1956: The Hungarian – Polish relationship
Ujkor.hu writes about the historical relationship between Hungary and Poland, which is often praised and proudly discussed, especially because the two nations have backed each other up for a long time. So did they in October 1956, when the Polish society supported the Hungarian insurgents.
The changes provoked and fought for in Poland against the Soviets gave the ultimate push to the university students of Budapest to express their demands in 1956. The Polish gave hope and set an example to Hungarians, who started to believe that they might also carry out the necessary changes, and when the revolution broke out many Polish people correctly regarded it as an Anti-Stalinist uprising and were convinced that the Hungarians can win their freedom.
Wladyslaw Gomulka, Polish activist and politician gave a speech on October 20, 1956, in which he criticised the Stalinist regime, including the personal cult, terror, the centralism of industries and the collectivism of agriculture, and defined the beginning of a new era. He also talked about the events in Poznan in June 1956 and highlighted that the workers there protested against the flaws and not socialism itself.
The speech was published in the Hungarian Szabad Nép, which therefore enabled the people of Hungary to become familiar with Gomulka’s anti-Stalinists thoughts, and that the Polish people wanted more freedom and independence. However, the Soviets wanted to prevent this change. Hence, the students of Budapest marched to the statue of Bem apó to assure the Polish about their solidarity and to express that Hungary wants changes similarly to Poland.
The protesters acknowledged Warsaw’s exemplary position in showing the changes, but still highlighted that their own Hungarian way has to be followed, according to which socialism should be established through taking the national particularities into account instead of basing it on a Soviet example. The crowd of protesters showed a board saying “Solidarity with the Polish people” and a picture of the Polish coat-of-arms. Even their national flag was held during the march. By singing different rhymes Hungarians further expressed their solidarity and friendship with the Polish people, both nations aiming for independence.
Adam Wazyk, Polish poet was also present at the Bem statue. One of his poems meant the beginning of the de-Stalinization and was translated into Hungarian by Béla Horváth and published as Vers felnőtteknek. Wazyk could not present a speech to the crowds on October 23, however, he was inspired by the revolution and thus included it in a poem. Aside him, Zbigniew Herbert, Wiktor Woroszylski, Julian Przybos, Andrey Strumillo, Stefan Zarebski, Tadeusz Sliwak, Tadeusz Kubiak and Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz dedicated poems to the Hungarian Revolution.
Polish people from all over Poland volunteered to help the Hungarians’ fight for independence. The regional press did not fail to make accounts on conspiracies. The most active participants were the already Budapest-based Polish university students, such as Andrzej Bratkowski, Hanna Linsenmann and Lidia Widajewicz. Widajewicz even fought on the streets of Budapest with a machine gun for which she became the victim of a fatal accident – “contributed to” by the Polish internal security organisations – after going back home.
Moreover, Polish journalists also played a part in the revolution: they reported regularly on the events and encouraged the people to lend a helping hand. The writings of Wiktor Woroszylski (Nowa Kultura), Hanna Adamiecka (Sztandar Mlodych), and Marian Bielicki (Pro Prostu) greatly affected the Polish society. But, October 24 brought a speech by Gomulka stating that the state power will not tolerate any acts against the Polish state interests, and that it was about time to get back to the everyday work and stop the congresses and protests.
Nonetheless, the Polish society still focused on Hungary: the young workers, university students and intellectuals followed the events of Budapest, while Gomulka was constantly reminding them of the awful tragedies of the 1944 uprising of Warsaw in order to prevent a revolution. Therefore, the bloodshed in Hungary came, sort-of, handy for him to prove his right. Everybody seemed to understand that but, nonetheless, their enthusiasm did not seem to stop; they believed that the Hungarians will make it, and that their success will affect Poland.
During his speech, even on the previous day, the crowds held not only the national flag of Poland, but also that of Hungary. Also, in front of the Hungarian Cultural Institute students held the flag, written “Respect to the Hungarian nation” on it. In front of the parliament they put out a poster saying that “The Hungarians are screaming for help”, while others went to the Hungarian Embassy to express their solidarity with the nation.
Some others were gathering in the Old town with the motto “Warsaw-Budapest-Belgrade”, but this meeting was dissipated by the inland security corps. By 10 pm, the police arrested 70 people in the Polish capital. The next day the University of Technology hosted a gathering of 5000 people, and the students sent letters of solidarity to Hungary. Students of the Medical Academy in Gdansk decided to send delegates to Budapest to help the insurgents. Eventually, their plan could not be implemented due to the situation in the Hungarian capital.
Furthermore, factory workers of Gdansk established the Polish-Hungarian Friend Company, ordered a grieving of three days and asked the locals to put the Polish and Hungarian flags out onto buildings. Local papers also sent reporters to Budapest who continuously gave accounts of the happenings in Hungary. Following and during the days of the revolution many Polish towns organised solidarity protests: the biggest one was in Olsztyn on October 30.
Members of the protest held Hungarian and Polish flags and placed candles in the Red Army Square. A group of the crowd started to take off the street signs and renamed the square to “The Square of the Hungarian Insurgents”. They also had boards saying “We demand that the Soviets leave Hungary, We demand the sovereignty of Poland and Hungary, Free Poland – Free Hungary, The Soviet internationalism shows itself in Hungary”, and another board portrayed the map of Hungary, above it two red-starred hands of which blood was dripping while underneath the words “Get your hands off Hungary”.
Notably, the Polish society did not only follow the Hungarian events or expressed solidarity symbolically by protests, but they volunteered to donate blood and provided help for Hungarians. The Polish Radio announced a call to help the “Hungarian brothers and sisters” on October 26, after which crowds of Polish workers and university students visited the donating stations. About 4000 Polish citizens gave blood.
The first Polish plane to carry donations to Budapest arrived on October 26 and right until November 3 fifteen planes full of donations landed in the capital. According to the data of the Polish Red Cross, during the three days of the revolution 795 litres of blood, 415 litres of plasma, 16.5 thousand blood substitutes, serums, medicines, and bandages, and a package of 24 tonnes of mainly food was given to the Hungarians.
The calculations of János Tischler say that all these supports had a value of (then) 2 million USD, which was regarded a great help eleven years post-WWII. The Polish donations were about twice as much what other countries gave to Hungary all together. It did not cease after the Soviet military intervention either: by the end of January 1957, 31 million PLN voluntary financial donation, and about 11 million PLN of material donations were given to the country, aside the 100 million PLN of non-refundable goods aid.
Locals of Szczecin also took part in giving help as they sent their donations directly to their sister town Csepel. Even a stamp could express solidarity as it had the title “Szczecin-Csepel” and two workers shaking hands. Also, on November 1 students of the Szczecin University of Technology paid tribute as guards of honour and put up the Polish and Hungarian flags. Later, on December 10, a few thousands of people attacked the building of the police and the Soviet consulate, which they managed to occupy and set on fire.
The rebels protested against the Soviets’ occupation of Hungary ending the revolution and the kidnapping of Imre Nagy. The authority did not dare to publish the attack on the Soviet consulate: the propaganda suggested that drunk hooligans troubled the peaceful life in Szczecin. They communicated that young troublemakers under the influence of alcohol robbed several shops and attacked state buildings.
Witnesses of the events denied these claims, but these statements were not released either. Following the event, the authority recruited law enforcement “volunteers” from workers and university students, whose task was to look after the order. According to ujkor.hu, the rebellion in Szczecin was the only event in the Socialist circles that was directly caused by the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution.
Copy editor: bm
Source: ujkor.hu/Miklós Mitrovits