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Hungarian Refugees in Yorkshire

WVS Bulletin December 1956

This week is Refugee Week, it takes place every year around the globe to celebrate World Refugee Day on 20th June.  In the past we have shared many stories with you about WVS and WRVS’s involvement in refugee crisis across the world from Belgian and French refugees during World War II to Ugandan Asians and Vietnamese in the 1970s. This week we thought we’d bring you a different story that of Hungarian Refugees who came to the UK in 1956.

On 23rd October 1956 the Hungarian people rose up against the government of the Hungarian People’s Republic. It spread quickly across the country but was eventually crushed on 10th November. Thousands of those who revolted fled the country as refugees 21,500 came to the UK although 5,500 later re-emigrated. Ready to assist the refugees was WVS who took full responsibility for clothing, arranged hospitality in people’s homes and worked in reception centres and hostels.

There are many records on the efforts of WVS in 1956 and 1957 to help the refugees on a national level. However there are also local reports two which come from cities still known for their work to help refugees, Sheffield and Leeds.

Leeds was involved in various different aspects of relief for refugees including sorting 400 blankets, housing students at the university, assisting refugees with employment and clothing. One story particularly stands out as a huge act of kindness.

Sheffield was also very busy working with Hungarians arriving in the city they were initially involved in clothing even before Hungarians arrived. Sheffield United Tours took clothing from the WVS to Austria along with one ton of sugar given to Sheffield WVS by Bassetts Ltd. Some refugees were brought back on returning coaches and clothing still remained and issue.  

In 1957 WVS Sheffield was mostly concerned with billeting taking on a role which they had been responsible for during the War. This included private billets as well as hostels for 64 Hungarians, by June 1957 29 had left Sheffield. One boy had returned to Hungary and three people had left for Canada.

Aid continued for many years in Report on 25 years work 1938 -1963 the following was written:

“Most Hungarians have now become fully integrated into the life of the country, but a few still live in these communal billets, while many others continue to depend on WVS for advice in connection with their families and homes.”

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 19 June 2017.

Labels: Refugee, Hungarian, WVS, 1956, Clothing , Billeting