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The BBC's Orla Guerin
"A gentle elderly man who barely remembers the world outside"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, 20:03 GMT 21:03 UK
Hungarian POW to go home after 55 years
Former Hungarian POW
Andras Tamas could soon be heading back to Hungary
An elderly Hungarian found languishing in a Russian mental hospital could finally be allowed to return home - 55 years after being taken prisoner by the Russian Army.

The Hungarian Consul in Moscow, Imre Laszloczki, said he was sure that 75-year-old former prisoner of war, Andras Tamas, would be granted permanent residence status in Hungary.

He speaks the language used 50 years ago

Hungarian psychiatrist Andras Veer
Mr Tamas was confined in the Kotelnich mental hospital in northern Russia in 1947, where he remained until a Slovak doctor treating him was surprised to discover that his patient knew no Russian but could speak some Hungarian.

Efforts were made to establish Mr Tamas's identity, but incomplete records and the patient's own confused state - the former POW is thought to suffer from schizophrenia - meant it took several years for a clearer picture of his origins to emerge.

A leading Hungarian psychiatrist, Andras Veer, travelled to Russia to examine Mr Tamas and came to the conclusion that there was "no reason to doubt that he was taken prisoner while serving as a soldier in the Hungarian Army".

'Indisputably Hungarian'

"He speaks only Hungarian, in the language used 50 years ago, with a middling-rich vocabulary," Dr Veer - who runs the Hungarian National Institute of Psychiatry - told Hungarian radio.

Mr Tamas told Dr Veer that he was born in what used to be known as Turocszentmarton - now Martin in southern Slovakia - and had spent some time in the northern Hungarian towns of Miskolc and Nyiregyhaza.

Mr Tamas
Confined for 55 years
Dr Veer concluded that Mr Tamas's mental condition was likely to improve in a Hungarian-speaking environment, and recommended that he be repatriated.

The Budapest newpaper Vasarnapi Hirek said that Mr Tamas's command of Hungarian "improved significantly" during the course of his conversation with Dr Veer, although his language was "spiced with archaic terms".

Mr Laszloczki said that although it was not yet possible to confirm Mr Tamas's Hungarian citizenship, he was indisputably "Hungarian by nationality" and should therefore be allowed to return home.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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