László Nagy

* 1957

  • Only five more metres and it was already Austrian terrain. Some of the East Germans were getting hysterical. And at that very moment Árpi asked in German, 'where would you like to go?'. They said, 'to Austria'. They were glaring at each other.The soldier lads asked 'commander, what shall we do now?' As, Árpád Bella apparently told them beforehand that they weren't supposed to shoot unless they are commanded to. They were to give only a warning shot as they were commanded to prevent illegal border crossing. But Árpi was aware of the five thousand Austrians at the back and the hundred and fifty East Germans with that glare in their eyes. Even a casual pat on a rifle bag would have scared the East Germans. Panic would have overcome them and they would've lynched the soldiers. Or, if, God forbid, the shot ends up in Austria! That would've resulted in a massive international scandal! […] And the Germans kept on coming. They were already in the maise field. Facing Hungary, there is a maise field on the left. They were coming out of that realising that there was a way to. And then the soldiers asked, 'What shall we do now, commander?' Then he said,'Count them and give me a rough number!' Finally, he figured out that the soldiers should stand facing Austria. You are only liable for what you see. This is the nice, old byzantine way. And the Austrians were coming anyway, and passports had to get stamped and forms had to be filled in. And all that engaged their attention. And the Germans left behind their backs.

  • We weren't aware that twenty-five thousand people would come out. We expected one and a half thousand to come. - And how many were there after all? According to police estimates there were twenty-five thousand of them. Half of Sopron city was there. And lots of Austrians as well. At least a minimum of five thousand people came from Austria. It didn't even cross our minds that this would turn out such a great success. Its mysticism had an appeal to anyone, this one being a kaffkaesque world where you couln't ever touch the Iron Curtain, only see it from the train at the very best. People simply wanted to take a look. It was a Saturday. A nice day. "Let's go out!" [...] There was no way to keep people from going. Some of them rolled up the Iron Curtain as the soldiers did. Half of the Sopron gardens are enclosed with the Iron Curtain. They put the rolls on top of cars. They dismantled quite a few kilometres. Some of them only cut a piece off. I should also have brought a roll! Folks did take them.

  • It was Laci Magas' idea to open up the border. Originally, it was only to be a picnic, but then he came up with the idea of the border opening. Obviously, Szentmargitbánya is five kilometres away from the national border. Its mayor helped us to get the Austrian authorities to authorise the opening. Laci had practical reasons for suggesting the opening, as it was a border gate closed down back in 1948 and out of use ever since. Actually, that's the old road to Pozsony, but that's where the Roman road ran, too, an ancient one, indeed. You can still see its ruins. There used to be a little toll house there. So, it had been an operational border crossing since "Trianon" to 1948. Without it, it's a forty kilometer long trip by car if you go all the way around in the direction of the Kelen brook; that's how far away the Sopron border crossing is. Laci Magas said that "we mean to invite folks from Margitbánya, but isn't it silly? Why should they take the 40 kilometer long roundabout route, when they are only 5 kilometres away". What might have given rise to the idea of the border opening was, by the way, a fair that took place in a small village in the vicinity of Szombathely as well as in an Austrian village a few kilometres away, when a temporary border opening permit was issued enabling people to come and go freely. Naturally, the border guards were standing there checking documents. We got the permission on the Hungarian end straight away.

  • The international press conference that took place before the picnic was prolonged due to the huge public interest, therefore, László Nagy got to the border only by quarter to four instead of three o'clock. "I learnt about the breakthrough on arriving to the border by car. There were no mobile phones around back then, you know. It struck me as unusual that the closest I could get to the border gate was 100 metres. I just couldn't figure out what the reason was. There was such a big crowd! It was crazy! I got out of the car to see what was going on. And I still dont't get it to this very day, I only sort of have been starting to understand it recently. For the sole function of that gate was to let the Austrians from Margitbánya, Rust and Meggyes enter and head for the picnic through the field. Therefore, there weren't supposed to be any people there […] And then a dear acquintance of mine from Kismarton came towards me saying "some fantastic things are happenning here! Crowds of East Germans cross the border by the hundreds!" And then I said, East Germans! Oh, no!'. And then it sank in that they can prosecute us for whatever they please. I was also aware that for assisting illegal border crossing you can get sentenced to 2-5 years of imprisonment. […] We couldn't cross over. […] The mayor of Margitbánya received a phonecall that there was some disruption on the border. And he drove there in no time.and he arranged for the East Germans to be put up for the night. They should be allowed to take a shower, to make phonecalls back home and be given food and drink. He will foot the bill. They were paid reimbursement for seven hundred-and-sixty people. My guess is that they must have been over one thousand, as quite a few of the refugees didn't even go to Margitbánya. Moreover, being afraid of the soldiers, many of them didn't cross through the border gates but a kilometre further to the left or the right, through the Iron Curtain, that is. In my view, there may have been about one or one and a half thousand refugees.

  • Celé nahrávky
  • 1

    Sopron, Hungary, 07.12.2013

    délka: 02:44:49
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Příběhy železné opony - Iron Curtain Stories
Celé nahrávky jsou k dispozici pouze pro přihlášené uživatele.

It was one of the greatest moments of my life!

László Nagy 1999
László Nagy 1999
zdroj: magángyűjtemény

László Nagy was born to conservative, religious parents in 1957. His father was a forest engineer, while his mother took care of their three children. The family moved to Sopron in 1960. They lived in Nigeria between 1970 and 1977. László did his secondary school leaving exam in Germany and then continued his studies at the Technical University of Budapest. He is a founder of the 405 circle, which invited politicians and public figures (several representatives of the opposition among them) to the university. He got his degree in chemical engineering in 1982. Subsequently, he and his family moved back to Sopron. They had three children. László worked in the Sopron Carpet Factory and earned a degree in textile engineering. At the end of the 1980s he joined the local opposition group in Sopron and became one of the organisers of the Pan-European Picnic (19 August, 1989). Up until 1996 he had been politically active and a member of the Hungarian Democratic Forum‘s executive committee. Since 1990 onwards he has been the Hungarian representative of various foreign companies and the managing director of the Viva la Musica Art Agency. He was awarded the Knight‘s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic in 1999.