Pole and Hungarian cousins be

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Johann Wilhelm Baur (Strasbourg-born painter, 1610–40), Poles and Hungarians, Czartoryski Museum, Kraków
Georg Haufnagel, Polish Cavalryman and Hungarian Lady (17th century), Czartoryski Museum, Kraków
Friendship monument in inner city of Eger, Hungary

"Pole and Hungarian cousins be" (the Polish version) and "Pole and Hungarian, two good friends" (Hungarian version) are respective forms of a popular bilingual proverb concerning the traditional kinship, brotherhood, and camaraderie between the Polish and Hungarian peoples.


The Polish text of the proverb reads:

Polak, Węgier — dwa bratanki,
i do szabli, i do szklanki,
oba zuchy, oba żwawi,
niech im Pan Bóg błogosławi.

The full Hungarian version reads:

Lengyel, magyar – két jó barát,
Együtt harcol s issza borát,
Vitéz s bátor mindkettője,
Áldás szálljon mindkettőre.

The Polish text may be rendered:

Pole and Hungarian brothers be,
good for fight and good for party.
Both are valiant, both are lively,
Upon them may God's blessings be.

—or, more word-for-word:

Pole and Hungarian — two brothers,
good for saber and for glass.
Both courageous, both lively,
Let God bless them.

A shorter Hungarian version,

Lengyel, magyar – két jó barát,
együtt harcol s issza borát.

may be rendered:

Pole and Hungarian — two good friends,
joint fight and drinking at the end.

—or, without rhyme, meter or syllable-count, and rendered word-by-word:

Pole, Hungarian — two good friends,
together they battle and drink their wine.

The proverb's Polish version comprises two couplets, each of the four lines consisting of 8 syllables. The Hungarian version comprises a single couplet, each of the two lines likewise consisting of 8 syllables.

The Polish version's "bratanki" means "nephews (one's brother's sons)", but at one time "bratanek" (the singular) may have been a diminutive of "brat", "brother"). The Polish expression "'bratanek'" differs in meaning from the Hungarian version's "barát" ("friend"), though the two words look similar.

The Polish version given above is the one commonly quoted today by Poles. In the Hungarian language, there are 10 distinct versions, each a couplet of the same general meaning, and most again comprising 8 syllables.


In its several variants in the Polish and Hungarian languages, the proverb speaks to the special relations that have long existed between Poland and Hungary.

The proverb literally means: the Pole and Hungarian are two brothers, both in terms of saber and cup. It was an invention of the Polish middle and minor nobility during the 16th or 18th century (it was not used by commoners prior that time). They recognized that both countries have the same political structure, the so-called nobles' republic (Polish: Rzeczpospolita, Hungarian: natio Hungarica), a democratic parliamentary system where the state and the king are controlled by untitled nobility. (The Polish term rokosz—designating a semi-legal armed rebellion against Poland's king, in defense of the Polish nobility's political rights—derives from the name of Hungary's Rákos (hu), a field near the city of Pest, Hungary, where, in the Middle Ages, mass public parliamentary meetings of Hungarian middle and minor nobility were held.)

Similarly, they also recognized, that the nobilities of both countries had corresponding war tactics, weaponry, and lifestyle, making them "two brothers". When Poles elected the Hungarian nobleman Stephen Bathory, prince of Transylvania as king of Poland (1576), the new ruler implemented a military reform, created the combat arm of so-called winged hussars, and from Transylvania invited the first sabre making masters in Poland, who also promoted the development of Polish martial art by sabre. (The sabre [Polish szabla] is being called in Poland as szabla Wegierska-Polska [Hungarian-Polish sabre], or batorówka, after the name of king Stephen Báthori [or zygmuntówka after the name of king Sigismund III Vasa, or augustówka after the name of king Augustus III. respectively].)

Members of the nobility in both countries also liked good wine (in the Middle Ages, imported to Poland mainly from Hungary), resulting in similar temperament and lifestyle, and in understanding between them. In Hungary, the saying became widely known outside nobility circles only at the end of the 19th century.

According to one source, the proverb's original Polish version was, Węgier, Polak dwa bratanki i do szabli i do szklanki. Oba zuchy, oba żwawi, niech im Pan Bóg błogosławi.[1]

The saying probably arose after the 1772 collapse of the Bar Confederation (1768–72), which had been formed to defend the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth against aggression by the Russian Empire. According to Julian Krzyżanowski, the saying was inspired by the sojourn, in Szepesség, Kingdom of Hungary (today Spiš, Slovakia), of the Confederation's leaders, who found political asylum there.[2] Another source states that it "comes from the period when the Generality of the Bar Confederation [the Confederation's supreme authority] took up residence in Eperjes [today in eastern Slovakia] (1769–1772)."[3][4]

Grave of a Hungarian Honved captain and six of his men who fell fighting on the Polish side in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.

