On 29th December 1944 the Wehrmacht and the Red Army are in fight for Budapest for exactly two months. On that day at 10 a.m. Captain Ilya Afanasevich Ostapenko from Budaörs departed to the besieged city with the ultimatum of Marshalls Malinovski and Tolbuchin to the German generals. He went by car, than by foot until the edge of the Soviet front; followed with binoculars of the soviets. From this point on we can rely on very different stories, but at least now we have this option, as until the change of regime the voice of the Soviet side proved to be stronger, and in fact the only one:according to this, negotiator Ostapenko was killed by the German fascists. Even photographs were included in contemporary reports and history books, which allegedly represented the unfortunate officer, and which were produced during the Communist propaganda already during the siege. Even today there are people who know only this version. The German side offers a different story. In the account of the former German officer Joseph Bader he was appointed by his commander to accompany the refused negotiators back to the front line. They approached on foot the front line of the Germans, while the Soviet shellfire became more and more violent. Bader then suggested to Captain Ostapenko to withdraw to cover until the shellfire subsides, but the captain refused this by saying that they must return to theirs in the shortest time possible. The German officer then decided to let the Russians go:
“…I commanded stop to the group, I took off the bond from the eyes of the Russians, and I told them that I am no suicide candidate. I will not go further, but if they want, they can do it alone. I wished them good luck and let them go on to theirs, through the no man’s land. I must stress that on our part it was cease-fire. One could hear just the hits of the grenades of the enemy.” After that, Bader followed their way with attention. After some 50 meters a new shell hit was heard, and then he saw only the standard-bearer sergeant officer going on, the third person was laying motionless on the ground. A short while later, when the area became quiet, the Germans began to search for the wounded. Bader rushed to the Soviet officer laying on the ground, and discovered him to be the captain. His forehead was hit by a shell splinter which immediately caused his death.
The credibility of this version is supported by the fact that although the Soviets made responsible for Ostapenko’s death Captain Erich Klein, commander of the anti-tank grenadier division defending Budapest who, although denying the charge even under physical force, was sentenced to 25 years of prison in 1949, four years later, after Stalin’s death was suddenly released and the Russian military prosecutor rehabilitated him in 1993. Although the contemporary Russian historiography, if ever mentions the case, recalls the former Soviet version, a signal of a change is that Andrei Vasilchenko’s book on the siege of Budapest (2008) already quotes the story in full detail. We must also mention that this counter-story as an urban legend was also widespread well before the change of regime. Not surprisingly, after the change of regime, when the process of the removal of the public sculptures with political content began in 1992, the most heated debates emerged around the statue. Finally, as the attitude prevailed that this sculpture recalls for many people the beginnings of Soviet oppression, it must also be removed from its original location. Today Ostapenko got place in Memento Park Budapest.