Page 7, 7th December 1956

7th December 1956
Page 7
Page 7, 7th December 1956 — ENCHANTMENT

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Keywords: Hungary, Republics, Refugee

" Catholic Herald Reporter

']"HE words " Hungarian Home " shine from a newlypainted notice board at the gate. The flag of Free Hungary Hies over the door.

The building is a typical, rambling country house, but inside, young yokes chatter in a strange tongue. And nearly always there is laughter.

This is Catholic Britain's welcome to 50 refugees who arrived this week at Storrington, the beautiful Sussex village which houses the shrine of Our Lady of England.

Thanks to Catholics in many parts of the country and local helpers, Wing-Commander Vincent Byrne's home for the refugees was ready in seven days.

He welcomed the first group of 25 on Monday and the others on Thursday.

With him were the warden, Miss Vaux, Fr. Kevin Cassidy, C.R.P., the parish priest. who is to say a thanksgiving Mass, and the Anglican Rector of Storrington.

From the beginning the Hungarians were enchanted by everything the scenery, the flowers and the furniture, which they stroked with wide-eyed astonishment.

After a hot lurid: they were told that it was all theirs, for as long as they needed it.

Their leader, a young father of two children. said a few words of thanks. He said they had always been told that the English were a reserved race. They could no longer believe this after feeling for themselves the warmth of English hospitality.


All the refugees are young: the eldest only 27, the youngest, two. They are mostly families with children, From them 1 heard of the difficulty of marrying in church in a Communist state. They had to go secretly to the sacristy, where the ceremony is performed.

Where there many such marriages 7 "We all did it," they replied gleefully.

Latterly, there was a relaxation of the laws.

Their hunger for the Faith is extreme. A cheer went up when Wing -Commander Byrne told them that he hoped, as soon as he could find one, to ask a Hungarian nun to give religious instruction.

They received joyfully the rosaries blessed by the Pope. One 19-year-old wife shyly held out the tiny rosary which she held in her hand during a two-day ordeal which puts most films to shame. Slight and fair, she expects a baby in February.

With her husband a 25-year-old graduate pharmacist, she fled from their home near the Czech border, across Hungary by train in an attempt to reach a town near the Austrian border. They did not get there. At Komaron, a small station en route, everybody jumped out: the word had got round that here was an escape route.


Across country, through a muddy stream they 'sloughed their way with six other fugitives. until a peasant waved a warning. They hid in some bushes from Russians who were close by.

Later, the peasant put them into a barn for the night and brought them a guide who offered, for money, to take them to the frontier.

After a six-mile trek. he pointed out some trees. "There is the frontier." he said. Then he took all the money they had, He had swindled them : it was not the frontier.

They went on blindly, flattening themselves to the ground once when they were shot at. The girl Was now teeing supported by two men: another carried her little bag.

They came to barbed wire. 50 yards wide, and began to crawl underneath. Half-way, the girl told her husband: "It's no use. I can't go on."

He pleaded and somehow she made it.

On the other side they began to run, and they kept on running until they saw a vineyard. In Austria at last and they had not realised it.

Already the Hungarians have settled down happily into their communal life at Siorrington: the men stoke the boilers and the women do the cooking.

The great anxiety of the men is to begin work. to earn for themselves. For them and for the girls there may be jobs on Monday. The mothers will stay to look after the children.

For the toddlers, I believe, the memory of the past few weeks has gone already. They run up and down stairs, shout and demand to be played with in the fashion of all young children.

Two little children provided one of the few comic stories to come from the smoke and bloodshed. They were having great fun throwing home-made petrol bombs at a Russian tank, quite unafraid, Suddenly. one yelled: "Look out, here comes Mum !" and both fled.

Among the local helpers who crowded in were lads from the nearby R.A.M.C. 5th Field Ambulance football fans who soon found the Hungarian men were kindred spirits. Through the interpreter, Mrs. James Cleugh. they were soon excitedly arranging a visit to the Brighton and Hove Albion v. Hungarian M.T.A. match on Saturday.

I asked Mrs. Cleugh what was needed at present more than anything else. "Dictionaries," she replied.

Wing-Commander Byrne had a word of thanks for me to pass on. 'I am proud and grateful for the help which I had from all parts of the country in getting this place ready in every detail so quickly;' he said.

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