Having turned their backs on their principles, the former “young democrats” have cemented their power, centralized nearly everything, created a new Comprador exploitative class, all at the expense of the poor. They have institutionalized corruption, poverty, and centralized command rule, and in every field have pushed back self-government. – Imre Mécs, Celebrated hero of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution
Translation of the speech delivered by Imre Mécs on November 6th, 2015 in Kossuth Square after the funeral of Árpad Göncz, who served as president of Hungary from 1990 to 2000.
The great funeral of the system change took place 26 years ago on June 16th. Then and there we could finally bid farewell to the prime minister and many thousands of martyrs of the revolution. Árpad Gönz was one of the important preparers of the system change . . . Now he is gone, as well, Uncle Árpi who was loved by the people, the father and protector of a nation. Many of us are gathered here, to share the grief of his dear wife, Zsuzsa Gönter, and his loyal companion and beautiful family. He will be greatly missed by their four children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. As by us, your friends, colleagues, acquaintenance—many people who, if not acquainted with him personally, still felt that he was with us and for us. We have filled the cemetery.
Seeing all this, surmounting the catafalque smiling, Árpi would be moving among us and, as was his habit, he would have a kind smile, word, hug, pat, kiss for everyone. But this is not possible, that is just the nature of human existence. Everything he was is magically transferred into a monument. He is among us and loves us. For his entire life love was for him the most important thing, which was confronted with evil and selfish hatred.
Dear friend, you lived through a historical period and difficult periods of your life, and you always stood on the side of the good, the righteous and the humane. It is no surprise that in the fall of 1956 you breathed together with the Hungarian student community and the people, hoped and struggled. When the world’s largest land army scurrilously attacked us for the second time and brutally extinguished our freedom fight in blood, state minister István Bibó, Árpi’s good friend, stayed at his post and represented Hungary. Árpad Göncz’s statements made it abroad. He placed an important role in the national opposition They arrested them. They needed to fear for their lives. They were sentenced along with Bibó to life imprisonment. Left alone with their children, Zsuzsa struggled on for her husband and for their survival. For us she is the strong woman of the Bible, a wonderful soul. Good bless you, dear Zsuzsa.
Árpi in jail, his wife and four children at home—and he was strong, and did not give up, and learned English, in the translation office of a prisoner, and upon returning home became one of the most important technical translators of the country. He worked day and night, translated, brilliantly recreated the famous works, and in the meantime became a writer. We sought a connection not only with our ’56 colleagues, but in the blossoming democratic opposition that was forming, all amidst the sly machinations of the secret police. In the end we were united and victorious, thanks to the heroic dead of 1956. After the Great Burial the changes of the system change greatly accelerated. Árpi also played a significant role in this. With our mutual strength and will we managed to bring about the roundtable discussions and the first democratic rule of law state in Hungary’s history, the Hungarian Republic. We managed to fulfill most of the demands made in 1956, the national desires, our homeland became free, and we introduced a multi-party system and started building a market economy. In the first election, the largest liberal party in our history became the second party. The victorious prime minister, József Antall, recommended the person of Árpád Göncz to us in the role of the president of the Republic, so that we could together remove the 2/3rds laws obstructing responsible governance. The pact was sensible and wise, and in this way the president of the Writers Association, the SZDSZ spokesman, became the Hungarian Republic’s first, wonderful president, who filled that function for the maximum time permitted, ten years.
Árpi took his presidential responsibilities absolutely seriously. He helped consolidate the liberal rule of law state, the creation of the branches of power, the effective actions of the Constitutional Court.
For ten years you ennobled the good reputation of our country throughout the world. Thank you, Árpi. Thank you, Mr. President.
You set the bar extremely high. Nobody among your successors came anywhere close, and the “choices” became more and more sad.
Two years later the president of Russia visited parliament and apologized to the Hungarian people. Unfortunately, our comrades lying in parcel 301 could not hear that.
We became a member of NATO and then of the European Union, and with that Hungary’s old dreams were fulfilled. Our country never had such great opportunities. But at the same time why wasn’t the country happy? Why the lethargy? Why is there pseudo-democracy? Turning their backs on their principles, the former “young democrats” have cemented their power, centralized almost everything, built a new comprador exploitative class, all at the expense of the poor. They have institutionalized corruption, poverty, centralized command rule, and in every field push back local governance. They incite hatred in an orgy of semi-literacy. The love to which you devoted your life has become persecuted, undesired. But you were right, Árpi, there are a lot of good people, but they are meek, quiet, do not raise their voices, but they help those in trouble, the homeless, the fallen. We can count on them.
All of us pained by your loss, a person of the people, and our hope is fading. We miss you, dear friend, Árpi. We miss you very much. Your quiet voice, your rock-like bearing—your smile is missing.
The powers that be are deliberately annihilating the spirit of 1956, little Árpi. They have removed from Kossuth Square the eternal flame of which you dreamt, that we created with common will out of common obstruction. With the help of civil associations, they removed it to a colony of stone sculptures on the borders of Nyergesújfalu. We will take it back and we will protect the flame that we ignited together in 1996. The very nice and modest memorial must be returned to its original place. It is impossible that there be no memorial in the Kossuth Square to the most important Hungarian historical event of the 20th century, which was one of the most important locations of the revolution! How you would struggle for this as well, you would be there with us. How it pained you in 2006 when those provoked by the party then in opposition spoiled the 50th anniversary with their B-team, even though more than 56 heads of state and government had come here to honor our revolution and our country, which had never been so respected.
Enough of this! We will bring back the flame of the Revolution! We will bring back the spirit of ’56! We will bring back democracy! Dear Árpi, we owe it to you as well.
What can we do? We have to follow the advice of Ferenc Deák: we must unbutton the crooked vest and button it up all over again. We have to reach back to the clean source, the system change, the spirit of that, and to its purity, and to the Hungarian Republic.
Solidarity, solidarity and again only solidarity is needed, otherwise a democratic rule of law state will never be renewed in Hungary! Little groups at odds with one another cannot democratize the country, they remain unwitting scenery of power.
We promise that we will not rest until the sun shines once again on our common homeland.
And we will preserve you unbroken forever, not only in our history but in our hearts as well.
Dear mourning family, dear gathered mourners, I asked that we take one another’s hands as we did on June 16th, 1989, and that we hold a minute of silence while we think about our beloved, eternal president, Árpád.
God bless you. Rest in peace.”