- By Robert ZeligerRobert Zeliger is News Editor of Foreign Policy.
There’s been a lot of love for the 40th president of the United States these past few days in Europe. In a tour organized by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation to commemorate the centennial of his birth, the man who said, “Tear down this wall,” now has two more statues raised in his memory, a street named for him, and a Catholic Mass in his honor.
A mass in Krakow
Monday of last week, June 27, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow and former personal assistant to Pope John Paul II, celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving in Reagan’s honor at the Basilica of St. Mary.
“The blessed John Paul II and Ronald Reagan were, and continue to be, the beacon of hope for a world fighting against evil, irrespective of whether it is individual or structural evil, which takes on various monstrous forms,” Father Jan Machniak of the Papal University in Krakow told the Polish Press Agency.
Time magazine once called the relationship between the pope and the 40th president a “holy alliance.”
The two conspired back in the early 1980s to hasten the end of the Soviet Union by backing Polish solidarity. “Both the Pope and the President were convinced that Poland could be broken out of the Soviet orbit if the Vatican and the U.S. committed their resources to destabilizing the Polish government and keeping the outlawed Solidarity movement alive after the declaration of martial law in 1981,” Time magazine wrote in 1992.
Reagan’s national security advisor, Richard Allen, called it “one of the great secret alliances of all time.”
According to a Polish news web site, there are plans to erect a Reagan statue in Warsaw.
A statue in Budapest
Budapest last week unveiled its own bronze 7-foot likeness of the American president. It was commemorated at Freedom Square at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Viktor Orban and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Orban said Reagan “changed the world and created a new world for Central Europe. He tore down the walls which were erected in the path of freedom in the name of distorted and sick ideologies.”
The statue, which shows Reagan in mid-stride, also has a touchscreen monitor that gives information about the president in Hungarian and English.
Hungary has been going Reagan crazy of late. In March, its postal service issued a “commemorative envelope and postmark celebrating” Reagan’s birth 100 years ago, according to the Associated Press.
A street in Prague
Reagan is the fourth U.S. president to have a street named after him in Prague — joining George Washington, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
According to Hungary’s deputy foreign minister, Zsolt Nemeth, Reagan belongs in that pantheon because he inspired the opposition movement there, which in 1989 peacefully overthrew the Soviets.
“This opposition was fueled by the fact that in the West, there was truth, political leaders who don’t compromise and turn upside-down what was true,” he told USA Today. “Reagan was that type of politician.”
Ronald Reagan Street, near the U.S. ambassador’s residence, replaces a road named after the 19th-century Czech writer and historian Zikmund Winter.
A statue in London
The London statue — unveiled on July 4 outside the U.S. Embassy — topped Budapest’s by 3 feet. Standing 10 feet tall, the bronze statue by sculptor Chas Fagan bears words by Reagan’s staunchest anti-communist ally — Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s prime minister during his time in office. “Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot,” it reads.
The statue cost $1 million and was funded by private donors. The local city council made an exception in allowing the memorial — it usually requires a person to be dead for 10 years before permitting statues.
But there’s one problem with the location of the memorial. The U.S. Embassy is planning to move to a different spot in 2017. And it is not taking him with it.