Silenced Shame

Sadly, it appears that rape has become an established part of war, perhaps the most brutal exponents of which were the Soviet troops who occupied Hungary in 1945. Extensive research into records from STD clinics shows that hundreds of thousands of Hungarian women were raped during this period. The severity of the situation is also highlighted by the fact that abortion was made legal shortly after the Soviet occupation.

It proved particularly challenging to make a film on this subject as although many people know about the atrocities committed by Soviet soldiers, very few people are willing to talk openly about what actually happened. Victims were extremely reluctant to talk about what had happened to them and often kept it a secret from their families.

Our film crew retraced the tracks of the Red Army across Hungary and questioned eyewitness, relatives and victims about their treatment under Soviet military occupation. All the stories began much in the same manner: innocent civilians hid from the soldiers in cellars and attics, and the girls made themselves ugly, filthy and smelly to deliberately discourage advances from Soviet troops. But then drunken soldiers appeared at the door and dragged women away leaving them severely mentally or physically damaged by the violence and brutality of their attacks in an atmosphere of shame and accusation.

We spoke to Soviet veterans, historians, psychologists and victims, and tried to discover what it was that made men act in such a cruel and unforgivable manner. What did years of combat, killing and alcohol do to a man?

Rape does not cause sexual pleasure but is an act of extreme violence and control perpetrated against unarmed and vulnerable women. The added bitter irony of the situation is that the victorious army remained in Hungary for a further 40 years and, along with the Hungarian Communists, were celebrated as the nation’s liberators. This then meant that victims were forced to conceal the truth about events to avoid punishment and discrimination by the ruling regime.

The film also highlights the fact that there are still those in Hungary who celebrate an army that invaded a nation and raped its womenfolk. The victims have never received compensation and documentation has never been released from Russian military archives presumably because those responsible for such acts of acute brutality could still be brought before a court of law.