Limerick to celebrate its Hungarian connection

LIMERICK’S special link with Hungary, since it took in hundreds of refugees in 1956 after the Soviet invasion, will be recalled tomorrow at a reception in City Hall.

Ambassador of Hungary, Ferenc Jári will mark Limerick’s role, 55 years on, in helping those who fled the country.

Hundreds of refugees were housed at the military camp in Knockalisheen on the old Cratloe Road. Many settled in the Limerick area afterwards.

Hungarian Irish Folk group Bran will entertain guests at tomorrow’s function.

Mayor of Limerick Cllr Maria Byrne said Limerick has a history with Hungary since 1956.

“The response of Limerick people to the influx of refugees was overwhelmingly positive and Limerick has always maintained a special relationship with Hungary,” she said.

“During the 1950s local churches raised money for the refugees and there were dozens of families willing to take in Hungarian families into their own homes,” she said.

“Limerick chemists donated penicillin to the Hungarian revolutionaries and the Irish Red Cross secured the use of 35, O’Connell Street as a collection centre in aid of the refugees.

Limerick’s city archivist, Jacqui Hayes, said the arrival of Hungarians was important in local history.

“The Hungarians quickly settled into life in Limerick and within a few weeks many were able to secure employment in local firms. One of the refugees even signed for Limerick FC and there were two marriages.

“However, many were unable to work in 1950s Ireland and boredom and homesickness at the refugee camp in Knockalisheen was also a factor.

“The majority of Hungarian refugees were flown to Canada in 1958 but, before they left, a farewell concert was held,” Ms Hayes said.

“Many prominent Limerick and Ennis entertainers provided their services for free at the concert. Musicians played traditional Hungarian and Irish music and the highlight was when both national anthems were sung in four languages by the Hungarian children’s choir.

“At the end there were moving scenes as many Irish and Hungarians parted for the last time.”

The Knockalisheen camp was closed in 1958 with many refugees moving elsewhere.


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