Eluding the Secret Service in the middle of the night
Under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin tens of millions of people were executed or imprisoned in labor camps. These camps, known as gulags, were little more than death camps. In 1953, Sandor Varallyay, a native of Hungary, was confined to one of these camps. One December day in 1956, the Secret Service came for him, and Sandor had to choose between life and death.Varallyay: I came to the United States to Chicago on January 13, 1959.Gallacher: Why did you come?Varallyay: I was in a labor camp, and I helped a group of refugees cross the border from Hungary into Austria. Some people saw me and reported me to the Secret Service, and I had to decide right away to go before it was too late.Gallacher: The Secret Service was coming to get you? Varallyay: Yes, actually we saw them coming, and my friends in the camp hid me in the attic, and I stayed there until I had a clearer chance to escape through the border.I crossed the border during the night, after midnight. I remember it was the eighth of December, 1956. I was caught by the Austrian border guards when I crossed. They already had a couple of Hungarians in custody. Thankfully these guards were kind to us and didn’t turn us in. They took us to their village to their jail. I was soaking wet and covered with mud, and the jail was so warm. One of the border guards gave me his own supper, which I will never forget. (weeping)The next day we were transported to Vienna, Austria. We stayed there for a while until we were transferred to a refugee camp outside of Vienna. I stayed there until they called me to come to the United States. It was Christmastime 1958. Gallacher: What was your first impression of the United States?Varallyay: Nobody bothers you here. It is real freedom here. Over there, I tell you, I will never forget. Everybody was watching everybody, neighbors watching neighbors. Everyone was responsible for watching and reporting under the Stalin system. Gallacher: People spying on one another?Varallyay: Yes, there is a lot of freedom here I tell you. Over there we had no freedom. If somebody knocked on the door during the night, it was already very bad news, very bad news. There were so many people who just disappeared. We never found out where they are. Sad. So many.
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