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The BBC's Nick Thorpe
"His doctors hope that the floodgates of his memory may open"
 real 56k

Friday, 11 August, 2000, 22:03 GMT 23:03 UK
Hungarian POW finally home
Andras Tamas leaving Moscow
Long goodbye: Andras Tamas finally leaves Russia
A former Hungarian prisoner from World War II, held in a Russian mental hospital for more than 50 years, has finally returned home to a tearful welcome.

The 75-year-old, whose name is believed to be Andras Tamas, was flown to the Hungarian capital, Budapest from Moscow.

On arrival at Budapest's airport, he was rushed in a wheelchair past waiting reporters and well-wishers and taken to a medical institute.

Mr Tamas was recently discovered in a psychiatric hospital at Kotelnich, 900km east of the Russian capital.

He had been there since 1947, but because he did not speak Russian and none of the staff spoke Hungarian, no one was sure of his origins.


The BBC's correspondent in Hungary, Nick Thorpe, says Mr Tamas was wheeled through the arrivals lounge at Budapest airport with tears rolling down his face.

Several of the well-wishers at the airport were elderly men and women who believe they may be related to Mr Tamas.
Locating Tamas's relatives will be difficult
He is expected to stay at the medical institute in Hungary for at least two months.

The Hungarian authorities hope that under their care they can establish his exact identity and origins.

But they are still not sure that Andras Tamas is his real name.

Red Army

He is believed to have been captured by the Red Army when he was aged 19.

He was sent first to a prison camp before being transferred to hospital.

His plight was uncovered when a visiting doctor worked out his origins, and a Hungarian psychiatrist was called in.

Andras Tamas
Mr Tamas flew from Moscow to Budapest
Mr Tamas may have been one of 150,000 soldiers in the second Hungarian army, which fought alongside the Germans during WWII.

But they were routed by the Russians at the River Don in January 1943.

Uncertainty over relatives

Mr Tamas' return to Hungary has been agreed by the Russian and Hungarian authorities in a bid to help him recover his memory.

While he is being treated at the medical institute, he will also receive a prosthesis to replace his right leg which was amputated three years ago.

Psychiatrists will continue the conversations with him begun 18 months ago in Russia.

Several possible relatives have already come forward.

But as tens of thousands of Hungarians died or were captured on the eastern front, the process of finding out for certain who he is and where he comes from could be a slow one.

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See also:

11 Aug 00 | Europe
World War II prisoner coming home
05 Aug 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Going home 50 years too late
31 Jul 00 | Europe
World War II prisoner emerges
02 Aug 00 | Media reports
Hungarian POW to go home after 55 years
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