“Pole and Hungarian — two brothers,/good for sabre and for glass./Both courageous, both lively,/May God bless them” – goes the poem on the Polish-Hungarian friendship. But why exactly are Hungarians so good friends with the Poles?
The question is very good because many things could have divided the two nations. One can start with the mother-tongue: while Polish is a Slavic language, the Hungarian is Finno-Ugric. Furthermore, the Hungarian and the Polish Kingdom shared a common border for at least 500 years which could have been a basis for constant hostilities. However, such conflicts never happened.
In fact, the Christian History of the two states started around the same time, at the beginning of the second millennium. According to a Hungarian legend, Archangel Gabriel appeared in the dream of Pope Sylvester II on the Christmas eve of 1000 and told Rome’s bishop that two emissaries would come the next day and that he
should give the crown to the Hungarians.
Anyway, Polish Miesko I (932-992) and Géza, Grand Prince of the Hungarians (c940-997) both took up Christianity in the 960s, 970s. The above-mentioned legend of the coronation of the first Hungarian king, Stephen I (996/1000-1038) probably tries to explain the fact that while Stephen I was apostolic, so the Hungarian church was independent of the Holy-Roman-Empire’s, this did not happen in the case of Poland which was the basis of many conflicts between them in the 11th and 12th century.
During the centuries it happened many times that members of the Hungarian dynasties and magnate families fled to Poland while Polish ones came to Hungary. When after his son’s tragic death in a hunting accident, Stephen I blinded his greatest rival, Vazul,
his three sons fled to Poland
and later all three of them became kings of Hungary. Not surprisingly, Hungarian monarchs chose their spouses from Polish dynasties many times. For example, one of the greatest Hungarian kings, Ladislaus I’s (1077-1095) mother was Polish and he was born in Poland, as well.
When Hungary’s ruling Árpád-dynasty died out in 1301, Anjou Charles I (1308-1342) married Elizabeth of Poland from the Piast-dynasty, and thus, he could secure the Polish throne for his son, Louis I who unified the two countries in a personal union. After his death, his older daughter, Maria (1371-1395) inherited Hungary while his younger daughter, Hedwig (Jadwiga; 1373-1399) became queen regnant of Poland. Hedwig later married Władysław Jagiełło, and so she was able to unify the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland
creating one of the great powers in Europe.
Later, the Jagiellonian-dynasty gave three kings in Hungary though they are not considered as successful rulers in the History books in spite of the fact that the last one of them, Louis II did what he could for the defence of the country against the Ottoman Empire and gave his life for Hungary on the battlefield of Mohács.
After the Hungarian Kingdom was divided into three parts in the mid-1500s, the Principality of Transylvania became the more or less independent Hungarian state of the time, and it was a huge victory for one of its leaders, Stephen Báthory to be elected Polish king. In fact, he was a very successful monarch, for example,
he founded the University of Vilnius and defeated Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible.
Hungary welcomed Polish refugees fleeing from Wehrmacht
In the 18th and 19th century Hungary became part of the Habsburg Empire while Poland was divided between Prussia, Russia and Austria. Both nations led several fights for independence mutually helping each other in their struggle. For example, Francis II Rákóczi returned to lead the Hungarian fight for independence (1703-1711) from Poland while Polish freedom fighters could always find shelter, friends and help in Hungary. In the 1848-1849 fight for independence, some of the Hungarian military leaders like József Bem or Henryk Dembinski came from Poland.
The situation did not change in the 20th century. Apart from France, only Miklós Horthy’s Hungary sent ammunition and arms for the Polish troops fighting against Soviet-Russia in the Battle of Warsaw, 1920. In 1939, when German Wehrmacht crushed the Polish resistance,
Hungary opened its borders and welcomed the refugees
whose number reached 100 thousand. Many of them moved to the West immediately, but tens of thousands remained. For them, a separate Polish secondary school was established in Balatonboglár and József Antall Sr, father of Hungarian PM József Antall was nominated government’s commissioner on organizing support for Polish refugees.
After WWII both Poland and Hungary were subdued to the Soviet Union and they resisted together again. In 1956, one of the causes of the Hungarian revolution was the crushed protest and uprising of the Polish workers of Poznan. Thus, it is not surprising that after becoming independent, the two countries immediately established very close cooperation which can be detected, for example, in the work of the Visegrad Group.