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Submitted by redakcja2 on Sat, 05/28/2022 - 01:57
Marek Kuchciński: Only a victory over invaders can save us from subjugation

On 18 May, published an article addressed to Poles and written by Zsolt Németh, President of the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs of Hungary and my friend, in which he refers to the friendship between Hungary and Poland and explains the Hungarian stand on the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war. It is an important article. I would like to present some reflections on what the situation is like from the Polish perspective.


We know that contemporary international relations may not be shaped on the basis of historical sentiment or ressentiment. However, when we explain these relations, we need to refer to the historical memory of the nations on behalf of which we speak and by which we are mandated to speak.

I. So what is the Polish stereotype of Hungarians and Hungarian identity? The attitude of Poles to Hungarians mirrors what Zsolt Németh wrote about the attitude of Hungarians to Poles: ‘The friendship between Hungary and Poland is a part of Hungarian national identity’ and it is also a part of Polish national identity. And this cannot be explained without historical references.

Hungary-Poland relations have been special for ages. Throughout the centuries of being neighbours, the political cultures of Hungarians and Poles developed as twin cultures, which have their common roots in the famous Golden Bull issued by Andrew II in 1222.

The idea of supremacy of the law over the will of the monarch, which had been a custom in Poland since the end of the 11th century, was implemented at the time of Louis the Great (in Poland known as Louis the Hungarian) and his daughter, Saint Hedwig (the patron saint of Poland and the apostle of Lithuania), and became known all over Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, in what is now Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. It marked the beginning of our nations’ path towards democracy, which was at first limited to one social class – the nobles, and then became universal. From the time of Stephen Báthory to the Second World War, the Polish Marshal’s Guard of the Sejm was called the Hungarian Guard. The two oldest democracies in Central Europe, born in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and in the Kingdom of Hungary, had their common Hungarian roots. All nations from this area, including Ukrainians, are the heirs of this tradition insofar as they are willing to recognise it as their own. They recently confirmed it in a joint declaration made by ministers of foreign affairs of Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine, which was signed on 7 July 2021.

The friendship between Hungary and Poland was shaped in combat. For us, Poles, it was mainly fighting against the Russian Empire. In Poland, it is Stephen Báthory who is seen as the symbol of triumph over Moscow. It was along the former border with Hungary that the Bar Confederates made trenches in 1768, when they retreated from Ukraine invaded by Russia and wanted to protect their rear areas in friendly country, that is Hungary. Such support has always been mutual. It was in the Republic of Poland, also in what is now Ukraine, that George Rákóczi was welcomed after the fall of the Kuruc uprising, whose important centre was today’s Mukachevo in Zakarpattia, Ukraine. We understand Hungarians better than anyone else. The castle in Mukachevo that is now Ukrainian means to them the same that the castle in Kamianets-Podilskyi that is also Ukrainian now means for us – they are both the most famous strongholds in our national history.

In the memory of Poles, Hungarians are their unyielding ally in the fight against the possessiveness of Moscow. In the 19th century, our common fate was symbolised by the names of our enemies, such as Ivan Paskevich, the commander of Russian army that captured Warsaw in 1831 and supressed the Hungarian Revolution in the years 1848-1849.

It is worth mentioning a little known fact that during the Spring of Nations, 6 thousand volunteers from Poland, that is from Przemyśl Land and Sanok Land, including several hundred secondary school students (!), got through the Carpathian Mountains to join the legions commanded by Wysocki and Dąbrowski and support Hungarians in their fight for freedom.

After 1867, Poles were the only Slavic nation in Austria-Hungary that was fully immune to a form of hybrid warfare that was waged by Russians at that time, also known as Pan-Slavism. This was the foundation for a strong alliance between Hungary and Poland at the time of the constitutional monarchy in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

When Austria-Hungary was attacked by millions of soldiers from the Russian Empire in 1914, only two nations provided volunteer troops to fight against Russia – they were Poles and Ukrainians. They both defended passes in the Carpathian Mountains in order not to let hordes of barbarians attack Hungary.

