Hungary’s Defence Minister Tibor Benkő continued his commemorative visit to Russia in Hungarian Central Military Cemeteries I and II in Boldyrevka and Rudkino. At the commemoration, the Minister drew attention to the importance of paying our respects to those who died as heroes in wars and fostering their memory.

The River Don tragedy of 12 January 1943 was one of the most devastating battles causing the largest number of casualties in Hungary’s military history. Two military cemeteries preserve the memory and eternal rest of the Hungarian war heroes whose bodies have been located to date. Hungarian Central Military Cemetery I in Boldyrevka, which was created twenty-two years ago, serves as the final resting place for the earthly remains of 8,375 Hungarian soldiers who died as heroes in the war. In Hungarian Central Military Cemetery II in Rudkino, which was inaugurated sixteen years ago, 20,298 Hungarian soldiers and forced labourers rest in peace.

Defence Minister Tibor Benkő paid tribute to their memory by laying wreaths in both cemeteries. On the occasion of the commemoration held in the Rudkino cemetery, the earthly remains of seventeen Hungarian soldiers – whose bodies were exhumed last August – were also reburied. The Defence Minister threw earth from Hungary onto their wooden coffins. During the event, representatives of the denominations of the Military Chaplain Service of the Hungarian Defence Forces – Péter Joel Totha, senior chief military rabbi, Colonel Emil Oláh, senior military chaplain and Colonel Tamás Takács, senior field chaplain – also paid tribute to the war heroes.

Mr Benkő told that one of the main objectives of the visit was to bow before and pay tribute to the memory of the Hungarian soldiers and forced labourers who died. The other goal was to create the conditions and circumstances by May 2020, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, which are necessary for a commemoration worthy of the memory of war heroes. Hungary’s Defence Minister also highlighted that the state of the two Hungarian central military cemeteries clearly proves that the Russian Federation treats memorial sites with the respect they deserve. At the same time, he added, the ravages of time have taken their toll on the cemeteries. They are therefore determined to refurbish the cemeteries by the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of World War II. “What is the most important here at the River Don Bend, and naturally, also at home, is that peace should always be at the centre of our thoughts. It is in this spirit that we must search for the dead, we must find their resting places, and it is in this spirit that we must ensure that we can bid our final farewell to our heroes with the respect they deserve also in the future. At the same time, this is a message to those at home that we do not forget them. They did everything they did for their country, and for this they deserve the greatest respect,” Mr Benkő stated.

The Defence Minister underlined that the two nations’ joint military cemetery maintenance works cannot be finished as there are still a great many fallen Hungarian soldiers resting in unmarked graves in the River Don area whose earthly remains they would like to find in order to bury them paying them their last respects. “Regrettably, this is a task that will take many long years, in this we must find cooperation, based on the principle of reciprocity, in the spirit of mutual respect and appreciation,” he said. In recognition of this appreciation, he handed over commemorative tokens to Russian officials assisting the parties’ mutual efforts.

During the day, members of the Hungarian delegation laid a wreath at the Soviet war memorial in Gremyachyeba, and then also viewed the nearby museum exhibition where all the exhibits on display – including Hungarian ones – were found in the theatre of war located in the vicinity.

(Ministry of Defence)