Map of Gulag camp administrations and stories from Central Europe
The Gulag.Online museum now also offers a map of Gulag camp administrations which was created on the basis of the Система исправительно-трудовых ла...
Born in 1920 in the southern Slovak village of Strekov, where his parents were employed as hired labourers by a prosperous Jewish farmer. From 1938 the Bolemants lived and worked on a farm belonging to the same farmer in the nearby Bielovce. In November that year a major part of southern and eastern Slovakia (Bielovce was located in the former) was ceded to Hungary.
In 1941 Károly Bolemant was called up by the András Hadik 4th Hussar regiment in Nyíregyháza. He underwent basic training in Szentesi in southern Hungary. However, it was not until June 1944 that the Hussar regiment joined the fighting on the Eastern Front. In the following three months its troops took part in fierce battles with the Red Army and many operations against partisans on the territory of Belarus.
After Szálasi’s Arrow Cross party seized power in October 1944 the regiment became involved in fighting on Hungarian territory. They were most active in the defence of Budapest. At Christmas 1944 the considerably reduced division and another 70,000 or so defenders of Budapest found themselves surrounded by the Soviets. The Hussars had managed to withdraw to the as yet unoccupied Buda in January 1945, though it too was captured by the Soviets in the middle of the following month.
The POWs from Bolemant’s division were initially held in prisons and transit camps in Budapest. At the end of February 1945 the Soviets transferred them further to the east. Following a train journey of several days, they passed through Galati in eastern Romania and reached the town of Reni (on today’s Romanian-Moldovan-Ukrainian border). The captives’ main task at the Reni camp was the construction of an oil refinery and pipeline. Due to the harsh conditions – heavy work, insufficient food, infectious diseases – many POWs a day died at the camp.
Károly Bolemant had the good fortune to be transferred in June 1946 to a camp in Odessa, where he worked in an iron processing and plough manufacturing plant. Conditions improved considerably for him after he ran into an old classmate from elementary school, who worked in a group of Hungarian auxiliary supervisors. Thanks to a friendship with another inmate, who was working as a copyist at the camp, he then got priority placing on a list of people due to be repatriated to Hungary. In June 1947 he found himself in a transit camp in Focşani, Romania, where the prisoners’ origins were repeatedly verified and investigated. Károly Bolemant declared himself a Hungarian citizen.
He became a free man in Debrecen, where he was recommended to visit the Czechoslovak consulate in Budapest. There he learned that his family had not been expelled to Hungary and he could return home. He reached Strekov on 31 July 1947. From his return until his retirement he worked in Železovce as a tractor and truck driver. He lives in Bielovce today.
The story was processed by the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes for the project Central European Map of the Gulag.