The 50th anniversary of the arrival to Canada of some 38,000 refugees from Hungary during 1956-57 provides a wonderful opportunity to develop educational and commemorative projects and showcase the diverse heritage of Hungarians in Canada. It is equally important to recognize the reception accorded to these refugees by Canadians.
There were a great many events to mark the 50th anniversary during the fall of 2006 all across Canada. There were concerts, exhibitions, commemorative and community celebrations. Several of the national cultural agencies undertook projects of their own; the National Arts Centre commissioned a photo exhibit (“New Lives”, see below) and had a number of special concerts; The Canadian Museum of Civilization digitized its Hungarian collection as part of the “Crossroads of Culture” virtual museum project, and will be enriching this material further. They also hosted a special screening of Istvan Szabo’s award-winning Sunshine with producer Robert Lantos present to comment and answer questions. The Library and Archives Canada collaborated with the National Arts Center on the "New Lives Exhibit" with a display on the reception of the Hungarian refugees in Canada; they also played host to the series of Hungarian films screened by the Canadian Film Institute. The CBC commissioned a special documentary, “The 56-ers” and Hungarian music and musicians took centre stage in many venues from British Columbia to the Maritimes. Hungarian art and artefacts were on display in a number of institutions (See the “Rise Up!” project of New Hungarian Voice below), including several exhibitions by Canadian Hungarian artists as well as an exhibition of 19th century masterpieces from the Hungarian National Gallery’s Collection entitled “Hungarian Splendour” at the Hamilton Art Gallery. Academic conferences in Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa debated many aspects of 1956.
We are only able to draw attention here to some of these activities on this page – though you will find others mentioned on other pages of this site. In addition, we intend to enlarge this listing and, in particular, to commission an article about the many community events that took place across the country. We will also be gathering recollections from as broad a range of people as we can about what 1956 meant to them and explore what it means today to second and third generation Canadians of Hungarian origin. Finally, we will continue to provide information about events that are being planned for the anniversary year in 2007; after all, most of the refugees arrived to Canada in 1957.
The Canada Hungary Educational Foundation initiated some projects of its own and also partnered with others – all in an effort to draw attention to the significance of the anniversary and the creative contributions of Hungarians to Canada. The development of this website is such a project.
We start off with a review article by Columbia University historian Istvan Deak which provides an excellent and succinct background to the Revolution, the motivation for the exodus of so many Hungarians in 1956. We thank the New York Review of Books and Professor Deak for allowing us to feature this article on our site.
By Istvan Deak - During the thirteen days between October 23 and November 4, 1956, crowds of unarmed Hungarian demonstrators and a few thousand lightly armed revolutionaries forced a tyrannical one-party government to resign. They also caused the retreat from Budapest of the Soviet occupation forces, the dissolution of the hitherto all-powerful Communist Party, and the virtual disappearance of the political police on which one-party rule had been based. Read more...
New Canadian publication on 1956
September 19th, 2010
The proceedings of the international conference which took place at the University of Ottawa in October 2006 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution have been published by the University of Ottawa Press. The conference was part of a series of activities in the fall of 2006 including concerts, films, exhibitions, and other commemorations undertaken in collaboration between national cultural agencies, universities, and community organizations. The Canada-Hungary Educational Foundation (set up in 2005 to create awareness for this anniversary and Canada’s generous response to the refugee exodus) participated in a number of these activities as reflected on many pages of this website, which was itself a 50th anniversary project. We are pleased to publish here a review by Ottawa writer and former CBC journalist Kevin Burns of this new collection of essays. Read the review...
The 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Hungarian and Canadian Perspectives will be officially launched at the University of Ottawa on November 2nd 2010. Details to follow.
The Canada-Hungary Educational Foundation and Water Polo Canada jointly organized a gala premiere of the historical documentary Freedom’s Fury. The event took place at the National Gallery of Canada on September 29th, 2006. Some four hundred people enjoyed the evening including many young water polo players, as well as members of the local Hungarian community. Read more and see video clip .
A specially commissioned photo exhibit on the creative diversity of the Hungarian presence in Canada was inaugurated on October 4th, 2006 at the National Arts Centre (NAC) as part of the NAC’s Hungarian 50th Celebrations. The exhibit consisted of fifty portraits by V. Tony Hauser, one of Canada’s preeminent portrait photographers. The exhibition included some panels created by the Library and Archives Canada conveying the historical background on Canada’s role in accepting the 1956 refugees. Read more...
A national monument to commemorate the 1956 revolution and express the gratitude of the Hungarian refugees who came to Canada was unveiled on October 4th 2006 on Maple Island in the Rideau River near the Foreign Affairs Building in Ottawa. The monument was commissioned with funds raised entirely by individuals, organizations, members of the Hungarian community and their friends across the country. There were contributions received from all provinces and territories.
An oral history project, "Hungarian Exodus", managed by Susan Papp-Aykler in partnership with the Multicultural History Society of Ontario (MHSO) and the Rakoczi Foundation of Canada, was developed into a travelling exhibit and a documentary film funded by Omni Television. Read more..
Another successful opening of the Hungarian Exodus Exhibit—took place at the University of Manitoba from March 10 to 19.
Dr. Emoke Szathmary, President of the University of Manitoba, opened the Exhibit at the opening ceremony on Monday, March 10th at 5:00 p.m. Dr. Szathmary referred to the refugee wave a “defining event in Canadian Immigration history, one that needs to be commemorated. Canadians politicians took bold moves to make this happen and citizens of Canada demonstrated their generosity in taking in such a large number of non-English or French speaking refugees, who were basically penniless.”