In 1920, Poland and Ukraine, which had formed an alliance, fought against another Russian invasion and it was then that Hungary offered a cavalry corps and provided large amounts of ammunition. Other neighbours refused to deploy troops to Poland, but General Károly Soós de Nagyábadok, Minister of Defence of Hungary, opposed Germany and Austria and disregarded the protests of the Interallied Commission by ordering to urgently transfer to the Polish Military all ammunition available to the Hungarian Army (75 million bullets). This saved us from the fate that had to be faced by Ukraine, which turned out to be less lucky.

In 1939, when Hitler demanded that Hungary give its consent for Wehrmacht to march across its territory to attack Poland, Miklós Horthy and Pál Teleki, with unanimous support from the whole Hungarian government, answered that it was morally impossible, ordered to mine tunnels and bridges and warned Germans that the Hungarian military would oppose them if they tried to force Hungary to give that consent.

The parallel history of Hungary and Poland that involved Paskevich was repeated a century later, this time because of General Ivan Serov. In 1945, he invited 16 leaders of the Polish Underground State to talk to them, but instead imprisoned them and deported them to Moscow, where three of them were murdered. 11 years later the same man was ordered by the Kremlin to issue a similar invitation to General Pál Maléter, the leader of the Hungarian army in 1956, who was also deceitfully captured and killed. After 1956, when an average Pole met an average Hungarian, the former new that he could frankly talk to the latter about the nature of Moscow, which was not possible with our other neighbours. This is how we remember our Hungarian Brothers – as brave, chivalrous and dependable.

Since the time of the Jagiellonian dynasty, the Polish-Hungarian friendship has been one of the foundations of our perception of the Central European reality and our foreign policy.

These examples show that in almost every generation, our ancestors left some evidence of mutual support in difficult times, which is symbolised by many historical figures that performed heroic acts (apart from those mentioned above, there are also Józef Bem, János Esterházy, Henryk Sławik, Wacław Felczak and Ryszard Siwiec).


Central Europe. I belong to a generation which worked for democracy, civil liberties and free-market economy. I am all the more pleased that after 1989, Hungary and Poland, as well as other countries and nations that belong to the Visegrád Group, the Three Seas Initiative and Carpathian Europe, from Georgia and Armenia to Ukraine and the Balkans, stand out due to their positive attitude to Christian values and natural law. They value the inherent dignity of every human being, the principles of democracy and freedom of speech. We have always been characterised by our ambition and the need to succeed. And we did succeed, which is visible for example in the fact that for the last two decades the countries of the Visegrád Group and the Three Seas Initiative have been the fastest-growing countries in the world. Not in Europe, but in the world, with 2 or 3 times higher annual GDP growth than in Western European countries.

At the same time, Hungary and Poland lie in an area referred to as the keystone of Europe. It is one of the three most strategically located regions on Earth. (The other two are the Persian Gulf and the Western Pacific). It is not a coincidence that the battle ground for both world wars and the cold war was here, in Central Europe, for the most part.

Therefore, it is justifiable to be aware of the fact that this place is special. In my view it should be equally important to believe that in Central Europe, which has probably the highest density of nations, languages, cultures, traditions, borders and religions per 1 square kilometre, one nation’s victory is also the victory of all the others. And the failure of one nation sooner or later turns out to be a loss for all the others. Therefore, our self-confidence, self-esteem and sense of achievement cannot turn into arrogance if we want them to serve raison d’etat and our long-term national interest.

In the 21st century, Central Europe approaches life cautiously and with no delusions. We remember too well what happens to promises of heaven on earth made by authorities – Soviet authorities in the past and today often those from Brussels – but we also make sure not to be a pawn on the chessboard of history. If we cannot be a king or queen, let’s at least be a rook. But with good cooperation, Central Europe can play the leading role, similar to that of Saint Hedwig, King of Poland.


Since 2015, when Law and Justice won presidential and parliamentary elections in Poland under the slogan ‘Good change’, it took us just under two terms of office (!) to make a significant change to almost all ministerial policies implemented in the Third Polish Republic (while Hungarians had twice as much time to do that!). Thanks to our legislative initiatives, we sorted out Polish law and got back on strategic paths forged by President Lech Kaczyński (2005-2010). The patriotic and conservative direction started to prevail in the Polish parliament, which restored the significance of historical politics and parliamentary diplomacy, as well as drew attention to a fair distribution of wealth and liabilities among all citizens.

