Shame on you, heartless Hungary! We understand that Hungary and other countries are the portal for hundreds of thousands of immigrants and refugees frantically fleeing war, terrorism and carnage in their homelands.
Yes, vetting, feeding, housing and relocating them are massive problems. And yes, there may be some slimeballs and/or opportunists in the mix.
But you can do it, Hungary. You can be human and humane in caring for your fellow men, women and children. Don’t condemn the masses for the sins of a few.
Remember, immigrant is not a swear word. Neither is refugee.
After all, as of Sept. 11, Germany had been handling its own influx with warmth, grace and compassion (although that country may be limiting immigration soon for a time). So are some nonprofits and many, many individual Hungarians. The U.S. may accept more refugees next year than before — not enough, but it’s a start.
Richard and Christine Greek of Cambria have seen Hungary’s response firsthand. They spent more than a month in Europe through mid-September, visiting their resident son (in the country on a visa) and his Hungarian-born wife.
In a Sept. 11 email, Christine described the situation: “There is a divide between the government and the people; yes, some may agree with the government, but others, evidenced by the outpouring of aid, focus on the humanitarian side — these are people that need help.”
In another email, she said that, at the underground station at Keleti, Budapest, they saw “lots of donated clothes, food, sleeping bags, mattresses and mats, plus a station for charging cellphones and free Internet use. We also saw a man with portable charging devices taped to a cardboard box where people could go charge their phones for free … there were also places set up that had drinking water and showers.”
Richard said the Greek family hoped “to help by providing needed items at volunteer distribution centers,” but their ability to do so was hampered by schedule conflicts, “oversupply (storage fills up quickly due to the outpouring of donations), and three of the four of us being foreigners needing to avoid actual demonstrations.”
I, too, feel a connection to what’s going on now … because of an experience in my past, when the Hungarian shoe was on the other foot.
Today’s bureaucrats there would do well to remember what was happening to their countrymen back then.
The memories are vivid: My mother and I suddenly had unexpected guests, a family of refugees from the brief, violent Hungarian uprising against Soviet-style governance.
Mom thought the benefit was worth the risk, so she volunteered to help, even though our family consisted of a divorced mom and her young daughter.
As I wrote in 2011, it seemed very odd to have in our home people we didn’t know who didn’t speak much English and who hadn’t brought any luggage.
Looking back, our sacrifices were insignificant: Limited hot water meant staggering shower times in our home’s only bathroom; stacks of laundry multiplied exponentially; feeding extra mouths stretched our already-tight budget beyond the Kraft mac-and-cheese level.
It wasn’t goulash, but it was food.
We tried teaching English to our guests, and struggled to learn some Hungarian ourselves. Neither attempt was very successful.
I don’t remember how long our guests were with us. From a child’s vantage point, it seemed to last forever, as we shared our warm home and provided them with a cozy bed (mine).
Meanwhile, Mom and I slept together, which was a hoot — ever tried to share a narrow bed with five dachshunds and a flailing parent whose arm is in a cast? (I often wound up on the floor, as did the Hungarian youngsters.)
No, Mom and I didn’t help end a war, cold or otherwise. But we made a difference to some polite, needy strangers … people we never saw again. For a while, we gave them a safe, warm, friendly resting spot where they could catch their breath, deal with their losses, accumulate new possessions and adjust to their new life and homeland.
These were good folks who needed so much, so suddenly, through no fault of their own.
And that’s the magic phrase: “Through no fault of their own.”
So, Hungarian diplomats, how can you be so cold-hearted in the face of such suffering? Police and guard dogs? With so many children involved? Chasing families down and herding them like criminals? Fences and razor wire? Tear gas and water cannons? Really?
As one visiting official said Sept. 10, the right-wing Hungarian government appeared to be making the situation “as miserable as possible” for the migrants. (Some in our country would do the same here. Shame on them, too.)
Not an option
Sending the migrants back home to Syria or wherever isn’t an option: In most cases, there’s no “there” there anymore.
Many of those families are simply seeking asylum in a place where they can survive and be safe, away from war’s bombs, bullets, grenades and all the horrible things one branch of humanity can do to another (often in the name of religion or turf protecting … bah humbug!).
A hug, a cookie and a warm bath are so much better than police escorts or overcrowded refugee camps with makeshift tents. A shared home beats an open-air prison any day.
Yes, the flood of humanity is a huge elephant to tackle. But you know the old saw … one bite at a time. Some European neighbors already are doing it.
More of Hungary’s own people will help officially, if you bureaucrats will just toss your elitist attitudes and let Hungarians be the warm, welcoming people they are.
Have a heart, Hungary. Help the helpless. Return the favors your people were given so long ago.