Imre Mécs’s eulogy: Árpád Göncz was always on the side of the good, the true, and the humane

According to the wishes of Árpád Göncz, president of the Third Republic, he did not have a state funeral. Foreign politicians who admired him were at the funeral as private persons. The same was true of Hungarian politicians, including the current president of the country, János Áder, and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. While János Áder sat close to the grave, Orbán and his wife stood far away, practically in the last row of the thousands who came to pay their final respects to the man who was beloved by many.

Árpád Göncz had asked Imre Mécs, who shared a prison cell with him after the Revolution of 1956, to deliver the eulogy at his funeral. Both men were arrested in 1957 and were released only in 1963, after János Kádár declared an amnesty for some of the political prisoners. In 1958 Göncz was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of appeal. Later he was heard to say that this was the happiest day of his life. After all, his life was spared.

Imre Mécs was not so lucky. He was condemned to death in 1958, and it was only a year later that his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Mécs, at the request of the family, didn’t deliver the complete speech, which I’m publishing here in its English translation, at the funeral. He left out his critical remarks about Viktor Orbán’s illiberal state. This text was delivered in front of the Parliament later in the evening. The picture was taken there.

* * *

Mecs2

Twenty-six years ago, on June 15th 1989, an epoch-making, regime-changing funeral ceremony took place where and when we were able – at long last – to pay our last respects in a dignified fashion to the executed prime minister of the 1956 revolution and to thousands of other martyrs. Árpád Göncz was one of the most important personalities to pave the way for the regime change… Now, he, too, is gone. Our Uncle Árpi, who was loved by a whole nation, who was the father and protector of a nation. We have gathered here today to share the sorrow of Zsuzsa Göntér, his beloved wife, faithful companion, as well as that of the entire Göncz family. Árpád, you will be missed by your four children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. And, we too will miss you, Árpád, your friends and fellow prisoners of cell No. 50. Your colleagues, your acquaintances—so many people who may not even have met you in person, but who felt that you are with them, and for them. Look, this cemetery is full of mourners.

Seeing all this, I’m sure Árpi would smilingly rise from this catafalque, run to us, and, as he always did, would hug and kiss, caress and smile at us. Alas, it is impossible; such is human life. What he was, now becomes a miraculous memory. Yet, he will remain with us and love us all. In his entire life, love was the most important thing for him, which went hand in hand with the total rejection of viciousness and selfishness.

My dear friend! You went through difficult historic eras and hard times in your personal life but you always took sides with the good, the true, and the humane. It is therefore not surprising that you breathed, hoped, and acted together with the Hungarian students and people in the fall of 1956. When the mightiest army of the world perfidiously invaded us for the second time (in the 20th century?) and brutally crushed our freedom fight, Minister of State István Bibó, Árpi’s good friend, stood unshaken and represented Hungary. Árpád was instrumental in smuggling Bibó’s statements out of the country. He had an important role in the resistance movement, too. They were both arrested, we were worried for their lives. They were sentenced to life imprisonment. Zsuzsa, his wife, left alone with the four children had to fight all alone for her husband and the daily bread for the family. For us, she represents the biblical strong woman. A wonderful person! God bless you, dear Zsuzsa!

While in prison, and with his wife and four children at home— Árpád Göncz remained strong, and never gave up. Instead, he learned English in the prison and became a translator in the prison’s ‘translation office’.  After his release in 1963, he became one of the best literary translators of his country. He worked night and day, translated, put famous literary works into Hungarian, and at the same time, he became a writer himself.

We, together with him, sought contact not only with other 1956’ers but also with members of the fledgling democratic opposition movement; all that in the midst of the sleazy clandestine machinations of the secret police. Finally, we got united and won, together with the heroic victims of 1956. After the funeral of the late Prime Minister Imre Nagy, the process of the change of regime got accelerated, and we looked forward to a promising future. Árpi played a significant role in that, too. At the roundtable discussions, with joint effort and will, we were able to create the first democratic state ruled by law: the Republic of Hungary. Most of the demands of 1956 and the desires of the nation came true: our homeland became free, we introduced a multi-party political system, and market economy also started to evolve. Our party, the biggest liberal party in our history, ended up second in the first democratic elections in 1990. József Antall, the victorious prime minister, offered Árpád Göncz the Office of the President of the country on the condition that we jointly phase out laws requiring a two-thirds majority in parliament—legislation that hinders efficient and responsible governance. This pact was necessary and wise, and thus the President of the Hungarian Writers’ Association, one of the leaders of the Free Democrats, became the first, outstanding President of the Republic of Hungary, and he held that position for the maximum of ten years.

Árpi took his presidential duties very seriously. He helped to consolidate a liberal state ruled by law, assisted the different branches of power to find their place in the system, and promoted the efficient operation of the Constitutional Court.

For ten long years, you promoted our reputation all over the world.

