Tibor Pákh

* 1924  

  • „In June 1966 I was told that the Human Rights’ Committee of UN was to hold a seminar of two weeks in Hungary. So I caught the occasion and I wrote again my complaint addressed to the Chief Prosecutor on the regular abuses on human rights. I repeated, as I used to, that Kádár had denied us when he stated that there weren’t anyone in prison for political reasons. I demanded the disbanding of the operative forces, I demanded open, ordinary hearing at court that I could prove my truth. I denounced seclusions, abuses and similar atrocities. And I announced in the same time that I was starting hunger-strike. On these occasions prisoners are regularly separated and punished immediately. 48 hours can pass in the course of which the striker is offered drink and meal in every occasion. I kept to refuse them saying that I wanted to continue my protest. I didn’t drink either. After 48 hours hunger-strikers are brought to be feeded. It is called artificial nourishing. A liquid of 960 calories is mixed with milk. The prisoner is brought to the sick-room, this mixture is made, one litre of milk is mixed with sugar and with some butter and egg. It is made right in front of the striker. It is the physician of the prison who offers it saying that „even if you drink it, we take as if you continued the strike”. He tries to talk him out of his strike, then he tells to drink it at least. I told I wouldn’t drink it, it was part of my protest. Then a rubber pipe is pushed in the throat which has a funnel at the end and this liquid is poured in it. It was done twice or three times to me and when I experienced this type of feeding I gave up the hunger-strike in 1964. This is a very painful treatment. Well, I had enough of it. In 1966 however I didn’t finish, I continued it for about five weeks. There were obviously short periods of four-five days when I wasn’t feeded because they thought I would give it up. After five weeks when I was brought again to the sick-room a doctor came from the observation center and he told me that there were harsher methods, too. This person already died, I can tell you his name, he was called Balogh. He said that there were harsher methods and they thought to take me to the observation room. I knew well that there was forced treatment and observation, too, but I didn’t know that it was right there and it was only a short way to bring me there. They feeded me for another week and then I was brought to the observation room. […] First I was brought to the chief medical officers’ room. He asked me: „Do you drink?” I answered that I was determined to protest and they shouldn’t have to intervene in it, especially physicians shouldn’t have to since I did my hunger-strike because of the abuses committed against my elementary human rights. I was put immediately on the operating board, my mouth was gagged, I was tied, I was kept and the electrodes were pushed to my temples from two sides and electricity was switched on. This was the first time when I got electric shock. I fainted immediately of course. It was made me directly. On principle one can get electric shock only if he is given an injection before which switches off one’s consciousness. But I was always given the shock directly. When you come to your senses, you just lie, you feel yourself between being and not being. You don’t understand what is around. At first the nearest images return to memory, later the older ones, too. I don’t know how others lived it, it is how I experienced it. God however saved me, I received electric shock several times but my consciousness always returned.

  • „In April 1971 my punishment was interrupted due to the international protest about which I didn’t know obviously. I was transferred to an ordinary hospital and I was kept there until November 1971. Then I was freed from there, too. Nevertheless the injustices didn’t come to an end. On the one hand I was placed on probation, on the other hand I was put under surveillance. That is to say I was under two types of control which excluded one the other in principle. The police surveillance was officially ordered which involved that I couldn’t leave the territory of Budapest and I had to present myself twice in a month at the local police station. Contemporary to it I was also under mental observation. These two measures excluded each other, because or this or that could be in force, not both of them in the same time. These two procedures however went on. My duty to report finished in 1976 but it didn’t mean that also the nosing and the spying around me stopped. It happened for example in 1977 or 1978 that a policeman came on Sunday and he wanted to check me. I wrote a complaint on it to the Chief Prosecutor asking the reasons for the pestering. These circumstances might have led to the distortion of my personality. – And how could you avoid it? – I could avoid it by ignoring these attempst. The truth must win at the end. And if somebody fights for it, if somebody was educated in the spirit of justice and he wants to live in justice, too, he may find annoying if the authorities which are responsible for the injustices or their officials which commit the abuses pester him. But if I understand well the grace offered us by our Lord and if I accept that he is the defender of the absolute truth, these inconveniences are simply like flea-bites to dogs. And dogs get easily rid of the fleas by shaking themselves.”

