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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hungarian POW Flies Home at Last

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A Hungarian prisoner-of-war who was kept in a psychiatric hospital in the Kirov region since the 1940s set out for home Friday, anxiously glancing out of a bus window at a world he hasn’t seen in five decades.

When he arrived at Moscow’s bustling international airport, he mumbled to himself and looked confused as doctors carefully led him through customs. He then took off on a Malev airlines flight to Budapest.

Andras Tamas, 75, had not set foot outside the confines of the small hospital in the provincial town of Kotelnich since Soviet secret police brought him there in 1947. For years, nobody knew who he was.

A chartered bus rolled out of the hospital yard Friday, embarking on a nearly daylong trip to carry Tamas and accompanying medical staff to Moscow. Doctors thought a bus trip to Moscow would be less stressful for him.

Seated by a window on the bus, Tamas stared nervously ahead of him, occasionally casting anxious glances around. He grew teary-eyed at times and doctors said he was feeling ill.

At the Moscow airport, Tamas was guided into a wheelchair and pushed through the maze of departing passengers. He looked dazed at the sight.

The chief doctor of the Kotelnich hospital, Yury Petukhov, said other patients and hospital staff "were maybe a bit sad over parting [with Tamas]."

"But on the other hand, we are happy that a person is getting discharged from the hospital and is leaving. It means he is leaving for a better life," he said.

Petukhov accompanied Tamas to Budapest to help the transition.

"Physically he’s feeling good taking into account his age," Petukhov said at the airport. "He understands he’s going to Hungary, he understands what’s going on around him and that it’s probably going to be better because he likes to interact with people."

A Hungarian doctor who examined Tamas last month wanted to get him to his homeland for treatment as quickly as possible, where, surrounded by his mother tongue, he believes Tamas will recover his memory.

A diplomat at the Hungarian Embassy in Moscow, Ferenc Puskas, said 20 Hungarian families have already offered to adopt him.

Tamas never learned to speak Russian and for decades hospital staff had mistaken his Hungarian for gibberish.

Tamas’ identity began to be revealed when a police officer of Hungarian descent, Karl Maravchuk, came to live in Kotelnich in 1991 and recognized Tamas’ speech as Hungarian.

"I think everything will be fine," said Maravchuk, who helped translate for Tamas during his past few months at the hospital.

"If he has lived to be 75 within the walls of the Kotelnich hospital and is as vigorous and well as he is now, I think in his homeland he will live for another 20 to 30 years," said Maravchuk.

Tamas’ hair has largely turned gray and he has to use crutches to get around since his leg had to be amputated about three years ago because of circulatory problems. But he still seems strong and vigorous, and moves around with relative ease.

It was unclear exactly what his psychiatric problems are or when they emerged, but doctors say he has lost some of his memory and his Hungarian had grown garbled from not having anyone to talk to.

Some 150,000 troops fought in the Hungarian army under Nazi command at the Don River in 1944. Red Army soldiers killed about 90,000 Hungarians.