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In Memoriam: Gergely "Bajusz" Pongratz

One of the youthful rebels of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution was Gergely Pongratz. He and his four his brothers were heavily involved in the organization of the revolt and fighting and their names were known to the Soviets. Along with their two sisters, the brothers fled Hungary. Gergely wound up in the United States where he spent the next several decades living in New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, and, finally, Arizona. Gergely returned to Hungary in 1990. With his own money, he established the '56 Museum near Szeged. The museum is filled with memorabilia of the revolt--- a Russian tank, flags, maps, newspaper articles, photos of the Freedom Fighters (both survivors and those killed in battle or later hanged), maps, and a large assortment of the weapons used in the revolution.

Gergely has also built a chapel to the memory of the heroes of the Revolution of 1956 and, hoping to keep the memories of the revolution alive, had just opened a free summer camp where young people can learn about this part of their national heritage. Mass is celebrated in the chapel once a month and on national and religious holidays. On the chapel's walls are plaques the names of dead Hungarian heroes. Bajusz Bacsi will be sorely missed.

In his book titled "Corvin Köz 1956," Gergely Pongrátz, quotes from the Congressional Record (Volume 106, Part 14, Eighty-sixth Congress, Second Session. 31 August, 1960. 18783-18790.) by Congressman Michael A. Feighan, regarding a telegram sent by the US State Department to Yugoslav dictator Tito on the 2nd of November, 1956, which states:

"The Government of the United States does not look with favor upon governments unfriendly to the Soviet Union on the border of the Soviet Union."

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) - Gergely Pongratz, a leader [and hero] of Hungary's anti-communist revolution of 1956, has died at age 73.

Pongratz suffered a heart attack on Wednesday in the southern Hungarian town of Kiskunmajsa where he lived, said Dezso Abraham, secretary general of the World Council of Hungarian 56ers revolutionary veterans group. During the revolution, Pongratz was commander of one of the key resistance groups fighting the Soviet army.

Based around the Corvin Passage in downtown Budapest, some 2,000 revolutionaries, including four of Pongratz's brothers, were able to hold off the advancing Soviet troops for several days, destroying some 25 enemy tanks.

"The Corvin Passage battles were an inspiration for the revolution and their fighting spirit was taken up by the whole country," Abraham said.

After Soviet shelling crushed the Corvin Passage resistance on Nov. 10, Pongratz continued to take part in revolutionary activities until leaving Hungary a few weeks later.

After the revolution, which lasted less than a month, Pongratz lived mostly in Spain before settling in the United States in the 1970s. He returned to Hungary in 1991, after the fall of the communist regime.

Nicknamed "Bajusz," or moustache, during the uprising due to his stylish whiskers, Pongratz, set up a museum in 1999 dedicated to the revolution. Located on the outskirts of the town of Kiskunmajsa, some 160 kilometres south of Budapest, the exhibit includes a T-55 Soviet tank similar to those used in 1956.

Born Feb. 18, 1932 in Gherla, a city in heavily Hungarian-populated western Romania, Pongratz moved to Hungary with his family after the Second World War.

He was working as an agricultural engineer in the countryside when the revolution broke out on Oct. 23, 1956, and quickly went to Budapest to join the struggle.

Pongratz, who was divorced, is survived by a son and daughter living in the United States, Abraham said.

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