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Monday, 31 July, 2000, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
World War II prisoner emerges

A Hungarian prisoner of World War II, long presumed dead, has been found alive in a Russian mental hospital.

Fifty-five years after the conflict ended, he could finally be on his way home.

The 75-year-old, presumed to have been killed in 1945, has been found alive in a mental hospital near Kotelnich, 500km (310 miles) east of Moscow.

The man is confused, has no recollection of what happened to him, and can barely speak his native language. As a result, there have been difficulties in confirming his identity.

The Hungarian embassy in Moscow has now asked the Russian authorities to allow the man, believed to be called Andras Tamas, to return home.

A Hungarian doctor travelled to meet Mr Tamas after hearing of a mysterious Hungarian patient who had apparently lost his memory.

After talking to the man, Dr Andras Veer confirmed that the man is Hungarian and a former prisoner of war, captured by Soviet troops in 1945.

Dr Veer, director of the Hungarian Psychiatric and Neurological Unit, believes the man is Andras Tamas, after matching hospital and prison camp records.

No clear memory

However, according to Dr Veer, Mr Tamas no longer has a clear memory of what happened to him and can barely speak Hungarian.

He had never learned Russian, and has lived the last 20 years in linguistic isolation after the last other Hungarian patients left the hospital in 1980.

But speaking on Hungarian television, Dr Veer said he believes that being amongst Hungarians will bring Mr Tamas's memory back.

Several families reportedly phoned in claiming to recognise Mr Tamas after his photo was shown on television.

Hungarian authorities remain unclear about details of the man's early life, including his former residence.

Dr Veer said it had been quite difficult to establish a personal rapport with Mr Tamas, but believes he could have come from an area of Slovakia, which used to be part of Hungary.

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