Please note date is approximate:
In the evening many friends, British and Austrian, gathered at the station to see our party leave, and give us messages to friends at home ; and though it was very obvious that it was an English party that was leaving for England, we experienced nothing even approaching rudeness at the station. My companion in the sleeping-car was a very bright Vienna lady, who at once began to talk. Where was I going ? She was going to Innsbruck, did I know Innsbruck, the most beautiful place in the Tirol? Ah, I was going to Geneva: for winter-sports probably ? Had I ever winter-sported before? Ah, in Galicia, just where the big battles were being fought now, and the Ruthenes, what were they like? I had straightway to tell her what I knew about Galicia and the Ruthenes; in return for which she told me what she thought of the war, saying that though I came from Hungary I must not imagine things were going so well for “us” as one imagined there. The Hungarian’s blind trust in Germany would find itself betrayed one day.
In Vienna their eyes were open to the appalling difficulties that lay before them. Even if the Germans should help them to put the Russians out of Galicia, where would Austria find herself? Geographically in the same position as she was at the outbreak of the war, but broken and bankrupt, and absolutely dependent on Germany for her future life. And it would be more than Germany could do to save her own life, for didn’t everybody know that she too was bleeding to death, more slowly than Austria perhaps, but none the less surely.
“Are you anti-Austrian, then? ” I asked sternly.
“No, I am not. I am as loyal as everybody is in Vienna ; but we are not stupid, and know when we have been tricked. You Hungarians have helped us on to this war with your mad pro-Germanism, hoping that Germany will help you to your independence; perhaps you think you will be better off as the slave of Germany in future? ”
“Of course,” I interrupted from above, “you’re taking my pro-German sympathies for granted. I’ve not expressed them, and I’m not so pro-German as you imagine.”
We talked well into the night, then slept soundly till morning, when we went through to the dining-car together for breakfast. The English ladies were already there, and I stopped to talk to them. As I joined my Vienna friend at the table she had reserved for us, she asked who those ladies were and if I knew them.
“I do. They are like me returning to England now.”
“But, but you’re not British’? The sleeping-car attendant told me a Hungarian lady had taken the other berth,” she gasped, thinking probably of how very frankly she had spoken on the previous night of the critical state of her country.
I could not help laughing at her confusion as I explained that the attendant’s mistake arose through my ticket being taken in the Princess’s name. In the end she also laughed, and was very interested to know exactly the treatment I had received in Hungary, “for,” she said, “I am sure that all one reads in the press about British cruelty to enemy aliens is lies, and I should be sorry if British people had bad reports of us to take back to England.”
I would not allow that British people in Austria had no grievances at all, but I did assure her that I received very great kindness, and that all my experiences so far had been thoroughly enjoyable. “Of course,” I said, ” there’s still the frontier,” and I felt my spirit grow sick as I thought of it; my delight of the previous day in Feldkirch and the Alps waned as the objects of it approached.
“Na, this isn’t Germany. Our people will be very nice at the frontier. You may be quite sure that anything unkind that is done to British people in Austria comes, I’m sorry to say, from Berlin; ” and the train entering Innsbruck she rose to go, leaving
me no end of good wishes for a pleasant journey.
Mina McDonald crossed the border into Switzerland and returned via France to the United Kingdom. In 1916 her account Some Experiences in Hungary.was published.