1956 Love & Revolution Sneak Preview

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Chapter 1

It was August 1955, and Elona was tired. She grabbed her bucket and wrung out the mop one last time. She had been cleaning at the theatre all night, and it was now early dawn. Something about the purple-lightening skies always enchanted her. Budapest was a quiet city at 4:30 am, almost peaceful. But Hungary was nothing close to peaceful lately. So many things were happening in her country that it made her stomach churn. Politics wasn’t something she was keen on, but lately, it seemed every Hungarian held hope that their country would reinstate a more economically-sound government.

They lived through so many years of repression, paying exorbitant taxes for Hungary's industrialization and war reparations to Russia, among so many other fees, that every single Hungarian paid almost two-thirds of their income out to the government. This left so little for food, cigarettes or anything else. It was a tough life of constantly working with little chance of enjoyment.

Elona was only twenty-one years old, but she felt like she was eighty.

She stepped outside onto the dark street and turned back to lock the theatre doors. Her pail and mop were already beside the door when she noticed she had left the dirty water in the bucket. She sighed and cursed softly. Elona was not going to open up the heavy double doors again and return all the way to the other side of the washrooms to dump her bucket.

She pushed the keys deep inside her pants pocket and picked up the pail gently, sneaking to the alleyway. Elona tiredly tipped her bucket in the alleyway, dumping it upside down to empty it completely so she could return home with a much less heavy pail. She didn’t drive, and her bicycle broke, so she didn’t even have that luxury anymore. A headache started at her temples, and she massaged her face gently. Maybe, one day things will get better.

She looked up as male voices echoed down the street. She wondered who would be in the streets at this hour. There wasn’t much crime because of the state police, so she usually had nothing to fear.

Then a chill ran down her spine.

It must be the AVH, the State Protection Authority. She had her documents with her but was always fearful of the AVH. They could do anything to Hungarians, it seemed, without cause. They even confiscated anti-communist families’ homes and sent the people to camps. The AVH was no better than the Gestapo.

Elona stayed in the shadow of the alleyway as the officers appeared, walking casually down the deserted street. There were four men in full uniform with differing colours. They were smoking cigarettes and chatting amicably. Her heart skipped a beat as one man looked directly in her direction.

She tried to keep as still as possible while the men continued their conversation.

“Imre Nagy needed to go,” one man said. “He’s nothing but trouble to this country.”

“We have enough trouble just doing our jobs to keep the peace here,” another man countered. “After Stalin’s death, our entire society is beginning to unravel.”

The third officer nodded but didn’t add to the conversation. He was quiet and reserved, with an almost intelligent look to his face.

Elona was fascinated by his face. She stared at him from the dark corner of the alleyway and found herself entranced by his mannerisms. He had a gentle but strong gait. Something about him told her that he was in charge. He must be a Colonel or something.

Elona grimaced and chastised herself. She was a married woman! She shouldn’t be gawking at an officer!

“You are quiet tonight, Colonel Laszlo,” the fourth policeman said. “Nothing to add? You are always so reserved about politics.”

Laszlo nodded down the street. “I think there is someone in that alleyway, Jozsef.”

All four men glanced in the same direction.

Elona knew she had to do something. She couldn’t just stay in the alleyway, and she couldn’t run. So she grabbed her bucket, stepped out onto the street and began to confidently walk home. Her back felt like it was on fire from all the eyes on her. She continued walking, once slowing down to adjust her mop so they could clearly see that she was just a cleaning lady.

The first tall officer shouted. “Halt! Get your papers out.”

The four men approached her as she stopped and fumbled in her bag nervously. She had nothing to be nervous about, Elona told herself. She had been stopped before at 4 am.

The group closed in. She had her documents ready, and her arm stretched out with the papers in her hand.

Laszlo was in the lead and stopped directly in front of her.

He was an olive-skinned handsome man with ice-blue eyes that pierced right through her soul. She could see that those very same eyes would most likely be an icy threat to any enemy.

