In 1956 the Russians had invaded Hungary and wreaking havoc, intimidating people, disrupting day to day life, and murdering people. Several years ago I watched as my teenage daughter interviewed my Hungarian mother in law about her personal experiences in Hungary in 1956. My mother in law talked about the trauma of living in Hungary at this time. The day before her escape, she recalled standing in the streets of Gyor where a Russian tank was pointing its gun turret towards pedestrians to intimidate them. She recalled her eventual escape across a river into Austria with her boyfriend with just the clothes on their backs. They started their new life as refugees in an Austrian camp and were adopted by Canada. It would be over 10 years before they could safely return to Hungary to visit family; however, by then some of the parents had already passed away.
During this 1 ½ hour audio-recorded interview, my mother in law was emotional at times as she recalled the events. Her father was the mayor of the town. The Russians evicted them from their house and they had to build another one using rubble from destroyed homes.
To listen to a 2 minute excerpt of this recording link click………… Escape from Hungary 1956
This article has two purposes:
a) To highlight the importance of capturing family stories from parents, grandparents, and others that can provide oral history- it is important that this is handed down from generation to generation.
b) To encourage you to build a story file. I frequently hear speakers lamenting that they do not have any stories to illuminate their points and help the audience relate to the information. People ask me, “Dave, how do you have so many stories?” The answer is that I have explored every avenue to collect stories. When I recall a story I write down three or four words in my story file to help me recall it- should it be a good fit for a speech, seminar, workshop or meeting that I am preparing for. Once I decide to use the story I write it out so it is clear and consise. I also describe the visual details so that audience members will feel that they are right there witnessing the event.
Stories can be used over and over again for different purposes and to illustrate different points. The story about Hungary in 1956 could be used to illuminate points such as:
- COPING WITH ADVERSITY
- CHANGE IS NOT NORMAL
- LIFE CHANGING DECISIONS
- TAKING HUGE RISK
- STARTING WITH NOTHING
- SURVIVAL SKILLS
- BETTER TIMES COME ALONG
- EVIL ONLY SUCCEEDS WHEN GOOD PEOPLE CHOOSE TO DO NOTHING
- DIVERSITY – UNDERSTANDING PEOPLE
- HUMANITARIAN COUNTRIES TO THE RESCUE
Imagine you are a speaker honing your presentation or developing a new keynote speech. As you gather your thoughts and frame your presentation, you have your speech development notebook in front of you. The Mindmap you have scribbled on the notebook page helps you define the objective of your presentation and the points you want to cover. Once you have this fundamental structure developed, you now want to find stories, quotations, rhetorical questions, statistics and possibly even humor to illustrate your points. You open up a file to find the most suitable story.
Simplified MindMap Example
Your story file might be any of the following mechanisms:
1) Notebook full of tiny post it notes stuck on the pages
2) A typed list
3) Entries into a Twitter account
4) Audio notes
5) Video notes
As a final note; in 1989 my wife and I were walking along the Austria/Hungary border and observed the crosses marking the places where Hungarians died trying to escape the tyranny. This memory and the audio tape bring this to life for me. With the permission of my mother in law, I am sharing this story with you and I encourage you to set a goal to build your story file.