THE STENCIL DUPLICATOR / Gábor Demszky and Róza Hodosán
This is a Roneo stencil duplicator, the greatest advantage of which is that it is portable. We made prints using a special stencil paper, on which the text had been written using a typewriter. The typewriter punctured the stencil, and the ink flowed through these holes, this is how the copy was made. This is a mechanic stencil duplicator, i.e. we had to turn the handle by hand, and one turn produced one printed page. The machine worked fairly quickly, but the stencil paper wore out after a while, after 1000-1200 copies.
In the 1970s there were several Hungarian authors who were not able to publish: publishing houses did not accept the writings of György Konrád, György Petri, Miklós Haraszti, György Dalos, or the works of sociologists who focused on issues like the Roma or poverty. Initially, these writings spread in manuscript form. When Miklós Haraszti wrote his book Darabbér [Piecework] in 1972, it was only available as a typescript. In the libraries, you could see students passing the pages to one another. The same happened to other Hungarian works and those international authors like Orwell, whose writings were not published in Hungarian. This was the so-called age of manuscript literature. Manuscripts were hand-typed in 8-9 copies, and these could be bought at the price of 1 forint/page. It was not very efficient.
This was when, in 1981 – at the same time that Solidarity was founded, which was not a coincidence – the printed samizdat appeared. Its ideology was formulated by Adam Michnik: our task is not to reform the system, but to create an independent society that can control those in power. In Poland independent books and periodicals appeared in such numbers that they rivalled the state-owned publications. And then we imported this process: I learned how it worked, in the summer of 1981 in Poland. Then we also showed it to others, and we started publishing books and periodicals in Hungary. Beszélő was the best-known of these.
The greatest problem with the samizdat was its distribution. The solution we found was that László Rajk basically opened up his flat. Anyone could go there to buy publications. We also created a distribution network: we took the publications to our friends who undertook to sell them, and they gave us the proceeds. This went on continuously and regularly, so in the second half of the eighties we were producing hundreds of tonnes of publications. One tonne can fill two normal passenger cars.
We founded AB Independent Publishing together with Róza Hodosán, László Rajk, and Jenő Nagy. There were other publishers as well, but this was the largest, with 60-80 collaborators. What makes me immensely proud is that there were no informers in the inner circle of authors and editors. This required a solidary team good at conspiring, who trusted each other and stood up for each other when there was trouble.
The first machine was in the Rajk “boutique”. It was brought in pieces by western journalists, and sculptor István Haraszti, also known as “Sweetie”, assembled it and manufactured the missing parts. We used it until the first search of the premises by the police in December 1982, when it was seized. It was then that we received this Roneo. We were searched several times and sometimes caught red-handed, but this machine was somehow never found. Once we were followed by the police to one of the samizdat farms, which we called the Southern Base when we went there with Ottilia Solt, András Nagy and Feri Kőszeg. But they did not come to search the house, so that night we took all the samizdats to safety, crossing the Russian drill grounds near Orgovány, and we hid the machine in a hole under the floorboards. Nothing happened then, but three months later, just before 15 March 1988, there was a huge raid, and they were so sure of themselves that MTI, the Hungarian news agency, had already prepared a communication that the printing machines were seized. But when the authorities got to the farm, they only found three dogs there. By that time we had already moved the entire printing operation to Zamárdi. The last search was on 8 May 1988, but the machine was not found then, either.
Obtaining the necessary equipment was not an easy task, as private persons were not able to buy them. The stencils were brought by friendly foreign journalists, or stolen from workplaces, little by little. Our operation was real conspiracy, only a small circle knew where we would do the printing next. If any infiltrators tried to offer their services, we only asked them for stencils and ink, but we never told them where the printing was done. Later I bought the ink pretending to act on behalf of institutions I found in the phone book, like secondary schools. We also needed large amounts of paper, and when we bought it, we gave the name and address of institutions or organisations close to where we were printing, usually creative camps or camps of the Hungarian Young Communist League.
When the roundtable talks began in Hungary, we gave this machine to our Czech friends printing samizdats. We took it across the Komárom bridge in 1988, and three weeks later the system collapsed there, too. Our Czech friends returned the machine to us a few months later.
After the regime change I gave the machine to the OSA (Open Society Archives) together with 32 metres’ worth of samizdat publications and other documents. For me, the samizdat and the objects necessary for its production are more than mere relics of the past. I have a picture of the mesh frame and the squeegee hanging above my bed. There would have been no samizdat without these objects. This was an extremely important part of my life, and an important part of the history of the democratic opposition, and those little circles of freedom could not have functioned without these instruments. They also made my task easier when I ran for Mayor of Budapest in the spring and autumn of 1990, as I had become a well-known figure thanks to them. These tools, I used every day, shaped my destiny for a very long time, for decades.
Köszönet a tárgykölcsönzőknek és történetmesélőknek:
FISCHER ÁGOTA ÉVA
FÜLÖPNÉ WELTZ MÁRIA
HÁTSZEGI GÁBORNÉ, JULIKA
HELLER MÁRIA (RÓZSA PÁL)
HELLER SÁNDORNÉ, MÜLLER ANIKÓ
KÁNAI GYULÁNÉ PEREDY GIZELLA
LEÁNYFALVINÉ GORDÁN ILDIKÓ
TERÉNYI ISTVÁNNÉ SULLAI VINCENCIA
TÓTHNÉ RUDI MARGIT
Köszönet a kiállítás létrejöttéhez nyújtott segítségért
TÓTH GERGELY MÁTÉ
ELEVEN EMLÉKMŰ CSOPORT
HERITAGE CONTACT ZONE
HUMÁN PLATFORM EGYESÜLET
OPEN SOCIETY ARCHIVES
Castrum Peregrini, Amszterdam
Asociatia Timişoara Capitala Cultural Europeana, Temesvár
Eleven Emlékmű / Humán Platform, Budapest
Etz Hayyim, Hanía, Kréta
European University Institute, Firenze
Culture Action Europe, Brüsszel