Thursday, July 04, 2024

Black Sunday


[About the Russian invasion of Hungary, in October, 1956.]

It was a Sunday in 1956. Black Sunday in Hungary. The Russians invaded with tanks and cannons, determined to extinguish the flame of Hungarian freedom with blood.

That Sunday was so dark. It was such a dark Sunday.

On that fateful day, significant events unfolded in Hungary. But noteworthy things also happened among our Dutch immigrant people in Canada.

In Hungary, the first tanks stormed into Budapest. A house, suspected by the Russians of hiding “rebels,” was reduced to rubble. A grandfather, his daughter, and two of her children, perished.

At the same moment, there was trouble in an immigrant family in Canada. A father and three children wanted to sleep in, thinking the church would still be there next week. A grandfather, his daughter, and two of her children went to church, but without a song of praise on their lips.


Somewhere in a provincial town in Hungary, in a square behind the pillars of the town hall and in the doorways of closed shops, children, boys and girls aged fourteen to twenty, are covertly positioned with sten guns, pistols, and Molotov cocktails. The Russians are approaching. Some of the children are very young. Some are very frightened. One soils his pants. Some pray, “God, help us, protect us! We are still so young!”

Somewhere in a Canadian town, at the back of the church, there are children, lanky lads of fourteen years. A few are yawning, a few are sleeping during the sermon. Some secretly show each other forbidden pictures of naughty girls.

In a town square in Hungary, embittered women hold a demonstration beside the bodies of some freedom fighters. They sing their national anthem. It sounds like a lament. At the same moment, in one of the houses in Canada, a record player wails. Excited girls scream, shriek, and howl: Rock and Roll! Elvis Presley!


In one of the major cities of Hungary, believers find the church doors closed. In a suburb, there is still a church open. The service is about to begin. Catholics and Protestants call upon the Lord in unison. A former communist cries out, “Kyrie eleison!” God and his holy angels listen.

In a Canadian city, believers find the church doors open and they attentively listen to the sermon of the orthodox Dutch pastor, who fervently warns his flock about the traps and deceit of the church down the street—where another pastor preaches, who is also Dutch, and also orthodox.  


On a pile of rubble in Hungary, a desperate mother cries and laments. She just found an arm of her missing child.

Somewhere in Canada Brother A complains about his hemorrhoids and Brother B complains about his pastor. 


Hungary: Five boys are tied to poles. The firing squad takes position. Two boys cry out for their mother; one cries out to Mary; two can no longer cry. The command is given . . . shots ring out. . . .

Canada: At the youth club, five boys debate passionately about the doctrine of Common Grace, each bracing himself to triumph in the debate.

In Hungary, strangers become friends in their hopeless fight for freedom. People find each other in their common distress. People kneel and cry out together to God.

In Canada, friends become strangers as conversations once again revolve around the question: Should our church here be modeled along Dutch lines, or not? Should we call an American, or a Dutch pastor?


In Budapest, the Russians set fire to a house of “terrorists.” A family runs out into the street in panic and is mowed down by a machine gun.

In Canada, Arie Dof lights a cigarette and sulks because Katrien forgot to buy cigars for him.


In Hungary. . . . In Canada. . . .

One question, O God: Why was that Sunday so pitch black for the Hungarians and only colourless for us in Canada?

God does not answer . . .  not yet.


Dof, Arie. (1958). “Zwarte Zondag.” (George van Popta, Trans., 2024). In Arie en Katrien in Canada (pp. 61-63). Hamilton, Ontario: Guardian. (Original work published in Calvinist Contact [Christian Courier]).