Our entire family in Szeged suffered under the Communist reign in Hungary after the Soviet occupation in 1945. But none of us felt it more than my father, Nógrádi Mihály, a small landowner, who resided at 13 Mokrini sor. He was taken away on false charges one night in the autumn of 1950 by the Hungarian Secret Police, known as ÁVO [Állam Védelmi Osztály].
It was common practice for the ÁVO to recruit ordinary citizens in all neighborhoods as informers who were expected to report on individuals suspected of not being Communist sympathizers.
One of our neighbors down the street was an informer and he picked my father for his victim. He was accused of being in speaking relationship with members of an anti-Communist group called Kard és Kereszt (Sword and Cross). That organization was set up by the ÁVO to flush out individuals resisting Communism.
The decree, dated October 1950, was signed by Lieutenant-Colonel Károlyi Márton, saying in part: nevezett illegális demokráciaellenes szervezkedés tagjaival tartott kapcsolatot, ezért internálása államvédelmi szempontból szükséges (The aforementioned person has maintained contact with members of an illegal anti-democratic organization, for this, his internment is necessary for reasons of state security).
At first my father was kept and tortured at the Hotel Tisza in Szeged then transferred to a concentration camp in Kistarcsa where he was kept until May 1953. At that time, the newly appointed Prime Minister of Hungary, Nagy Imre, ordered the release of prisoners who were detained without trial. By that time, he endured torture, inhuman living conditions and forced-labor.
Shortly after my father’s incarceration my mother was intimidated into joining an agricultural co-operative thus losing control of our farm and livelihood. She was left to care for four children and two aging family members on her own. By the time I was 18, I was working away from home. My salary was split to cover my own expenses as well as those of the family. But more than that, I had entered a world of paranoia where everyone hid the details of their lives and never spoke of their families for fear that any information would be interpreted as being anti-communist. I myself kept my father’s incarceration a secret. It was in this climate that I left Hungary for Canada.
The legacy of Communism in Hungary remains. My family never recovered the properties surrendered to the co-operative. No compensation was made to my father for lost wages and false imprisonment.