The Agi Jambor Memoir 1938-1950

Sample extract from the memoir

Sample extract

January 1945: In our apartment my sister’s husband greeted us with the words: “I have a paper here which permits you and your family to move to the Swedish Legation.” Sure enough, he had the paper there. It was forged – but the police accepted it. They gave us an escort, and guarded by him our whole family went over to the Swedish Legation. The gunfire was heavy in the streets ... and the walk was slow. We had with us my 76-year-old aunt who had pneumonia and hunger typhoid just then.

Arriving there, the first news we heard was that the head of the Hungarian Division of the Swedish Legation had just committed suicide, because the Arrow Crossist Hungarian government had declared all Swedish citizenship papers and letters of protection invalid. There was a young woman there with a six-month-old baby. The Nazis dragged them to the Danube and shot at her; she fell into the water but she was only slightly wounded; she was able to swim out with her baby, and to come back to the Swedish Legation. The baby was hungry and cried continually and she had nothing to give her. Then the mother began to sing to her child. She sang beautifully, and she kept on singing until the child fell asleep. It was the most heart-rending musical experience of my life.

The Legation was completely desolate. There was nothing to eat, we had no money. The hours passed, and slowly the afternoon twilight descended on the city. Something had to be done. Since Imre and I were the only ones in the family who had false papers, the other members persuaded us to leave them and to attempt to return to Mr Posfay.

Outside the snow was falling and the cold bit into our faces. The streets were empty, except for Arrow Cross gangsters here and there with their guns. We zigzagged from corner to corner, trying to avoid the Nazis. Finally we just ran right into the arms of a young Nazi. He looked about eighteen. I quickly gathered my wits and said to him, “Dear brother, would you be willing to help us? We want to go to Buda and we don’t know the way. We are refugees from the Russians. Please guide us there.” He looked at me and said, “I cannot go to Buda. It is under gun fire.” “Please tell us at least how to get there.” He explained to us the well-known route ... and forgot to ask for our papers.

As we struggled on in the twilight, it suddenly dawned on us what impossible inroads war had made into our conscious minds. At Liberty Square we saw a dead cat and about two yards from it a dead man. Somehow the death of the dumb animal who had nothing to do with politics or Nazism or war had a stronger effect on us than the death of the man lying next to it.

We reached the Chain Bridge. This was the only bridge that was not yet closed. I asked a soldier whether we could cross the bridge. He answered, “You can try it ... but you will never reach the other end. Russian planes are constantly circling overhead, and they machine-gun anyone they see on the bridge.” But Imre said to me, “Don’t be afraid, Agi. We will crawl in the snow, under the chains”. We did just that. It took us an hour to reach the other end, ordinarily a ten-minute walk. There was incessant gunfire over us. Parts of human bodies were scattered all around, here a hat with some hair and a bloody ear, there a leg or a torso. When we arrived at the other side Imre remarked, “The chains are not exactly what one would call an ideal protection. Unfortunately, there are holes in them”. I looked back at the chains and shivered. Of course, Imre knew all along that the chains had holes in them but he did not tell me. I might not have dared to cross the bridge.

On the Buda side, at the head of the bridge, there was a little shack. We rushed into that. We did not see that on the top of the shack a German anti-aircraft gun was mounted. Just as we entered, the firing began. Our eardrums almost burst from the terrific noise. The soldiers warned us, “Go back to Pest. Buda is hell.” We did not listen to them. We felt that the siege of Buda would be over in a few days, while Pest might hold out much longer. As it turned out, just the opposite happened.

We skipped from one house to another between the Russian and German lines. At one place we stayed about twenty minutes in the gateway of a burning house. In front of the house they were burying somebody, Imre asked who the dead man was and was told it was a German general who committed suicide. He looked at me happily and said, “If German generals are committing suicide, we shall soon be free.”

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