Poland's ties to Hungary's 1956 revolution
Poland has also been marking the 50th anniversary of Hungary's revolution. Not surprising, considering the fact that it began with a rally by Hungarians showing solidarity with Poland, which in 1956 was the scene of a workers' revolt and of violent demonstrations in support of democratic changes. Michal Kubicki reports from Warsaw:
The Polish events in commemoration of the Hungarian Revolution have included academic conferences, concerts, and exhibitions. Commemorative plaques have been unveiled in several towns.
'A Hope for Freedom' is the title of a photo exhibition which opened in the Polish parliament. The Hungarian ambassador to Poland Mihaly Gyor said at the opening ceremony that the events of 1956 demonstrated the close bonds between the two nations.
"Our revolution started with a march to the monument of General Jozef Bem, the Pole who fought for Hungarian liberty, the hero of the two nations. It was a demonstration of solidarity with the Polish people and the Polish October. When the news of the street fighting in Budapest reached Warsaw, Poles offered assistance to the Hungarian insurgents."
Historians from the two countries met at a conference in Krakow, southern Poland. Its motto was 'Hungary and Poland - a common road'. The Hungarian historian Janos Tischler spoke about the many forms of assistance which came to Budapest from Poland, notably supplies of food, blood and medicines:
"It was no coincidence that Poland was the first country in Central Europe to commemorate the Hungarian Rising. A commemorative plaque was unveiled in Warsaw in 1986. We owe Poles a debt of gratitude. It was a very practical manifestation of the long-lasting friendship between the Polish and Hungarian nations which I hope will be continued."
The Polish Parliament paid tribute to the participants and victims of the Hungarian Revolution. In a unanimously adopted resolution, MPs described it as an attempt to overthrow the totalitarian regime and liberate the country from under Soviet domination. The resolution recalled the spontaneous support of the Polish people to the Hungarian rising. Polish historians agree that the Hungarian Revolution was inspired by the events in Poland, notably the workers' revolt in June 1956. A professor at Torun University Pawel Machcewicz goes further than that:
"The very direct ignition for the Hungarian events came from Poland because the people who gathered in Budapest on 23 October wanted to demonstrate solidarity with the Polish struggle for democracy and better political system. But we can also say that the Hungarian Revolution helped Poles to hold these achievements which they got in the first days of Gomuka's rule. The Soviets hesitated for several days whether to use military force to suppress Gomulka's regime. At the beginning they were against Gomulka going back to power and only after the Hungarian Revolution broke out it became obvious for the Kremlin that they could not use force in two satellite countries at the same time."
A day after the Hungarian Revolution began, over half a million people gathered in the centre of Warsaw to hear a speech by Communist Pary leader Wladyslaw Gomulka, at that time seen as a man genuinely committed to a new, democratic form of communism. The great Warsaw rally alarmed Gomuka. The course of events in Budapest proved to be a lesson for the Polish nation.
'The lesson of the Hungarian Revolution for Poles was that there were limits to the changes, that Poles should be satisfied with these partial achievements because if they go too far, like Hungary, if they want to get rid of the communists altogether, they could have Soviet tanks in the streets of Warsaw, like in the streets of Budapest.'
Party leader Gomulka strained all his authority to hold back Polish passions and prevent an anti-Russian rising. But the political thaw in Poland was short-lived. The communists soon began to fear that too many concessions had been made and reasserted their so-called 'leading role' in society.