Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

The Great Escape

Leah Tisser

I grew up in Hungary. When I was 16 I left my family, my home, my country — everything I knew — to build a new life where I would be able to live freely as a Jew.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Eastern Europe had been occupied by the Soviets since 1945 when the USSR “liberated” us from the Nazis, imposing a Communist dictatorship on all the occupied countries.

Everything was nationalized; no private enterprise or ownership was allowed. Organized religion was outlawed. We struggled just to keep Shabbos. It was a dreary existence, yet we were not allowed to leave, held captive behind the Iron Curtain. Then came October 1956, when the Hungarians revolted against Soviet occupation. At first the rebels were successful, but they were ultimately crushed by the mighty Red Army.

During the chaos that followed, a great opportunity arose. Many border guards had abandoned their posts, and the borders were mostly open and unguarded. The Iron Curtain had been torn. Not knowing how long this would last, we had to act quickly. The frum Jewish community began fleeing the country in droves. Families literally disappeared overnight. Every morning my father came home from shul and reported who else was missing.

Most people who fled made it over the border, but even those caught and brought back, tried again. No one was even jailed because the law of the land hadn’t yet returned. Chaos and confusion reigned.

My family couldn’t escape. My frail grandmother couldn’t undertake such a hazardous trip, and my parents wouldn’t leave her behind. After much agonizing and contemplation it was determined that I alone would leave, with family friends. At least I would be saved.


To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Using Our Free Will Effectively
Yonoson Rosenblum The image we carry of ourselves is key
Eytan Kobre The ripple effects of one Jew’s kiddush Sheim Shamayim
Living the High Life
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger It is exhilarating to matter, to be truly alive
It’s Time for Us to Speak Up
Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie We must speak out proudly for the values of Yiddishkeit
Kiruv Is Not Dead
Rabbi Meir Goldberg Do these sound like uninspired or closed students?
Frosting on the Cake
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman “Let’s not let a missing chocolate cake ruin our siyum!”
A Warm Corner in Flatbush
Yosef Zoimen It was a simple shul with a choshuve leader
Out of Control
Jacob L. Freedman “That’s illegal, Dr. Fine. I can’t have a part in this”
Song of Reckoning in the Skulener Court
Riki Goldstein “It’s awe-inspiring to watch the Rebbe sing this song”
“U’teshuvah, U’tefillah, U’tzedakah”
Riki Goldstein Throughout the Yamim Noraim, three words accompany us
The Rebbe Held His Gaze
Riki Goldstein A moment etched in Reb Dovid Werdyger’s memory forever
The Road Taken
Faigy Peritzman In the end it’s clear who really merits true happiness
Sincere Apology
Sarah Chana Radcliffe A heartfelt and complete apology can turn things around
Power Pack of Mercy
Mrs. Shani Mendlowitz The 13 Attributes of Mercy are “an infinite treasure”
The Appraiser: Part II
D. Himy M.S. CCC-SLP, and Zivia Reischer “Eli needs to see people who struggled to achieve”