Watching the refugees in Budapest

Whilst standing at a traffic light in downtown Budapest today (Sept 6th) , I saw a most shocking site. I was on my way for a coffee at the well known Cafe New York. (New York Kávéház)

It all started with the honking of horns at the Blaha Luzja Ter intersection as cars from all directions applied their brakes. Then there was yelling and screaming and yelping and shouting and the sound of people running or is it a stampede? What is making so much noise?

And right into the intersection they ran , limped and hobbled….thousands of women and children and men and infants with absolutely nothing….I looked in their eyes and saw hell. I gasped for breath and my eyes filled with tears.  

Across Blaha junction they streamed as the locals looked on with anger, fear, disgust or compassion and detachment. 

It was too much: the juxtaposed reality of civilized Budapest, thousands of Syrian refugees flowing thru right next to Cafe New York and  all this less than a mile from where the Jews of Hungary were deported to Auschwitz or killed and thrown into the Danube. Was that a few decades ago..or yesterday?

It really does not matter how this problem came to be, it is a massive system problem that needs to be addressed. In terms of OD, the refugees are a powerless constituency used as a football which can be kicked around. And indeed this is what is happening.

Coffee and cake at the New York Cafe in Budapest are highly recommended.

 de                                                  New York Cafe, Budapest

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14 thoughts on “Watching the refugees in Budapest

  1. I understand your comparison (and the attempt to identify the refugees with a number on their arm did not help) but no Austrian with a mustache is organizing the forced march. I wonder if we don’t witness our inability to manage complex system? The useless and naive war in Iraq, may have been one of the most important trigger of the situation in Syria first seen with a romantic view of a 19th century revolution.

    • Totally agree.
      The war in Iraq (the weakening of a secular Iraq), the war within Islam and the disintegration of the nation state (esp Syria) in the Middle East have led to this disaster.
      Do we need democratic elections? OD? 🙂

      • If I may..

        Yes the war was a catalyst. But the overarching issue of humanitarian relief and embracing people who flee from terror is at its core the same. We turn our backs to pretend these people don’t exist. We shut our doors so we don’t have to see. This HAS happened before – and with ugly consequences.

  2. The Levant was relatively stable under the Ottomans for some four centuries before Britain and France redrew the boundaries during World War 1 with the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement — as ratified by the League of Nations in the form of British and French Mandates that eventually led to inherently unstable nation states as the two colonial powers receded.

    Personally, I don’t think that there is any hope of stability until a) Assad and Islamic State are removed, b) the Russians and Iranians fenced out and c) new boundary lines set more along ethnic, tribal and religious boundaries.

    It looks at this point as if the Europeans will either have to do this on their own or accept well over 7-8 million refugees — with neither alternative being easy and both leading to interesting times.

    • Chuck,
      I am not sure the present US administration will fence out the Iranians and the Russians.
      Setting up states along tribal lines/ethnic lines may work, certainly the nation state does not work,
      I also believe that political correctness is hindering the discussion about what needs to happen.
      The negative impact of religious belief in this area (Israel included) is devastating, but we do not want to step on anyones’ toes.

      • Hi Allon,

        I forgot another qualification — acquiescence of the Turks.

        In any event, my money would be on the a) the EU taking the 7-8 million refugees and b) the Islamic State or some fanatic equivalent combining Sunni Arab Iraq and Syria and, perhaps, even some of Lebanon into a new country. This alternative presumes that the US and the EU will remain on the sidelines militarily while the Iranians and the Russian gleefully intervene. How the Kurds and the Assad family will wind up depends on the effectiveness of their intervention.

        During all this, I feel very, very sorry for the people living in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. I have one friend whose brother’s and sister’s and their families are safely out of Syria in various European countries, but a mother who has refused to leave her home in Damascus. An uncle, a retired Sunni Arab general is under house arrest.


    • Absolutely.
      My stomach and heart have been hardened by lots of travel and living thru so many wars…..but this was an appalling site to see. What touched me so much is that just the day before, I had visited two apartment blocks from where the Jews had been exported to Auschwitz which have been made into…..a food court.

  3. Allon, Thanks for this. It is bracing to read your eye-witness account vs the media stories we are fed here in the US.

    When I read your last comment –“What touched me so much is that just the day before, I had visited two apartment blocks from where the Jews had been exported to Auschwitz which have been made into…..a food court.” — I thought, Life goes on.

    Life does go on, whether we are alive or not, whether we are on board or not.

    In your post, you ask about OD. Does OD offer anything to this situation? Can OD offer anything in this crisis?

    As an optimist, my answer is Yes. As a realist, I know that the chance of OD’s voice being heard by the powers-that-be is nil.

    Perhaps the best we can do is offer our help on the most local of levels.

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