March 1988 Print

In the Chains of the Hammer & Sickle Pt 6

Part VI
The Trial: Old Gabor's Testimony

by Fr. A. Krupa, O.F.M.
(Translated by A. Igriczi Nagy)

But They've Found None!

He was a rather characteristic type: life and work-worn, elderly Hungarian farmer. He looked like a true, stiff-necked Calvinist. Where could he have stood in the church that I never saw him before? His feet were shod in boots, his hands were busily squeezing his fur hat. His face was as if it was made of flint. His back was straight, not accustomed to bowing and scraping. His eyes, his moustache were those of the "I fear no one" type of Hungarian male whose ancestors saw Tatarians and Turks and he himself gazed on the faces of "liberating mongols." He sat as if these ancient foes stood or sat in front of him, with his profile towards them, his body in a battle stance as he listened to his testimony being read aloud. Oh, for heaven's sake! Would he have really stated that I said, "We should deal with the policemen as they were handled in Pocspetri!" And this fired him up so much that on leaving the church, he would have encouraged the pious parishioners, "Yes, this is how the police should be dealt with!" Mr. Csuta listened, without even seeming to be really together with the rest of us.

"Was this what happened?" asked the Judge.

"With all respect to you, no!" —old Csuta threw the words our sharply, as if he was pulling the Ace from his hand at a New Year's Eve card party. "Most respectfully not!" and he thrust his chest out as if to await being hit by a club. We breathed again. Is he going to be our new Botond, a replica of the tenth century warrior who dented the gate at Byzantium; perhaps he is going to make a dent on the steel door of the Party's power with his words of truth. There were times when in order to preserve appearances, the Party had to retreat.

"But then what happened?" yelled the Presiding Judge at him.

"Begging your pardon, but I don't know!"

"You don't know?" All gazed at him, comprehending less and less. Prosecuting Council is ready to spring on him. He'll deal with this witness, too! This so and so . . .

"You don't know? But isn't this your statement? Isn't this your handwriting, Gabor Csuta? Come and step near, have a look!" prompted him the judge with forced self-control but visibly near to exploding.

The old man stepped forward to the bench. He had a thorough look at the document in question as if he could not recognize his own handwriting, or didn't see too well?

"With respect to your Honour, it's my handwriting! But I still don't know what happened that day!"

"But how can you say you don't know if you signed your statement which relates this event?"

"With deepest respect to the People's Court, I still can't possibly know because I don't go to that church. I'm a Calvanist, I go to ours. I only passed in front of the Catholic Church on my way there and just happened to be there at the time when the Mass ended and the people were leaving the church. Somebody could have seen me there and submitted my name to the authorities as a witness."

"All right, but then how and why did you sign this testimony of such grave significance?" said the presiding judge, persevering in his line of questioning whilst his face became red and suffused.

"Please, your honour, because I was beaten!"

"Who beat you?"

"The detective!"

"How? With what?"

"With his hand! My own father has never beaten me and I don't really see why a detective should beat me. At any rate, this is why I signed!"

The hawks of the honorable People's Court did not collapse, rather, they sharpened their beaks. They knew very well that heroic displays such as these do not matter. The verdict will stand without his testimony or even in spite of it. Does it matter that "the chief priests and the whole council" sought false witnesses against Jesus so that they would have a palpable reason to get him condemned to death but could not find one?" (Matt. 26: 59-60)

The deed will be accomplished now even without witnesses to testify as it was done 2000 years ago, too! Naturally, it would have been preferable, especially because of the presence of the public, if blemishes of these kinds were not evident. But who would have thought that such ordinary, simple people would be carved from flint stone or granite? A good Communist goes on learning until the day of his death.

In the meantime, I remained hopeful. Chin up, I said to myself, you'll leave this hall with a decoration, not with a sentence! For didn't the witnesses withdraw their testimony or change its essentials? Their own witnesses! It wasn't me who subpoenaed or selected them. Wasn't it significant that when the judge called you an enemy of the people and you said, "The people are right here, behind me, ask them." They didn't dare to ask them? And the people did not say one word, only the judge declared. "I call you to order for your statement!" At that time, I didn't know yet that these words constituted a legal judgment and meant that since the individual in question did not behave with due decorum, he'd get an extra punishment for this once he was behind bars. No, at this point, I was still hoping that in my case too, the Party and the People's Court would announce: The accused did not step outside the limits of his area of authority, defined by his position in word or deed, he is exonerated. He may leave!


