The 1950s saw the creation of Hungarian refugees in the aftermath of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Thousands marched on the streets of Budapest to revolt against the Soviet Union’s domestic policy in Hungary. Over 3,000 civilians were killed and 250,000 people fled the country, mainly to Austria and Yugoslavia. In the context of the Cold War, Western nations warmly supported these ‘anti-communist heroes’. The US initiated Operation Safe Haven and airlifted almost 11,000 Hungarian refugees on 173 flights from West Germany to New Jersey and 4170 refugees on commercially contracted airliners. Similarly, in the UK, Hungarians were warmly welcomed as they were placed temporarily in camps or hostels but were moved relatively quickly into more permanent housing. Charities and locally coordinated activities were also organized to welcome the Hungarians.
After the Hungarian uprising in 1956, Robert Vas, a BBC film director, sought sanctuary in the UK. He has made many seminal films. His first film, Refuge England (1959), depicts the day in the life of a Hungarian refugee who arrives in England. It shows the refugee’s bewilderment and awe of the extraordinary everyday environment in which he now finds himself. After his initial success, he went on to make other documentaries with the BBC. The Golden Years of Alexander Korda (1968) was an examination of the famous Hungarian film producer who did much to establish a viable British film industry. He also made many films about Eastern Europe. The Issue Should be Avoided (1971) was about the Katyn Forest Massacre. My Homeland (1976) celebrated Hungarian culture and the 1956 uprising. Stalin (1973) looked at the life of Joseph Stalin. His films were imbued with a vision to “inspire thought, to remind and warn” against abuses of power.
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