The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 3/Budapest the Defeated

2928313The Czechoslovak Review, volume 3, no. 5 — Budapest the Defeated1919Peter Kompiš

Budapest the Defeated


As you go out of the Eastern Depot, you see piles of dirt. Men are engaged in sweeping it away, but the piles are not decreasing. Everything seems somehow damp and dirty, the station buildings, street cars, pavements. On the square by the depot every one is busy and every one is noisy; the open spaces are filled with tents, tables and benches; people are selling black bread, bakery goods of various univiting shapes, candy, hot sausages, sodawater, lemonade, bacon. Among these street sellers you see a great many soldiers, both sound and crippled, all equally dilapidated. Even a fourteen year old boy wears a military cap, but he no doubt never saw war.

On the streets you meet again soldiers peddling various merchandise. They yell, each trying to outdo the other, in order to draw your attention. “Genuine Egyptian cigarettes—German cigarettes—Fine cigarettes, gentlemen—” They cost from 40 to 80 hellers each. Little loaves of black bread, about the size of a roll, are sold for 50 hellers, a box of matches for 40 hellers. If you try a bakery, you will not get bread without a bread card, and in the cigar store they will tell you that they have no matches.

At the depot I saw two soldiers selling foot wear—yellow feltshoes—at 50—60 crowns a pair. They did not yell or even call out their ware, but they had no lack of customers. The big box from which they were taking the shoes was rapidly being emptied. A policeman goes by, but never thinks of inquiring, where the rare merchandise came from. Probably he had been a soldier himself and would not spoil the game of his comrades.

“Shoe laces, peace goods, will last forever, 2 crowns, 80 hellers a pair”, cries a lame soldier standing at the entrance of a dry goods store.

In front of posters crowds are always standing many deep. The League for the Integrity of Hungary has the most striking poster: in a red field a white map of Hungary, cut into Slovak, Serbian and Roumanian territory. Under the red field big black letters stand out: “Nem! Nem! Soha!” (No, no, never.) Another placard annouces that the Magyar radical party is calling a mass meeting; officers of the regular army and non-comissioned officers are taking steps to organize. The Communist League of Magyar Intellectual Workers calls upon all public officials to join them, the mayor of Budapest urges the populace to avoid conflict with Allied military detachments. Posters signed Magyar Christian Socialist Party are torn everywhere.

“Every fifteen minutes a new placard” remarks someone from the bystanders. “At least we can save on newspapers.” At the same moment an old woman dressed in rags sticks a paper under his nose and yells: “Deli Hirlap.”

We enter a restaurant to dine. Veal cutlet with potatoes 8 crowns, salad 2 crowns. Bread and dessert only on production of bread card. “What can we get to drink”, I ask the waiter. “Raspberry juice.” And then he adds in a low voice: “No liquors may be sold in Pest. But if you will step into the next room, we serve reliable guests fine white wine, excellent Riesling.”

The guests in the restaurant are busy talking politics. “Is it true that the Czechs are coming here?” “Let them; if they do, they will have to feed us!” “Foolish fears. As they came, so they will leave. All of them will clear out—Roumanians, Serbians and the Czechs”, says an old gentleman. “I don’t care who comes, Czech or Serb or Frenchman, as long as I can make a decent living.” Everybody looks with disapproving eyes at a man who speaks unpatriotically. He is a young man, apparently a shop foreman, with a red badge, and judging by his pronunciation a true Magyar.

When I paid, the waiter could not get the amount right. He charged 80 hel. for soup instead of 60, for veal cutlet 8.50 instead of 8, for salad 2.50 instead of 2. When I appealed to the bill of fare, he claimed that the forgot and charged yesterday’s prices. Oh well, that is what one expects in Budapest.

In Café Windsor I became acquainted with a young Magyar lieutenant. He showed me a passport to Russia. “Why, what do you mean to do?” “I am going to emigrate permanently. As a prisoner I learned to talk Russian perfectly and I have good friends over there. I feel confident that I can make good in Russia. It is a great country and needs educated people. And I am not alone; from Budapest quite a number of my acquaintances have already moved to Russia.”

“Why not stay at home and make good here?” “Under this bolshevik-Jewish government? And then there are such awful numbers of us. Upper Hungary, Transylvania, Banat, all swamp us with fleeing officials. There are not enough jobs for all of us.” Have you parents?” “Mother only.” “And what does she say?” “She does not know yet. But she will have to agree, when I show her the passport.”

The young lieutenant was almost crying. But he got control of himself and said: “She will not lose me for long. As soon as things get settled down in Russia and I have a good position, I will send for her and take good care of her.”

Translated from the “Venkov”’ of March 15.

 This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1929.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1945, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 78 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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This work was published before January 1, 1929 and is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 95 years or less since publication.

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