Laszlo took the documents from her hand and shuffled through them. “Elona Molnar. Twenty-one years old,” he held the papers open, inspecting them for authenticity. “Why are you out on the streets at this hour?” His eyes lifted, staring right through her.

“I just finished work,” she said meekly, half-afraid and half-intrigued. “I am a cleaner at the cinema.”

“The Corvin Cinema?” Laszlo pointed to the building behind them.

“Yes,” she answered more assertively.

“You clean there until 4:30 am?”

“It is the only time of day to clean without interruptions. I start at midnight and clean until I am done. My husband didn’t help tonight, so I will need to return tomorrow.”

“You are married?” Laszlo asked, somewhat surprised.

“Yes, my husband was tired from working all day,” she replied. “He just got a job as a bakery chef. We both have to work to pay for things.” Elona stumbled over her words, struggling to articulate what she was trying to say. “To pay for everything. There is never enough money and so many bills.”

The first officer leaned over Laszlo’s shoulder to look at the documents. As he did, Elona noticed the uniforms were very different. Two of the men wore blue policemen uniforms, but the Colonel had a very unusual brown uniform with two stars on his collar, one she had not seen before. The man beside Laszlo also wore the same brown uniform but without the star emblems. “You are not AVH,” she said, the relief in her voice evident.

Laszlo spoke first. “No, we are Magyar,” he said in Hungarian. “My two friends are from the local police, and Tibor is a fellow Hungarian Army soldier.”

The shorter policeman, Jozsef, spoke hastily. “He’s not a full colonel. We just call him that because he’s from way back when the Germans left in 1945.”

Laszlo grimaced. “I’m a Lieutenant,” he stated firmly. He didn’t like this information given to a stranger on the street, even if she was just a woman. Silence descended on the group as Laszlo handed the documents back to her.

She stuffed the documents back into her bag. “You’ve been in the army since the Germans left,” she said softly, almost to herself.

The night closed in around them. “Yes,” Laszlo responded, his mind drifting back to a terrible time. He didn’t need to tell this woman anything more.

“He was one of the first to enlist,” Jozsef added. “He hated the Germans.”

“That’s enough!” Laszlo barked. All three men straightened and went silent. They were not willing to risk suffering from Laszlo’s wrath.

Elona looked down. “I’m sorry,” she said. “It is not my place to ask such questions. I just thought you were all AVH. I’m relieved that you are not.”

Laszlo squinted his eyes at the small woman. She had dark blonde hair, small beautiful green eyes and short stature. He estimated that she was only five feet tall. Compared to his height of six feet, she was tiny.

“May I go now?” Elona asked. “I do need to get home.”

The taller policeman snickered, and she wondered what was so funny. Elona shuffled nervously.

Jozsef glowered at his mate. “Stay safe, Mrs. Molnar. Walking around the streets at this hour is not advisable,” Jozsef said, nodding to the petite woman.

“You all have made Budapest a safe city from crime,” she said. “The only people to fear here are the AVH.”

Laszlo grimaced and shifted his feet. “AVH have their jobs to do, just like all of us.”

“They’re Russians,” she whispered under her breath.

Tibor stepped forward, but Laszlo stopped him. “She’s right,” Laszlo said. “They are Russian, and the Russians are the ones who saved us from the Germans.”

Elona looked up into his blue eyes. “I am sorry to have offended you. I meant no such thing.”

Laszlo nodded briefly. “Be on your way, Elona, before one of my friends gets a stupid idea.” He shooed her away with his hand. “Go home to your husband.”

“Thank you.” Elona grabbed her pail, slinging the mop over her shoulder and walked briskly down the street. She could feel the stares of the men at her back but somehow knew that she was safe. Laszlo was an interesting man, she thought. She would have liked to learn more about him.

Elona gazed up as the sun struggled to rise, casting a display of purplish rays across the skies. She felt the pail rhythmically tap her leg as she walked and looked up again, thanking God for the peaceful police interaction. And no AVH tonight.


Elona arrived home an hour later. It was a long walk, and she was exhausted. She opened the door slowly, trying not to awaken the sleeping family. She had no children, although her mother lived with Elona and her husband.

