Hungarian Civil Legion of Honour, 2014

The Ars Humanica Hungarica Circle, established by eminent members of Hungarian society in 2010, awarded the Hungarian Civil Legion of Honour for the third time in 2014, the Year of Civil Courage. The award embodies the values of free-thinking civil society and is given to those who display the values of both humanity and civil courage in their actions and activities.

After the introduction to the ceremony, Kossuth Prize-winning writer Gábor Görgey gave a talk in which he expressed his hope that a time would come in which Honour would still be honoured in Hungary.Gábor Görgey

Then poet Zoltán Sumonyi paid homage to the Batthyány family. (The Legion of Honour ceremony is timed to coincide with the birthday of its famous son Lajos Batthyány, the martyred prime minister of the first independent Hungarian government.)

Next, literary historian Béla Pomogáts collected his thoughts on the present state of civil society; his conclusion was that it is nobler to be a valuable civilian than an unswerving slave of the régime.

This was followed by a reading of Endre Ady’s emblematic poem on human courage, A Tűz csiholója (He who Strikes the Fire), by young actress Éva Pasqualini.

One of the 2014 awards went to eminent men (historian Zoltán Sz. Bíró, publisher Gábor Deák, pastor Gábor Iványi and writer Rudolf Ungvári) who, in October 2012, at their own risk and expense, made a pilgrimage to Yerevan, Armenia, to ask forgiveness from the Armenian people in the name of the Hungarian people after the state release of the Azerbaijani Ramil Sahib Safarov, who had murdered his room-mate, the Armenian Gurgen Margaryan, in his sleep with an axe. The pilgrims wished to lessen the diplomatic tensions that have persisted between the two nations ever since this event, and to help restore the Hungarian nation’s good name.

The appreciation of the four men was delivered by Lutheran pastor Tamás Fabiny, who remembered the 1700 years of the Armenian Christian church, as well as the courage displayed by the women who visited Jesus’ tomb on the third day.

The other award was given to Ildikó Harmathy, the founder of the local producers’ market and community space in Káptalantóti, a village just north of the Balaton lake. The judges recognized the civil courage and public stamina embodied by the humanity of this practical venture, which, even in the face of the arrogance of the powers that be, serves many hundreds’ needs and many thousands’ pleasure.

This persistence was honoured by Kossuth Prize-winning actor Géza D. Hegedűs with the greatest of artistic aplomb, calling Ildikó Harmathy the Great Dame of Civil Courage.

Finally, the 150-strong audience could enjoy Khachaturian’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano, performed by Viennese pianist Paul Gulda, as well as Emőke Szatmári (clarinet) and Elvira Vucurevic (violin).