technician, architectural draftsmen or medical technicians. Our success in enrolling in those schools was very remote. We all wanted at least to get into high school,
because without that we faced having to take a job as a shop assistant for starvation wages or work as a construction labourer for a little bit more. While we had our preferences, it mattered
little if we got a spot in a "real" or "human" program. Acceptance in one of the high schools depended on the same criteria as those used for technical school, but usually more of the "other"
classification gained acceptance. The final decision always rested with the principal of the particular high school.
We had to fill out pages of applications for each school we wished to try to enrol in and attach signatures from teachers, guarantors -preferably some good party official- as well as a complete profile of our activities in school. We weighed our individual and collective chances of obtaining those signatures and decided that we could improve our standing a notch in the matter of school activities.
We were, from the early grades on, all members of the young pioneers, a politicized version of Scouts, because not joining would have been suicidal for us and our families. We attended long political speeches, standing on one foot from exhaustion while the speaker droned on about the "glorious Soviet Union," or how "our pal Rákosi" was building a prosperous future just for us. We also created bulletin boards with pictures and slogans depicting "father Stalin", the Russian revolution, the splendid cooperative farms, and the heroic factory workers breaking the norm. We stood in silence, wooden-faced when the principal announced Stalin's death, repressing our secret feelings of hope, joy or even elation at the news. We all did well in not letting our thoughts and emotions get us and our families into trouble. It was very difficult, and we all felt a little envious of Teri, a good káder, who broke into huge sobs on hearing the news.
We knew she earned some good points for her sobs with the communist members of the school administration."
"When daylight came, Budapest was in ruins once again and convoys of Soviet tanks rumbled down the boulevard. This was end of our short-lived freedom. An eerie quiet hit the city. Fear, disappointment and resignation hovered over hunched backs in the grey daylight. Friends greeted each other, but failed to stop for a chat. What was there to say? That the dreams of the last few weeks had been unrealistic? Every one knew that. No one could tell what the future held and no one dared to think about it."
I found the book an eye opener and a bit of a tear jerker, a fitting tribute to the revolutionaries who rose against the Soviets in 1956. History is often written by objective writers and historians with no real contact with the historical times about which they are writing. Eva lived through these times and it is this authoritarian stamp that marks this book as a true account of life behind the Iron Curtain.
An outstanding read and a fitting tribute to freedom.
Alastair Rosie - Freelance Writer and Editor - http://www.asrosie63.force9.co.uk/
Snapshots… Growing up Behind the Iron Curtain was a very interesting book to read, and I mean interesting in more than one way. Along with the story are beautiful photographs that make you realize that this isn’t fiction, this is a story that really happened. The personal story of Eva. M. Kende. Make sure you read it, you’ll love it.
5 flags by Annick at Euro-Reviews,
We're delighted that you are writing this book! It is a story that only those who experienced the times can fully tell the world. So many '56ers did not want to return to Hungary, nor tell of their experiences. Hooray for you!! (I hope you included the tale of your playing in the sand near the Parliament building.)
We all were told to assemble at the Aula for "Official mourning." After Mme Otta delivered a tearful eulogy we were asked to stand silent for 5 minutes.
That we tried to do; However if you remember we had a "pedellus" who had a service apartment, opening from the aula, and whose parakeet had different ideas. In the middle of this dead silence
he started talking really loud: "Matyika Matyika Matyika Matyika szép madár......." (Matyika is diminutive for Matyas, the first name of the party
leader; szep madar means beautiful bird, but has a negative connotation in slang) You can imagine the effort to keep quiet and not to laugh out loud! We all were
I also had a run-in with Mme the first day of school in 1952: She called me into the office and ordered me not to pluck my eyebrows, since this is a bourgeois custom. She also chastised me the day my Father passed away, for wearing black! (I had to go in for a math exam that day). During the Revolution we all hoped that she will hang from the first lamp-post. Gossip had it that she left during the uprising, and did not come back until the Russians invaded.
I just finished reading "Snapshots..." and as I put the book down I had to get some kleenex to wipe tears from my eyes. Actually, I was very moved a
number of times by your story. Thank you for sharing!