Budapest Sun
Tracing regional thuggery from Hitler to Milosevic

Pálma Melis

May. 25, 2000

BUDAPEST Exit: A Memoir of Fascism, Communism and Freedom is a fascinating and thoughtful look at Hungary and its place in Central Europe through the eyes of an emigrant.

Author Csaba Teglas is a Hungarian city planner who emigrated to the States during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

His aim was to write about the recent history of Hungary, to make American-Hungarian readers and others understand the pást 50 years of this tiny country. He also wrote the book for his two sons, to explain their origins and his own life.

His style is simple and clear, objective and emotional at the same time. In that, he can be compared to Czech writer Milan Kundera, who has also chronicled Central European history while living abroad.

Budapest Exit was published by the Texas A&M University Press in 1998, two months before the outbreak of the second Bosnian war, and its credibility doubled due to the fact that Teglas forecast the tragic events.

Teglas focuses not only on Hungary, but all of Central Europe, with a particular interest in political clashes arising between nations and their ethnic minorities.

"In the Bosnian peace treaty, the war aggressors were rewarded. Serbs achieved special status and autonomy in Bosnia, but at the same time, the peace treaty did not demand that in Serbia minorities would receive the same rights. What I am fearing is that with the Kosovo peace treaty, they may ignore the rights of other minorities in the general area," he said.

Teglas sees a parallel for Hungarians - who have substantial minority populations in Romania, Slovakia and Serbia in the plight of ethnic Albanians. He writes, "For millions in the Balkans, the wounds of war have not healed yet. But despite the intervening years, the practices of ethnic cÍeansing and extreme nationalism in these episodes in history are quite similar."

Teglas said the plight of those suffering should serve as a wakeup call to the dangers faced by ethnic minorities living within borders they didn't create.

He hopes Americans will begin to realize the depth of the animosity between different nationalities that are forced to live together.

According to him, "It's different in America. We have a different mentality.

Immigrants come here voluntarily - they want to be here, and we can demand certain things from them. Over there it's different. People have lived there for hundreds, thousands of years, in the same area. The borders change back and forth -changing the borders doesn't change someone's nationality.

"When Teglas emigrated in 1956, the whole world was captivated by the Hungarian Revolution. The region next made a blip on international radar screens with the recent wars in the former Yugoslavia.Teglas compares the genocide and brutality of those conflicts to that of the Nazis and Communists during and after the Second World War. From this aspect Teglas's work is a very important one, with his clear-cut analysis of recent events.

The 160-page book is an entertaining read, illustrated with family photos and drawings by world famous Hungarian artist Lajos Szalay, created many years ago in response to the tragic events of the Second World War.

Budapest Exit: A Memoir of Fascism, Communism, and Freedom By Csaba Teglas Texas A&M University Press, 1998 Available at CEU Bookshop, V District, Nádor utca 9 Cost: Ft6,950.

Original article