National Geographic : 1971 Apr
"No mountain rivers for generating power. Yet we have solved that problem; we reduce the bauxite to alumina and ship it by train to the U.S.S.R. The Russians process it with their cheap electricity and return finished aluminum to us. Within six or seven years Hungary will produce a million tons of alumi na each year." FARTHER SOUTH, near Szeged, we turned off toward the new Algyo oil field. A red-letter sign proclaimed "978,000 tons of oil greets our Tenth Party Congress." "We got our first well five years ago," said the director, Aladar Juratovits. "By 1975 this Algy6 field will supply oil for half our national gasoline production, and in only a few months we'll finish a pipeline to the refinery." Some day, with more oil supplies of their own, Hun garians might purchase less Russian oil from the Friendship Pipeline that now stretches to the Danube. Hungary almost lost this oil field last spring. "Our elevation here is the lowest in Hungary," said Mr. Juratovits, "and, you can see, the Tisza River cuts right beside us. Well, in full flood the Tisza rose 32 feet-the highest water in recorded history-enough to sub merge us completely. The army brought sandbags; 20,000 volunteers pitched in. In one week we built a new riverbank here with 90,000 cubic yards of earth. Then 70 frogmen lined that bank with plastic, so the Tisza would not undermine it. The floodwaters remained from May 20 until July 1. We barely slept. But we saved Algy6." Between our industrial stops, as we drove across flat Hungary, Peter kept Josh enter tained with a large supply of student jokes. All Hungarians collect jokes: Lenin jokes, as we had already noted, policeman jokes, fool jokes, Chinese jokes, and jokes about a certain Ivan Ivanovitch. In a special way such stories show how Hungarians feel about life, letters, and authority; Josh doubled up laughing at all of them. But he quickly grew serious each time we passed a castle. At the town of Sikl6s, we rat tled across a drawbridge and checked into the castle itself. "It's real!" Josh shouted. "Built before 1294 -s ee the plaque?" Only 13 refurbished rooms were ready for renting, but ours measured 40 feet square by 20 feet high. We found more history in the neighborhood when we drove northeast to Mohacs to see a famous battleground. 466 Rapt townsfolk of Zsimbok follow a Sun day sermon in their Roman Catholic church. Agleamin Budapest's vast basilica, a gold rel iquary (right) displays a hand of St. Stephen -Hungary's first king. Last year multitudes attended the celebration of the thousandth anniversary of his birth. Thus, in the country side and the capital, Hungarian devotion survives under an atheistic government. Hungary's Communist leaders system atically attacked the church in 1948, expel ling 11,000 monks and nuns, nationalizing church schools, and imprisoning Jozsef Car dinal Mindszenty. Freed during the 1956 revolt, he found refuge in the U. S . Embassy. Though later offered safe-conduct out of the country, he has remained there ever since. The people, two-thirds Catholic and one third Protestant, stubbornly continue to practice their faith. Today they attend church unmolested, and a handful of reli gious schools carry on; ironically, the state pays teachers' salaries.