April 1-7, 1919. „Erase the past once and for all…”

Torma Galina

Pottage for derbies; audience-, cake- and name change at Gerbeaud (to Zserbó); the Pasarét brick factory's 45 meter chimney demolished and 100 year old footages of Sári Fedák recruiting for the Red Army.

Closing the racetracks

In spring 1919, the Gentlemen Riders' Association announced that March 30 shall mark the beginning of the horse riding season. The Agriculture Committee issued the following statement on March 28: „The Agriculture Committee bans derbies in the entire country and orders all racetracks to be ploughed for agricultural production and gardening.”

The news did not surprise the committee as restricting and banning betting was already in the works. Népszava, the Hungarian Social Democratic party's paper started criticizing this form of entertainment as early as 1912: „Horseracing is the most disgusting and dangerous disease of this country, which forces its victims into embezzlement and suicide”. Thanks to Social Democrats, horseracing became a permanent part of the agenda after the Aster Revolution. A week before the Proletariat came to power, Népszava published the following lines: „Stable owners and bettors were shocked when the cabinet announced that the National Assembly will be dealing with licensing issues regarding horserace betting, and until then, the cabinet does not allow any further bets.” Back then, those who were involved with horseracing could at least ask for compensation for the damages the new act caused.

Leaders of the Soviet Republic solved the issue by banning betting and horse races. The front page article published in the March 29 issue of National Horse-breeders' paper, Vadász- és Verseny-lap was not allowed to openly write about the clubs' and societies' real opinion on the matter, who were associated with horseracing and breeding, but softly argued about the ban against horseracing, saying that racing equals breeding and a good breeder who exports means currency. Also, for a foreign buyer it is important how a horse behaves at a race, so they could get familiar with their performance, therefore the horses' value can increase if they are raced. Derbies could also be available for everyone in a cheaper form, and as many people visit our country for the derbies, it will also affect the economy if there won't be any more races held. 

The racetrack getting ploughed

We will never know if that article could have any effect on proletarian leaders as the same time it was published, the Agriculture Committee's horticultural commissioner formally took over the racetracks of Aréna út, Kerepesi út and Ligettelek from the city. A couple days later they ploughed all the fields which meant there won't be any negotiations between the government and the breeders. The ideological angle and the utilization of racetracks were obviously more important for the decision makers. Világ newspaper started their report with the following: „On the green turf, where lords with silky ladies were gazing at their flying steeds through binoculars, where democrats broke the plebs in their shadows with their gleaming spirit, they allowed to bring the sweat-dripping money back which they earned while working for them and spend it on their passion's altar — and if they did not have any, would get some in a sinful way. Something strange is happening on the robbery-filled soul sucking, medieval-like cruel racetrack. This land will now provide pottage and bread to the proletariat, who had to suffer for the lords' entertainment. We will report on the racetracks' beautiful crops. The upper class' playground will finally turn back into the productive, blessed mother earth."

"There is no gambling in Communism"

Socialization of Gerbeaud - the Red Zserbó

A couple days after the Dictatorship of the Proletariat took over they started nationalizing banks, factories and larger plants. By early April the largest confectioneries were under the same management. Each factory had their own council managing day-to-day business, and past owners and employers were running the businesses. The world famous Gerbeaud was renamed Zserbó and with giant red letters the following message was painted on its windows: „Property of the proletariat! Under proletarian protection!”. On the first day the working class was still afraid to enter the shop, but a couple days passed and they were waiting in lines to taste the specialties, which until then were only affordable for the riches. All cakes were sold for 1 Krone, and there was no limit on how much one person could buy, but take-out was limited due to low supplies and was only allowed for union members who had to identify themselves. Although everything happened in the name of „fair distribution”, these provisions prevented the usual crowd from visiting the confectionery. On April 24, 1919 the Public Service Committee issued another regulation, as the country was running out of supplies. From May 1st confectioneries were not allowed to use lard, tallow, butter, margarine, grain flour, caster sugar or raw sugar. Instead they had to use potato flour and molasses. Cafés were only allowed to sell unified pastries permitted by the Public Service Committee and were 35 grams a piece, available for pasta-tickets - 50 Fillérs.  