  • „The opposition to the abuses of Moscow’s Leninism was intensively felt in Poland in 1980. Different organizations had been formed by then. There were the institutions of of the Catholic church, as well as, there were social organizations of different political trends, the Confederation of Indipendent Poland, KOR, which had been formed to defend the interests of the workers. The organizations together began a hunger-strike in the church of Podkowa Lesna.The mass media reported on it, obviously not the Polish, but the foreign ones. –What was the precise reason for the strike? –The Polish had a samizdat publishing house called Nowa. Its editor Mirek Chojecki was arrested and the hunger-strike originally was organized in order to free him. But when the strike was successful and Chojecki was freed in a few days, the hunger-strike was continued to obtain the redress for the injustices in Central Europe.This was the moment when I left for Podkowa Lesna travelling through Warsaw. –Where is exacty Podkowa Lesna geographically? –It is near to Warsaw, it is situated as near to Warsaw as Dunaharaszti is to Budapest. There is a small railway which connects it to Warsaw, I took it, too, to get there. At the station I looked around to find the church tower, so I found the church easily. I looked for the vicar, I presented myself and I told him that I wanted to join them in the spirit of Saint Adalbert because it was St. Adalbert who at the end of the first millennium had evangelized in the spirit of christianism. Adalbert was bishop of Prague, he was present at the confirmation ceremony of our king St. Stephen, then he went to Poland and he died martyr for his faith in Prussia. He is the patron saint of Esztergom and Gniezno. And he is considered to be patron saint of Central Europe by a few people besides me. So I decided to join them in his spirit at the end of the second millenary especially to protest against the crual leninism of Moscow’s empire hoping to regain our national independences. That is to say I wanted to protest against the injustices the Polish protested. The priest allowed me to join them. I was with them, I enjoyed myself because it was clear that every political trend found a common house in that church. There was a mass every evening where old and young of the town came, also the garden of the church was full, the place was too small for them. Podkowa Lesna is the nest both of the Polish and of the common Polish and Hungarian opposition. When I was there I was told that Polish people held the Hungarian in great esteem, they wanted to act in the spirit of 1956 and every political current showed interest towards 1956 and the Hungarian events.”

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    Budapest, 23.06.2014

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If the Lord is with me I don’t fear anybody

Tibor Pákh
Tibor Pákh
photo: Piroska Nagy

Tibor Pákh was born in Komárom (Hungary) on August 11, 1924 in a middle-class family. His father was lawyer and agronomist, as politician county head of the Independent Smallholders’ Party which candidated him to Parliament several times. His mother was pianist. Tibor Pákh graduated in 1942 in Komárom, then he attended the Law Faculty of Péter Pázmány University in Budapest.  In 1944 he was conscriptedthus he had to interrupt his university studies. In 1945 he was taken POW by the Soviet army in Austria and he was brought forcibly to the Soviet Union. He could return to Hungary as late as the autumn of 1948.He took his degree in law in 1949. He wanted to work in the field of international lay but he could get employed only as translator in engineering. Since 1950 he was translator in the library of Csepel Motor Works. In 1954 he got married. In the time of the 1956 Hungarian revolution he fell wounded during the volley in front of Parliament building on October 25. He was in hospital until the middle of November. Because of denying to sign in his working place the petition organized by the Kádár government against the debate of the Hungarian issue in UN, he was dismissed in 1957. He found other jobs as translator first at Power Stations’ Designing Company, later at Technical Translation Agency. In 1960 he was arrested and in 1961 was condemned to life imprisonment  which later was transformed to a sentence of 15 year imprisonment. He started hunger-strike in prison several times since 1966 in order to obtain that a civil court would hear his case on the one hand, on the other he protested in this way against the injuries suffered by the convicted.In the prison hospital he was given electrical and insulin shocks to make him finish his protest. In 1971 he was declared to be mentally deranged in a civil mental hospital, he was freed, but in the same time he was put under police surveillance. The authorities obstacled him to find any employment. He could earn his living by translating on temporary commissions. He participated regularly in the demonstrations of the political opposition and was arrested various times. In the spring of 1980 he joined the hunger-strike of Polish civil rights’ activists in the church of Podkowa Leszna. In October 1981 he began an other hunger-strike protesting against the unlawful confiscation of his passport. At that time he was brought to the National Neurological and Mental Clinic and he was put under forced treatment. After different Hungarian groups of intellectuals and several international organizations had spoken out against the inhuman and dangerous treatment, he was finally allowed to leave the hospital. He became legendary figure of the opposition in the course of the Kádár regime although he himself didn’t join any circles of the underground. He was rehabilitatedin 1993 by a committee put up by the Hungarian Institute for Psychiatry on the initiative of the American Association of Psychiatry. Thank to this he was officially stated to be mentally sane. In 1992 the Law Chamber of Nassau County (New York State) elected him honorary member, in 1993 the city of Podkowa Lesna (Poland) awarded him the honorary citizenship. He was decorated by the Hungarian Order of Merit in 2013.