Her mother was a chronically light sleeper. Elona wondered if all citizens who survived the German reign couldn’t sleep. She was only a child during that time, but even Elona had trouble sleeping sometimes. Ironically, Elona’s mother was strangely sympathetic toward the Germans and absolutely despised the Soviets. Elona never quite understood how her momma could think that way after all the horrible things the Germans had done.

In 1944, 500,000 Hungarian Jews were deported and murdered. Elona shook her head at the horror. She was only ten years old but remembered it well when many of her classmates disappeared from her school.

Elona removed her worn boots. As she sat down, Elona noticed the bottom of her right boot sole was partially detached. She rubbed her face in exhaustion. She would try to sew it back together again. Her family was very poor right now. When she was younger, there was a time when she didn’t even have shoes. Elona had to tie cloth onto her feet, and that served as her only footwear. She was lucky to have these boots, but they were reaching the end of their life, and she had no money to purchase another pair. Footwear was a priceless possession to have in Hungary.

As she placed her boots on the shoe rack, she remembered the story of the Hungarian Jews who had to remove their shoes on the banks of the Danube before they were shot. There were 20,000 of them. They were executed by the Arrow Cross Party just for being Jewish in 1944. Elona grimaced at the memory. She was lucky to have shoes and blessed to have green eyes.

“The world is such a terrible place,” she whispered to herself. Elona looked up to the ceiling, searching for answers. “When will it ever get better?” she asked the ceiling softly.

The floor creaked, and she could hear soft footsteps padding through the old house. Elona must have awoken her mother. She straightened and stepped into the kitchen as her mother appeared in her long cotton gown.

Her mother was a short, stout woman in her forties. Life had been hard for her, and she looked sixty. Her hair was almost all dark grey now.

“Anyu,” Elona said, using the endearing Hungarian word for mother. “Go back to sleep.”

“I was worried about you,” Anyu replied. “You were gone all night.”

“I was cleaning; you know that,” Elona responded tiredly.

“I know,” Anyu said, nodding. “Ferenc should have gone with you. He’s a selfish man who only cares about himself.” Anyu sat down heavily at the pitted wooden table. Her hair was messy and thin. She ran her fingers through it in frustration.

“He takes care of us, Anyu,” Elona retorted. “He found this home and provides for both of us. Don’t be so harsh.”

“You provide for us more than he does!” Anyu said loudly.

“Keep your voice down,” Elona whispered. “You’ll awaken him. He needs to go to his new job today.”

“Ferenc snores like a freight train,” Anyu responded. “Nothing wakes him up.”

Elona chuckled. Her mother was spirited, and Elona loved her dearly. She hugged her mom around the shoulders and kissed her on the cheek. “I’m going to bed,” Elona stated. “I’m exhausted. Maybe things will improve in this country one day, and we can all live a better life.”

“Things were good when your Pappa was here,” Anyu said softly. “I miss him,” she added.

“I know you miss him,” Elona said sincerely. “I miss Apu too. Hopefully, they’ll release him soon, and he can come back home.”

Elona’s words stoked the fire within Anyu’s heart. “Bloody Russians!” Anyu shouted. “Those evil AVH Soviets took my husband away. And for nothing! He didn’t do anything! He was just doing his job.” Anyu scowled as her lip quivered.

Elona hugged her again. “I know, Anyu. It wasn’t fair what they did. It ruined all our lives.”

“The article he wrote didn’t have any anti-communist tone in it at all!” Anyu cried. “They just wanted to replace him with a Soviet journalist to fill our heads with Russian propaganda.”

“Possibly,” Elona replied. “The AVH are no better than the Gestapo.”

“This is the truth,” Anyu agreed. “At least the Germans knew how to govern. Imre didn’t even give Apu amnesty because his sentence was longer than two years. Many others had been released, but not my husband.”

Elona sighed and patted her mother’s shoulder. “Go back to bed, Anyu,” she said. “Maybe one day soon, the Hungarian government will change, and we will get our lives and Apu back."

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