Good relations between Poland and Hungary date back to the Middle Ages. Louis the Great was King of Hungary from 1342 and King of Poland from 1370 until his death in 1382. He was his father’s heir, Charles I of the House of Anjou-Sicily (King of Hungary and Croatia) and his uncle’s heir, Casimir III the Great (King of Poland – the last ruler of Piast dynasty). King Casimir had no legitimate sons. Apparently, in order to provide a clear line of succession and avoid dynastic uncertainty, he arranged for his nephew, King Louis I of Hungary, to be his successor in Poland. In the 15th century, the two countries briefly shared the same king, Poland's Władysław III of Varna, who perished, aged barely twenty, fighting the Turks at Varna, Bulgaria. In the 16th century, Poland elected as its king a Hungarian nobleman, Stefan Batory, who is regarded as one of Poland's greatest kings. In the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, a Polish general, Józef Bem, became a national hero of both Hungary and Poland.

During the Polish–Soviet War (1919–21), Hungary offered to send 30,000 cavalry to Poland's aid, but the Czechoslovak government refused to allow them passage through the demilitarized zone that had existed between Czechoslovakia and Hungary since the end of the Czechoslovak-Hungarian war a few months earlier. The government of Romania took a similar stance, and refused passage as well. When the Hungarians attempted to send ammunition trains, Czechoslovakia once again refused, but Romania agreed, under the condition that the Hungarians used their own trains.

From the Middle Ages well into the 18th century, Poland and Hungary had shared a historic common border between Poland and Carpathian Ruthenia (also known as "Carpathian Rus"), governed by Hungary. In the aftermath of World War I the allies had, at Versailles, transferred Carpathian Ruthenia from Hungary to Czechoslovakia. Poland has never ratified the Treaty of Trianon. Treaty with Hungary was not signed till 4 June 1920, it did not come into force at all till 26 July 1921, and it was never published in the Journal of Laws by Poland. Following the Munich Agreement (30 September 1938) — which doomed Czechoslovakia to takeover by Germany — Poland and Hungary, from common as well as their own special interests, worked together, by diplomatic as well as paramilitary means, to restore their historic common border by engineering the return of Carpathian Rus to Hungary.[5] A step toward their goal was realized with the First Vienna Award (November 2, 1938).

Until mid-March 1939, Germany considered that, for military reasons, a common Hungarian-Polish frontier was undesirable. Indeed, when in March 1939 Hitler made an about-face and authorized Hungary to take over the rest of Carpatho-Rus (which was by then styling itself "Carpatho-Ukraine"), he warned Hungary not to touch the remainder of Slovakia, to whose territory Hungary also laid claim. Hitler meant to use the puppet state Slovakia as a staging ground for his planned invasion of Poland. In March 1939, however, Hitler changed his mind about the common Hungarian-Polish frontier and decided to betray Germany's ally, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, who had already in 1938 begun organizing Ukrainian military units in a sich outside Uzhhorod, in Carpathian Ukraine, under German tutelage — a sich that Polish political and military authorities saw as an imminent danger to nearby southeastern Poland, with its largely Ukrainian population.[6][7] Hitler, however, was concerned that, if a Ukrainian army organized in Carpathian Rus were to accompany German forces invading the Soviet Union, Ukrainian nationalists would insist on the establishment of an independent Ukraine; Hitler, who had designs on Ukraine's natural and agricultural resources, did not want to deal with an independent Ukrainian government.[8]

Polish troops withdrawn to Hungary in September 1939

Hitler would soon have cause to rue his decision regarding the fate of Carpatho-Ukraine. In six months, during his 1939 invasion of Poland, the common Polish-Hungarian border would become of major importance when Admiral Horthy's government, on the ground of long-standing Polish-Hungarian friendship and as a matter of "Hungarian honor", declined[9] Hitler's request to transit German forces across Carpathian Rus into southeastern Poland. The Hungarian refusal allowed the Polish government and tens of thousands of military personnel to escape into neighboring Hungary and Romania, and from there to France and French-mandated Syria to carry on operations as the third-strongest Allied belligerent after Britain and France. Also, for a time Polish and British intelligence agents and couriers, including Krystyna Skarbek, used Hungary's Carpathorus as a route across the Carpathian Mountains to and from Poland.[10]

After World War II, during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Poles demonstrated their support for the Hungarians by donating blood for them; by 12 November 1956, 11,196 Poles had donated. The Polish Red Cross sent 44 tons of medical supplies to Hungary by air; and still larger amounts were sent by road and rail.

The links between Poland and Hungary remain strong, and Hungarian politicians and political analysts often speak of "the Warsaw express," in reference to the fact that, in the modern history of Hungary and Poland, developments in Hungarian politics, such as shifts to the right or left, or political unrest, often follow similar developments in Poland. Both nations joined NATO on the same day (March 12, 1999), with only Slovakia separating them geographically – Slovakia itself joined NATO just over five years later, on March 29, 2004.

