For Péter Zwack, the prominent Hungarian businessman and descendant of a famous liquor-producer family, there is no doubt that Ronald Reagan and his foreign policy changed his whole life. “If Reagan had not been in the White House, the Iron Curtain would never have fallen—and I never would have come back to Hungary and never would have served as the first ambassador of the democratic Hungary to Washington,” said Zwack, 79, during the September 22 unveiling ceremony of Ronald Reagan’s bust in Budapest City Park. Zwack’s family fled to America in 1948 after the Communist Party came to power in Hungary.
The Hungarian capital is the first city in the former Sovet bloc countries to honor the 40th U.S. President with a statue. The bust made from bronze by the Hungarian sculptor G??¡bor Veres was equally funded by Zwack and the Budapest City Council. Budapest Mayor and member of the former anti-communist opposition G??¡bor Demszky recalled that in 1983 he was saved from imprisonment after Reagan issued a statement pressing for a fair trial.
“Ronald Reagan understood that the people of Central and Eastern Europe yearned for freedom,” said U.S. Ambassador to Budapest April Foley at the ceremony recalling the President’s stirring words in West Berlin: “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Zwack praised “The Great Communicator” for pushing the Soviet Union into an arms race that brought the collapse of the “Evil Empire” and other Communist regimes.
Reagan’s bust in Budapest is only few steps from the statue of an another outstanding statesman of the 20th Century, Winston Churchill. “President Reagan wished to be a second Roosevelt, but we can credit him as a second Churchill,” Budapest Mayor Demszky said.
“As the late British Premier Minister defended the Western democracies from the Nazi regime, Reagan defended the West from the Soviet empire and helped to liberate Central Europe,” Demszky told the crowd about 60 people, including the widow of the late Hungarian Prime Minister J??³zsef Antall, a conservative politician and Reagan admirer.
Ambassador Foley noted that” Ronald Reagan lived the American dream. Of humble origins, he started as a struggling actor in Hollywood and ended up the President of the United States.” For Edina Enying, a high school teacher in Budapest a career like Reagan’s is unthinkable in Hungary. “This country is not yet open to such a social mobility,” the 30-year-old Ms. Enying said.
The Reagan project in Budapest was initiated and supported by HUMAN EVENTS Publisher Stephen O’Connor, who lived in Hungary for more than a decade and was publisher of the Budapest Business Journal. After moving back to America in April 2005, O’Connor became the publisher of Reagan’s favorite newspaper.
Sculptor Veres said that “some people were wondering and intrigued why Budapest was paying tribute to an American president with a bust.” Reagan is not first American President to be honored this way. The first was George Washington, whose statue can be found nearby in the same park.
Click here to read a congratulatory letter from Edwin Meese III of the Heritage Foundation. Photos of the event are below. Click to enlarge.