“I First Visited Hungary”

Image result for german homesImage result for east german houses under communism

The following is an excerpt from a book – Postcards from Pannonia – co-authored by our Hungarian-American friend Aliz von Dioszeghy.

“When I first visited Hungary in 1989, right before the change in political systems, the people I saw on the street looked down-trodden. Clerks in shops were surly and unhelpful, service in restaurants was non-existent, and there were no flowers in window boxes, such as I saw in Austria and Germany, I really didn’t like it very much.  By 2000, however, things were hopping. People were smiling and hopeful, buildings were being cleaned and repaired, clerks were nicer, and waiters were a little more willing to work for their tip. There were even window boxes! Once the promise of spring arrived, the windows started to be filled with red geraniums. Back then, only red geraniums were available. Happily, now you can get every type and color of geranium, but in 2000 red was still the only color. I don’t know why, although I suspect that people simply didn’t think about other possibilities. After years of shortages under the communist regime, they were accustomed to making do with what was available, and the shops didn’t offer a choice. Now that there is a little more money around, the shops have started to display not only different colors, but many different varietals of the common germanium. I would even say that here in Hungary there seems to be more of a choice in flowers than I would find in California! Hungarians have traditionally loved flowers and plants, and now that the possibilities seem to be endless, they are filling window boxes with colorful blooms.”

This short synopsis captures very vividly the destructive effects of “statism” on the average person living under the thumb of totalitarian rule.  We have seen such contrasts ourselves as Diana and I have traveled through Europe and into the former captive states of the Soviet Union just a few years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In a single day of driving on the autobahn from Berlin in the old East Germany, through the countryside of old East Germany and through West Germany to Hamburg, we saw what Aliz describes about Hungary. We saw countless examples, in the city and the country-side, of the grey colorless landscape of communism.  We also saw, in that same day of driving, the beautiful homes, gardens, farms and flowers of the free West Germany.

The message? “It’s not mine – I don’t care!”


“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free“                                                    Ronald Reagan


Note: Aliz von Dioszeghy was born and raised in Californian and lived much of her adult life in the San Francisco Bay area until she and her husband Adam retired and moved to Adam’s native land of Hungary. Adam fled Hungary in 1956 as a result of the revolution against communist rule.

Don Johnson – July 2017


2 responses to ““I First Visited Hungary”

  1. Then there is this from the Wall Street Journal:

    The Unbreakable Polish-American Bond
    Piotr Wilczek
    July 5, 2017 7:18 p.m. ET

    President George H.W. Bush once said: “Poland should be strong and prosperous and independent and play its proper role as a great nation in the heart of Europe.”
    Poland has lived up to those words. On Thursday, as an active member of NATO and the European Union, Poland hosts President Trump on his second international trip.
    This visit will demonstrate the unbreakable bonds between Poland and the U.S. and address the challenges facing our neighborhood and the broader Euro-Atlantic community.

    Polish-American relations are thriving, and for good reason. Poland has been a reliable partner to the U.S. since our democratic transformation. In the Middle East we answered America’s call for action, deploying more than 40,000 Polish military personnel to Afghanistan and Iraq.
    With instability just beyond our borders, we welcome the deployment of U.S. and other NATO troops to our region. Thanks to the decisions made at the 2016 Warsaw NATO Summit and bipartisan support in Congress, Poland now hosts thousands of U.S. military personnel, as together we train to be ready to meet any threat.
    Poland also continues to be a security provider. We understand that solidarity is our strength. From the 2% of gross domestic product we spend on defense to our contribution of F-16s to the fight against ISIS, Poland continues to approach NATO membership and our alliance with America not as a handout but a commitment that must be honored every day.
    As President Trump declared recently, we must all take our defense and security obligations seriously. No one understands this better than Poland. That’s why President Andrzej Duda announced that Poland will further increase its defense spending, to 2.2% of GDP by 2020 and 2.5% by 2030.
    President Trump’s visit indicates that the new U.S. administration is taking the challenges of our region and their global ramifications seriously, and is steadfastly committed to strengthening NATO’s collective defense.
    America’s renewed interest in our region is also visible in last month’s delivery of American liquefied natural gas to Poland. Central and Eastern Europe have long been dominated by an energy monopoly left over from the Cold War era. We no longer have to be victims of geopolitics. Thanks to the newly constructed LNG import terminals on the Baltic coast and a system of interconnected pipelines, LNG delivered by ship to Świnoujście, Poland, can be transported throughout our region and beyond. These terminals allow us to exert greater energy independence, and we look toward our American partners for continued LNG gas exports.
    The need to reassert our region’s influence is the underpinning of the Three Seas Initiative, a forum that includes 12 countries from our neighborhood. President Duda and his Croatian counterpart, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, have invited Mr. Trump to meet with leaders from the Adriatic, Baltic and Black Sea region.
    America’s commitment to liberty and democracy has captivated the Polish people for generations. Even more than four decades of forced Communist rule could not shake our appreciation of American values. We will see that appreciation manifested as the American president is welcomed in Warsaw.
    Mr. Wilczek is Poland’s ambassador to the U.S.

    Appeared in the July 6, 2017, print edition.

  2. Pingback: Postcards from Pannonia – a book review & trip report | A Yearning for Publius

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s