many freedom fighters expected American aid, that never came.
Active Christians, including church leaders, were among those suffering under the restored Communist system.
Accompanied by his wife Laura and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, the president came to Budapest four months ahead of the official commemorations as his schedule apparently does not allow a visit in October.
After meeting Hungary’s new Foreign Minister Kinga Goncz and US ambassador to Hungary, George Herbert Walker, the president was whisked away to prepare for a day aimed at remembering Hungarians who rose up against the Communist government and to reach out to those who felt betrayed by America and the West in general.
The US-funded Radio Free Europe network has been blamed by both American and European historians and analysts for broadcasting programs promising American military support, that never was forthcoming.
Within two weeks the 1956 Revolution was bloodily suppressed by Soviet tanks. At least 2,500 people died in fighting and hundreds of thousands left the country many for the United States. "200,000 Hungarians crossed into [neighboring] Austria after the revolution," the Austrian Ambassador to Hungary, Ferdinand Mayrhofer-Grunbuhel, told BosNewsLife.
Besides meeting government officials and attending ceremonies, on Thursday, June 22, Bush was to give a speech to the people of Budapest from Gellert Hill as part of his two-day program to "celebrate Hungary’s historic sacrifices in the name of freedom by commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution," the White House said earlier.
His keynote speech was also expected to underscore what the White House calls "the success of the US-European partnership in securing freedom in the region," and highlight "the lessons offered from Hungary’s successful transition from tyranny to free-market democracy," as well as the need for continues reforms in the region. Hungary is a NATO ally and supported missions in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Despite Hungarian frustration over perceived lack of American aid during the 1956 revolution, the Hungarian Catholic Church thanked Bush, a self declared 'born-again Christian', for US support after the fighting ended.
In a published letter to Bush this month, Primate Peter Erdo said Hungarian Catholics would not forget that a predecessor found shelter in the American embassy in Budapest in 1956. Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, fleeing Soviet tanks invading the capital, stayed for 15 years in the embassy as Communist rule was restored.
The US also received thousands of Hungarian immigrants who left the country after the failed revolution Erdo said, adding: "God bless America."
Analysts also say that Hungary’s 1956 Revolution was among the first signs, after an uprising in East Germany in 1953, that there were cracks in the Soviet Block, which was to fall apart over three decades later.
The US president arrived in Budapest from Vienna -- where he attended a summit with European Union leaders on Wednesday, June 21 -- amid unprecedented security measures, a Hungarian security official said. Brig. Gen. Imre Kardos, deputy commander of the Hungarian regiment Republican Regiment in Budapest today to discuss security issues.
Brig. Gen. Imre Kardos, deputy commander of the Hungarian Republican Regiment, told Hungarian media that the "death of al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq” this month "puts Bush in greater danger."
Bush’s limousines were reportedly flown to Budapest a few days ahead of his visit. The vehicles are equipped with bullet-proof windows, resistant to explosives, and have an internal air circulation system, reports said.
He is accompanied by his own team of bodyguards as well as Hungarian security personnel while thousands of police are expected to secure the routes of the presidential convoy, with a police helicopter hovering overhead. (With BosNewsLife News Center and BosNewsLife Research).