The Drasche brick factory on Pasarét

After the 1838 flood, Pest made a deal with Austrian businessman, Alois Miesbach so he could open a brick factory in Hungary, which would produce supplies for reconstructions. He received a 40 acre land on Jászberényi út, where the new factory produced 3 million bricks for Pest in a couple months. Alois Miesbach later appointed his nephew Heinrich Drasche to take over, who then gave the business to his brother, Gustav. Their business developed fast and opened several factories across the city. By 1867 they were making 30 million bricks each year. Numerous buildings were made with their bricks both in Pest and Buda, as they were working with the best quality clay, and collectors are familiar with their marked bricks to this day. They were using high quality clay at their Retek utca 83. factory in Buda, which was on the corner of Szilágyi Erzsébet fasor and Pasaréti út.

The plant's south side was bordered by Budakeszi út (the part of Szilágyi Erzsébet fasor between St. John Hospital to Budakeszi), Júlia utca and Rókushegyi út on the sides (Lórántffy Zsuzsanna utca today), and Debrői út on the North (Herman Ottó út today). Pasaréti út and its preliminary section were established by the factory, which ran through the plant at the time. Although the Drasche company gave this plant to the Pest Coal Mine and Brick Factory Company and used that name on a 1876 map, people were still calling it the Drasche brick factory for decades. When the clay mine and factory were opened, these areas were viewed as the edge of the city, but by the 20th century villas and residential buildings were erected here. St. John Hospital was built and Hűvösvölgy was also populated by the people of Buda. The plant's location was becoming inconvenient for the locals not only because of the city's expansion, but the brick factory's clay mining interfered with the Kiscelli clay slope and messed with the ground-water's natural flow. Landslides appeared on Rókus-hegy above the factory, endangering the buildings of the experimental vineyards on the hill - traces of these landslides are somewhat visible in the film news' background. The factory also had an outdated burning system and the gigantic chimney polluted the Buda hills for decades. The paper, Jó egészség published a concerned article in their 1914 June issue: „The Drasche brick factory's smoke and grime near St. John Hospital and Elisabeth Sanatorium kills patients suffering from lung disease.” There was another problem concerning public health and city planning, which they tried solving at that time, as the 1875 flood also started in this area. The Ördögárok creek was one of the main watersheds of Buda running from Nagykovácsi through Hűvösvölgy, Városmajor, Vérmező and Horváth-kert, and ran into the Danube at Döbrentei tér next to Elisabeth-bridge. Back then rain was not the only thing that ended up in the creek. It also carried sewage. On June 26, 1875 after a giant rainstorm the Ördögárok flooded after which all the houses in Tabán, Rácváros were gone and almost all buildings of Krisztinaváros were ruined. The ditch had a fracture at the end of the Drasche brick factory on Pasaréti út where the debris was stuck and the water level went up too high. Only the lower section of Örödárok was covered at the time, which was closest to the Danube, and was damaged in the flood. The city was planning to put arches on the upper section, and in the 1890s they managed to cover it down to Csaba utca. In 1913 the plans were finished for covering a section from here to the Budakeszi customs and construction started in the beginning of war. That is when the brick factory was shut down in an effort to transform this area into a villa park, which was permitted under the condition of supporting the covering of Ördögárok with 150 000 Krones. They finished tearing down the factory in 1919 with pulling down the chimney. There were other ideas for this area: an agreement was signed before the war to organize the 1920 Olympics in Budapest, which by 1918 became uncertain, as the war was going on for too long, but the city was still planning to build a stadium here. The giant hole in the brick factory's grounds which they dug while mining for clay was perfect for an amphitheater-like auditorium and the 6-7 acre, 250 m long and 180 m wide area would have been „a perfect field for training and championships” – as a newspaper wrote at the time. But these plans were never realized and in 1922 the dangerous hole was filled in, which caused several accidents when after a rainstorm it turned into a pond. However, the city never gave up the idea of a sports field. Newspaper Budai Napló wrote in 1926: „The city is planning to build a football field on Pasaréti út where once the Drasche brick factory mined for clay. Unfortunately, we can't turn it to a park because of all the slag they used for filling up the hole.” Ten years later still nothing happened to this area, when the city was planning to build a beach, restaurant, tennis courts and an ice rink here. In 1939 the Budapest Gymnastics Club acquired the place to create their sporting complex. The Vilmos Koromzai-designed sports HQ became a protected building, the club house was built between the two wars and the tennis hall in 1960. The complex is now owned by Vasas SC and still operates today.

