Oct 20, 2016

The Hungarian Revolution still has meaning today

The mayor of Budapest speaks about his memory of the Hungarian Revolution and what it means to us today

This month, Hungary is marking 60 years since the 1956 revolution, an armed uprising against Soviet rule, that saw 2,500 citizens killed. has today written a piece on the Revolution after speaking with key-decision makers about the continued impacts of the event.

Reporter John Ackermann spoke with the mayor of Budapest about his impressions of the era.

István Tarlós was just eight-years-old in 1956, but his memories are as vivid as if it happened yesterday. 

“I was sent to stand in line in the store for bread, or for coal, with a bag in which to put the coal,” he explains. I recall "when we had to lie on the floor, for instance, when the Soviet tanks were firing from Buda.”

He remembers the years between World War Two and the revolution as difficult ones for Hungary. “This was compounded by the frustration and the fear caused among the people by the Stalinist and Rákosi era which basically ruined lives in both a physical as well as in an abstract sense.”

But Tarlós also recalls an all too brief moment when Hungarians thought their revolution might succeed. “What one remembers is the atmosphere or the mood of the era rather than anything else,” he admits. “And what I can recall is the euphoria and hopefulness and then the harsh sort of disappointment that came after the fourth of November.”

He believes the revolution still has meaning today. “And this is why we think that those who have sacrificed their lives and their livelihood at the time have not done it for nothing.”

Mayor Tarlós was recently a guest of Denis Coderre, his counterpart in Montreal, where the two dedicated a plaque in honour of the Hungarian freedom fighters of 1956. “So, I would like to thank, on this occasion as well, Canada and the Canadians, for having welcomed, accepted, and taken in tens of thousands of Hungarians at the time of the 1956 revolution.”

So, Ackermann asked if he sees similarity between the refugees of 1956 and the Syrian refugees turned away by the Hungarian government.

“Quite honestly, I say I don’t. Furthermore, I think I need to reject the very thought of any parallel,” he maintains. “Among the 1956 Hungarians leaving the country, there was not one who left Hungary simply in the hope of a better life, of a more prosperous existence. All of these were political refugees whose very life was in danger at the time.”

Ninety-eight per cent of Hungarians voting in a recent referendum appear to share that opinion.

Now, the Hungarian government intends to treat that as a mandate to formally reject mandatory European Union quotas on refugee resettlement.

Read more here.