Thank you Árpi!

Thank you Mr. President!

Two years later, the President of Russia visited our parliament and apologized to the Hungarian nation. Unfortunately, the victims of 1956 resting in plot No. 301 could not hear that.

Then, we became a member country both in NATO and the European Union, and thus the old dreams of the Hungarians came true. Our nation never had such a great opportunity. Yet, the country does not succeed—why? Why is there dejection, hopelessness? Why is there pseudo-democracy? One time “young democrats” now turn against their principles, seek exclusive power, centralize practically everything, create a new predatory-exploiting stratum of society of their choice, and all that out of the money of the poor. They have institutionalized corruption and poverty, centralized the autocratic system, and oppressed self-governance in every field.

They stir up hatred, and ignorance is rampant. Love, which determines the quality of your life, is persecuted and is ‘non-grata’. But you are right, Árpi! There are a lot of good people, but they are benign and silent or soft-voiced. Nevertheless, they do help the needy, the homeless, and the fallen. We can count on them.

We are in pain now that we lost you, the ‘Man of all men’, and our hopes are also fading away. I miss you, my dear friend, Árpi. I miss you so much. I miss your soft voice, your firm posture; and I miss your smile, too.

The current power intentionally ignores the spirit of 1956, Árpi. They cleared away from Kossuth Square the Statue of the Eternal Flame that you initiated, and which was set up through the generous contributions of ordinary people. We have just found it with the help of civic volunteers at a sculptor’s place just outside of Nyergesújfalu. We will take it back and guard the flame that we rekindled together in 1996. This beautiful and modest statue must be put back in place, because the memory of the revolution and freedom fight of 1956, the most important historic event of the 20th century in Hungary, must have a worthy monument in Kossuth tér, which was one of the most important venues of the revolution. I am sure you would be with us in this fight! I remember how painful it was for you when football hooligans spoiled the festivities of the 50th anniversary in 2006, while leaders of 56 states visited us, praising our revolution and our country that had never been respected more.

Enough is enough! We will bring back the flame of the revolution! We will revive the spirit of 1956! We will bring back democracy! Dear Árpi, we owe this to you and to ourselves.

What can we do? We must follow the guidance of Ferenc Deák: we must unbutton the old vest and rebutton it again. We must reach back to our pure, original values, to the time of the change of regime in 1990, the ideals of the Republic of Hungary.

What we need is cooperation, cooperation and again cooperation, we need to join our forces, otherwise we will never have democracy in Hungary again. Petty rivalling groups cannot democratize the country: they will be nothing more than just unimportant showcase decorations in the hands of power.

We promise you, Árpi, we will not rest until the sun rises again over our homeland.

You will remain forever in our history, and also in our hearts.

May I ask members of the mourning family as well as all those present here today, let us hold each other’s hands as we did on 16th June 16th 1989, and for a long and deep minute think of Árpád Göncz, our beloved and everlasting president.

God bless you, Árpi, and rest in peace!

Kossuth tér, 6th November 2015

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Member

Wonderful speech. Pity he was discouraged from delivering it to Orban’s face.

(But “the mightiest army of the world perfidiously invaded us for the second time (in the 20th century?)”?…)

Guest

There is a 5 minute video of some of the key moments of the funeral on Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYP5yX3cVEE). Must admit to some dampness around the eyes while watching…

Guest

As I viewed the video it came into my mind where Mr. Orban was. I got the answer from Prof Balogh’s introduction….hiding in the back. And thus the great extensive canyon between those on political sides in Magyarorszag today.

Mr. Orban probably hated to be there. Indeed choices can put one in uncomfortable positions even when things appear to be ‘under control’. No doubt he’d rather be in a dentist’s chair. Orban and Goncz, two politicians…maybe one true statesman of Magyarorszag? History will judge.

spectator
Guest

Can’t really hide:

http://www.atv.hu/belfold/20151107-nem-szegyelli-magat-beszoltak-orbannak-goncz-arpad-temetesen

Worth to listen the comments and watch how he took them.
Got some balls, I admit, even if it was for show, and I’m pretty sure that the place was crowded with TEK.

However, I recommend to notice the generally civilised attitude too – people respected the late President Göncz that much that let Orbán be in peace.

He even publicly expressed his thoughts regarding late President Göncz, thanking him to be the ‘president of all of us’ and what he has done ‘for the homeland and for us’ – alas not in Hungary, but in Slovenia…

A brave guy, I told you so!

Guest

Re: ‘However, I recommend to notice the generally civilised attitude too – people respected the late President Göncz that much that let Orbán be in peace’

You know taking a look at the vid seems to me to surely represent a dual aspect going on in the country between its leader and people. If we allow the people’s view of leaving him in ‘pace’ what can we say of VO’s relationship to some of them? He looked to be the subject of the passing parade going on around him. And for a second I thought the young girl would speak to him and make contact under the circumstances. Question who in fact is being perhaps marginalized? Every picture tells a story!