Red Recruitment Day

In the proletariat's paper, Vörös Ujság's April 19 issue the following text was published to accompany the week's Vörös Riport Film news: „Vörös Riport Film captured exciting footages of the eventful Red Recruitment Day. Five cameramen were scanning the area between Chain Bridge's Buda side and the Millenium memorial to record the festivities, for example the entire military parade with red soldiers and Sári Fedák as a proletarian woman handing out Soviet Republic flyers. The most magnificent part was recorded at the memorial with 100.000 visitors. József Pogány and Tibor Szamuely commissars gave passionate speeches to the proletariat, and Oszkár Beregi, Erzsi Paulay and Aranka Várady recited revolutionary poems. Vörös Riport Film's sensational propaganda issue now screening at cinemas around the capital.” Those viewers might have been the last ones to see these images, as the news ware gone after that (maybe someone wanted them gone). But amongst the recently found negatives we found a short segment of the original copy with Sári Fedák who was otherwise pretty careful not to have any compromising images of herself out in the public.

The Red Recruitment Day advertising the Red Army was held on Sunday, April 6, 1919. The city was dressed in red by early morning and young lads were strolling around with red ribbons in their hats, holding hands and shouting: „Let's join the Red Army!” Masses crossed the Chain Bridge to Buda, where the parade started. The march left at 14:00 led by the military band, a Red Army company and a Russian picket, followed by the actors' car, girls in white, and marchers with giant red flags "Long live the social revolution of the world! Let's join the Red Army!" written on them, and posters with the following lines: A Red Soldier is the bourgeois' nightmare! Long live the Dictatorship of the Proletariat! Long live the 3rd Internationale! The crowd walked down Fürdő utca (József Attila utca) to Andrássy út towards the Opera, while gypsy bands were playing revolutionary tunes and actors were reciting and singing.

Sári Fedák at the Red Recruitment Day

Actors Sári Fedák, Aranka Hettyey, Aranka Váradi, Ella Kertész Góthné, Gizi Bajor, Oszkár Beregi, Sándor Góth, Árpád Körmendy, Kálmán Körmendi, Andor Zsoldos and Arthur Fehér were in /on the actors' car, alongside Jancsi Papp singer-comedian, Béla Zerkovitz composer and Pista Markovics, violin player of the Royal Orfeum who played the Red Army's recruitment song with his band:

Let's, let's, let's, let's, let's, let's, let's,
Let's, let's, let's, let's, let's, let's, let's,
Let's join the Red Army,
Come, come, come, come, come, come, come,
Come, come, come, come, come, come, come,
Come on, friend, grab a gun!
Let's get these invaders out of here,
Let's chase them out, my friend,
So they won't ever think about coming back!

The actors were handing out flyers to the marchers. Sári Fedák's car was raided by people - everyone wanted a piece of her red scarf which she tore into little pieces and gave away. The crowd's first half was already at the Opera while the end was still on Fürdő utca. They stopped at the Opera House to listen to the poem 'The Revolution' told by Kálmán Körmendi, and secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Party, József Rabinovits' speech. At Oktogon, the crowd got off their hats and listened to the Internationale. Another march joined them arriving from the körút. Gizi Bajor recited Zoltán Somlyó's Bölcsődal at Körönd, then the united gypsy band played the Rákóczi induló and secretary Rudolf Pajor gave a speech. From Körönd, the crowd marched to the Millenium Memorial. More than 30.000 people gathered around the stage in the middle of the square, where the Martinovics theater company, singers and bands were playing until József Pogány and Tibor Szamuely arrived. The square was filled with people, attendees were waving their handkerchiefs from the top of the Habsburg Memorial, Műcsarnok, balconies and trees. József Pogány started his monologue with the following: „We don't want a war, but will fight if we are forced to.” and inspirited the jaded nation: „Our war won't be another World War, we won't serve the bourgeois governments and we don't want proletarians killing each other. This is a world-wide class war.” The actors recited poems and Tibor Szamuely spoke to the crowd, saying that "the Hungarian Red Army fights for all the repressed people in the world”. Then Jusztusz Valdemar, Russian emigrant welcomed the Hungarian proletariat in Russian and Ernő Pór, Secretary to the Lieutenant-General of the Red Guard was the last one to speak.

 Recruitment day