In the Chains of the Hammer & Sickle, Part IV
Confessions by the Blooded Press
by Father A. Krupa, O.F.M.
(Translated by A. Igriczi Nagy)
"It is not necessary to search for facts or proof during the investigation. The first question should be: To what social class does he belong?…These should be the decisive factors in determining the fate of the accused…" —MJ. Lacisz, Checka Chief
I. The First Judas
Before the last newspaper article—quoted in the previous chapter—appeared in the paper, my first interrogation had taken place. This was about the middle of July.
The morning sun shone encouragingly when I set out for the police station.
"Failure to appear will result in being brought in under escort!"
The birds were chirping merrily, the bees hummed cheerfully as they were gathering the gold-coloured dust off the flowers, only my beloved dog, Macko, was whining sorrowfully after my departing figure. Was it because he could not come with me or did he know that my kind of journey is towards death more often than to life? And the first stop on this lethal journey is confession with the aid of the vine-press of the flesh?
The long lapse of time, between the takeover of the school and the date fixed for the interrogation, and no arrest up until now, made me hopeful that I may get off with some threats, admonitions and a warning. However, the more sober part of my mind forced me to prepare as if I did not expect to return. I even asked the boy, guarding the bicycles in front of the police station, to get the bicycle back to our rectory if nobody claimed it by late evening. He promised this without asking for any explanations; for he understood what this was about. I paid him triple his usual fee as the condemned paid their executioners in the olden time. His reluctance to accept it was genuine.
A teenager, one of our school's ex-pupils, was roaming near the bicycles. He gave such oblique looks to the bypassers, he was listening so intently, with practically outstretched ears! "Police informer" was written all over him. His father at one time was a builder at our rectory, this had apparently qualified him as a detective, and apparently his son was an apprentice informer, who wanted to hear my last utterance in freedom. He was the first Judas among ourselves. Oh, what a long line will form after him in the coming years! Is it a law, the law of wicked life, that a Judas is needed for each crucifixion?
In going up to the floor, the walls on each side of the staircase were lined by sculpted memorials of policemen killed in the line of duty, on the post, "The guardians of the law, killed by those, trampling on the law." And today? Could it be true that nowadays the guardians of the law kill those who abide by the law? This is what was whispered about, naturally, only whispered. My face became red with shame at the thought that I, a Catholic priest, gave credence to these persistent whispers, if even only for a minute.
They led me into a rather large room neatly wallpapered. They were not too friendly, but none expects friendliness at a police station, at any rate—but with no overt hostility either. A few typists, a few men simply passing the time. (I learnt only later, that these apparently aimless bystanders were the ones who would quickly become the flesh press operators should the need arise). The interrogator, probably an assistant district attorney, was tall and thin. My first impression was that he is not exactly overjoyed to be saddled with my case. His name was Nagy (as an exception, I'm giving his true name—for later, not many people could believe that in our so-called democratic society interrogations were conducted as mine was). Of course, from their looks, their failure to introduce themselves, made it rather obvious that for them I was not so much a suspect or even accused, but somebody who had already been convicted a long time ago. The Party had decided my case already, quite a while back. This approach to jurisprudence was also being talked about in whispers, awareness of this was in the air.
Well, I thought, act one begins; the circus performance, also known as my interrogation, is ready to start. It was only later that I understood that interrogations for many people meant the call of death, a torture chamber. However, on the day of my first session, I was only a greenhorn to such extent that I did not even grasp the meaning of this sentence, "We have our tools for the discovery of the truth…"
My interrogator started with a warning, "Be sure to confess only the truth because…" He particularly emphasized that "We have tools…." In the meantime, he added, that if I feel or think that any of the accusations were false, I should feel free to say so.
Undeniably, the second sentence of the overture sounded encouraging, even if in the first sentence, the accent was on a hidden menace. I intended to stick to the truth even when the facts could damage my case, for this way they would not be able to mix me up in lies during cross-examinations. I had the example of Jesus in front of me. "I came to bear witness to the truth." The faithful would be justly scandalized if I would falsify or deny their statements and confessions.
My interrogation stretched to about three hours; from this I inferred that they took statements from a large number of witnesses for the preparation of the indictment. The atmosphere was rather decent. Now and then, it became heated and somewhat uncomfortable for them, for at one point my interrogator exclaimed bitterly and with sarcasm, "You are talking as if we were the ones under interrogation, rather than the interrogators, as if we were the accused and not the accusers." To tell the truth, these were my feelings, too, because they came up with so many stupidities that it was hard to lecture them. In the meantime, I readily acknowledged having said things which I'd really said, but not a word of utterances falsely attributed to me or statements twisted around to give them a different meaning which they wrapped up in Communist legal interpretations.
I replied to many of their questions with "I don't remember, but I could have said this because it reflects my way of thinking". (I should not have done this, for this way they learnt about many of my "undesirable" thoughts). To other questions, my reply was "I don't remember, but would not have said this because these views are alien to my way of thinking". The typist always read back what she had put down of my confession. I was allowed to add comments and to make corrections.
It goes without saying that we argued about religion, Communism, the wealth of priests, the power of priests, serving the exploiters, the various political parties, but chiefly about Cardinal Mindszenty. Now and then, a glimpse of the material brought in by the bloodhounds was seen. Right at the beginning, my interrogator kept asserting that the Party toils for the poor people. According to him, the Franciscans were the friends of the simple people throughout, even their name attests to this. So why are the two known friends of the simple folk not working together now? (This was the third time that they came up with this!). Why did the Franciscans become rebel-rousers, instigators of public unrest, murderers of policemen, and detractors of democracy? Don't they see how the Party raised the standard of living of the people? It practically takes care of all their needs, it carries them in the palm of its hand.
