Amidst the doom and gloom of the House of Terror Museum in Budapest hides a ray of hope—a small room full of postcards. Some have dull finishes, others are rich and glossy, with pictures of palm trees, oases, snow-capped mountains, sky scrapers, and deserts filled with blooming cacti.
These postcards—thousands of them clipped to the walls of this small room—are postmarked from the four corners of the world. They were mailed by the refugees who fled the 1956 Hungarian Revolution—the lucky ones who found their freedom. On them are written tender words to family and friends less fortunate, those who stayed behind to brave the tough years following the revolution.
I was astonished to find this room, and I couldn’t help but tremble. I felt I was reliving my own family’s past, and I tried not to cry in this public place. These cards reminded me of the sepia ones I still have, exchanged between my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents, sharing their news from opposite sides of the world.
I peered closely at the stamps and faint ink marks and was overcome with joy. The cards had traveled across every ocean on Earth, from Canada, the United States, Italy, New Zealand, France, Britain, South America and more. They told stories of opportunity, well-paid jobs, new languages, new friendships, new climates. They asked about family, friends and lovers, about those left behind. They expressed longing for mothers and fathers missed, and told of plans to reunite and begin a new life. One overall story stood out among all of these: In the silent voice of print was the story of freedom, how it looked and dressed, how it walked and talked, how it tasted. Freedom—without fear.
Because I was forbidden to take photographs in this memorable room, I have posted here some of my family’s postcards.