Zorgas
Guest

Imre Mecs has become the idealistic soft spoken memory and conscience of a nation that has become course and cynical. Like his cellmate Árpád Göncz, he came out of prison with his ideals intact and persists today pleading for the nation to remember what they fought for in 1956 and 1989. I fear that there are not many listening.

Here is a YouTube video of his talk at Kossuth tér this evening https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcwxaWAHQoA

petofi
Guest

Finally, a man of stature and dignity!

He should not have listened: he should’ve delivered this speech where he had intended.

The family had no business to interfere. Such utter selfishness and self-interest of the remaining family. Sad.

webber
Guest
I am of two minds about this. The greatest grief is the family’s. I just do not buy this gushing outpouring of “grief” from others. The family is truly mourning – esp. Göncz’s wife and daughter -, and the family’s wishes should be respected. Others will wipe a tear, then wipe a second tear when they think how nice they were for having that first tear (borrowed from Kundera), and will turn back to their coffee and newspaper. Who really knows what Göncz felt about what is going on now, if not the family? It could be that he would have put things differently than Mécs did. I too very much appreciate what Mécs said – but don’t know that Göncz would have said it. I recall a LOT of things being said in József Antal’s name after he died. There was a sort of scrum on the right for awhile to take over Antal’s “legacy.” It got a bit disgusting. Could be that Göncz’s family doesn’t want this to happen to Göncz. He was who he was, and what he said and did is on the record. We will never really know what he might have said. On the… Read more »
Vincent
Guest

Fully agreed with you !
Regards

petofi
Guest

@webber

“…don’t know that Göncz would have said it.”

Of course he wouldn’t have–his family would’ve stopped him. It would’ve meant the end of the grandsons’ careers or businesses…That’s the Hungary of today.
The family would probably have to have left the country, too.

Hungaricum

webber
Guest

Göncz’s daughter has said plenty. She’s a member of MSZP. Orbán’s people want to demolish her and her family, speech or no speech.
Your theory is cute, it just doesn’t hold any water.
I don’t follow the family, but seem to recall that of her kids finished a degree at Oxford. The last I heard of him, he was not living in Hungary.
Orban doesn’t control anything outside Hungary, you know

webber
Guest

Göncz’s grandson I now see is living in Hungary again – and has been active as in the opposition. So, again, there’s no political reason for them to suppress the speech – Orbán’s people want to demolish them all anyway.

petofi
Guest

The grandson’s political activity…Would that be in MSZP or in DK?

webber
Guest

Was Együtt. I have no idea where he is just now. Against Orban, I am certain. Which faction, I do not know and do not really care much.

petofi
Guest

“Göncz’s daughter has said plenty.”
Really?
I haven’t seen anything within the last five years that has drawn attention.

webber
Guest

Don’t be silly. Or rather, please do be silly.
Look up something ridiculous, such as “Göncz Kinga lezbikus” and follow the links back from there. There is plenty.
Anyway, how many MSZP people have you heard about in the past year? None, I bet (I’m not criticizing you with that “I bet” – It’s just that they just aren’t covered in the Hun. media).

Guest

@webber
November 7, 2015 at 6:08 am

Aki a kákán is csomót talál…….

Guest

Thank you Eva, for translating this really moving speech and thanks of course to Imre Mécs too!

Why do I always have to think of “A Tanu” when I read something like this?

Nuh
Guest

What’s disturbing and difficult to understand is why the family didn’t let this version of the speech be given? Is it really so “controversial”?

Arpad Göncz was a politician, why couldn’t Mécs give a political speech? Oh my god, a political speech at the funeral of a politician, what a scandal.

Göncz specifically designated Mécs to give the eulogy and Göncz must have known that Mécs – who was also a politician – would refer to the present, ie limitless corruption. Democracy was their common passion.

It is sad to see that Göncz’ own family is also full of hopeless approval-seeking leftist wusses who – like most leftists – always want to sound oh-so-bipartizan, want to appease, are always afraid of offending the right-wing etc. when in fact Göncz was not bipartizan at all – he was a committed democrat.

Göncz took sides clearly, so the sanitization of Mécs’s eulogy is disgusting.

(All the more so because the potential offendees, the die-hard fideszniks, don’t deny the corruption or the dictatorship, the ukaz system, they just think those are justified and are simply OK, so raising the issues don’t offend them.)

petofi
Guest

Wasn’t Goncz’s daughter, Kinga, a Fidesz supported member of the Bruxelles parliament? If so, it’s understandable what happened: Kinga had asked to see Mecs’ speech, and had sent a copy on to Orban. He, not trusting that Kinga would prevail on Mecs not to give the speech, decided to sit out of sight in case the speech would’ve been given complete.

webber
Guest

No, Kinga Göncz (of MSZP) was NOT supported by Fidesz.
The opposite is true: she has been repeatedly attacked in the press by Fidesz. She is often called a “traitor,” and has had death threats online (just look at comments under articles about her).

petofi
Guest

Well then, what about this: one of the grandsons was prevailed upon–at the risk of his job or his business–to get the speech and it was forwarded to Orban?

