At one point it was prosaically called Uploading Square. Roosevelt tér in Budapest, that is. I decided to start our visit to the Hungarian capital by walking across the old Chain Bridge to pay my respects to the thirty-second US President who died in office on this day, 12 April, in 1945. As previously mentioned here, FDR owed much to the radio; his voice and views were known to millions of Americans who tuned in to hear his Fireside Chats. Three days after his death, his life was recalled by two special and very different broadcast, one headed by Ronald Colman and featuring an uncommonly yet appropriately somber Fibber McGee and Molly, the other featuring Canada Lee, reciting FDR’s D-Day prayer.
Roosevelt did not get a square deal, I thought, as I approached the spot named after him in 1947. These days, it is little more than a roundabout, a traffic island with a few statues in the middle—and none of them of FDR. Seen from the top of the hill in Buda, however, its prominence in the cityscape becomes apparent. Besides, as Fibber expressed it: “You know, a man is entitled to a lot of credit when people can say his family, and his community, and his country are better off for his having lived; but when a man dies and the whole world was a better place for his living, well, nobody needs much more of a monument than that.”
Meanwhile, the statues of Soviet heroes and leaders from whose rule Hungary struggled to free itself (after having lost the war siding with Nazi Germany) have been relegated to a park of their own . . .