Atlanta welcomes first-ever female Hungarian ‘Freedom Fighter’ statue

Credit: Drew Kann

Credit: Drew Kann

Memorial was created by an Athens-based artist using Georgia granite

On the 66th anniversary of Hungary’s 1956 uprising against the country’s Soviet government, a group of diplomats, survivors of the revolution and their families gathered in Atlanta on Sunday to dedicate a new statue honoring the “Freedom Fighters” who stood up to the oppressive Communist regime.

The statue was installed in Atlantic Station’s Millennium Gate Park and depicts a female freedom fighter with her fists clenched. It was inspired by the memory of Erika Szeles, a 15-year-old soldier and nurse who lost her life in the fighting, as well as others who took up arms again the Soviets.

There are 11 other memorials to Hungary’s uprising around the U.S., but Atlanta’s new statue, provided by the fundraising and efforts of the Hungarian American Coalition, is the first to depict a female revolutionary.

“The portrayal of the female freedom fighter captures exactly this moment of determination and truth that will live forever in the memory of the free nations of the world,” said Magor Ernyei, the deputy chief of mission at the Hungarian Embassy in Washington.

Hungary’s revolution began on Oct. 23, 1956, and lasted 13 days, before Soviet tanks rolled into the capital of Budapest and crushed the rebellion. An estimated 2,500 Hungarians died in the fighting and roughly 200,000 were forced the flee the country. The communist Soviet Union retained control of the country for over three more decades, but the uprising laid the foundation for Hungary’s eventual embrace of democracy in 1989.

In addition to receiving a permanent home in Atlanta, the statue has other Georgia connections.

The 9-foot tall, 15-ton statue was created by Stan Mullins, an Athens-based artist and sculptor, using granite sourced from Elberton.

Mullins said the sculpture pays tribute to those who participated in the uprising, but also symbolizes the swift coming of age that the conflict forced on many Hungarian youth.

“She’s wearing an oversized soldier’s coat,” Mullins said. “Everything about her is diminutive except for her passion for freedom.”

Dunwoody resident Lajos Macsotai is among those whose lives were changed forever by the revolution.

Now 83 years old, Macsotai was just 17 when the uprising began.

He recalled taking to the streets to help tear down Soviet iconography displayed across his hometown of Tatabánya. Fearing retaliation once Communist forces regained control of Hungary, Macsotai fled to Austria and the Netherlands, before eventually making his way to the U.S.

He said the sculpture brought back memories of a difficult time, but hopes it will inspire future generations.

“It’s a painful reminder of how we had to fight for freedom,” he said.