The Polish Speaker of the Parliament, Marek Kuchciński, has met with the Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly, László Kövér, in Krasiczyn, southern Poland. The main points on the agenda included bilateral cooperation within the framework of the Visegrad Group. The two speakers also used the opportunity to meet with the youth attending a new initiative in Polish-Hungarian relations, the Wacław Felczak Institute for Polish-Hungarian Cooperation.
The meeting took place at the Krasiczyn castle, situated roughly halfway between Warsaw and Budapest. The reason for the meeting was the establishment of the board of the Wacław Felczak Institute for Polish-Hungarian Cooperation. The aim of the institute is to integrate the youth of the two countries.
The new institute is named after Professor Wacław Felczak, an icon for the community which is engaged in strenghtening Polish-Hungarian relations. Felczak, a member of the Polish anti-Nazi military underground organization the Home Army, learned Hungarian before the war and prepared for his doctoral dissertation by digging through Hungarian archives on all matters concerning Polish-Hungarian relations during the 1848 Spring of Nations and the 1863 Polish January Uprising against the Russian Empire.
Between 1939-1945, Felczak was the head of an organization of secret couriers who carried information between Poland, Hungary and the West on behalf of the Polish Government-in-Exile in London. After the war, the Polish historian continued to serve the Polish Government-in-Exile, often travelling himself to communist-occupied Poland with important secret documents. Arrested by the communists in 1947, he was sentenced to life but released in 1956 as a result of the thaw following Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party in which he denounced Joseph Stalin.
As a staunch anticommunist, Felczak started returning to Hungary in the late 1970s, giving secret seminars to the leaders of Hungarian anticommunist underground. He championed a vision in which Central Europe, through joint efforts, would be able to throw off the Soviet communist yoke.
He spent the 1987-88 winter semester at Eötvös Collegium in Budapest where the taught Polish history. A young Viktor Orban (who wrote his master’s thesis on the Polish anticommunist trade union “Solidarity”) attended one of his lectures together with a group of anticommunist activist friends and asked Professor Felczak for advice on how to best fight communism. Felczak advised him to start a political party. A couple of months later, Orban became one of the founding members of Fidesz; the party which has ruled Hungary since 2010.
The Polish government decided in January 2018 to establish the Wacław Felczak Institute for Polish-Hungarian Cooperation and to allocate 6 million Złoty (around 1.6 million USD) a year to its budget. The Hungarian government has also set up a corresponding institute in Hungary with a similar budget. The two new organizations have been tasked with cooperating to foster closer contacts between young Poles and Hungarians in academia, sports and culture.
The meeting in the Krasiczyn castle was held at the occasion of the first Summer University in Krasiczyn, a four-day event organized by Wacław Felczak Institute for Polish-Hungarian Cooperation for youth leaders from Poland and Hungary.