The Bridge at And The Bridge at And by James Machinery tells the true story of the Hungarian revolution in 1956. A popular historian and novelist, Machinery’s account of the Hungarian uprising awakens the reader to the shocking plight of millions who suffered the iron fist of communism and Soviet puppet leadership. The revolution was a rebellion of students and intellectuals directed against the Soviet occupation and communism in Hungary. Viewing the revolution as a threat, the Soviet union mercilessly sent tanks Into the city center of Budapest violently extinguishing the purple.
The Soviet destruction of a magnificent city left Budapest and the Hungarian people in ruin. Interviewing those who escaped Soviet repression in Hungary, Machinery traveled to the city of And at Austrian-Hungarian border to put the courageous stories on record. The bridge at And was an escape route and path to freedom for Hungarian refugees fleeing across the border into Austria. For several weeks, Machinery hovered at the border village of And as beaten Hungarian limped and staggered away from Soviet terror.
Machinery writes In detail about the domineering relationship between the Soviet union and its satellite communist dates. Arranged into a series of interconnected stories, The Bridge at Understates around young students, intellectuals, and reformed communist political leaders. The novel opens on Tuesday evening, October 23, 1956, on “a day which the world will be slow to forget” (Machinery, 1). Attracting thousands of protesters marching through central Budapest, the revolution began as students demonstrated In the streets calling out over Radio Free Europe shouting, “Out with the Russians Out with the Russians! (Machinery, 17). Starting as a collection of students seeking to end repeated changes to their curriculum, the revolution quickly came a five-day rebellion of the Hungarian people. The protesters no longer sought educational reforms but wanted drastic change within the government. Reformers called for sixteen demands. The major objectives were Soviet troop withdrawal from Hungary, Improved economic and living conditions, free elections, and the formation off multi-party system. To gain control over the Hungarian, the Soviets infiltrated every aspect of the their lives.
Some were Soviets sent from Moscow; however, many were locals promised special advantages if they would be the eyes and ears of the Soviet authority informing on their fellow workers ND neighbors. “Certain members of the party get all the rewards of society – the good apartments, the good radios, the good food, the best clothing,” while the rest of the people starve (Machinery, 14). Neighbors and friends were scared to talk to each other about the Soviet Infiltration In fear of who might be listening and reporting back to Soviet officials.
The Soviets shaped young men to into communist leaders through constant bribes building a trusted inner core of elite communist leaders. The Soviets gave the young men power and promised a better life. These remises were so vast and unrealistic that it was impossible to obtain them. The false sense of hope drove young men into the communist party even though they other than to assimilate into the communist party. Anyone who openly opposed the Soviets were sent to violent torture camps in Siberia and never heard from again.
Silencing the opposition ensured that the best of the best became communist leaders in Soviet satellite states. Machinery keeps the book moving at a fast- pace recounting what life was like for those living in Hungary under Soviet communism. Communism promised, “consumer goods such as they had never known before, increased wages, increased social benefits, shorter hours of work, improved education for everyone, a greater social freedom, and a government directly responsible to the working class” (Machinery, 116).
With such a long list of promises, it is easy to see how the Soviets enticed the Hungarian into a false sense of possibilities. After two years of communism, the Hungarian realized the promises would never materialize and were living in perpetual fear. Using the AVOW, the brutal Hungarian secret police, the Soviets promoted terror and instilled fear in the Hungarian. Paid more than workers in the factories and given power over the people, the AVOW routinely terrorized the Hungarian citizens. Strictly enforcing rules and regulations, the feared AVOW police unleashed a reign of terror across Hungary.
People were afraid of speaking out against the Soviets and many families went behind closed doors to educate their children about the harsh reality of communism. One of the most heart wrenching parts of the novel deals with the Hungarian children. Machinery breaks this down across multiple chapters and is a constant theme throughout the novel. The first has to do with children that were involved in sighting against the Soviets and the second deals with education of young children. Many adults used children in guerrilla warfare since they were small and agile.
Unseen, children would scurry out into the streets and place brown dinner plates upside down. From inside a Soviet tank, these plates looked like mines. When the tankers stopped, children would sneak up and drop a homemade Molotov cocktail into the tanks engine. Repeated attacks against Soviet tanks sent the Soviet’s into a temporary retreat. This demonstrates the lengths to which the Hungarian fought to save their country. The fight for Hungry involved everyone. The Hungarian fought for their country from the inside out hoping to push the Soviets back and reclaim their country.
Dedicating two chapters about the education of the Hungarian children, Machinery describes the lengths that the Soviet infiltrated the schools and how families counteracted the Soviet educational system. Inside Hungarian classrooms hung portraits of communist leaders. Marx, Lenin, and Stalin were the most popular and teachers emphasized the glory of communism. At home, parents taught their children Hungarian history, culture, poetry, and religious values. Parents UT themselves and their children at serious risk from interrogation by the AVOW. There was a constant battle between what was taught in school and what was learned at home.
