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Refugee Status

By the late summer of 1944, Budapest was flooded with refugees arriving by the thousands from the war zone. People fled by train, truck, horse cart or on foot, carrying minimal belongings, often without any papers. This gave me an idea: I could claim refugee status and obtain more valid documents.

The dreaded Red Army was rolling forward into Hungary and nazi propaganda about the cruelty of the fast approaching enemy was in full force. So I carefully concocted a story about being a war orphan, from the town of Kolozsvar in Transylvania, a town occupied by the Russians. I had lost all my relatives as well as my papers and other belongings. I was all alone in the world. I rounded out my story with the name of the street I had lived on, the names of my parents, brothers and sisters, and my last name, Kocsis, a good old Hungarian peasant name, which was written into my cherished documents.

Obtaining food coupons was now easy. I headed to the nearest refugee community kitchen, looking hungry and exhausted, and was given a bowl of soup and food coupons. Then I visited a number of offices and received coupons for clothing, and a card that allowed me to sleep in a refugee shelter. I was assigned a small place in a hospice and the local police station issued a temporary residency card for that address.

These papers were of limited use as they were only valid for a certain amount of time, but they provided temporary cover and gave me the self-confidence I needed to move around the city without fear of arrest.

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