Ordinary Hungarians know little about Polish politics. Even the better informed know only the names of the current and former prime ministers of Poland, and the liberally minded have bad memories of the Kaczynski era. Those who rely on the Hungarian media for information are aware that Viktor Orbán has been courting Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to form an East-Central European axis from the Baltic to the Adriatic, but Tusk is wholeheartedly supporting the idea of a strong European Union.
And there is a general sense of the age-old friendship between the two countries and a vague notion of a Polish saying about Polish-Hungarian friendship which actually goes like this: “Polak-Węgier dwa bratanki–i do szabli, i do szklanki!”
Lately Viktor Orbán likes to talk about this traditional friendship between the two countries in the hope that the Polish government will stand by Hungary in her “war of independence” with the European Union. But Tusk’s response to Hungarian requests has been lukewarm at best.
Then, suddenly, the whole Hungarian media became full of the startling story that about 2,000 Poles are coming to Budapest to celebrate Hungary’s national holiday and support Viktor Orbán’s government. Because the liberal media suspected that the first “Peace Walk” in support of Viktor Orbán had been financed by the government, the very first question which was asked of the Hungarian organizers: “Who is paying for a fairly long trip from Warsaw to Budapest?” and “Who will pay for their stay in the Hungarian capital?” The answer from Zsolt Bayer and András Bencsik, two of the organizers of the March 15th extravagance, naturally was that all expenses will be paid by the the participants themselves.
God, protect Hungary and Poland and defend Europe from the pestilence of left-liberalism and moral slough
There is a saying in Hungarian that catching a liar is as easy as catching a lame dog, but in our Google era the task is even easier. A few hours after Bayer and Bencsik denied any Hungarian financing for the Poles’ trip, a Hungarian blogger found a website on which one could read that the buses waiting for the Polish visitors at the railroad station are being hired by the Hungarians and the lunch they get is also being provided by the Hungarian hosts.
In Fidesz circles there seems to be a bit of an unease concerning the Polish visitors. Heti Válasz ran an article about Gazeta Polska, a Polish weekly that organized the trip, under the headline “Did embarrassing supporters defend Viktor Orbán?” Why did Heti Válasz feel that an explanation was in order? Because German and English-language papers describe Gazeta Polska as a paper espousing right-radical, extremist views. But, says Heti Válasz, both the German embassy in Warsaw and the leader of the social democratic Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in in the Polish capital call the weekly simply “right-wing nationalist,” close to Jarosław Kaczyński’s party, Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice).
The editor-in-chief of the paper is Tomasz Sakiewicz, who had an important position at the state television station during the Kaczynski era. He is both anti-Russian and anti-German. Heti Válasz claims that Gazeta Polska is not an anti-Semitic paper, but Népszabadság quotes from Tomasz Sakiewicz’s blog in which he calls on Poles “to defend their state, themselves, and their children from being slaves of antagonistic foreign ethnic groups (Germans and Jews).” The paper carries a strongly anti-communist message, but for the readership of Gazeta Polska a communist is anyone who doesn’t share their own ultra-conservative, clerical, and nationalistic views, an attitude well expressed by a Hungarian neo-Nazi who on one of the videos taken at the Milla demonstration yesterday told the reporter that participants in the Milla demonstration are “all communists.”
According to Népszava the readership of Gazeta Polska is practically identical to the listeners of Radio Maryja, a religious, conservative, Catholic radio station. The station has been the center of criticism and controversy since its foundation. Many claim that it is vehemently anti-Semitic, homophobic, xenophobic, and anti-republican. The statues of the Virgin Mary carried by some of the participants attest to the religiosity of the visitors from Poland.
Visitors also brought some Polish ethnic flavor to the Hungarian capital.
The spokesman for PiS, Jan Dziediczak, explained in an interview with the Hungarian television station ATV that the Polish right admires Viktor Orbán’s foreign policy because his political ideas are very similar to those of the Kaczynski brothers: an independent foreign policy, conservative values, strong family, strong and unified Poland. And indeed, not just the organizers but also the demonstrators are great admirers of Viktor Orbán. In fact, they wish that Viktor Orbán could be their own prime minister. After all, these people are euro-skeptics and they look upon Tusk as a “vassal of Brussels and Berlin.” It is worth remembering though what happened to the Kaczynski government after two years in power.
These Poles don’t believe that Donald Tusk represents true Polish interests. They would love to see Jarosław Kaczyński back, but the Polish right is anything but united. Therefore they look enviously to Orbán’s Hungary that to the outsider seems strong and unified. I’m sure that for those 2,000 visitors the sight of that huge crowd and its enthusiasm in front of the Hungarian parliament was proof that their image of Viktor Orbán is correct. But, surely, they were unaware of another huge crowd only a mile away from where they were standing. And that crowd wants Viktor Orbán to disappear and after his departure to have Hungarian democracy restored. Nothing is as simple as it appears to the casual visitor.