Hungarian borders

Hungary’s Borders



border area (3) barbed-wire
razor external sharp (2)
access refugee restricted
guard wave (3) voluntary
horde conflict arise/arose/arisen
tent blanket provision
armed get past remote (2)
recall wrecked believe (2)
escape donation witness (2)
pan (2) cross (2) Iron Curtain
put up crumble flee/fled/fled
peace curtain demonstration
code symbolic ironically
appear applaud commander
blind decision turn a blind eye
daze delighted cross over
secure appoint bankrupt
abyss gesture dry up (2)
budget identify pick up (4)
sum renewal refurbishment
hole draft (3) stretch (2)
spread drove (2) take down
knock support ambassador
pledge clear cut repetition
anti- dismay tie up (2)
rebuilt left-wing right-wing
parlor opinion stand/stood/stood (2)
afraid leisurely dismantle






Ruska is a remote village in southern Hungary, right on the border with Serbia.

This barbed-wire fence is four meters high and razor-sharp. This is also the EU’s external border. And it’s now closed to refugees.

Kati Bukucs is visiting the restricted access area in southern Hungary. She was here in 2015, when the first big wave of refugees arrived from Syria, Africa and Afghanistan.

Kati Bukucs, 2015 Voluntary Refugee Worker: “I remember these hordes of refugees on the border in 2015. In Budapest, we heard about the conflicts and problems arising here.

We brought hundreds of tents and blankets with donations. It was September and the nights were already very cold.”

It wasn’t easy to get past the armed guards protecting the border. Kati helped the refugees put up tents. Their feet were wrecked from walking long distances, she recalls. And no provisions had been made for them.


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Thirty years ago, at Hungary’s border with Austria, the world witnessed another wave of refugees.

Male East German Refugee, one: “We saw reporters applauding. And here we are. We can’t believe it!

It was in the border town of Shopron that the Iron Curtain began to crumble when five-hundred (500) East Germans fled to the West.

Arpad Bella was one of the soldiers guarding the crossing on the nineteenth of August, 1989. A peace demonstration was being held, what’s going down in history as the “Pan-European Picnic”.

Hungary opened the border fence for three hours in a symbolic gesture agreed to by Austria and Hungary.

Suddenly, droves of East Germans appeared in the corn fields, and fled across the open border. It was an escape that had been carefully planned.

The border guards could have prevented the escape.

Arpad Bella, Former Hungarian Border Guard Commander: “It happened very fast. The people only had to run a hundred-twenty (120) meters, and they did it in twenty (20) seconds.

We had to make a decision in that short time.”

He’s been called a hero.

Arpad Bella, Former Hungarian Border Guard Commander: “That’s only half-true. I don’t feel like a hero. It’s it’s true that we turned a blind eye. We made sure we were looking towards Austria, and didn’t see what was happening behind us.”

The East German refugees were dazed, but delighted.

East German Refugee, two: “We’re free. We’re glad to have made it. I can’t really believe I’m here. I got off the bus at Shoron, and crossed over.”

The escape had been made possible by Miklos Nemeth. In 1988, he had been appointed Hungary’s prime minister. He decided it was no longer necessary to secure the border with Austria.

Miklos Nemeth, Former Hungarian Prime Minister: “Hungary was close to an abyss. Hungary was bankrupt at that time. I was sitting in my room, not leisurely.”

In the budget for 1989, he came across a line item identified with a secret code.

Miklos Nemeth, Former Hungarian Prime Minister: “So I immediately picked up my phone and called up the interior minister. And he told me that this is the sum for the refurbishment for the renewal of fence between Hungary and Austria.”

Journalist: “And what did you do then?”

Miklos Nemeth, Former Hungarian Prime Minister: “And then I deleted, crossed out that big sum out of the draft budget.”

The first hole in the Iron Curtain. The news spread around the world.

Newscaster: “Today, Hungary began dismantling the border with Austria, which has been in place for forty-years. Electric signals were taken down along a stretch of the fence and barbed wire was torn down.”

Miklos Nemeth, Former Hungarian Prime Minister: “All of them noted what was going on . . . and no knocking on the door of that time the Soviet ambassador to Budapest protesting, ‘What are you doing?’ No telephone call from Moscow.

It was planned for twenty to twenty-five minutes — and finally ended after two-and-a-half hours.”

In a phone call, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev pledged his support.

Miklos Nemeth, Former Hungarian Prime Minister: “As long as I am sitting in this chair, there will be no repetition of ‘Fifty-Six’, which in other words was a clear-cut message that ‘Miklos, your hands are not tied up anymore.’”


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Now Hungary has rebuilt its fences to keep refugees out. The right-wing government is anti-immigration, to the dismay of Kati Bukucs.

Kati Bukucs, 2015 Voluntary Refugee Worker: “I wonder, how many people these days would be happy to see the Iron Curtain that stood here thirty-years ago, rebuilt.”

Many Hungarians have the same opinion as the owner of this ice-cream parlor.

Laszlo Takacs, Ice-Cream Vendor: “We had no idea what was going on. We didn’t know who they were. More and more of them kept on coming. We were afraid, mainly for our children. We didn’t know what these refugees wanted.”

Ironically, now that the border is closed, business has dried up. The ice-cream parlor is closing this year.


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1. Hungary has erected barbed-wire fence on its border to prevent a Serbian invasion. Is this right or wrong?

2. Is Kati Bukucs a refugee from Iran? What did she do?

3. The same thing occurred in Hungary thirty years ago. Is this entirely true, mostly true, partially true, yes and no, largely false or entirely false?

4. On the nineteenth of August, 1989, did Hungarian soldiers completely dismantled the entire border fence with Austria?

5. Did something shocking and unexpected suddenly happen? Was Arpad Bella a hero?

6. The refugees were Albania, Bosnia and Macedonia. Is this correct or incorrect? Were they economic migrants?

7. Was the decision to open the border with Austria a clear and direct, similar to a US Presidential Executive Order, or was it complicated and full of intrigue?

8. Does the report present a historical paradox?

A. People from my country have migrated or escaped to other places. Yes or no? Why have they left? Where have to moved to?

B. Have migrants passed through or settle in your region? Where are they originally from and why have they come?

C. What sort of policies should (Western, European) countries have?

D. What might happen in the future?

E. What should people and governments in in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle-East do?

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