I recall a rather chilly day in the autumn of 1956. Though the sun shone brightly, my mood was even brighter because an amazing thing was happening: a whole people had declared themselves free. To celebrate, I drove down the road from Vienna to the Hungarian border. There I was engulfed by a crowd of happy people, laughing, singing, cheering, drinking toasts to the future of the land they loved. They didn't have much champagne but that didn't matter. Anything would do - water was more than enough - for spirits that sparkled with new hopes, new visions, new horizons.
I went into Hungary that day. Shortly afterwards, as a people's freedom was being stifled for another thirty years, Alex Domokos made his way out, just in time, to find freedom in the West. Other than in spirit, we neve met; until now, through his book which he calls, THE PRICE OF FREEDOM.
His flight to freedom is only a small but defining part of a life that documents, with touching sensitivity, the torments that man inflicts on man. Alex was like any of us when history took him by the scruff of the neck and hurtled him into the Second World War. A regional chief of police in Hungary, his father called the Nazis the "new pagans". Alex agreed but, as an army officer, he was fated to fight with the Germans in the defence of Budapest in 1944-45.
Captured by the Russians, he spent six years as a prisoner in the Soviet Union. On his release, distrusted by the puppet communist regime in Budapest, he was condemned to internal exile within his native Hungary. The revolution of 1956 at last provided a window of opportunity to fly to freedom but he and his wife had to leave their three-year-old daughter behind.
This fine book tells of man's struggle against his most fearsome enemy - his own kind. It is a story of man's frailty and vulnerability. At the same time, it is the story of man's greatness - how he can confront a long series of torments, endure and emerge with his essential soul and decency intact.
Domokos is a writer of rare quality. He tells, with sincerity and passion, a story whose validity is hard to question. Above all, he carries the reader with him, to share his pain, his fear, his loneliness. You are more than an observer; you walk with him and his wife, as they cross the new bridge between Buda and Pest; hear him talk to Misa, his part-Jewish boyhood friend, who joins the Hungarian Nazi Arrow-Cross party and, when the Russians make Hungary one of their east European satellites, rises to senior positions in the communist party. You participate with him in his vicissitudes, in his joys and disappointments, his victories and defeats. You are with him when events oblige him to make sensitive analyses of the characters and motivations of his friends as well as his enemies.
This is a book not to be missed. Whether you are young or old, it is a book that will live in your memory. If enough of us read it and take note of its lessons, the generations now living and yet to come might be spared some of the travail through which so many had to live in the conflicts and catastrophes of the twentieth century.
Alex Domokos is not only a writer to admire, but also a man you will wish you could have as your friend.