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 photo: Patterson

A few weeks ago I did a post on Ronnie Reagan’s statue being inaugurated in a square near the Parliament Building in Budapest.  Since then I chanced to be in Budapest myself for a few days a week ago, so I took the opportunity to continue my study of American Presidents by visiting the statue.  And very fine it is too.

Photo: Patterson

One can understand the thinking behind this statue, with Ronnie’s role in bringing down the Berlin wall and freeing Hungary from the yoke of Soviet oppression.  Except that wandering about Hungary showed me that American Presidents have long been figures looked up to in this former Soviet state even during the time of Soviet rule.

Ronald clearly has fans as the flowers at his feet attest.

Picture US Embassy 

As I said in the other post there is a second earlier bust too.  The picture above is that of that bust of Reagan in the City Park in Budapest which was unveiled by Ambassador April Foley pictured, on 22 September 2006.

But this was not the end of matters.  Further along from “New Ronnie”, there is an entire square dedicated to Franklin Roosevelt right smack in the centre of the city on the banks of the Danube.  That the name of the square survived the fall of independent Hungary, the Soviet occupation, the uprising of 1956, the Soviet clampdown following and then the new freedom (with the mania Budapest has for renaming her streets at the slightest provocation) says much for an affection with America that was there throughout the cold war.

But you might argue this is what happens in capital cities, where things are done for larger political concerns and would not affect the general public out in the “real” country.  I might have agreed with that as an argument if I had not also visited friends in Szeged, a beautiful provincial University town in the south of the country.  Here too was a Roosevelt Ter.  Ter means square in Hungarian.

The inscription below lauds Franklin for his stand against Fascism. It stands on the corner of a small square with a children’s play park in a quiet leafy area next to the river.  A haven, and a thank-you from a people saved from a brutal regime, redeemed not once but twice over by American Presidents.  And in this week it felt rather poignant, reflecting back to a time when American Presidents, Democrat and Republican, were seen as principled figures who inspired and spoke to a world far beyond the Beltway.  Just don’t expect an Obama Tir or a statue in Budapest anytime soon.

Copyright David Macadam 2011