During the 2009 world economic crisis, Poland's President Lech Kaczynski stated that Poland's diplomats should have shared Hungary's view when requesting 18 billion euros from the European Commission.[clarification needed]

Friendship Day

On 12 March 2007, Hungary's parliament declared 23 March "Hungarian-Polish Friendship Day", with 324 votes in favor, none opposed, no abstentions. Four days later, the Polish parliament declared 23 March "Polish-Hungarian Friendship Day" by acclamation.[11]

Friendship Day is celebrated alternately in the two countries, first in Przemyśl, Poland. This day is commemorated throughout Poland and Hungary, with concerts, festivals, and exhibitions. The 2011 anniversary of the Polish-Hungarian Day of Friendship in Poznań was celebrated by Polish President Bronisław Komorowski and Hungarian President Pál Schmitt and was attended by over five hundred people. Komorowski remarked that, “there are few cases in history where there exists such a long and peaceful co-existence between two nations,” while Schmitt, in turn, declared that “the Polish-Hungarian friendship is eternal.”

See also


  1. ^ Michał Czajkowski, Dziwne życie Polaków i Polek (The Strange Life of Polish Men and Women), Leipzig, F.A. Brockhaus, 1865, pp. 155, 193.
  2. ^ Julian Krzyżanowski, Odrodzenie i reformacja w Polsce (The Renaissance and Reformation in Poland), vol. 36–38, p. 161.
  3. ^ Henryk Markiewicz, Andrzej Romanowski, Skrzydlate słowa (Winged Words), 1990, p. 830.
  4. ^ Janusz Tazbir states: "The Commonwealth was partitioned into three parts, subjected to three annexing powers. It was then that the popular proverb came into being, which appears in a number of variants: Polak, Węgier — dwa bratanki..." Janusz Tazbir, Sarmaci i świat (The Sarmatians and the World), vol. 3, 2001, p. 453.
  5. ^ Józef Kasparek, "Poland's 1938 Covert Operations in Ruthenia", East European Quarterly", vol. XXIII, no. 3 (September 1989), pp. 366–67, 370. Józef Kasparek, Przepust karpacki: tajna akcja polskiego wywiadu (The Carpathian Bridge: a Covert Polish Intelligence Operation), p. 11.
  6. ^ Józef Kasparek, "Poland's 1938 Covert Operations in Ruthenia", p. 366.
  7. ^ On 17 September 1939, pursuant to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet Union entered and took control of eastern Poland, including southeastern Poland. That former southeastern part of Poland now comprises western Ukraine.
  8. ^ Józef Kasparek, "Poland's 1938 Covert Operations in Ruthenia", pp. 370–71.
  9. ^ Józef Kasparek, "Poland's 1938 Covert Operations in Ruthenia", p. 370.
  10. ^ Józef Kasparek, "Poland's 1938 Covert Operations in Ruthenia," pp. 371–73;Józef Kasparek, Przepust karpacki (The Carpathian Bridge); and Edmund Charaszkiewicz, "Referat o działaniach dywersyjnych na Rusi Karpackiej" ("Report on Covert Operations in Carpathian Rus").
  11. ^ Uchwała Sejmu Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej z dnia 16 marca 2007 r. (in Polish)


  • Józef Kasparek, "Poland's 1938 Covert Operations in Ruthenia", East European Quarterly, vol. XXIII, no. 3 (September 1989), pp. 365–73.
  • Józef Kasparek, Przepust karpacki: tajna akcja polskiego wywiadu (The Carpathian Bridge: a Covert Polish Intelligence Operation), Warszawa, Wydawnictwo Czasopism i Książek Technicznych SIGMA NOT, 1992, ISBN 83-85001-96-4.
  • Edmund Charaszkiewicz, "Referat o działaniach dywersyjnych na Rusi Karpackiej" ("Report on Covert Operations in Carpathian Rus"), in Zbiór dokumentów ppłk. Edmunda Charaszkiewicza (Collection of Documents by Lt. Col. Edmund Charaszkiewicz), opracowanie, wstęp i przypisy (edited, with introduction and notes by) Andrzej Grzywacz, Marcin Kwiecień, Grzegorz Mazur, Kraków, Księgarnia Akademicka, 2000, ISBN 83-7188-449-4, pp. 106–30.
  • poznaj prawdę o wydarzeniach 1956 roku Poznań – Budapeszt 1956
  • Polak, Węgier dwa Bratanki, relacja IAR z wystawy o podstawach przyjaźni polsko-węgierskiej
  • e-Bratanki, słownik węgiersko-polski i polsko-węgierski
  • [1]
  • [2], homepage Polish-Hungarian friendship
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