Laurence Rees: Ágnes Karlik was a fifteen year old Hungarian schoolgirl when the Red Army arrived in Budapest, in February 1945. And she and her sister were to suffer appallingly at the hands of the Soviets.
Words of Ágnes Karlik: When the first troops came in, well, we were relieved to a certain extent. And they were really not unpleasant. They were just making sure that in the building there were no enemies still against them. So they just quickly looked through the building and were not staying long. They just tried to be actually friendly. And then they were passing through because they had to go further on. And we were sort of relieved that oh, that’s over with and they’ve gone and we just can get back in the same situation before to a certain extent. Not normal because it was not a normal way, how we lived there in the bunker. But at least the fighting has gone further away from us. But then evening came, early evening, and all of a sudden these rough type of soldiers entered the building and they were really unpleasant.
They snatched watches and looted and pushed people around and they were really unpleasant and very scruffy looking, not as military. And we were wondering who they are. But of course, speaking Russian, we assumed it was part of the army. And we tried sort of to pacify them but it was a very frightening time for all of us. The children were crying. And they started to pull women out with the excuse to come and help us peel potatoes. And my sister and myself were dragged away. And my grandmother came with us because she could talk to them being from the northern part of Hungary, she knew the Slovak language. And she tried to find out what they wanted and what they are doing. But they just pushed her around and we clung to her. And then they took us outside.
There was snow everywhere and it was pretty cold. And they dragged us into a sort of a tent type arrangement they had nearby. For myself I felt absolutely so frightened that I was just rigid from fright. So they pushed us into these tent type of arrangement and they raped us. We were just young. Very young. And we didn’t know what they were doing because that time children were brought up differently than nowadays. Not so aware. I was sixteen. Almost sixteen. In November I was going to be sixteen. And my sister was fourteen. My grandmother tried to help us and they beat her up. But she wouldn’t leave us, so when it was all over she took us back and it was such a... I still got nightmares about it.
Laurence Rees: After this terrible ordeal, Ágnes was comforted by both her mother and her grandmother. But her suffering was not at an end.
Words of Ágnes Karlik: Well, we’d been cleaned up by my mother. And then I tried to hide. We had one section there where all our clothes had been hanging and they had bedding underneath, so we were secluded. And I think I went to sleep then. And I was woken up by another couple of these hoodlums coming into that section. I don’t know how they found out, how they found me there. They must have been trying to loot. And there I was in the middle of it. And they raped me again. And again I just let myself go absolutely limp. And I think eventually they thought I was fainting on them. So they left after a while. I was there sort of on my own, before at least my grandmother was there. It gave me such a lonely feeling of helplessness. And then I crawled out and told my mother what happened again. But luckily my sister wasn’t there. I think it was worse the second time. First time it was sort of such a horrifying thing happening that it, it got me absolutely numb. So the second time I think it was worse.
Laurence Rees: No one was ever punished for this dreadful crime. As Ágnes and her family saw it, they were powerless at the time to seek justice.
Words of Ágnes Karlik: Well, where would you report things like that? When later, when we were able to return to our home, they’d put horses into our drawing room and lit fire with books out of our library, and things like that happened to our home. And when it was fixed up and we went back to stay there one of the Soviet doctors was quartered in one of our rooms. And he was a very nice guy and we could talk to him in German, he spoke German. And we told him about it. But the reaction was of course non-committal. Being war time I think everything is in such a horrible, nervous state that anything brutal seems to be taken as for granted.
That’s why I think war is a terrible thing to bring on people. And because of that I think individuals, how they behave, it’s up to the individual really. I mean we get people nowadays who murder and do awful things when it’s peace time. So what can you expect when everything is in such a horrible condition - the bombings and the destruction all around you? For a long time I felt really resentful against men, being able to do such a thing without sort of any good reason. I suppose it was for them a good reason, but it was just something so horrifying.