The Embassies of Hungary and Austria in Washington co-hosted a „Triumph of Liberty” luncheon to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the opening of the border between the two countries, dubbed the Pan-European picnic. At the event, executive director of the Foundation Marion Smith announced the launch of www.BuildTheMuseum.com, where donations can be made for the construction of a museum in Washington, DC to commemorate the victims of communism around the world. This initiative also marks the 25th anniversary of the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the 20th anniversary of the setting up of the Foundation. The Hungarian Government has donated USD 1 million for the cause.
At the event, Ambassador György Szapáry, himself a refugee of the 1956 revolution and war of independence spoke of his personal experiences of 1989, when he returned to the country he once had to flee to witness its democratic transition. He presented Hungary’s Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit to historian Lee Edwards for “his laborious work on the cold war history of the Central-Eastern European countries and the sins of communism”. For twenty years, Edwards has been chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, an educational organisation established by a bipartisan Act of Congress in 1993. Mr. Edwards stated that most people are not aware that 100 million lives had been lost under communist dictatorships during the 20th century and that people were still dying under such regimes. He expressed hope that the cornerstone of the museum could be placed in 2017, the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution.
Austrian Ambassador Hans Peter Manz, who at the time was the Hungary desk officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Austria, gave a first-hand account at the luncheon. Congressman Dennis Ross (R-FL), whose grandparents emigrated from Hungary and Senator Chris Murphy, Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe, also addressed the guests.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán sent a letter supporting the commemorations, which were read out by the Prime Minister’s senior advisor Jenő Megyesy. The letter stated that the museum should address everyone; those who grew up in freedom as well as those who fled those regimes and came to the United States. It will serve as an eternal admonition reminding everyone of communism’s horrible crimes and will profess that the sacrifice has not been in vain; good conquers evil regardless of their numerical superiority, the Prime Minister wrote.
(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade)