Michael Korda, Journey to a Revolution: A Personal Memoir and History of The Hungarian Revolution of 1956. (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2006).
In this instance Korda’s subtitle accurately captures the appeal of this work. Journey to a Revolution is both a memoir and a history, blended in a way that makes the narrative live. In a mere two hundred and five pages Korda retells an adventure in which four young Brits (author included) ran headlong into the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Squeezed into a VW, the four friends traveled from England to Budapest to deliver medical supplies to a Budapest hospital and to bear witness to a great event.
Understanding the cultural ties that connected the Hungarian immigrant community in the post-war West is key to understanding Korda’s impulse to travel to Budapest. Korda’s family is Hungarian. His ties to the Hungarian community, and the strength of that community, is explored early. In telling his family history the author also relates events in Hungarian history that created the immigrant community. Including the wild swings in political philosophies present in interwar Hungary, both internally created and externally imposed. Korda also discusses Soviet style communism and its repressive tactics. Tactics that contributed to the events that drove Hungarians to rebel against their communist government.
Western reaction to the communist take-over of Eastern Europe is also explored. Most westerners saw the imposition of Stalinist style communism on the fledgling nations of Eastern Europe as an incredible injustice. In the realm of Cold War geopolitics few political actions were of minor consequence. Any event could escalate into World War III. While the West encouraged Eastern Europeans to resist, geopolitics prevented the West from providing overt support. While most of the world watched as common Hungarians squared off against the Red Army, they also watched events in the Middle-East. It is that sense of injustice combined with an understanding of the potential significance of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution that compelled four young Brits to travel to Budapest that October in 1956.
I have read several books on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. While many books offer deep research and analysis, Michael Korda’s Journey to a Revolution tells a relatable story. Korda’s narrative offers adventure, courage, suspense, and tragedy. October of 1956 was a critical time and Journey to a Revolution provides an excellent account of that time. It reads as a memoir, as a history it informs.