July 15-21, 1919. Before the fall

Torma Galina

Although the Soviet Republic was close to collapsing, Vörös Riport Film's propaganda news was still trying to suggest the opposite.

Cheerful groups of children play at Kaszelik garden, a summer theater opens in Városliget, lunch is being prepared at a proletarian community kitchen and people are celebrating the July 21st world strike nation-wide: Vörös Riport Film's propaganda news.

Opening the Workers' Youth Theater

Back in April, 1919 Vörös Riport Film reported on the new Worker's Youth Theater at Fővárosi Orfeum offering plays for children who lived in Budapest. Three months later the news did another segment on the theater's Summer Orfeum in Városliget, situated on Hermina út 65 at the late Casino de Paris. Népszava published an article about the opening ceremony, feeling necessary to point out the following details to paint a more attractive picture for the younglings:

We are delighted to inform little proletarians, that the management will be handing out bread with butter and jam to 700 kids after each performance, and a week later they will even add some café lattés to the mix. Management also set up a playground with various games and gym equipment for some fun outdoor activities, which will be supervised by group leaders. With the Youth Theater's plays, this summer theater experience will definitely be the proletarian children's most beloved.


The Workers' Youth Association sent groups to the opening on Thursday, July 17 which started at 15:30, and as promised, theater management prepared free after-show snacks for the kids, although they were asked to bring their own mugs and the association was instructed to collect 14 dkg of bread tickets and leave them at the theater. Although there were only two weeks left until the Republic's demise, several more shows were held at the Youth Theater in Városliget.

Games and afternoon stories at Kaszelik garden

An interesting piece was published in Pesti Hírlap's April 30, 1912 issue on Erzsébet Kaszelik's death, owner of the mysterious Kaszelik garden. The elderly woman received her father's fortune after his brother's death and a long litigation process, shortly before she passed away. Her father, Ferenc Kaszelik who was in the construction business, owned 14 properties in the capital: 9 multiple-storey apartment houses in the fanciest neighborhoods, empty lots in Népszínház utca and Damjanich utca 40-42, and a 6 acre land with a garden and summer house on Városligeti fasor 35-37, the old Kaszelik's favorite. The real estates were inherited by his son, Jenő Kaszelik, who used the mysterious garden as a riding hall and foal breeding ranch. The millionaire boy fought her sister (who was basically disinherited) in court for 20 years. Jenő left his empty lots and one-storey houses empty when the city was facing a housing problem and the people of Budapest could never forgive him for preventing the city's development. Maybe that is why Jenő Kaszelik included a donation of 12 million Krones for the city in his will, which the impoverished lords could use to build hospices for themselves on the Damjanich utca -Városligeti fasor lot. However, two years after his death in 1912 still nothing was built. This is what the journalist wrote about the garden's state: „Viewed from Damjanich utca, the garden gives the impression of a haunted mansion. Plaster has fallen from the buildings on the side and upon entering the arched gate you find stables for 7 horses and carter apartments. On the opposite side, where Ferenc Kaszelik's once glorious, now decaying summer house stands is now occupied by the gardener and the last hardwood floor saloon is being used as a storage unit. Interestingly, the garden has 777 trees, all numbered with white tin plates.


The hospice was never built and the garden was still abandoned in 1919. During the Republic, proletarian leaders issued several orders to help the less fortunate workers' children, which Vörös Riport Film's propaganda news reported on, like when the Kaszelik garden was turned into a playground during summertime and story time afternoon's were held there. Several privately owned gardens were opened for proletarian children at that time, one of those were the Kaszelik garden. The grand opening was held on Sunday, June 1st at 15:00. The managing committee and welfare committee's youth protection group built a playground in the garden for 500 children. Sand box, gym equipments, swings and climbing frames were installed under the garden's trees. The Workers' Youth Association was commissioned with maintenance and they were also tasked with bringing disadvantaged children from surrounding areas to the playground. Népszava wrote the following enthusiastic piece about the opening ceremony:

„The garden-opening was a joyful event. The younglings were all smiles when they entered the garden and were amazed by all the wonderful toys. Their indoors joy was continued with trembling outdoors delight under the beautiful garden trees. It was moving to see the small proletarians sing the Internationale and Marseillaise. Six hundred kids were singing and six hundred pairs of sharp eyes were clinging on Béla Hoffman who opened the garden with his kind speech. The children's stage was also surrounded by joy, where the young actors played with love and care. Snacks were also prepared, a fine feast in such dreadful times: bread and butter, and quality milk. Leaders of the Youth Association, the Welfare Center, the party, the commissariat and members of the 7th district commission were all present at the event and joined the younglings with enthusiasm.” 

The proletarians' central kitchen

Népszava's June 21st issue included an article on the public catering commissariat opening a new branch, the common kitchens' central office. Several communal dining rooms and soup-kitchens were converted into workers' diners by then, up to 5200 people already dining at common kitchens. Their vision was to open more common kitchens around Budapest. They were planning to open a kitchen available for 1800-2000 people in Leninváros (or Erzsébetfalva), an equally large-scale diner on Váci út 57—61 and another 1500-person diner in the magistracy building, where workers could have their lunch. In mid-July a public kitchen was opened on Rudolf rakpart 6 (Széchenyi rakpart today), where members had to pay a monthly fee. They asked for 4 Krones and 50 Fillérs for a meal and the following tickets for a month: flour tickets of 150 dkg, 2 lard tickets, 1 sugar ticket, 2 potato tickets and 1 salt ticket.

