Remembering the refugees from the Hungarian Uprising 1956
Following the Hungarian uprising of 1956, 20,000 Hungarian refugees found shelter in Britain from
the ruthless communist regime. This was the largest exodus of people in the post-war era. This post
is dedicated to uncovering this story which is oft forgotten.
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The Hungarian Uprising
In 1955, Hungary had signed up to the Warsaw Pact which pledged fidelity to the Soviet Union under
the thumb of Joseph Stalin. Soviet troops had flooded into Hungary following the end of the Second
World War and would only retreat in the 1990s.
Whilst not formally under Soviet control, there were strict limits on the freedoms Hungarians
enjoyed. In 1956, Nikita Khrushchev launched a tirade against the perversion of the Soviet Union
which had taken place under the control of Joseph Stalin. This sparked the flame of revolution in
Hungary as thousands took to the streets to express their dissent. This was met by a brutal
crackdown by the Soviet army.
Whilst the Hungarian rebels were able to win the first phase of the rebellion, and the international
community were reluctant to take on the juggernaut that was the Soviet Union. The rebellion was
soon put down with Imre Nagy, a chief leader of the revolution, being executed in 1958 under
charges of treason.
Hungarians were able to evolve slowly towards a more federal structure with internal autonomy. But
this was hard fought for and this period was largely known for the erection of the Iron Curtain which
cut across the border with Austria and was established in 1949. The Iron Curtain was a series of
barbed-wire fences, stationed with landmines and watchtowers which would survey the area and
ensure the Hungarians could not escape. Thankfully a few thousand were able to.
Hungarians in Britain
As stated earlier, approximately 20,000 refugees were able to make their way to Britain. Those who
fled ranged from physicists, scholars and actors to mineworkers.
Their accounts reflect a very different Britain to the one we see today. When asked, Hungarian
migrants spoke of a positive reception by the British media and the public in large were open and
friendly. This largely due to the public perception and acknowledgement of their struggle.
Interestingly, even Hungarian criminals who were few in number but were able to smuggle
themselves into Britain after being released during the uprising were not portrayed as a huge
Today refugees are portrayed as a dangerous threat to our country with tabloids running
scaremongering unfounded stories of secret terrorists and criminals infiltrating counties. The
reception is increasingly hostile as the media refuses to detail the struggle these migrants have