Hungary’s ‘freedom fighter’ statue is a warning against tyranny
Over the weekend, a new statue was added to Atlanta’s Peace Park, located next to one of the city’s best-known and most beautiful landmarks, the Millennium Gate. The larger-than-life statue, erected by a grassroots effort by Americans who fled communism and their descendants, will depict a defiant woman holding a gun and pay tribute to the brave freedom fighters of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.
Although many young Americans are still unaware of the 1956 revolution, this statue not only aims to remind them of this significant historical event that shaped world politics and the view of an entire generation of Americans on the true nature of totalitarianism, but serves also a condemnation of communism. and Marxist ideology, which are becoming increasingly popular on college campuses.
The 1956 revolution, which lasted from October 23 to November 4, was the greatest direct challenge to Soviet control of its European satellites until the fall of communism in 1989. In the decade preceding the revolution, Hungary had seen its democracy abolished, and by 1956 Hungarians had experienced one of the worst Stalinist-style governances whose abuses ranged from deportations and imprisonment to executions and torture.
Under this brutal system, every characteristic of the Hungarian nation, its entrepreneurial spirit, its religiosity and its Western consciousness, has been actively suppressed by their government. Despite their totalitarian control over the Hungarian state and society, the Communists had not foreseen the events that would unfold in October 1956.
Inspired by the recent protests in Poland, Hungarian students first started demanding independent student unions at their universities. This quickly escalated into street protests and a list of demands for the government began to appear in the crowd. Hungarians from all social classes and walks of life joined the movement, and Budapest and other major Hungarian cities were gripped by widespread protests and demonstrations. Initially, the revolution seemed to have been successful when the Soviet army left Budapest and the reformist Hungarian Prime Minister agreed to many of the protesters’ demands.
On November 3, however, the Soviet army returned and engaged in street fighting with the protesters, sealing the fate of the revolution. Despite fierce resistance, the revolutionaries were crushed and Hungary was again forced to serve as a Soviet vassal. It was only in 1989 that the Hungarians could successfully free themselves from the Soviet yoke.
Although Radio Free Europe encouraged freedom-minded Hungarians to revolt against communist rule, the United States did not play a direct role in helping the revolutionaries. Eisenhower, while expressing support for the Hungarians in spirit, was adamantly against any military or financial aid to freedom fighters.
In the aftermath of the 1956 revolution, tens of thousands of Hungarian refugees found new homes in the United States and made an invaluable contribution to the tapestry of modern America. The statue itself is erected by the Hungarian American Coalition with the support of Patriot Americans, 56 years and the Children of Revolutionaries to remind Americans of the courage it takes to stand up for their freedom.
For this warning, they could not have chosen a more striking image. The woman represented by the statue is taken from a well-known photograph of the 1956 revolution. Although her image is more well known than her name, the freedom fighter was Erika Szeles, a Hungarian Jew who lost her father during the Second World War. Although she came from an ardently communist family, she resolutely rejected the ideology when she decided to join the uprising at the age of 15. Although in the early days of the uprising she had learned to handle a gun (this was when the famous photograph was taken) the revolutionaries decided she was too young to fight, and she instead helped the revolution by joining the Red Cross.
However, working as a doctor did not save her from Communist reprisals and on November 7 she was shot while clearly wearing a Red Cross uniform. Although she died a martyr for the freedom and independence of Hungary, through her striking photography, Erika’s spirit lives on today.
It is his spirit of grace, courage and perseverance that, through this statue, will now oppose the current iconoclastic fervor that has brought down dozens of monuments representing American history. Hungarian-Americans teach us a lesson they know all too well. America’s current obsession with historical self-destruction, after all, is something the 56ers saw firsthand when Soviet tanks arrived in Budapest and set out to rewrite Hungarian history. During the Communist takeover of Hungary, countless statues, parks and monuments were demolished due to their political incompatibility with Soviet ideology. Streets and squares were renamed and Hungary’s right to its own national heritage was officially denied.
It is therefore no coincidence that after the great wave of destruction of monuments, it is the Hungarian Americans who have chosen, once again, to swim against the tide. Their statue will be our statue and serve as a reminder that American ideals of freedom and independence resonate around the world and inspire people everywhere who live under tyranny.
The new Freedom Fighter statue in Georgia will serve as a reminder that the rejection of tradition, history and national identity in favor of utopia is costing lives. This is exactly the lesson we need in our time.
Americans must realize that not only must we stop whitewashing our own history by tearing down our statues, monuments, and memorials, but we must reverse this trend by building positive tributes to those who represent our nation and the transnational ideas of liberty and liberty. .
Stephen Sholl is a visiting scholar at the Mathias Corvinus Collegium located in Budapest, Hungary, and a former member of the Hungarian National Remembrance Committee.