László Deres

* 1948  

  • I planned the route beforehand. I had bought two inner tubes and flippers to aid our swimming, to make the trip safer. We packed up everything. In the pool in Sikonda, we tested the plastic bag which we meant to keep our clothes and documents in to keep them dry. My wife did have a passport, so I arranged for her to be driven to Batina, the eastern bank of the Danube, by a colleague in his Trabant, as the ferry service at Mohács ran from 4 to 10 p.m. I asked them to get there later than ten o’clock, so a car waiting for someone there would not be too conspicuous. Asked them to wait for me there. […] We went down to the Danube bank. No sooner had it got dark than we stripped at a deserted place real quick, chucked the clothes into the bag and plunged into the water! This was back in August, ’74. And so we drifted down the Danube. At one point the river was lit across its banks but we took no time to swim beyond it, and blended back into the dark. We might have spent about 5 hours in water. Luckily, there was no traffic on the river at that time. We crawled out on the left bank. I had a bit of a mishap, though. Being in the water drained me so much that I got dizzy and dropped my purse with all the documents and some money in it. I could hardly find it! […] Finally, we found everything, and then we walked on along the Danube, in about half an hour we got to a paved road. I could see some building there and I checked the sign which said ’ulice’. “There you go! We are not in Hungary anymore!” And then, we took a turning to the right, and there was some bright light, and there was my wife in the Trabant waiting for me!

  • My friend moved to Heresznye, a small border village near Barcs. The River Drava keeps meandering there. Once the border is in, then it is out. […] According to his plan this was the best place to get out of the river, you are sure to pull it off there. […] The border guards had controlled our IDs well before reaching Barcs, but as he was a local, they could do nothing about it. Being his friend and driver, I was also allowed to enter the security zone. And there was a peasant house and there the border was, 20 metres behind the gardens. And then came the Drava. We set off at about 10 o’clock and we lost our way. If you lose your way in the forest at night, you lose it genuinely. You check directions on the map, and in five minutes, you end up going in the opposite direction. I told my mate, “Hold on! I’m gonna climb up a tree and check where the river is.” I couldn’t see a thing. Time for the compass! It showed the opposite direction. Which one shall we trust? “Let’s rely on the compass!” We walked for less than 20 minutes when I already could smell water, and we actually found the river, too. We crossed it, which was rather cumbersome. The riverbank was quite steep, we could hardly crawl up to the top of it. I had a shoulder bag, with its strap torn, so I could hardly get a grab on it and the current there was strong. My clothes and my documents might as well have been gone. But, after all, we pulled it off.

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    Komló, Hungary, 12.10.2013

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    duration: 02:38:27
    media recorded in project Iron Curtain Stories
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I was like one possessed; I had to get away from there

deres.jpg (historic)
László Deres
photo: saját

László Deres was born in 1948 in Gölle, Somogy county. His grandparents were farmers and were labelled as kulaks in the Rákosi era. His father worked as a miner in Komló. László completed his secondary school studies in Dombóvár and had been checked on by the AVH several times. He graduated from secondary school in 1966 and continued his studies in a higher vocational school training water experts, but dropped out after the first term. From 1967 onwards he was doing his military service in Taszár as a driver. On completing his military service, he worked as a miner and a driver alternatively. He fled the country illegally swimming across the Danube at Mohács to the other side. Alongside with his expecting wife, they made it to the Yugoslavian-Italian border but due to exhaustion they gave up and hitch-hiked back to Letenye, where his wife crossed the border using her passport, but he swam across the River Mura at Letenye. He was caught and sentenced to 8 months’ suspended imprisonment. In August 1975, he made another attempt swimming across the River Drava at Heresznye. He stayed at a refugee camp in Latina, Italy. He arrived in the United States in 1976 but unable to overcome his home sickness, was determined to come back to Hungary. He flew to Rome in 1977 and arrived in Hungary via Yugoslavia, where he was arrested, and extradited to the Hungarian authorities. He had been sentenced to two years and four months for leaking military intelligence and illegal border crossing. After his release he worked in Komló as a professional driver. While working, he hit a drunk man, who died from his injuries. Though no fault of his own, Deres was arrested and sentenced to 9 months in jail. After being released, he began working in a local mine. Between 1988 and 1990 he worked as a taxi driver, then again as a truck driver, and finally as a bus driver before retiring in 2010.