The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK—I had an opportunity at lunch Tuesday at the home of my cousin, Mrs. Kermit Roosevelt, to meet Joseph Koevago, who was mayor of Budapest at the time of the Hungarian revolution.

He and Miss Anna Kethley, who was a member of the coalition government of Hungarian Premier Imre Nagy, testified before the five-nation General Assembly committee of the United Nations looking into the Hungarian situation. Miss Kethly made a plea for a number of things to be done by the U.N. Whether they can be done, we will have to wait and see.

I was sad to hear from Mr. Koevago that if the United Nations—or perhaps it would be honest to say the U.N. member nations—had only acted quickly in the first days of the revolution, the whole situation in Hungary perhaps could have been changed.

Mr. Koevago said one significant thing: That there was a period of about 10 days during the revolution when the Soviets waited to see what the West would do, and when the West did not act, then the Soviets' attitude changed and developed into what we are now so familiar with.

He said that some of the soldiers coming into Budapest from the Soviet Union asked where the Suez Canal was, evidently thinking they were being sent there. Others asked if they were to drive the Nazis out of Berlin. So it is quite evident that not much information was given the Russian soldiers as to where they were going to fight.

I asked him if the story was true that boys, 12 and 13 years old, who belonged to Soviet-type Boy Scout troops were the ones who fought the tanks as they came in, jumping on them and throwing Molotov cocktails into them.

He assured me the story was true. How the Soviets must wonder at the results of their training!

One story Mr. Koevago told me I know you particularly will enjoy. Smilingly, he said that some boys fighting the tanks suddenly heard a warning whistle. "Hide quickly!" one of them cried. "Here comes Mamma!" They didn't want their mother to catch them fighting Soviet tanks, for she would have been angry and have sent them home to precarious safety!

Mr. Koevago spent many years—seven, I think—as a political prisoner in Hungary and escaped to come over here and tell the story of his country's sorrows and difficulties.

I only hope that as the result of his testimony, and that of other Hungarians, the U.N. will be able to devise some other ways in which we can help Hungary than just encouraging the Hungarians to leave their country and start life all over again in another. They would like to stay in their own country but cannot under the conditions that have existed under Soviet domination.

One young soldier told a friend of mine, who met him the other day, that he belonged in the Hungarian army. He said he had been hungry for a year, so he could hardly believe there was food over there.

E. R.

(Copyright, 1957, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 31, 1957

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.