KOTELNICH, Russia - He has spent the last 53 years trapped in time, never leaving the confines of a small psychiatric hospital in provincial Russia, with no identity, fading memories and speaking a language nobody understood.
The man, now believed to be a Hungarian taken prisoner by Soviet troops during World War II, was brought to the hospital in Kotelnich on Feb. 19, 1947, records show.
Seated Thursday on his hospital bed, one of about a dozen in the room, he said he wants to return to Hungary, but the Hungary he remembers is the war-torn land of the mid-1940s.
''I don't know where I will live, because everything has been bombed,'' the patient, whose name is Andras Andreyevich Tamas according to Soviet-era records, told The Associated Press. He spoke through a translator.
A Hungarian doctor who examined Tamas last month hopes to get him to his homeland for treatment as quickly as possible, where, surrounded by his mother tongue, the doctor believes the 75-year-old will recover his memory.
In Budapest, Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath said Thursday that Tamas may be brought back to Hungary this month. But just who would welcome him is unclear. No record of Tamas' birth or any living relative has been found, the spokesman said.
Tamas was among prisoners of war sent by train from western Russia to a prison camp in Siberia, records indicate. The prisoner was suffering from psychological problems, so guards took him off the train when it passed near Kotelnich and left him at the hospital.
''They delivered him, left him here, and never asked about him since,'' said the hospital's chief doctor, Yuri Petukhov.
Other than his name, Soviet-era records said nothing about his background. Unable to speak Russian, Tamas could not communicate with hospital staffers, who mistook his Hungarian for gibberish. Later, somebody thought Tamas was Romanian, and that was written in his hospital records.
For five decades, Tamas was left forgotten in the small provincial hospital. Time stopped for him in 1947.
''He has lived here for a long time, but all his impressions, all his knowledge have remained at the level of 1940s,'' Petukhov said. ''He even uses words that were used in those years. It will take time to bring him into the new life.''
By the 1960s, Tamas had recovered sufficiently to work in the hospital workshop and walk the grounds, overgrown with trees and shrubs. He never learned to speak Russian.
Tamas' Hungarian became garbled after decades of having no one to talk to, and only started to come back after the first hints of his identity came out last year.
But Tamas has lost most of his teeth, making his speech still harder to understand. He also had a leg amputated above the knee about three years ago because of circulatory problems, and now spends most of his time sitting on a bench in the hospital yard, occasionally carving wood in the hospital workshop.
''He is very sick. He is mentally seriously damaged,'' said Imre Laszlocki, head of the consular section at the Hungarian Embassy in Moscow. ''He was completely alone.''
Tamas' once-dark hair has mostly turned gray, and he uses crutches to get around. But he seems to move with relative ease, and uses a carpenter's plane with confident and smooth motions.
Doctors at Kotelnich had sought information from government archives in Moscow, trying to find any trace of Tamas' past. But all documents seemed to have been lost in the tumultuous years after the war, Petukhov said.
Then a Russian police major of Hungarian descent, Karl Maravchuk, came to live in Kotelnich in 1997. He happened to sit next to Petukhov at a dinner party, and the doctor asked him to meet the mysterious patient.
''(Tamas) began to understand the words that I was saying to him,'' said Maravchuk, who now translates for the patient. ''And it turned out that he is a Hungarian.''
The director of Hungary's National Psychiatric and Neurological Institute, Dr. Andras Veer, was sent by the Hungarian Foreign Ministry last month to examine Tamas and determine his origins.
After spending three days with the patient, Veer said he is convinced that Tamas is a Hungarian taken prisoner during World War II. He said Tamas spoke of fighting around the Don River of southern Russia.
Some 150,000 troops fought in the Hungarian army under Nazi command at the Don River in 1944. Red Army soldiers killed about 90,000 Hungarians and thousands more died in freezing temperatures trying to walk back to Hungary.
''They gave us warm boots to go to Russia,'' Tamas said on his hospital bed. ''They gave us guns to shoot, but I did not shoot.''