Houston Commemorates 60th Anniversary of the events of 1956 Hungary

The year 2016 marked the 60th anniversary of the modern-day David vs. Goliath struggle of the tiny country of Hungary versus then mighty Soviet Union. In the 1950s, at a time when the Soviet Union seemed unbeatable, Hungarian students and workers led the fight for freedom against the occupying Soviet forces. For 13 days, Hungarian freedom fighters fought for independence as the world celebrated their bravery. But on November 4, 1956, Soviet soldiers returned and crushed the Revolution, and with it, Hungary’s hopes for freedom. However, because it showed for the first time the true and terrible face of Communism to the world, it was also seen as a victory for Hungary. The Revolution of 1956 is widely acknowledged as the first nail in the coffin of Communism.

1956 Revolution Commemoration Letter  from Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi regarding the celebratory and commemorative events in honor of the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Revolution and Freedom Fight.


Photo Exhibition Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of Hungarian Revolution

The Hungarian community in Houston, Texas remembered the events of 1956 with a special photo exhibit in partnership with University of Houston-Downtown (UHD), which opened in late November. More than 125 people joined in the commemoration and celebration, including a number of civic leaders from greater Houston. Hungarian Honorary Consul General, Phillip Aronoff, introduced special guest from Hungary, Deputy Minister Laszlo Szabo, who stressed and encouraged the importance of a growing relationship between Hungary and the United States and even more specifically, Hungary and Houston, while highlighting the many similarities the two countries share. Council Member At-Large, Jack Christie, presented Szabo with a Mayoral Proclamation. Richard Graber, Director of the Hungarian American Cultural Association of Houston, invited guests to view the exhibit which includes photos never seen by the public. Andrea Lauer Rice (Atlanta), Beth Secor (UHD) and Richard Graber curated the exhibit. The exhibit ran through January 28, 2017. Scroll down for photos of the event.


60th Anniversary Panel Discussion

The commemoration concluded with a panel discussion on January 25th with four panelists who shared their unique perspectives with respect to the events of 1956.


Video Summary

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Dr. Joseph Nagyváry, PhD

Dr. Nagyváry was a student at the Eotvos University in Budapest in 1952-56, and resided at the dormitory of Raday St., only a quarter mile to Kilian barracks, the center of the fiercest battles of the uprising. He was an eyewitness and participant in the fighting; his contributions included tending to the wounded and acquisitioning food for the students and fighters. He was later captured by the AVO security forces on November 20th but managed to escape through a 2nd story window and eventually fled to Austria. From 1957-62, Nagyváry was a student at the University of Zurich and received the prize of the Swiss Science Foundation for his PhD dissertation of curare poisons in 1962. He immigrated to the U.S and was Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at Creighton university School of Medicine in Omaha. Later in 1968, was Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Texas A&M University and in 1972, was the first exchange scientist of the National Academy of Sciences with Hungary. Since 1967, he has been making annual visits to Hungary. Professor Nagyváry is best known around the world for research on Stradivarius violins. His recently published memoir, “Violence and Violins—the Making of a Hungarian Refugee” is a detailed account of the 1956 Revolution.





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Ferenc Korompai, MD, PhD, FACS

In 1955, Dr. Korompai graduated from high school in Szombathely and was accepted to the Budapest Medical University. During the first days of the Revolution, he worked in a bakery next to the dormitory and later delivered milk to Budapest from Szombathely and returned there November 3rd. Ferenc crossed into Austria on November 20th and was placed in a refugee camp in Klagenfurt and later Salzburg. Later, he was flown to the US to McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey then to Camp Kilmer. From Camp Kilmer, he was sent to the University of Oklahoma at Norman and spent 3 months learning English. He attended the University of Oklahoma at Norman then was accepted to Baylor University Medical School in Houston (1959-1963) and Naturalized in 1962. He underwent surgical training while at the Texas Medical Center. His Cardiothoracic surgery training was interrupted by the Vietnam War and he later served in the Army Medical Corps (Major) from 1968-1971. He returned to training and graduated in 1973. From 1974-1992, he was a cardio-thoracic surgeon at Scott & White in Temple, Texas and Professor at Texas A&M Medical School. Dr. Korompai started a heart surgery program in Pécs, Hungary in the mid 1990’s and since 1999, has been substituting (locum tenens) for heart surgeons needing coverage.




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Ms. Beatrix Mányai, MBS, MEd

Ms. Mányai was 6 when the revolution erupted in Budapest. Her uncle was on a death list due to killing a high ranking communist official in Gárdony, southwest of Budapest. Beatrix shares a unique perspective of the events of 1956 as her family struggled to gain freedom during a horrible and terrifying escape she will never forget. Once in the states, she grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y. where she attended parochial and public schools. She has a BA in Fine Arts from the College of New Rochelle and an MBA from Iona College and a Masters in Education from Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas. She has three children and presently teaches English to incarcerated teen youth in Dallas









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Mr. Miklos Oláh

No bio or photo available for panelist Miklos Oláh






Panel Moderator

Richard Graber

Interim Board Chair, Hungarian American Cultural Association (HACA) of Houston

Richard serves as Director of Grants + Capacity Building at the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA). A performing artist in his own right, Graber is a graduate of the Ohio State University Department of Dance and has garnered recognition in critically acclaimed productions. He hails from Cleveland, Ohio and is the son of Hungarian immigrants who came to the U.S. in 1956. He founded the Csárdás Dance Company in 1994 and recently authored, Csárdás Dance Company, A History – a 20-year journey remembered. Graber oversees the distribution of over $4M to over 200 arts organizations and individual artists in the form of general operating, project and innovation grants as well as an arts incubator program as part of the Capacity Building Initiative (CBI) at the Houston Arts Alliance.


Exhibit Opening Photos



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