Dr. Szathmary spoke at length about the outstanding contributions of the refugees to the development of the province of Manitoba and congratulated the Rakoczi Foundation for creating the exhibit and expressed her appreciation to all those who collaborated to bring the Exhibit to the University of Manitoba.
Mr. Thomas G. Frohlinger, Honorary Consul-General for the Republic of Hungary also expressed his appreciation on behalf of the Republic of Hungary, that the story of the “56”-ers was brought to life through the Exhibit. The exhibit opening was well-attended by Distinguished guests from the university, the general public and the local Hungarian community.
Susan Papp-Aykler, President of the Rakoczi Foundation, was invited to the opening as was Mr. Tibor Lukacs, a member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation. Ms. Papp-Aykler extended special thanks on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Foundation as well as the Multicultural History Society of Ontario, to the University of Manitoba for hosting the Exhibit, in particular to Dr. Emoke Szathmary, Dr. Oliver Botar, and Dr. Elena Balaban.
The University of Manitoba is the 14th host for the Exhibit in Canada, and the Exhibit is still receiving invitations by new venues. “ This is an important story that needs to be told to as many Canadians as possible, Susan Papp-Aykler stated, “No other country around the world accepted more refugees per capita than Canada.”
Following the opening, the documentary film “Voices of the Revolution” was screened at Cinematheque in downtown Winnipeg. The film was produced and directed by Susan M. Papp-Aykler. Exploring the events of 1956 and how they were affected by the Hungarian refugees who came to this country after 1956, the audience response was amazing. Prof. Surina Botar commented: “I was drawn into the film and was laughing at some of the humorous moments, and crying at other times about the tragic events these refugees went through.”
The Hungarian Exodus Exhibit will be at the University of Manitoba, Marshall McLuhan Centre until March 19th, 2008.
- 7 p.m. 10 March, 2008 - Young Rebels: Voices of the Hungarian Revolution, a documentary film by Susan Papp (Cinematheque Movie Theatre. 100 Arthur St.)
- 3:30 p.m. 12 March, 2008 – “The Modernist Revolution: The 1956 Hungarian Uprising in the Works of Hungarian-Canadian Artists,” a talk by Dr. Oliver Botar (UM Fort Garry Campus, 409 Tier)
Sponsors of the event: CEES Program, German & Slavic Studies Dpt; Faculty of Arts; Canadian Studies Program; Rakoczi Foundation (Toronto); Hungarian Canadian Cultural Society (Winnipeg); Kapisztran Folk Ensemble; & Mr. Thomas Frohlinger (Hon. Consul of the Republic of Hungary).
International Academic Conference "The 1956 Revolution 50 Years Later – Canadian and International Perspectives"
An international scholarly conference took place from October 12th to October 14th , 2006 at the University of Ottawa’s Institute of Canadian Studies, with the cooperation of the Hungarian Studies Association of Canada, The National Arts Centre, the Embassy of Hungary, and the Canada-Hungary Educational Foundation. Read more...
The Canadian Embassy in Budapest commemorated the 50th anniversary of the 1956 revolution and the arrival of refugees in Canada with a gala evening in Budapest's Palace of the Arts October 21st 2006. Read more...
The New Hungarian Voice and the Hungarian Canadian Cultural Alliance, Vancouver presented "RISE UP! THE 1956 PROJECT" - A showcase of three major events commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the 1956 Revolution. Read more...
On October 25th and November 4th 2006, CBC TV screened a specially commissioned documentary on 1956 and the stories of some of the Hungarian refugees who came to Canada. To find out about their stories click here...
The newly formed Montreal Hungarian Historical Society (MHHS) organized an exhibit entitled "Celebrating Montreal's Hungarians - A Reflection of our Community" at the Montreal City Hall, November 15 to November 24. Read more...
This book was a special 50th anniversary project jointly funded by the Hungarian ministry of Culture and the Canadian embassy in Budapest. The concept was Andrew Prinz’s (A Canadian Hungarian who divides his time between Canada and Hungary): to interview Hungarians who came to Canada after the Revolution and their relatives who remained behind. Written and edited by Andrew, based on the interviews, with photographs by Katalin Sandor, this is a lovely coffee-table book with a great diversity of stories. Read more...
Oct. 15, 2006
It lasted less than two weeks, from the first euphoric student demonstrations in Budapest on Oct. 23 till its final bloody end on Nov. 4, when it was crushed by Soviet tanks, but the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 left an indelible mark on Cold War politics and continues to resonate today. Thanks to the work of historians rooting through newly released materials, the world's first televised revolution is now seen as a classic case of how the Cold War deformed international relations in ways that are still felt in Iran, Afghanistan and Latin America. Read more...
A new English-language documentary, entitled Torn from the Flag, is taking a look at the legacy of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Directed by Klaudia Kovacs, the film makes use of recently declassified archival documents and interviews a wide range of people who either took part in, or witnessed the unfolding of events in October-November 1956. Communist party functionaries and members of state security organizations are interviewed, along with former political prisoners and revolutionaries. The film also examines the uprising from a global perspective, including the views of the United States, the United Nations and the former Soviet Union.
The cinematographer was multi-award winner Laszlo Kovacs, ASC (Easy Rider; Paper Moon; Shampoo; What's Up, Doc?; New York, New York; My Best Friend's Wedding ).
A number of organizations in the US, Canada and Europe supported the production of Torn from the Flag. Ms. Kovacs’s film will be screened at the 2007 American Film Institute (AFI) Fest, on Saturday, November 10, 2007, in Los Angeles. Website: http://www.klaudiainc.com/mainpage.html