Arpad Goncz passed away while we were in Budapest. And, at 93, he was the most beloved former President in Hungary’s recent history.
Goncz was a hero to dissidents who participated in an anti-Soviet uprising in 1956. He had been jailed for life because of that, but only served 8 years. Earlier he had been involved in resistance to the Nazis. He was the first President to be democratically elected in Hungary and served from 1990-2000 and was friendly with the US.
He died yesterday. And tonight as we took our first walk ever by the mammoth architectural gem that houses Parliament, we noticed crowds growing, many TV cameras, hundreds of people with roses, and a memorial service beginning. We saw a large delegation that appeared to be walking from the area of the heavily fortified US Embassy.
We saw people crying and heard someone say in rare English that “none of the Presidents since him can compare.”