by Reed White
“I know the streets in America are not paved in gold, but I can make them gold.” This pronouncement was, Suzy Chiappetta recalls at her library presentation, her dad’s promise as the family entered the United States after a protracted escape from Hungary.
Her family’s escape began in October 1956, weeks after Hungarian students spontaneously triggered a courageous revolt against occupying Soviets. Considering that the Hungarians fought Russian tanks with Molotov cocktails and fake decoy mines, the leaderless revolt amazed the world. However, the Hungarians’ success crumbled when non-communist nations broke their promises to help. Returning with the vengeance of an enraged father, the Soviets brutally quashed the rebellion within weeks.
The parents’ escape included nearly all the elements of a fearsome exodus: hiding, trudging over snow-covered mountains, bribing border guards, dodging bullets while on the run, refugee camps, uncertainty of a final destination, and more. Their escape took them through Austria and Canada before eventually being able to immigrate to the U.S. in 1968.
Those who missed Suzy Chiappetta’s tale at the La Veta Public Library on May 3 may wish to read “The Bridge at Andau” by James A. Michener. Suzy’s parents escaped a mile from the Andau bridge. She confirms that Michener’s account of the revolution is both engaging and accurate.
Suzy, a very grateful American, is now a La Veta resident and District Manager for SYSCO, a major restaurant food distributor. Her father, a successful engineer, designed a leading-edge petroleum-based power plant in Colorado, and later helped design various nuclear power plant designs. Completing the American dream, he founded a software company. Her mother, who is gifted with an artistic and musical bent, has returned to Hungary.
Amy Icabone, owner of the La Veta Diner, and Suzy prepared delicious Hungarian palacinka for the attendees. Palacinka is a Hungarian crepe that is garnished with jam and mint leaf.