It was gripping to read how parents had to counteract what was taught in the school system. The Soviets used education as a tool to push the communist agenda while at home parents taught their children what it was like to be a Hungarian. One particular moving story dealt with a little boy who was turning six years old. The boys father proudly dressed his “son in full national costume with an armband so big it could be spotted a block away’ (Machinery, 166). He officer where his national colors were, the policeman replied, “l wear them in my heart” (Machinery, 166).
This sense of national pride was necessary to the Hungarian and demonstrates why so many people were willing to die for freedom. Throughout the novel, Machinery provides a humanistic quality while depicting historical events in an interesting narrative. Reading this I could picture young children participating in the fight for their country and students rioting in the streets for freedom. His argument that Soviet communism ate away at the fabric of society and ultimately turned on its self is compelling. The tipping point, the student rebellions, gathered momentum and eventually Hungarian saw their right to fight for freedom.
The Hungarian had had enough of Soviet occupation and the reign of terror unleashed by the AVOW. The countless stories of children and teenagers building their own weapons shows the reader how dear freedom was to the Hungarian. Prior to an attacking the Soviets, one college student said to another, “We will die here today’ (Machinery, 71). There was not a single story were the Hungarian fighters did not feel that they would make it out alive. Machinery shows the reader owe dear freedom was to the Hungarian and that they would die to gain freedom. Machinery exposes the reader to the hardships the Hungarian dealt with on a daily basis.
What many American’s take for granted were luxuries by the Hungarian. For example, the black-market was the only place women could get makeup. “Five or six girls would band together to buy one black-market lipstick and one flat cake of rouge” (Machinery, 48). If a girl wanted to go out with a specific boy, and wanted to look nice, she would have to borrow the makeup the girls shared. It was a luxury to go on a date four times a year. One particular woman, Mrs.. Pal, was married but she still enjoyed a night out with her husband. In the words of Mrs.. Pal, “l looked pretty twice a year” (Machinery, 49).
Purchasing a suit for her husband was also a challenge. Many times Hungarian men would wear the same clothes for several weeks and save for six months to purchase a new suit that was often previously worn by a Soviet and sold at an exorbitant price in a Soviet owned store. While saving for a suit, Mr.. Pal was unable to take his wife out to the movies, go dancing, purchase records, or books. This is Just one of several examples of the hardships Hungarian aced on a daily basis. Hungarian rationed their funds and had to save for items most Americans do not think twice about purchasing.
One of the things most interesting to me was Just how brutal the Soviets were against the Hungarian. From my knowledge of Eastern European history, I was aware of how bad the Soviet Union was. I knew that communism was evil and that the Soviets had murdered a lot of people while forcing their communistic agenda across Eastern Europe; however, it was not until I read this book did I realize Just how evil and brutal the Soviet Union was. Machinery composed his book from over hundreds of the 200,000 people that escaped across the Hungarian border into Austria over the bridge at And.
Machinery is very careful to backup everything he says and to substantiate the historical evidence he puts forth in the book. This is a really shocking book and a must read for anyone how loves freedom, liberty, and cares about human rights. As the novel progresses, Machinery describes the whole story about the revolution, and one of the most amazing aspects of the novel was the detail Machinery writes the Hungarian fought with virally no weapons and without military training were able to destroy hundreds and hundreds of Soviet tanks with homemade weapons.
Fighting for their country, a vast majority of these tanks were destroyed by young people seeking freedom from Soviet repression. The Bridge at And is an amazing story of heroism and courage. Traveling to Budapest three times, I gained a different perspective on the places I visited after reading the novel. At times, the narrative might seem disjointed as Machinery Jumps between perspectives, but after reading the novel, I saw the bigger picture. I understand the price the Hungarian people had to pay to gain their freedom from Soviet communist rule.
Telling the story from various points of view provides the reader with an over all perspective without bogging down into too much historical detail. Each chapter builds upon the previous allowing the narrative to mesh together in one of the novel’s final chapter, appropriately named, The Bridge to And. The Bridge at And is a powerful read for those of us living in a free society. This is not Just a story about Soviet-occupied Hungary, but all countries occupied by the Soviets after World War II. This is a story of collective desire for hope and freedom. The actual bridge at
And is a small wooden footbridge the width of two people. Under the bridge is a shallow river and the water would come up to the top of an adults shoulder. Crossing the bridge at And represents the struggle the Hungarian went through to obtain freedom “and if a Hungarian could reach that bridge, he was nearly free [and] by accident of history it became, for a few flaming weeks, one of the most important bridges in the world” (Machinery, 173). In contrast to what I had originally thought when selecting the book, many of the Hungarian refugees were young people with a purpose.
The average age was around twenty-three. The evacuees were students from the best universities, intellectuals, professional football players, accomplished artists, and skilled engineers and scientists. Hungary was losing the elite of their nation at an astonishing rate. The Bridge at And is filled with vivid accounts of people fighting for their freedom. Machinery gives an accurate account of what life was like under a totalitarian regime recounting stories from ordinary people. Work Cited Machinery, James A. The Bridge at And. New York, New York: Bantam Books, 1966. Print.