The so-called “Lads of Pest” – youngsters mostly in their teens or early twenties who took up arms to fight against Soviet occupation – are a familiar symbol of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and freedom fight. As many of them served as commanders of armed insurgency units, many of them were either killed in combat or executed during subsequent reprisals.
The revolt began on 23rd October 1956 as a student demonstration, which attracted thousands as it marched through central Budapest to the Parliament. For the calling about 20 000 people answered, demanding our freedom. The delegation of the university students entered the building of the radio, attempting to broadcast its demands, but it was detained. When the delegation’s release was demanded by the demonstrators outside, they were fired upon by the that time State Security Police, (ÁVH) from within the building. The revolt spread quickly across the country, and the government fell. After announcing a willingness to negotiate a withdrawal of Soviet forces from Hungary, the Politburo changed its mind, and moved to crush the revolution. On 4th November, a large Soviet force invaded Budapest and other regions of the country. Hungarian resistance continued until 10th November. Over 2,500 Hungarians were killed, and 200,000 Hungarians fled as refugees. Mass arrests and denunciations continued for months thereafter. By January 1957, the new Soviet-installed government had suppressed all public opposition.
Armed civilians in the Corvin Cinema and surrounding buildings began to fight with the Soviet armoured forces as early as the night of October 23rd–24th. Taking advantage of the area’s excellent strategic conditions, the rebels of the Corvin Passage (Corvin Köz) soon became the Uprising’s biggest and most important armed revolutionary group. The 80 percent of the revolutioners here were children, just boys under 20. They figthed the last ditch – setting off 17 Soviet tanks of the 33. division of the Soviet Army in a day. Dr. Pestessy József’s memoir you can read about them like this: „The children, with burns on their handflats caused by the „Molotov-coctails” (elementary bombs made from bottles filled with gasoline) came one after other into the aidpost, but left immediately after dressing their wounds. They started to fight again saying, we continue until we can toss…” The statue of the „Urchin of Pest” erected in the Corvin köz became a symbol of the little heroes. Also bittersweet jokes tend their memory: „Why soviets attacks always in dawn?Because children still sleep.” Sleep placidly children of glory, we will never forget you!