It's good to hear you saying these things, I replied, for it reminds me of a visit by a poor mother, wife of a wagon factory worker. She told me that the Party was planning to take her son on a holiday. At this, my interrogator interrupted, "So, you see how much the Party if doing? It's taking the little colts on vacation, free of charge! Whoever did anything like this under the old regime? And if so, when?"
To this, I can reply acerbly. For, ten years ago, when I was working in Pecs, the Lakeview Church, the churches of other denominations and the city council took hundreds of children to the lake Balaton for vacation, or to larger excursions. This was the custom in Hatvan, Fulek, Eger just to name but a few. Besides that, they built large playgrounds, as in our community, too. But let me pick up the threads of my story again. So, the poor mother tells me that they will take her son for a vacation, but there are requirements—clothing requirements—"I would have to get a certain number of each piece of clothing, of such and such a quality, and also quite a few pieces of underwear, but my son does not have these things. I have no money to buy them. It would be sad if my son would miss out on this vacation for want of clothes!" Of course I help her. It could be that that was the last time that I would give anything to the poor, for from that day onward, I was treated as an enemy of the people.
But, I ask you most respectfully, if what you say is true, then why did this working-woman come to me, to the enemy of the people and not to the Party headquarters? And if they have the means to take the children for vacation, why couldn't they give them a few pieces of clothing, too? Perhaps this poor woman of the working class came to me because she had more trust in her Church than in her Party? And in this case, aren't we working together with the Party? So what is objectionable then to our way of life?
There was no answer from the interrogator. He bent his head down and quickly started on another topic.
When the minutes were ready, they gave the report to me for review. What picayune things! At least to me, they sounded picayune. What stupidities, one segment contradicting the other! In the end, I thought that the indictment consisted of three main parts:
1) Agitation against the authority of the state. 2) Incitement to the murder of policemen. 3) Spreading false news.
However, as I mentally summarized them, the accusations did not look innocuous. I saw how serious they appeared—heralding what horrible consequences! As if each point of the indictment was a nail with a sizeable blow of the hammer falling on it! Three blows and not just any kind. The three-sentence-long indictment was ready; it can be nailed to my cross. Three accusations in one language. There was only one accusation over the head of our Lord, in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek (John 19:20). Which sounds more innocent? One accusation in three languages or three accusations in one? If the accusation against Jesus led to His death, where will my indictment lead to?
It seemed as if I heard a mob yelling far away. Crucify him! Crucify him! Rope for Krupa!
In the meantime, I signed, almost without conscious awareness, the paper for the rope; and with this, the pressing hallucinations disappeared.
Inwardly, I shrugged it off. This will come to nought. I will burst their bubble at the trial. Puh, and the whole thing is gone. Is there even anything to stage a trial for? By reading the encyclical of Primate Mindszenty from the pulpit, I agitated against the authority of the state? Bagatelle! I only said what he said, did not add anything new. They did not question him about his encyclicals: Why me?
Incitement for murder of policemen? This is a barefaced lie. They won't find a witness, living or dead, for this. Spreading false news? I'll bring them a basketful of their own newspapers. I did not make up one letter, never stated any untruths. So what do they want with me. What can they do to me?
Still, when my interrogator said, "You can go now!" I could not believe my ears. "You're under arrest!" would have sounded more natural. Horrifying news of the likelihood of this were circulating. But no. He did not try to keep me; he repeated, "You can go!"
I stumbled through the door from among the watchful muscle men. Going down the staircase, the building of the police precinct was not so dark. It did not smell of sweat and blood as it did when I entered it. The policemen, depicted dying on the memorials lining the walls, seemed simply to be frolicking in the grass, in their own blood. The guardian of my bicycle appeared to be merrier, too. He would not consent to me paying him again. I said to him with quiet laugh, "This money is my ransom, you know, like the 30 pieces of silver! For I did not think that I'd see you again". His eyes glistened with tears. He cast an uneasy glance at the windows of the precinct above. Were they, perhaps, watching him from there as a rule. My other teenage acquaintance was watching everything with an even greater air of secrecy; however, he did not have to strain his ears much for I shouted loudly to him: "Don't mind it, Johnny! You may get lucky and catch a really big fish!" He appeared to meet my eyes with angry defiance. However, paid no attention to him. Nothing matters, nothing; only that, as yet, I'm still free! The sky is still mine and so is the Earth with all the birds of the air, with all its trees and its people. Forward march!
My bicycle was propelled homewards almost as speedily as a motor bike. I was flying on the road and, almost without awareness, was still mulling over my interrogation. Why did it go so smoothly? Why was it done so gently? They haven't even slapped my face! Did I go overboard by admitting everything? What else could I have done? The truth is truth. Did they refrain from the use of force because there wasn't anything else which they needed to squeeze out of me? My confession will be enough to get me condemned? Yet, how do they beat others to death and squelch them on occasions such as my interrogation! They didn't even tap me on the head. Have I become lucky because so many people were praying for me? Who could give me the answer?
My dog, Macko, was waiting for me in the doorway. He jumped on me, he yelped. He was bouncing about as if he would not have seen me for 100 years. Even he did not think that he'd ever see me again? Come, my faithful dog, Macko, and let's frolic together for the rest of the day in our great joy!
Part I: A Hungarian Priest's Personal Account - Oct. '87
Part II: The Silenced Bells Are Rung Again - Nov. '87
Part III: Do You Have Papers? - Dec. '87
Part IV: The First Judas - Jan. '88
Part V: The Handcuffs Are Ready - Feb. '88
Part VI: The Trial: Old Gavor's Testimony - March '88
Part VII: He Deserves (To Be Put In) Prison! - April '88
Part VIII: Concluding Chapter - May '88