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Reunveiling of Imre Varga’s statue of Bela Bartok (1881-1945) in South Kensington


Imre Varga's statue of Bela BartókOn Saturday 24 September 2011, Imre Varga's statue of Bela Bartók was reunveiled on the pavement outside Malvern Court, South Kensington, London  following its removal in April 2009 for road redevelopments.

Distinguished guests at the unveiling ceremony included Hungarian Cultural Councillor, Ms Eszter Pataki, the Mayor or Kensington and Chelsea, Councillor Julie Mills, the Rt Hon David Mellor QC, former Secretary of State for National Heritage, Malcolm Rudland, Vice-president of the Peter Warlock Society, Tamas Vasary, Simon Wills, Péter Laki, Malcolm Gillies, Danny Gillingwater, Dr Marek Stella-Sawicki, Chairman of the Polish Heritage Society, the Guildhall Brass Ensemble, the Chelsea Ballet  and Rev. Janos Csicsó of the Hungarian Catholic Chaplaincy who blessed the statue. Chelsea Pensioners Marjorie Cole and David Donaghey took up sentry duty with the Hungarian flag on the piazza outside South Kensington Station.

The celebrated Hungarian sculptor Imre Varga cameto London in 2004 for the initial unveiling of his fourth statue of Bela Bartók. 300 of Vargas 'works are to befound in nine different countries of the world.

Varga's London Bartók was removed in April 2009 for road redevelopments, but is now reunveiled, in the same year as a re-discovered statue of Chopin at London's Royal Festival Hall. Bela Bartók (1881-1945), the most significant Hungarian eomposer of the last century, was inspired prineipally by a love for his native folk musie. Choosing exile in Ameriea in 1940, he died there five years later. His musie, includes the Concerto for Orchestra, three piano concertos, six string quartets, and a remarkable set of 153 graded piano pieces called Mikrokosmos.

Warlock Bartok Society logoPeter Warlock (1894-1930), the most significant English song-composer of the inter-war years, was inspired by the musie of Delius, Bartók, and Elizabethan and Celtic music and culture. His musie includes a suite Capriol, 150 songs and several exquisite carols. He helped bring Bartók to London in 1922, and his society planned the unveiling of the statue, and the blue plaque in 1997.


PHS_logo_subheadSpeech by Dr. Marek Stella-Sawicki on behalf of PHS


Ladies and Gentleman, distinguished Guests

In London, Polish Heritage Society UK, organised a successful search and then, the complete restoration of missing for nearly 40 years Chopin’s Statue at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank, as originally unveiled by HRH Princes Alice back in 1975.

Bela Bartok reunveiling and Chopin statue saga at Southbank have plenty in common and there is naturally our joint European history to consider, but lets start from the beginning:

Pole and Hungarian cousins be,
good for fight and good for party.

Both are valiant, both are lively,

Upon them may God's blessings be.

A full Hungarian text  of the proverb is:

Lengyel, magyar — két jó barát,
együtt harcol s issza borát.

which may also be rendered:

Pole, Hungarian—two good friends,
together they battle and drink their wine.

The Polish version given above, is the one most commonly quoted by Poles today. In Hungarian language, there are a total of 10 versions!The proverb in its several variants in the Polish and Hungarian, speaks of the special relation, that has long existed between Poland and Hungary —considered to be unique in the history of any two European countries. The proverb probably arose after the 1772 collapse of the Bar Independence Confederation in Poland, formed to defend the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth against the aggression of the Russian Empire .

Good relations between Poland and Hungary date back to the Middle Ages when Louis the Great was King of Hungary from 1342 and then King of Poland from 1370 until his death in 1382. In the 15th century, the two countries briefly shared the same king again, Poland's Władysław III of Varna , who took part in famous battle of Varna against the Turks . In the 16th century, Poland elected as its king a Hungarian nobleman, Stefan Batory , who was regarded as one of Poland's greatest kings. In the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 , it was a Polish general, Józef Bem , that became national hero of both Hungary and Poland.

In the aftermath of World War I the allies had, at Versailles , transferred Carpathian Ruthenia from Hungary to Czechoslovakia. Poland has never ratified this Treaty. During the Polish–Soviet War (1919–21), Hungary offered to send 30,000 cavalry to Poland's aid.

In the 1939 invasion of Poland by Hitler, the common Polish-Hungarian border would become of major importance when Admiral Horthy 's government, on the grounds of the long-standing Polish-Hungarian friendship, declined Hitler demands to block an escape route, as a matter of "Hungarian honour”, The Hungarian government allowed the Polish government and tens of thousands of military personnel into Hungary. Then onto Romania , and to France and French-mandated Syria , to carry on operations as part of the third-strongest Allied Army after Britain and France. In addition, Polish and British intelligence agents and couriers, including Krystyna Skarbek, used Hungary's Carpathian mountain to and from Poland.

In the 1956, during the Hungarian Revolution against the Soviets, the Poles demonstrated their support for their friends by donating blood. By 12 November 1956, 11,196 Poles had donated their blood. The Polish Red Cross sent 44 tons of medical supplies to Hungary by air, with larger amounts sent by road and rail.

Links between Poland and Hungary remain strong, and Hungarian politicians and political analysts often speak of "the Warsaw express," in reference to the fact that, in the modern history of Hungary and Poland, developments in Hungarian politics, such as shifts to the right or left, or political unrest, often follow similar developments in Poland.

In 2007, Hungary's parliament voted March 23, the "Day of Hungarian-Polish Friendship", with 324 in favour, none opposed, and no abstentions. Four days later, the Polish parliament declared March 23, the "Day of Polish-Hungarian Friendship" by acclamation.

In more recent times in London, two great musicians drew the nations together again in the hunt for missing statues – those of Chopin and Bela Bartok and the restoration of these two great composers of each nation to their rightful place in London.

The Polish Heritage Society UK organised a successful search and the complete restoration of missing for nearly 40 years Chopin’s Statue at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank. Unveiled this year by HRH The Duke of Gloucester.

Today, I am delighted to be present at the reunveiling of the Bela Bartok Statue in South Kensington.


Dr. Marek Stella-Sawicki, Chairman Polish Heritage Society


PHS_logo_subheadUnveiling ceremony gallery