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Budapest Exit: A Memoir of Fascism, Communism, and Freedom

Overview

When Csaba Teglas was confronted with the Nazi invasion of Hungary during World War II, the Soviet occupation following the Allied victory, and finally with the opportunity to escape the oppressive regime during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, he responded not with fear, indecision, or submission, but with courage, ingenuity, and hope. In Budapest Exit: A Memoir of Fascism, Communism, and Freedom, Teglas begins with the story of his childhood in Hungary. During the war, the dramatic changes that took place in ...

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Overview

When Csaba Teglas was confronted with the Nazi invasion of Hungary during World War II, the Soviet occupation following the Allied victory, and finally with the opportunity to escape the oppressive regime during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, he responded not with fear, indecision, or submission, but with courage, ingenuity, and hope. In Budapest Exit: A Memoir of Fascism, Communism, and Freedom, Teglas begins with the story of his childhood in Hungary. During the war, the dramatic changes that took place in his country intensified with the invasion of the Nazis. The Nazis' defeat after the terrifying siege of Budapest should have led to freedom, but for Hungary it meant occupation by the Soviets, who were often little better than the fascists. A twelve-year-old friend of Teglas was forced to watch the brutal gang rape of a Jewish family member by the same Soviet soldiers who liberated her from the Nazis. Despite the difficulties of life in Budapest, Teglas met the challenge when sustenance of the family fell on his young shoulders. One of the innovative ways he earned money was to employ his playments to extract ball bearings from wrecked tanks and other military vehicles that he then sold to factories. He also sold rubber rings cut from bicycle tubes to use as canning seals. Before the communists solidified their rule, Teglas obtained admission to the Technical University of Budapest, where he earned a degree despite constant interference in the University by the communists. The following years under the Stalinist dictatorship were the harshest, and Teglas and his family and friends lived in constant fear; some were even subjected to the communist jails and torture chambers. But rather than standing idly by, Teglas protested, sometimes quietly, sometimes more vocally, against the Soviet and communist presence in Hungary. During the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Teglas became more involved in the opposition to the communists. When it became clear that the revolutionaries were not going to succeed, he knew he had to leave Hungary to avoid retaliation for his involvement. Teglas recounts his dramatic escape through the heavily guarded Iron Curtain and his subsequent emigration to North America, where life an an immigrant presented new challenges. Teglas compares the genocide and tragedies of Nazi order in World War II and of communist rule to recent international events and ethnic cleansing in Central and Eastern Europe, including the former Yugoslavia. He also highlights the failure of the West to stop the war in Bosnia expediently and the possible far-reaching consequences of a "peace" treaty that aims to satisfy the demands of the aggressors while ignoring the rights of others in the Balkans. Even more, though, this memoir is Csaba Teglas's personal story of his youth, told from the point of view of a man with sons of his own. He found in America the freedom for which he had been searching, but he has raised his American sons to remain proud of their Hungarian heritage.

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Editorial Reviews

Clara Gyorgyey
"Csaba Teglas’s fascinating and affecting autobiographical text is . . . a testimony to man’s irrepressible yearning for freedom. With tender perception and verve, Teglas penetrates with sharp glimpses into the world of Gyorgy Konrad and Milan Kundera, the cursed Central European fate. . . . Among the numerous memoirs and reminiscences penned by Hungarian-Americans, Teglas’s account stands out as the most sincere, credible, and least pretentious text."—Clara Gyorgyey, President, Writers in Exile Center of International PEN
Mark Pittaway
Teglas has written a lucid memoir…. a distinctive contribution.… superbly portrayed….wonderful source material. Teglas conveys a powerful impression of place and period to the general reader. This has never been done in an unambiguously factual account of this period of Hungarian history.
The Open University
Mari Szichman
Teglas' well-written memoirs help bring about an understanding of the daily lives of people under to-talitarian rulers… (he) analyzes, with intelligence and occasional humor, the plight of his people….
The Associated Press
Laura Dempsey
Teglas said... "In the Bosnian peace treaty, the war aggressors were rewarded. Serbs achieved spe-cial status and autonomy in Bosnia, but at the same time, the peace treaty did not demand that in Serbia, minorities would receive the same rights. What I am fearing is that with the Kosovo peace treaty, they may ignore the rights of other minorities in the general area." Budapest Exit, one man's personal saga whose echoes exist today, offers an education to those condemned to repeat the his-tory from which they failed to learn.
&3151;Dayton Daily News
Clara Gyorgyey
Teglas's fascinating and affecting autobiographical text is…a testimony of man's irrepressible yearn-ing for freedom. With tender perception and verve, Teglas penetrates with sharp glimpses into the world of Gyorgy Konrad and Milan Kundera, the cursed Central European fate…. Among the numer-ous memoirs and reminiscences penned by Hungarian Americans, Teglas's stands out as the most sincere, credible, and least pretentious text.
International Pen
Jeff Shields
My wartime experiences occurred long time ego," writes Teglas, who sees parallel for Hungarians - who have sub-stantial minority populations in Romania, Slovakia and Serbia - in the plight of ethnic Albanians. "For millions in the Balkans, the wounds of war have not healed yet. But despite the inter-vening years, the practices of ethnic cleansing and extreme nationalism in these episodes in history are quite similar." Teglas said the plight of those suffering should serve as a wake-up call to the dan-gers faced by ethnic minorities living within borders they didn't create.
Journal News
Library Journal
Teglas, now a "semi-retired city planning consultant," describes a number of the horrors he has lived through: the Nazi occupation of Hungary, the siege of Budapest, the "liberation" by the Red Army, the Stalinist takeover of Hungary, and the Revolution of 1956. Writing in a very accessible style, the author shows both the terrors he experienced and some more humorous episodes, such as his shrewd black-market dealings as a young boy immediately after the war. Teglas escaped into Austria a month after the beginning of the 1956 Revolution, emigrating to Canada and then finally to the United States. Unfortunately for the reader (but luckily for the author), Teglas did not live in post-1956 Hungary and provides only glimpses of life there through his visits. Nevertheless, this slim volume offers an interesting view of life under both Fascist and Communist dictatorships, although for a limited time period. Recommended for public--John A. Drobnicki, York Coll. Lib., CUNY
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Csaba Teglas, a native of Hungary, is a semi-retired city planning consultant. He has lived in White Plains, New York, with his Scottish-born wife, Rowena, since 1967.

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