World War II ended in Sopron, Hungary, on Easter Monday, April 2, 1945, when the Russian Army marched through that small city on its way to Austria. Sopron is about five miles from the border and 45 miles from Vienna, Austria.
I was just 10 years old, but I have never forgotten some disturbing details of that time in my life. Very little happened in the city or to its people when the Russian army went through; however, things changed a few days later when a Russian occupational force arrived to control the city and its people.
Citizens of Sopron were given a very firm command to leave all doors and gates to their homes and property unlocked for three days. Those were the worst three days of my life, but I also witnessed an incredible act of heroism.
The Russian soldiers would take full advantage of having unlimited access to us and our property. Many of the occupiers came into town drunk; they ransacked houses and raped women.
After staying two days in a designated shelter area a couple of blocks away from our apartment, my mother and aunt decided to find out what damage had been done to our home. My grandfather and I went along with them.
Two soldiers showed up at the door as soon as we arrived at the apartment. They wanted to take my mother and aunt away with them. My grandfather knew what they wanted, so he talked them into going to the next building to find some younger women or girls. They left, and my mother and aunt took the opportunity of the soldiers’ being distracted and ran back to the community shelter.
Grandpa had a bad leg, so he could not run. I stayed with him, and we slowly made it to the gate. The same two soldiers were there and mad as hell because they had not found any girls. The building where Grandpa had directed them had been empty.
One of the soldiers raised his gun. He was ready to shoot Grandpa. The extreme paleness of my face must have shown the older of the two soldiers that I was painfully afraid. He convinced the younger soldier to lower his weapon. They left us standing there and walked away cussing.
I never asked Grandpa if he knew whether the building next door to our apartment was empty. He did what any caring father would do to save his daughters from being raped — even if that action could have cost him his life.
As for me, it was not my time to go; the good lord was watching over me. Ten years later, I escaped Communist-controlled Hungary. Even though I am pushing 80, and sometimes have to really concentrate to remember things that happened yesterday, that incident in Sopron is still fresh in my mind.
It seems like it just happened yesterday.
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