1848/49 Arad martyrs commemorated

Hungary's national flag was hoisted then lowered to half-mast in front of Parliament on Friday as a tribute to the leaders of the country's anti-Habsburg revolution and war of independence who were executed on this day in 1849.

The ceremony was attended by Justice Minister Bence Tuzson and other government officials.

October 6 has been observed as a national day of mourning since 2001 in memory of 13 high-ranking officers of the Hungarian army who were executed in Arad, now in Romania, and count Lajos Batthyany, prime minister of the revolutionary government, executed in Pest on the same day.

Barna Pal Zsigmond, state secretary at the European Union affairs ministry, told a commemoration at Batthyany’s mausoleum in Budapest’s Fiumei Street Cemetery that the martyrs were “ever burning torches … the symbols of Hungarians’ love for freedom”.

“They show us the way, the values that must not be made subject to bargaining,” he said. Those eternal values are “striving for freedom, love for the homeland, courage, and the willingness to make personal sacrifices,” he added.

In his address, the state secretary touched on the challenges Hungary had recently faced. “Many would not understand Hungary’s pro-peace position”, he said, adding that people now lived in a world where “even uttering the word peace requires courage”.

The government, he said, firmly held its position and “will not give in to any blackmail or pressure … we are a committed and reliable member of both NATO and the European Union, listening to and respecting the positions of our allies.” But, he added, “we will only give up as much of our sovereignty as we have volunteered.” “We will not give up our faith, education of our children, a sovereign economic policy, or our brethren in Transcarpathia,” he said.

At the ceremony, wreaths of commemoration were laid at tomb on behalf of President Katalin Novak, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and the government.

On the occasion of the anniversary, Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony wrote on Facebook that “after 174 years we have not forgotten what we must do for a free Hungary”. The martyrdom of those heroes “teaches us that the homeland comes before everything else … national interests come before particular interests, and serving the homeland comes before individual ambitions,” the mayor said.

Karacsony also said that “love for the country can take many forms: you can do it noisily, and you can do it with the modesty of a deeper conviction … those who talk a lot about patriotism will achieve little for the homeland.”

Zsolt Molnar, party director of the opposition Socialists, attending a commemoration in Arad, said: “We can never give up our fight for an independent, strong, European Hungary.” Speaking at the martyrs’ local monument, he said October 6 “should not only be a day of remembrance; we must also think about independence and European values.” “This day is not only about mourning but also about making a commitment for the future.”

History, he added, had taught Hungarians “to be a proud NATO and European Union member, a task for all patriotic politicians”.

Klara Dobrev, MEP of the opposition Democratic Coalition, attended a ceremony at the Batthyany Memorial Light in central Budapest, a monument that marks the place where the statesman was executed.

Dobrev said the martyrs had been joined by a shared responsibility, adding that “the same commitment can make a nation out of people even today.” She said the 13 martyrs of Arad came from 6 different nations “some of them not even speaking Hungarian … still, they are revered among the greatest Hungarians”. Today “one does not need to be a hero or die for the homeland … but everybody needs to feel responsible for the community, or else people will not integrate into a nation and the country will not become homeland,” she added.

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