As tributes to Zsa Zsa Gabor pour in following her death Sunday at age 99, much is written about the Hungarian-born actress’s life as socialite, her nine marriages, and her niche as forerunner of today’s reality shows.
Sadly, virtually nothing is written about what many fans say was Zsa Zsa’s finest performance: her role as an opponent of communist tyranny in the land of her birth, and as a vocal supporter of anti-communist freedom fighters who were brutally put down by Russian tanks in 1956.
“I have been married to a fascist and to a communist,” Gabor often joked, referring to two of her multiple trips to the altar, “but I couldn’t get either of them to take out the garbage!”
But her opposition to the Soviet-controlled communist regime that ruled Hungary since the end of World War II was no joke. In 1954, Gabor and other Hungarian expatriates were cheered by reform Premier Imre Nagy and his moves toward a free press, a democratic system, and neutrality in the Cold War.
Filled with a new sense of freedom, Hungarians tore down statues of Russia’s Josef Stalin and liberated jails of anti-communist prisoners—notably Josef Cardinal Mindzenty, Roman Catholic prelate of Budapest.
Two years later, under orders from the Soviet Presidium and with the then-ambassador to Budapest (and future Soviet ruler), Yuri Andropov, calling the plays, Russian tanks were sent in to subdue the insurgents.
Gabor took to the airwaves to urge the U.S. to get involved and rescue the fledgling Nagy regime. She was joined by other well-known Hungarian entertainers in the U.S., including comedian Ernie Kovacs, muscleman Mickey Hargitay (father of “Law and Order’s” Mariska Hargitay), and, “Count Dracula” himself, Bela Lugosi.
But it was not to be. The revolt was crushed, a puppet regime installed in Budapest, and Nagy eventually executed.
“The United States raised more than $20 million in aide for the Hungarian refugees and the nations that provided them asylum in 1956,” wrote Dresden Reese in “The Golden Door: The Hungarian Revolution.” “Zsa Zsa Gabor, a noted Hungarian Hollywood actress, reportedly gave half-a-million dollars of her own money to the cause.”
Gabor would later join fellow Hungarian actress Ilona Massey in picket lines outside the Russian consulate in New York to protest the present of the Soviet military in Hungary.
“Zsa Zsa was always speaking at events for the Hungarian community in Los Angeles and even made me an honorary Hungarian freedom fighter,” the late Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty proudly told me in 1979.
With Hungary a free country since 1979 and a member of NATO and the EU, friends of the ailing Gabor said her dream was to celebrate her 100th birthday in her homeland. She missed making her dream come true by two months. But through her belief in a free Hungary and willingness to publicly demonstrate it, Zsa Zsa Gabor helped make the dreams of other Hungarians come true.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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