Athens, GA – On October 23, 2021, more than 125 people came together at Stan Mullins Art Studio in Athens, GA, to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Revolution of 1956 and witness a studio unveiling of the Freedom Fighter statue.
The GA56 statue project was launched one year ago by the Coalition and John Parkerson, Honorary Consul General of GA, with an initial grant from the Embassy of Hungary, Washington DC. Since then, the project has raised close to $90,000 from more than 50 individual donors and 10 organizations. A $25,000 Patron of the Arts grant was just announced by the Hungary Foundation.
Hungarian Ambassador Szabolcs Takács led a delegation from the Embassy of Hungary. Several historic figures from the state of Georgia were also in attendance, including: Naomi King (sister-in-law of MLK Jr.), Rodney Mims Cook (President, National Monument Foundation) and Bettijo Hogan Mims (who helped save the Fox Theatre in Atlanta). From the local Hungarian American community, five ’56-ers and seven families of ’56-ers who have passed away were in attendance and helped unveil the statue.
Five ’56-ers and seven families of ’56-ers were in attendance.
The program was held in the art studio of Stan Mullins, the world-renowned, Georgia-based artist. A multimedia exhibit curated by Andrea Lauer Rice, was on display. John Parkerson welcomed the guests. Nico Wijnberg, Chief of Protocol for Governor Brian Kemp’s Office read a Proclamation on the Georgia Hungarian American community and 1956, and presented it to Ambassador Takács. Andrea Lauer Rice, Coalition President, told the history of the statue project and declared that “We honor ’56-ers on the 65th anniversary by introducing you all to our Freedom Fighter: a permanent monument so that we will never ever forget. She is one of 10 statues: roughly 10 memorials dedicated to ’56 across America. What a statement we are making together as we hear about other statues being torn down. We are raising one to freedom.”
Ambassador Takács said, “It is very moving to come to this place – Athens in Georgia where I have never been – thousands and thousands of miles away from my home country, being together with very special people whom I would like to greet with my utmost and sincere respect: the freedom fighters of ’56…The statue, the Freedom Fighter which we are about to unveil, expresses the strong dedication of Hungarian women and men, young and old, to freedom. We hope that the statue…will teach many Hungarian American generations to come about the legacy of 1956. Where heroes are remembered, there new heroes will be born!”
Edith K. Lauer, Coalition Chair Emerita and a ’56-er, gave a brief summary of what happened during the Revolution and said, “Witnessing, indeed experiencing a historical event such as the 1956 Revolution is a rare gift in one’s life. It also carries obligations: to pass on the remarkable story of that experience to future generations.”
Everyone chose their own piece of granite shaved from the original block
and applied the memorial plaque.
Kinga Ertavy Sherrill, daughter of two ’56-ers and a community leader in Georgia, outlined a brief history of ’56-ers establishing the Hungarian American community in Georgia, decades ago. “I see this statue as representing all those who fought for freedom in 1956, those 56-ers who now live and those who once lived in in this great state, who were part of a momentous shared experience. I also see this statue as a statement to current and future generations – that tyranny will not stand, – that freedom is worth fighting for.”
The commemoration then moved to the Sculpture Garden where all ’56-ers and family members gathered around the statue to pull the red, white and green ribbon and unveil the Freedom Fighter statue.
In 2022, the statue will be completed and installed in its permanent location. There will also be an educational website created to share the story of 1956 and highlight those ’56-ers honored on the statue’s bronze plaque. News about the statue will be posted regularly on https://www.facebook.com/groups/ga1956/.