5O-ik Évforduló A Bard Egyetemen (50th Reunion at Bard College)

1957-ben a téli szünet idejére a Bard Főiskola befogadott 3OO magyar diákot, hogy ott angolúl tanuljanak. Itt született meg a MEFESZ munkáját Amerikában folytató diákszövetség, melya szevezőbizottságának elnöke lettem választott. 5O év elteltével és Bitó László kezdeményezésére és az egyetem elnökének, Leon Botstein-nek lelkes támogatásával, a Bárd ünnepi konferenciát rendezett, melyre meghívta a még elérhető 144 volt “bárdos” magyar diákot. A konferenciáról több ujság beszámolt (e cikkek olvashatóak az alábbi honlapokon). Az amerikai sajtó arról is beszámolt, hogy milyen eredményeket értek el ezek a “bárdos” diákok, példáúl arról, hogy közülük sokkal többen szereztek doktorátust, mint az átlag diák.

The New York Times and several other papers reported on the 50th reunion of the former Hungarian students who attended a language ourse at Bard College in 1957. These articles can be found at the following web addresses:





Botstein rektorral beszélgetve illetve Nopvák Feri Bitó Lacival a fáklyás felvonuláson

Távozásunk elött átadtuk az egyetem elnökének az alábbi köszönő levelet

(The document of appreciation presented to the president and faculty of Bard College by the Hungarian students)

New York Times report: 2/21/2007

New York Times report: 2/21/2007

A Reunion of Refugees, Class of ’57


Published: February 21, 2007

Photos: The United States is still reaping the benefits of the 1956-57 session, which the refugees ended with a torchlight parade.; Laszlo Bito, right, organized a reunion of Hungarians who spent eight weeks at Bard College half a century ago after fleeing their country during the revolt against the Soviet Union. He says the United States can learn lessons today from his experience. (Photo by Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times)


These days, in sharp contrast with cases where bureaucrats seem ready to bar the door, stand programs like one run by the Institute of International Education, with financing by the State Department, which provides fellowships for eight Iranians to study here while teaching Farsi. ”When they go back to Iran they will have an image of Americans which is totally different than what Iranians are getting on their television,” said Margot Steinberg, the institute’s chief development officer.

Bard’s treatment of the Hungarians a half-century ago was in this vein, offering what Victor Johnson, a public policy official at the Association of International Educators, said was ”a sense that welcoming these people said something important about our country.”

Bard stepped forward because it had a language professor, William Frauenfelder, who was a Swiss émigré. Bard had free dormitories because students spent winter breaks in field study, and it had language-drill laboratories. The Eisenhower administration, perhaps feeling guilty that it had encouraged the revolt but never intervened, arranged financing and there were contributions by the Ford Foundation. St. Michael’s College in Vermont and several other schools had smaller programs.

”We didn’t know whether we were coming or going,” said Esther Jankovics, whose ailing father and her mother remained in Hungary. ”The whole idea of leaving the folks behind and starting a new life was very threatening and very anxiety-producing. With 100 percent honesty, Bard was a major emotional support.”

Ms. Jankovics, a career librarian, remembers how quickly the Hungarians picked up the American creed that ”if you work hard you can do anything.” Sandor Holly, though, ended up concluding that ”here everybody is a salesman — you have to sell your ideas; it’s not enough just to come up with a good idea.”

Bard also tried to acclimate the refugees to American culture and history. Mr. Bito, who when the uprising began on Oct. 23, 1956, was working in what he called the Dante’s Inferno of a forced-labor coal mine, remembers being shown films like ”Citizen Kane” at Bard and hearing lectures by Eleanor Roosevelt and Roy Wilkins.

”We found out there were still lynchings in the South,” he said. ”We couldn’t believe it. We had thought it was all Communist propaganda.”

Mr. Bito, a slender, bearded man with a well-earned sense of life’s absurdities, became a professor of ocular physiology at Columbia and helped develop the glaucoma drug Xalatan. Now living mostly in Budapest, he writes novels.

The Hungarians were celebrities of a sort — Time magazine had just featured the Hungarian freedom fighter as its Man of the Year — so neighbors in Rhinebeck and Red Hook invited them to dinner. They met Gov. W. Averell Harriman and rattled him by lifting him on their shoulders.

HE was surprised,” said Bela Liptak. ”It was not proper Anglo-Saxon behavior.” Mr. Liptak, a tall, elegant man of 70, was a leader among the student revolutionaries and went on to become an automation expert. He remembered other grace notes that eased his alienation. ”A package was left at the door of my room, with brand-new clothing, clean and my size, and no note of any kind,” recalled Mr. Liptak. ”I never found out who sent it.”

He organized a Hungarian student association and arranged scholarships for 1,200 refugees. Bard was where he met his wife, Martha, now a ceramics artist, after she threw away a job as a cleaning lady and borrowed $10 to take a train upstate.

The Hungarians are not Pollyannaish about how America treated them. They arrived, after all, when McCarthy era paranoia had not yet died out. Karl Verebey, naïvely put down on his Bard application that he had been a member of a Communist youth group. He was monitored by the F.B.I. for the next 10 years. Still, he went on to become New York’s chief toxicologist during the Dinkins administration.

E-mail: joeberg@nytimes.com

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