An American journalist trolls the archives of the Hungarian secret police (AVO) to piece together her parents’ imprisonment in and flight from Hungary in the mid-1950s.
Marton (The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World, 2006, etc.), who arrived with her family in America in 1957 and grew up in Maryland, discovered only after her parents had died how little she understood about what they had endured. Cultured, educated Jews who had been persecuted by the pro-Nazi Hungarian fascists during World War II, Endre and Ilona Marton, based in Budapest, worked as stringers for the American newswire services and for ten years after the war befriended Americans and others from all over the world. The Martons had become essentially the Hungarian news contact for the rest of the world, and in his reporting Endre used candor and irony to expose the Hungarian autocracy. In fact, AVO officials were keeping close tabs on the couple, aided by informers close to the family, gathering evidence that the Martons were passing secrets to the Americans. In 1955, Endre was thrown into Fo Utca prison, and his wife followed four months later; they were tried and eventually released. During the year or so of their absence, Marton and her sister, uncomprehending, were housed in a foster home. The author’s probing work effectively renders an enormously unsettled, painful time of shifting allegiances and political treachery. She even learned that her parents were suspected of espionage by the CIA and were dogged by Hungarian “watchers” in America intent on luring them back to aid the Cold War cause in Hungary.
A dark, compelling narrative of secrecy and betrayal.