When it comes to diplomacy, we have focused in particular on Central Europe, where new projects were initiated by presidents (the Three Seas Initiative and Bucharest Nine) and parliaments (Carpathian Europe and parliamentary summits for Central and Eastern Europe). They became a platform for exchanging views on a scale that is unprecedented at the regional level. They also confirmed our conviction that the whole area between Russia and Germany should be seen as one Central Europe – and this is also the perspective of nations to the east of Poland.

Taking into account the fact that Hungarians have many centuries of experience with religious tolerance (in Transylvania since the 12th century) and unions (with Croatians until the 11th century), the Polish and Hungarian understanding ofa politically mature nation is one capable of cooperating with other nations or countries, a good example of which is the Visegrád Group. The alternative to being a mature nation and a sovereign state is acting under the protectorate of a hegemon state. It is an either-or situation.
Because of that, we became involved in debates at the European level and presented a Polish project for reforming the EU, which refers to the idea of Europe of Nations to maintain sovereign states and strengthen the role of national parliaments. In this regard, Hungarians and Poles diagnose the European Union in a similar way and have a similar remedy for its recovery.


The current situation of Hungary and Poland requires bravery and caution. First and foremost, we need to acknowledge that our countries have their own coherent foreign policies. The pillars of Hungarian foreign policy identified in the article by Zsolt Németh (the protection of national minorities' rights, good relations with neighbouring countries, Hungary-Poland friendship and the Euro-Atlantic alliance) are clear, understandable and shared by Poland.

The contemporary relations between Hungary and Poland are being developed not only in the context of the war in Ukraine, but also under pressure put on us by the core countries of the EU, dominated by Germany and France. Their intentions are clear: to overthrow our governments and subordinate the policy of Warsaw and Budapest to the interest of these two powers of the European Union. At the same time, the pro-Russian attitude of Berlin and Paris is, to put it diplomatically, at least ambiguous.

In the context of the war in Ukraine, the Polish attitude to Hungary needs to take into account the necessity to support each other in our opposition to the EU mainstream. We also need to refrain from distancing ourselves from close transatlantic ties, which are rightly identified by Zsolt Németh as one of the pillars of our foreign policy.

A breakdown in the solidarity between Hungary and Poland on the EU forum would be the triumph of forces ready to quickly resume the cooperation of the entire European Union with Russia and to build the European strategic autonomy as an alternative to the United States. It would be accompanied by a violation of the sovereignty of our countries due to the introduction of a procedure to decide the foreign policy of the EU on a qualified-majority basis, which would in turn lead to the full dominance of Germany and France, which just a year ago tried to invite Putin to an EU summit to strengthen cooperation with Russia. It was prevented only because the Three Seas countries jointly objected to that idea, but in the proposed new system it could be easily voted through.

Poland is also aware of the fact that a negative image of Hungary as a ‘Russian ally’ is a convenient tool used to divert attention away from the sins of the EU powers which are now maintaining a system of EU sanctions on Russia that leaks like a sieve. It is also a convenient tool used to attack the Polish government for its cooperation with Hungary. And yet we know that it was not Hungary that exempted Sberbank and Gazprombank from EU sanctions, it was not the president of Hungary who urged companies in his country not to hastily abandon Russia, it was not Budapest that suggested that Ukraine should give up some of its territory to the invader so that the aggressor may save his face. In this regard, Hungary and Poland need to jointly fend off the propaganda of governments and circles that are hostile to us.


