Honourable Chairman Kaczyński, Prime Minister Morawiecki, Ladies and Gentlemen, Polish and Hungarian Friends,
Before delivering my welcome address, I’d like to respond briefly to the greetings of our Polish friends who have spoken before me – partly because it is fitting to do so, partly because they have evoked a few thoughts, and partly because I would not like our Polish friends to go home thinking that Hungarians can only deliver speeches from their notes.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you, Chairman Kaczyński, for mentioning the Hungarian parliamentary election taking place in two days’ time. Mr. Chairman, you are well aware that the end of every campaign is less like a conversation, and more like hand-to-hand combat; and at times like this one advances, head down, along one’s own path. The battle is a grinding experience. Your visit, however, has given us an opportunity to lift our heads and take in a wider horizon, and it has reminded us that the election and the battle are also matters of the heart. Your visit is an occasion for us Hungarians to lift our hearts, thinking of you and your brother. Thank you for this. I would also like to say that there are some mysterious things in life. Friendship is one such mysterious thing. Much has been written about it, yet no one truly understands how people become friends. Friendship between peoples is at least as mysterious. I know very many Hungarians who have perhaps never met a single Pole in their lives, and who wouldn’t be able to pronounce a single Polish word. But if you told them that the Polish people needed help, they would take action immediately. These are mysterious things, and the friendship between these two peoples is mysterious. I believe, Mr. Chairman, that we do not need to understand everything: we should allow mysteries to remain mysteries, and secrets to remain secrets. We should just allow Polish-Hungarian friendship – which draws for its sustenance on a well which is one thousand years deep – to simply embrace us, and to take us forward into the future.
And finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would also like to make a political comment on what Chairman Kaczyński said. Honourable Chairman, everyone here in Hungary knows that Poland is a great country: not only spiritually and in its history, but also in size. It is approximately four times the size of Hungary, with tens of millions of people. Poland is Central Europe’s leading power, its leading country. This Central Europe is also our future, the future of Hungarians. When Poland is attacked, then Central Europe is attacked, and therefore when Poland is attacked, we also are attacked. And so when we stand up for Poland, we do this partly in the name of friendship, but also in order to stand up for ourselves. Honourable Chairman, in the future Poland can therefore continue to count on Hungary, as it has done in the past. You made reference to Europe, but you also had words of recognition for me. Naturally, such words are welcome, even if one feels that they are overstated. Twenty-seven years ago I also thought, in line with the slogan shared by our two countries, that Europe was our future. Today I look at you – the Chairman of Poland’s governing party and the Prime Minister of Poland – and I see the Poles and Hungarians gathered together here. And, with all modesty, I must say that while twenty-seven years ago we said that Europe was our future, today we can rightly say that we are the future of Europe.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My final meeting with President Lech Kaczyński was in 2008. We met near Warsaw, at the presidential residence, in the middle of a beautiful birch forest. It was as if one was in Katyn Forest, or in that other one, near Smolensk. We sat and talked about Hungarian-Polish friendship, its future and its possibilities. “What shall we drink?” the President asked, all of a sudden. “Żubrówka!” we replied in unison. The “bison grass” in that vodka is famous for being what bison most of all prefer to graze on – and apparently that is what makes them so resilient. And then our conversation with President Lech Kaczyński turned to bison, and to how we Poles and Hungarians could have died out many times over; yet we are still alive, we are still here. The Ottomans came, the Habsburgs came, and so did the Soviet and National Socialist dictatorships: we bore it all and stood up for each other. Perhaps this is why in history – most recently after World War II – Poland was rewarded with what Hungary received as punishment.
Honourable Chairman, Honourable Prime Minister,
The blows of past centuries have tempered the friendship of the Polish and Hungarian nations into a brotherhood. We know and we are proud that our shared life and destiny not only originate from our two countries’ geographical proximity, and we are not only proud of the fact that here in the heart of Europe our trees’ canopies have merged – like the oak trees the Chairman spoke of. Our roots, too, have become intertwined. As we follow back the thread of our past, time and again we find each other in the most critical moments of our history. Our brotherhood stems from our shared passion for freedom, and from the battles we have fought in pursuit of it; from the fact that the only truth we accept is that which makes one genuinely free.
We have gathered together here today to remember a tragedy that took place eight years ago, to pay our respects to the victims, and to express our commitment to the mission they represented. Ninety-six names are engraved on this monument: a painfully long list. Ninety-six names: soldiers, politicians and artists. Polish leaders who for decades shaped the fate of their country and Central Europe, building a strong Poland after the fall of communism. Among them we find two presidents of the republic: Ryszard Kaczorowski, who, even in exile during the decades of communist dictatorship, embodied the very ideal of Polish independence; and Lech Kaczyński, the outstanding jurist and resolute combatant for Solidarity, who faithfully adhered to his principles, both as Mayor of Warsaw and as President of Poland. We Hungarians knew him well, and saw him as a true friend. We remember him with gratitude in our hearts; he was a Central European politician through and through, who in his decisions did not chase illusions, but as a basis always used the knowledge gained from his parents and acquired in the Solidarity movement. We are also grateful to him for the fact that since 2007 there has been a day in the lives of both nations which pays annual tribute to the friendship between the Polish and Hungarian peoples.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We Poles and Hungarians all want a Central Europe in which the horrors of the 20th century can never return. This is why it is important for us that while we remember the victims of the Smolensk tragedy, we should also focus on the tasks that we have inherited from them. Today also we declare that Poles and Hungarians share a common path, a common struggle and a common goal: to build, strengthen and defend the homeland and the home that Central Europe is for us; and that the resulting Central Europe should be national and Christian – the way we love it. We want a Central Europe which cannot be divided up by others in after-dinner discussions, which does not allow itself to be excluded from the decisions affecting it, and which does not allow itself to be intimidated or lectured to. We want a Central Europe whose countries stand up for one another. A Central Europe where it is self-evident that we decide whom we allow into our homes. A Central Europe where we live according to our own laws and justice. We are fully aware that there will always be people on the other side who seek to prevent the truth from coming to light, and who deny the right to national self-determination. There will always be opponents against whom we fight not only in pursuit of honour, but also as a matter of duty. To them we send this message: More respect to Poland, more respect to Hungary!
Poland and Hungary believe in the strength of unity. By inaugurating this monument, we send the message that we shall preserve and carry in our hearts the memory of the victims of Katyn and Smolensk. We shall build and preserve the Central Europe and the future which they dreamt for us.
God bless Poland, God bless Hungary!