Following the Second World War, East Germany was a difficult place for many people to live. Many citizens would visit Hungary, from which an easy view of Austria could be gained. Many felt that if they could bridge this gap, then they would be free from communism for good. One Hungarian woman decided to help some of these people escape from East Germany by way of Hungary, making their way across Lake Ferto.
Agnes Baltigh lived in Fertorakos, a lakeside Hungarian town. Hungary had been relaxing their borders with Austria, making it easier for people to escape onto democratic soil if they so chose. As this happened more and more, border guards grew weary of trying to stop the problem at all. Many citizens of East Germany soon discovered that enough sections of the fence between Hungary and Austria had been torn down that it had become increasingly easy to cross from one into the other. Meanwhile, Baltighhad been making some money by selling beach tickets, having already retired from her previous job as a nurse, the Gulf Times reports.
Of course, the first time Baltigh really helped anyone, she did it for free. It started with a group of people arriving at the beach and asking her if they would be able to swim to Austria, as they did not wish to return to East Germany. Rather than continuing to charge for beach access, Baltigh began to help people out of the good of her heart. She helped people navigate their way across the border, sometimes letting them stay the night at her house until they were ready to leave.
Baltigh was dealing with frightened people, people who had chosen to become refugees. They knew that they faced consequences if they were caught escaping, and as such their biggest fear was being sent back to East Germany. Baltigh had her own fears. Although Hungary seemed to be loosening some of its restrictions, she had no idea what her punishment might be if she were discovered. She had a number of people helping her get people across the lake, and for all she knew, any one of them might turn her in.
Agnes Baltigh was a hero to many people from East Germany with a dream of living under a different type of rule. She occasionally received letters and postcards from those she had helped. Having just lost her husband, she was able to give her life a new sense of meaning by helping those from East Germany. Today, she is modest about the services she has performed, seeking neither fame nor wealth in return.