“In 1956, after the Soviets pulled out of Austria, we sought to push the Iron Curtain back beyond our eastern border. We were brave and attacked the Soviet tanks with mere Molotov cocktails. In 1989, it was we who had to open our border, to let Germans find their way to other Germans. We were courageous and did this, despite the fact that Soviet forces were stationed here. And now, in 2015–2016, it is we who have had to close our border to stop the flood of migration from the South.”
The Hungarian prime minister shared the stage with Polish President Andrzej Duda, just as the two countries have so much shared history in times of geopolitical turbulence. At those times, both nations have confronted the challenges with courage. Those familiar with the Cold War era may recall that a few months prior to our 1956 revolution, a worker’s demonstration was violently put down in Poznan, Poland. In 1980, years before Hungary opened the western border, an independent labor union called Solidarity organized a strike in Gdansk as an act of civil resistance to the Communists. And today, Poland is a strong ally in supporting Hungary’s efforts to restore order in the out-of-control migration influx confronting the EU. The two countries share a special bond.
To be exposed to the winds of history in this way is bittersweet. “Not once did we request the task – it was the work of history, and was brought on us by fate. All we have done is not run away and not backed down – we have simply done our duty.” That is the courage of the 56er, who dares to take on a Soviet T 34 tank with a Molotov-cocktail. The courage of young freedom fighters, who dare to take on what was then the world’s largest army.
Such courage may rise from one’s strong dedication to freedom. This is what we ought to remember these days, as today, national sovereignty is under threat again and the European Union is feared to step on the road to suppress national self-governance.
“The reason we stuck in the throat of the Soviet empire and the reason it broke a tooth when it tried to bite on us was that we asserted our national ideals, that we stood together and did not surrender the love of our homeland. This is also why we shall not accept the EU’s transformation into a modern-day empire. We do not want them to replace the alliance of free European states with a United States of Europe. Today the task of Europe’s freedom-loving peoples is to save Brussels from Sovietization, and from their aim to decide, instead of us, whom we should live with in our own homeland. We Hungarians want to remain a European nation, not a minority in Europe,” the prime minister said, having just returned from a weekend session of the European Council in Brussels.
“As the heirs of 1956, we cannot accept that Europe wants to sever the roots which once made us great and which also helped us survive communist oppression. There can be no free, strong, authoritative and respected Europe without the life-force of its nations and the two thousand year-old wisdom of Christianity. And we also cannot simply look on and do nothing while others work openly and systematically to replace the subsoil from which the shoots of European civilization sprang forth,” he said, adding that regardless of Hungary’s political weight, the duty reoccurring every three decades is once again upon us.
“[A]lthough our size and weight does not enable us to shape the fate of Europe, we must take responsibility for our own fate. Even if the majority of Europe does restructure the foundations of its own civilization and blend its own ideals and population, we must remain capable of protecting this piece of Europe the size of Hungary, which has always put fire in our hearts and inspired the Hungarian people.”
The heroes of 1956 did not fight and sacrifice their lives for nothing. Their actions set in motion events that would eventually lead to Hungary regaining its freedom 25 years ago. This freedom has to be protected in a never-ending struggle. It is not tanks and an invading army this time, but no matter what the threat is to our freedom, it must be overcome.