In previous centuries, Poland and Ukraine were connected by both dramatic events and examples of praiseworthy cooperation. It is worth mentioning Hetman Sahaidachny, Ataman Petlura and General Bezruchko. But most importantly, Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and Belarus share a common history rooted in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Polish–Lithuanian–Ruthenian Commonwealth. These ties to the religiously varied and tolerant culture of our ancestors are much deeper than the imposed stereotypes of absolutist Russia and Prussia in the 18th and 19th century. This is why the legacy of the area that is now Ukraine is so important. The nature of this legacy is fully European and stems from the only parliamentary democracy in Europe at that time and from the principle of ‘Equal to equal, free to free’, which was in a sense referred to 30 years ago, when the European Union was emerging.

There are also differences between the situation of Hungarian and Polish minorities in Ukraine. Hungarians live in closely-knit groups, mainly in Zakarpattia. Poles have been scattered over most of the Ukrainian territory and as citizens of the First and Second Polish Republic, they have lived to the west of the Dnieper for centuries, along with other nations. But for both groups, the majority of these lands are their homeland that is involuntarily left outside current state borders – and this is yet another characteristic feature of Central Europe.

The war in Ukraine has caused an exodus that has not been seen in generations – millions of Ukrainians have fled their country and received great help from Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Romanians and Moldovans. These countries welcomed almost 90% of war refugees. The refugee crisis reminds millions of Poles of the fate of our parents and grandparents in the years 1939-1940. Therefore, it is not surprising that Poles are welcoming the majority of refugees in their private homes (which is unprecedented elsewhere in the world on such a scale!) and Poland created financial, legal and administrative conditions which make it possible to take care of the refugees. We all passed this stress test in statehood with an A+.

Throughout its history, Poland has waged 18 wars against Russia. From the end of the 15th century to 1939 Poland defended itself against barbarity and subsequent invasions. The ongoing defensive war in Ukraine can be referred to as a substitute war, which is waged for us by Ukrainians, but if they are defeated, Russia (which does not hide its plans to rebuild the Russian Empire) will attack Poland and other countries in Central Europe. This is what Putin referred to when at the beginning of this year he personally presented his concept of returning to the situation before 1997. This is why Poland so strongly stands for the independence of Ukraine.

This war has determined the most important policy direction for Central Europe and Poland, emphasising the need to expand armed forces and strengthen the eastern flank of NATO. Thanks to Jarosław Kaczyński, Poland quickly passed a new program for rebuilding armed forces, which reflects the Latin phrase ‘If you want peace, prepare for war’. Back in 1831, Polish diplomacy warned Europe that the only boundaries to Russian possessiveness were those set by the military power of the nations threatened by Russia. Today, 190 years later, that statement remains as true as it was back then. Therefore, making it impossible for Russia to achieve its goals requires a financial effort. If the Hungarian minister of defence had not known that in 1920 and refused to give Poles ammunition so as not to jeopardize Hungarian relations with Russia, the Bolshevik hordes would have taken Warsaw and soon attacked Budapest, Prague and Bratislava. But he did make that decision, even though the international position of Hungary was tragic at that time. Today, when Hungary belongs to NATO, it risks much less than it did back then.

Aware of all these circumstances, I share the views of Zsolt Németh, who rightfully emphasises that ‘There is no (…) doubt that the Russian attempt to conquer or partition Ukraine is completely against the interests of Hungary’ and that ‘the vision of resurrecting the Soviet Union as the Russian Empire, which is the purpose of this war as declared by Russia, is totally unacceptable from the point of view of the foreign policy of Hungary’. He convincingly argues that Ukrainian soldiers who are defending the independence of their country are also fighting for Hungarians and that it is in the interest of Hungary for Russia not to achieve its goals. Poles wholeheartedly agree with these statements.

However, the explanation why Hungary (similarly to Romania) refused to allow weapons and ammunition to be transported through its territory to Ukraine that is bleeding for all of us, seems to be too cautious. Is it realistic? Time will tell.

It is very important to strongly condemn the Russian aggression and crimes in Ukraine, as well as to provide humanitarian help. Only a victory over invaders can save us from death, subjugation and exile from our homeland.

I believe that in Poland we correctly interpret the current situation of Ukrainians and have a good understanding of it. So when we ask for help for Ukraine, we ask first and foremost for weapons, which are the best tools to save the lives, health and freedom of us all.

Marek Kuchciński

Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee

of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland

23 May 2022