VINCENT
Guest

Wonderful speech ! I met once Göncz Arpad at Budapest Foreign Language School in1996 where I learnt Hungarian and chatted friendly with him a few minutes ! What a chance I had and what a happiness and honor ! He dedicated my dictionary which I kept religiously ! I am just disappointed by the debate/ or fight or critics of present politic around his memory which to my point of view is irrelevant !

Guest

Árpád Göncz had asked Imre Mécs, who shared a prison cell with him after the Revolution of 1956, to deliver the eulogy at his funeral.

I am just wondering whether Goncz give his instruction to his family this way. “But please check Imre’s speech in advance thoroughly to make sure he doesn’t want to deliver some nonsense, that would not be too beneficial for our family. If you find his eulogy too harsh to the current government just cancel his speech please.”

If this instruction was not given to the family and was not communicated to Mecs too than I am afraid the family acted against Arpad’s last will.

spectator
Guest

I guess that the nowadays favoured (no, not by me) but otherwise totally pointless “civilian” approach took over. They didn’t wanted to be attached to one single political party afterwords – this is my guess, and guess that is.

I am pretty sure, that the deceased wouldn’t go for this lukewarm attitude – as much as I know he had a pretty clearly defined stance – but hey, the family living in the present day’s Hungary, and this is all the information what we need, really..!

Guest
A bit OT – and three years old! – but still worth reading re Fidesz trolls: “The Economist, Financial Times, and Washington Post have also kept our addled one-Party rulers in their sights. When you read the NY Times pieces, the Economist, or any of the other newspapers on stories about hungary, please do not fail to read the comments sections.They are infested by the uniquely Hungarian version of internet troll. Now, Hungary is not the only country that pays PR hacks to troll for stories and ‘correct’ them in the comment sections. But it is fun to watch the language-challenged Ministry of Propaganda hacks try and take down a Krugman or a Princeton Law prof by labeling them a “post-commie” or attacking them for causing Hungary’s serious economic ills. Because in Hungary, propaganda is very big business. FIDESZ, the ruling party, is nothing so much as a gigantic PR machine, driving home its talking points wit a grim determination and a surprising lack of ideology. FIDESZ prospered in opposition due to its skillful use of public relations firms and advisors to drive a wedge into the Hungarian public opinion, dividing every conceivable issue as one of “Us vs. Them.”… Read more »
exTor
Guest

http://horinca.blogspot.hu/201
So good it went out of business.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Guest

Sorry for the broken link, here’s the correct one:
http://horinca.blogspot.hu/2012_01_01_archive.html
If that doesn’t work, go to the homepage and search the archives 2012 January.
The blog also has a lot of stuff on food and really nice pictures from Transsylvania:
http://horinca.blogspot.hu/search?updated-min=2015-01-01T00:00:00-05:00&updated-max=2016-01-01T00:00:00-05:00&max-results=15

exTor
Guest

We get a lot of cool links on this website.
Thanx wolfi. This Dumneazu fellow seems
interesting. A little too involved with food,
however, for which he will pay a price.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Guest

Re: ‘There is a Hungarian joke that goes: “What is the difference between a Hungarian optimist and a Hungarian pessimist” The Hungarian pessimist says “It can’t get worse than this!” The Hungarian optimist says “Yes! It can!”

A gem of a joke. Nothing like a philosophy of hoping for the worst and never being disappointed. Thing is er it kind of wraps one tight in a claustrophobic straitjacket. Certainly not say an ‘enterprising’ philosophy for possible game-changers

Interesting blog btw. Kind of gets down to the ‘home’ and authentic (?) side of things in those woods. Nice to see that music! They do important work when it comes to ‘expression’ in societies and saying things perhaps others cannot or won’t.

“A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.”
― Leopold Stokowski

exTor
Guest

Someone who says “It cant get any worse.” is, in one sense, not a pessimist, who would actually say “It will get worse.”

Someone who says “It cant get any worse.” is, in effect, an optimist, because that person feels that it will get better.

The joke is cute. It plays with language, but there’s a bit of illogic to it.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Guest

And another blog which has been mentioned here before:
https://congressofbaboons.wordpress.com/
And now look at what he writes as introduction to his latest entry on the concurrent omnipotency and idiocy of Fidesz:
“I could have drifted towards the informative side, but there are other resources for that, like the brilliant Hungarian Spectrum and I have no wish to compete with them, not that I ever could with my laziness.”

wpDiscuz