At the Hungária út kitchen proletarian's lunch was cooked in 24 large steam cookers every day and transported in heat-resistant metal containers on 6 trucks to the distribution areas. As expected, reports on the central kitchen were all praising the place's cleanliness and the food quality for which the staff used 20 hundredweight vegetable stews and 4-5 bags of flour. Vörös Riport Film's cameraman documented the kitchen and Érdekes Újság published a cartoon with the following article to advertize this form of dining that the common kitchens' central office wished to popularize:

„The most pressing issue for proletarian families is dining. The ancient form of maintaining private kitchens requires a lot of unnecessary work, materials, space and money. After the long and deadly war, when we are already faced with fuel-, food- and supply shortages, such issues become even more serious for the thousands of proletarian mothers who are trying to manage the ménage. It doesn't take much to realize that firing up the common kitchen where 20 proletarian families' meals are being prepared is how much cheaper, and can be handled more easily. Carrying the wood, chopping it and keeping it in the basement, gathering coal and using fire is much easier than in 20 little kitchens on 20 little stoves with 20 tiny pots. The same goes for disunited shopping and separating portions into even smaller portions, wasting a lot of supplies, using them for unnecessary things and finally: working for no reason. Fired up stoves would be able to handle 3-4 more pots at a time, but fuel is simply being wasted. Preparing a stew, soup, pasta or meat in larger portions is a more effective way to preserve nutrients, not to mention that this way every 5th meal becomes a surplus at the common kitchen.”

Gathering at the Parliament and at Vérmező on July 21

European unions organized a strike for July 21st to protect the Russian and Hungarian Republic. The Komintern executive committee issued a statement „suggesting workers of all countries to show their solidarity with the Republic's nations during the Imperialists campaign against Russia and Hungary with an international protest”. Proletarian leaders found this day crucial regarding Hungary's and the Republic's future; a world-wide collaboration, which would force Entente generals to reflect upon and prevent further efforts to intervene. The night before the strike, the Socialist-Communist Workers' Hungarian Party wrote a statement for the "world's proletariat": „We emerge as a lonely cliff from the imperialistic flood surrounding us. Lonely but free, proudly dedicated and with sustained power we keep on fighting against the class war, which was forced on us with perfidious lies and brutal violence. We know that our enemies' days are counted as the day is neigh when the proletariat's international union throws a final, deadly blow on the dying bourgeoisie.”

In Budapest, the day started with a military inspection on Vérmező. Citizens were wakened by the music of bands marching down the main roads at 05:00. Four marching bands played the Internationale while walking towards Vérmező, where the military corps were gathering. By 08:00 the entire area was filled with people. Leader of the Revolutionary Governing Council Sándor Garbai, Commander-in-Chief Jenő Landler, Army Commander of Budapest József Haubrich and the Budapest Red Guard's Commander Ferenc Jancsik were all present. After the speeches, they listened to the Internationale one more time then the thousands of soldiers marched away.

Sándor Garbai

Mátyás Rákosi

Every worker was on duty that day in Hungary, so the protests were organized for 18:00 after their factory shifts ended. Several thousand people gathered at the Parliament for Sándor Garbai's speech, at Kőbánya for Béla Kun's speech, and on Vérmező where Commissar Mátyás Rákosi spoke. They also held protests at Hunyady tér, Csávolszky garden, Rákóczi tér, Korona tér, on the corner of Gömb and Teve utca, Almási tér, Kálvária tér and Bakács tér. They all accepted the same proposal:

Hungary's liberated proletariat sends their warm welcome on this historically significant day to workers all around the world. The Hungarian workers who managed to shake off the capitalist-bourgeois nelson look upon the beautiful example of Western countries' brotherly manifestation with hope that they will also never give in. One country's proletariat is not deceived by the other's. We knew what we were doing when we counted on the workers' revolution in the entire world and managed to crush the refuge of capitalism and the reaction. Russian and Hungarian workers stand strong and will feed the fire which will destroy capitalism around the entire globe. Western workers cannot be deceived by the smear campaign of international capital's prostitute press. We stand with the dictatorship of the proletariat, as it is the only way to bring freedom to the workers. Exploitation is no longer present in workers'-, farmers'- and military councils, now that they are responsible for their own businesses.
We call the Entente countries' proletariat to keep on fighting until all capitalist establishments are demolished, until the power is not in your hands, until you established the council system and until all proletarians of the world are united! Hail the international proletarian revolution! Hail the dictatorship of the proletariat!

Although several strikes were held all over the world, and the Austrian, Yugoslavian, Romanian, Italian, German, Polish and Bulgarian movements filled the Hungarian proletarian leaders' hearts with joy, the strike itself did not live up to their exaggerated hopes, as it had little or no success in crucial countries, such as in Czechoslovakia, France or England.