In our childhood, when nearing to the main feasts, 7 November and 4 April – the latter being Hungary’s day of liberation by the Red Army –, the newspapers regularly published the slogans suggested for the celebratory parade, so the persons responsible for the factory’s decoration could prepare in time the posters with the message announcing the current party line. The slogans subtly changed from year to year, following the party tactics – but what differences carried this subtlety for a refined ear! Nevertheless, one of their constant idiom was the “eternal and unbreakable friendship”, either between our homeland and the Soviet Union, or between the countries of the so-called camp of peace.
Since then many things believed to be unbreakable proved to be breakable, and after breaking being of expired warranty, in the West as well as in the East. But not in the no man’s land between both, in the Ukraine, which after a short orange blossom is still peacefully dreaming its sleeping-beauty-dream.
On the map of Lwów, at the southern end of the long Freedom Square, behind the Mary column restored in the place of the former Lenin statue, you can clearly see that the signboards of the largest bookshop of Lwów announce its goods in several languages. In addition to Ukrainian, also in French, and even in Polish, which is perhaps the only post-1945 Polish-language inscription in the city. One even finds surprising this internationalism, so unusual in the Ukraine. Well then, you would think, so nevertheless there was some opening, and where else than in the temple of the spirit.
Moreover, if you approach the building along the old Jewish street – on the map Староеврейская –, you will be even more surprised to see that the inscription is out there even in Hungarian. For whom? Maybe for the hundred and fifty thousand strong Hungarian ethnic minority in the western region of Subcarpathia? After all, we saw no such civility even in Ungvár/Uzhgorod, the center of their region. Well, it seems that Lwów has preserved its international spirit, even if not its nationalities.
But the real surprise awaits you in the shop. You are greeted by the arms of various nations, arms which in their own country had fallen into the dust at least twenty years ago.
The saleswoman, who also seems to have been standing behind the counter for at least twenty years, on seeing our bewilderment explains that back at that time the bookshop was called Friendship, and it was then that they put out the arms of all Socialist countries and the signboards in the languages of all of them, plus in French, perhaps as a trademark of spirit. And it has ever remained so, because for twenty years there has been no money to renew the store’s equipment.
We do not know whether this friendship which has so far proven unbreakable, will be also eternal. We hope not. However, it has already proven what Cicero considered as one of the main features of true friendship: it lasts beyond the grave.