Sep 22



OF all the countries in Europe to which I have travelled, Hungary stands out in my memory as one of the most pleasant to visit.

I arrived there from a cold and wintry Moscow to find a sun-bathed Budapest, to be treated with friendship and great warmth by the Hungarian Journalists Association. My guide/interpreter was a blonde bombshell with whom I immediately fell in love. This was after she had taken my silk tie in her hands and rubbed her fingers over it in admiration. The gesture seemed subtly erotic. So I allowed her to saturate my programme with culture. It was she who took me to the national museum to see my first El Greco paintings. I was struck by the quantity and quality of the paintings in the museum, and that is saying a lot, because I was someone coming hotfoot from the the Kremlin Museum in Moscow and the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.

Then, I remembered that Budapest had once been the centre of a great European civilisation; during the days of the Austro-Hungarian empire, to be precise. The Hungarian people had, in fact, been so clever that neither the Nazis nor the Russians (under whose thumb Hungary had come in successive periods during the Second World War) had been able to filch away too many of the national treasures that the Hungarian aristocracy had accumulated in the past.

Ah – there were also the Hungarians I had met in Ghana – George Kalmar of the Hungarian News Agency, who had introduced me to Josef Ember, the Hungarian coach who set the Ghana Black Stars on their way to international renown.

Harbouring such warm feelings towards Hungary as I did, I immediately agreed when a Cultural Attaché of the Hungarian Embassy approached me, years later, to translate the “National Song” of Hungary, written by Sandor Petofi, into Twi. The attaché, a Mr Szilágyi, told me that the poem had been translated into almost every language in the world, and that all of the translations had been collected together and placed in a museum in Budapest. My translation, would join the versions that writers from other parts of the world had produced.

Now, I happened to know a lot about Sandor Petofi. For I had read a book by an American writer, James Michener, who, in 1957, had published The Bridge At Andau (reissue ed. New York: Fawcett 1985) in which he had beautifully documented in Austria, the accounts of refugees who had escaped from the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. Michener eloquently reported the inspiration which the Hungarian revolutionaries of 1956 had derived from Sandor Petofi’s great poem; an inspiration that had enabled them to face Soviet tanks heroically with nothing but stones and bottles, although they knew that one volley from a tank could bring them instant death.

Petofi’s opening words were:

On your feet, Magyar [HUNGARY], the homeland calls!

The time is here, now or never!

Shall we be slaves or free?

This is the question, choose your answer! –

By the God of the Hungarians

We vow,

We vow, that we will be slaves

No longer!

I gave the translation my best shot, and someone later reported to me that it had been duly placed among the collection of translations in a museum in Budapest.

I regret to say that I am now thoroughly ashamed that I admired what I thought was the “Hungarian spirit” and advertised it in my native language. For the government that now rules in Hungary is composed of people who do not appreciate that all humans should be treated with dignity, kindness and empathy.

Read this:

QUOTE: [By] Dusan Stojanovic, The Associated Press | September 16, 2015

HORGOS, Serbia — Hungarian police used tear gas and water cannons on hundreds of migrants who broke through a razor wire fence on the border with Serbia, while migrants prevented from moving through Hungary increasingly began taking a longer route into Western Europe through Croatia.

Frustrated migrants, blocked on the Serbian side of the border, threw plastic water bottles and rocks at helmeted riot police and chanted demands that the border be re-opened. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons.

We fled wars and violence and did not expect such brutality and inhumane treatment in Europe,” said Amir Hassan, an Iraqi who was soaking wet from the water cannon and trying to wash tear gas from his eyes. “Shame on you, Hungarians,” he shouted pointing in the direction of the shielded Hungarian policemen who were firing volleys of tear gas canisters directly into the crowd. The clashes took place at a small border crossing in the Serbian village Horgos, a short distance from the main border crossing into Hungary….Before the tensions escalated, some women had pushed to the front of the crowd and held small babies and children above their heads as they faced police in an obvious appeal for mercy, but no one made it through.

In the past few months, Hungary has become a main entry point into the European Union for migrants, many of them war refugees from Syria and Iraq…. Almost all entered from the southern border with Serbia and passed through Hungary quickly on their way to Germany or other wealthy Western European nations.

Hungarian authorities also said …. that they have arrested a total of 519 migrants who tried to cross the border, since tough new laws went into effect … that make it a crime to cross from Serbia anywhere other than at legal checkpoints…… “UNQUOTE

Is this the Hungary from which hundred of thousands of refugees fled to Austria and other neighbouring countries – ironically through the same border crossings now being cruelly shut – when the Russians crushed the revolution of 1956? Hungarians who were received with kindness and sympathy by Austria and its neighbours?

What makes the Hungarian action even more difficult to comprehend is that the refugees do not want to stay in Hungary. All most of them want is to be allowed to cross Hungary into Austria and then, Germany! The Hungarian Government says that European Union regulations do not allow refugees to pass through countries in which the refugees first arrive, to go to other EU countries. But this a cruel attitude to adopt. Hungary does not want the refugees, and it is entitled to feel that way. But what moral right does it have to prevent them from going where they might find refuge?


Hungary, in shirt, is committing a crime against humanity. Of course, everyone realises that the refugee problem is a difficult nut to crack. But the members of the European Union ruled by ultra-right-wing governments – such as that in Hungary – are disgracing the entire EU with the fascist methods they are using against the refugees. Yes, there are economic migrants in their ranks. But does that mean that the great majority of them are NOT genuine refugees? Even if they are economic refugees, must the women, children and even babies among them be treated like dirt and tear-gassed? Are the Hungarians not aware that many of them crossed into Europe by defying death in rickety, overcrowded boats?

Germany and Austria are among the few countries that have shown real decency towards the refugees. According to a commentator of the German magazine, Der Spiegel, Germany’s Chancellor, Mrs Angela Merkel, is determined to show leadership, both in Germany and in Europe, over the refugee issue.

The commentator wrote: QUOTE Chancellor Angela Merkel… defended her embrace of refugees with an uncharacteristic outburst of compassion that is likely to go down in history. In doing so, she finally revealed a bit of her true political thinking. In the course of her political career, journalists and indeed her own party colleagues have variously described Angela Merkel as a tactician, a strategist and a pragmatist. But she’s mainly been seen as an equivocator, someone who plays her cards close to her chest….[But now]

she has reacted indignantly to the criticism that Germany is allowing in too many refugees.

“If we now have to start apologizing for showing a friendly face in response to emergency situations, then that’s not my country,” she said…. [It] was an unexpectedly heartfelt comment that will be remembered for a long time to come. She is sending a message against knee-jerk xenophobia…. . She now has the strength and independence to state her opinion more stridently, even if it earns her the opprobrium of her allies. UNQUOTE.

I say, God bless you, Angela Merkel. Isn’t it amazing that a hard-headed physicist trained in atheistic East Germany, should show more humanity towards the refugees, than some of the Christianity-professing leaders of the European Union?

Truly, by their works, we shall know them!


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