I Move for His Immediate Detention!

Dr. Deak rose to announce that he was concluding the trial. He would schedule separate hearings for which the detective would be called to testify, because it had to be ascertained whether or not coercion of the witnesses took place. No verdict is possible until after this hearing.

At this, the prosecutor rose:

"May it please the court that since the sentence of the accused is likely to be severe, I move that he be taken into custody immediately!"

After withdrawing to confer with the other judges for a few minutes, Dr. Deak announced:

"The People's Court has accepted the motion of the prosecution. I hereby order the arrest of the accused and request that the Court is emptied and that the accused is taken to prison."

In the time of democracy, how easy it is to sink a person!

A prison guard seated himself next to me. He was nearby, on hand. In a well produced play, the actor can't be missing when it's time for his entrance. I hardly noticed him. My thoughts began to swirl around. The sky above me clouded over. Darkness descended. So, the handcuffs are ready? Even without seeing them, it felt as if they were already on my wrists. Satan has won, on the day of the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception. Did my arrest surprise me? I had no particular feelings, neither good nor bad premonitions, neither hatred nor love, neither calm acceptance nor anxiety. My arrest was fore-ordained in heaven and on this earth. Let God's will be done. The only thing is, I'm a little tired . . .

Who would have thought that it took six months to procure the testimony of one witness? However, the person in question is a detective, a man bringing home the bacon to the hangmen and body merchants and so it took six months to clarify this. I'll relate the events in their proper sequence.

Mr. Zoltan Konc, investigator, must have been an eminent person. For me, one subpoena was enough. With him, four subpoenas were barely adequate to get him to the Court. Because of his numerous duties, his failures to appear were excused—or was this because there was no urgency about this case any more with the accused under lock and key? To my first hearing, they conducted me in my religious habit and without handcuffs. That is, in a different manner than other prisoners. Is it a shame if one is followed by an armed guard? Should one cast his glance down and act ashamed? For the second hearing, with or without reason, they put the handcuffs on me. Did they want to get me slowly accustomed to them? It is a completely strange sensation to feel and see handcuffs on our wrists, especially for those who think themselves innocent. My fellow prisoners commented that this was the first time when they felt more like animals than human beings. With the handcuffs, they had a millstone tied around their necks and they were pushed into the mud, into the dirt. Interestingly enough for me it was different, I felt as if I were given wings—and was rising upwards, up to Jesus, to the uncountable multitude of apostles, martyrs, saints. Through and with the handcuffs, will I become truly their brother. At the time of the Romans, there were those who after gaining liberty, exchanged their chains of slavery—and something like this will happen to us in Heaven where our handcuffs will be ornaments, decorations for valor!

However, these golden wings would not be an encouraging sight to others. One time, a woman knelt down at the edge of the pavement as I was passing by with the handcuffs on my wrists rattling. She knelt and stretched out her arms:

"O, Father, if this is what is happening to the green bough, what will be the fate of the dry one?" (St. Luke 23:31). She extended her hand in readiness to cross herself upon my blessing, I tried to bless her but somehow was not able to lift my hands with the handcuffs in place.

"Go on, beat it, if you know what's good for you!" growled my guard at her, shoving me in the meantime so that we would pass out of sight fast. After this, they did not bring me in chains, and preferred to sneak me into the Court through narrow side streets. They did not like these souls on the street, showing the sympathy of the people with the clergy. This was a judgment against them! Nevertheless, even on this new route, I managed to catch sight of a few parishioners and this always filled me with joy. Some were waving. Tears glistened in the eyes of others. There were some who were holding bouquets of flowers. Were they perhaps hoping for my acquittal and wanted to be ready to greet me with flowers? After they caught sight of me they ran ahead, hiding in doorways that they could see me again and again.