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Pole and Hungarian cousins be…

Pole and Hungarian cousins be…

I really like Budapest. The atmosphere, the architecture, the night life, the cultural opulence and especially, the historical sights and events, which Hungary shares with Poland.

The two states apparently enjoy a traditional close friendship since the middle ages. I did my homework on the topic, more thoroughly than I would ever do at school, which I am going to share with you – making up for countless occasions of particular classmates sharing their homework with me.

Those dry historic relations, amazingly didn’t put me to sleep. I am growing up!

  • As far back, as the 13th century, Polish and Hungarian noble houses intermarried with each other.
  • The countries shared the same king, Poland’s Władysław III of Varna, and jointly fought the Turks in the 15th century.
  • In the 16th century, Poland elected one of its greatest kings, Stefan Batory, a Hungarian nobleman.
  • In the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, fighting for independence from the Austrian empire, the Polish general Józef Bem, became a national hero of both Hungary and Poland.
  • Hungarians and Poles suffered Soviet oppression and communist terror, leading to various uprisings and the 1956 October Revolution.

Still awake? When you manage to read through the whole post to the very end, congratulate yourself.

 

REMEMBERING MY PARENTS TIMES

While walking the streets of my Polish home-town in freezing February with my friend Aga, before taking on the journey to warmer countries with Tomek, we were faced with the surreal communist world of our parents.

Aga standing in front of the biggest monument in Szczecin, where we came across an exhibition of communist reality in Poland. A wreath commemorating the victims of the imposed Martial law in Poland (Stan wojenny w Polsce) in December 1981.

Pomnik Czynu Polaków Szczecin Poland Wreath for the victims of the martial law in Poland December 1981

 

‘Stan wojenny’ drastically restricted everyday life during the years 1981 to 1983, through which the government of the People’s Republic of Poland attempted to crush political opposition. Pro-democracy movements such as Solidarity were banned, opposition activists became political prisoners, thousands of soldiers in military vehicles patrolled the streets, a curfew was imposed, national borders were sealed, telephone lines were disconnected, mail was censored.

Martial law in Poland December 1981

 

In 1981 personal restrictions and military intervention were about to escalate. My parents saw no other way as to leave their home behind, to flee to West Germany. Mum was lucky to have been able to leave Poland some time before, receiving an internship as a paediatrician doctor in Cologne. My dad, working culturally with an open mind at the Ducal Castle in Szczecin, eventually lost his job as he was black listed for the possession of politically censored books. Dad left, without any suspicious belongings but three-year-old me, my overall stuffed with dollar bills and golden jewellery, to take on a daring journey to the West in our green Fiat. Just before borders were closed in Poland, we reunited with my mum in Cologne, where I would grow up.

Times were already tough before 1981. Picture the 70s in Szczecin.  Constant power shortages made my mum learn for her medical specialization by candlelight, after she had put me, a baby that never wanted to sleep, to bed. Mum was doing some single mother time, as Dad supported us for some time, working in London. Shortage of everyday products and basic food was the typical scenario back home – despite food being rationed through food coupons.

Shop window in Szczecin: “Confectionary closed – shortage of sugar.”

Communist reality in Poland Poster in Szczecin

 

Shortage of cigarettes and matches.”

Communist reality in Poland Poster in Szczecin

 

Meat sold out.”

Communist reality in Poland Poster in Szczecin

 

PROTESTS IN POLAND AND HUNGARY

In autumn 1956, social protests started in Poznań, were resumed in Bydgoszcz and on December 10, a crowd in Szczecin attacked a prison, the state prosecutor’s office, militia headquarters, and the Soviet consulate. The uprising of Polish workers led to the appointment of the reformist communist Władysław Gomułka who negotiated reforms with the Soviet government.

A student demonstration in Budapest, in support of the Polish October protests and asking for similar reforms in Hungary at the foot of the Bem Statue, was one of the events that sparked the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

October Revolution 1956 Szczecin Poland

 

Ironically, Gomułka failed in his goal to improve the communist system. Increasing economic problems removed Gomułka from power in 1970, in a situation similar to the protests that once had lifted him to power.

The December 1970 uprisings in coastal cities, like Szczecin led to massacres due to brutal military interventions under Polish General Jaruzelski.

Uprising 1970/71 Szczecin Poland

 

In the 1980s, ‘Solidarity’ was gaining power. The broad social movement used methods of civil resistance to fight for workers’ rights and social change, which led to semi-free elections in 1989. Finally, in 1990 a Solidarity-led government was formed and its leader, Lech Wałęsa was elected President of Poland.

semi-free elections led by Solidarnosc  in 1989 Poland

 

In 1989 Hungary also gained independence from the USSR.

 

HUNGARIAN-POLISH FRIENDSHIP

Since 2007 Hungarians and Poles officially celebrate the day of friendship.

In a neat act, the Hungarian parliament declared March 23 the “Day of Hungarian-Polish Friendship” in 2007. A few days after that, the Polish parliament in turn, declared March 23 the “Day of Polish-Hungarian Friendship”.

 

HUNGARIAN-POLISH PROVERBS

There is a well known saying in Polish, praising the friendship:

Polak, Węgier — dwa bratanki,
i do szabli, i do szklanki,
oba zuchy, oba żwawi,
niech im Pan Bóg błogosławi.
[Pole and Hungarian cousins be,
good for fight and good for party.
Both are valiant, both are lively,
Upon them may God’s blessings be.]

Interestingly, the Hungarians have a similar saying:

Lengyel, magyar — két jó barát,
együtt harcol s issza borát.
[Pole and Hungarian — two good friends,
joint fight and drinking are their ends.]

Personally, I think that the countries’ affinity shared for high percentage spirits, played a major role in the bonding process. Cheers to solidarity and freedom!

Dwell some more in communist nostalgia here and here.

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