You must remember this — the opening scene (after opening credits) in CASABLANCA:

I am reminded of that scene’s “tortuous, roundabout refugee trail” when seeing reports  of tens of thousands fleeing from war-torn Syria, west across the Mediterranean in small boats to Greece, and thence overland hundreds of miles through passageway countries to Germany and other destinations. Some die in the attempt (recall the picture-worth-a-thousand-words of the lifeless body of a 3 year old boy washed up on a Turkish beach in early September). Many “wait….and wait….and wait….and wait” in refugee camps. Many more have been kept from continuing on, stopped on their way by the far right government of Hungary, which has been particularly strict in this regard. If you thought “exit visas/letters of transit” were hard to come by in CASABLANCA….

Perhaps you’ve read some of the recent series of articles in USA TODAY called TREK WITH MIGRANTS in which journalist Kim Hjelmgaard follows “migrants on their arduous 1,500 mile journey from Greece to Berlin” to witness their challenges. Particularly illuminating was Day 7 (CHECKING OUT WALL CURLING ACROSS HUNGARY) of that series, from which I quote:

I sat next to Robert [Kim’s guide] for most of Thursday as his car zigzagged around small-town Hungary in search of new additions to Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s controversial barrier. The Hungarian leader has already erected a 15-foot-high rampart along the entire 110-mile border with Serbia. Now, he was starting work on a fence to close the 25-mile [border] with Croatia.
On my way up here this week from Greece, I had been told by several people not to mess with Hungarian police. They are prone to violence, they said. Last week, several journalists said they were beaten and detained for speaking to refugees. So it was Robert (and Naomi), or go straight to the Austrian border, and I didn’t want to do that. Naomi, his girlfriend, wasn’t in the car in the usual sense, but they were in frequent contact by phone, Facebook and text message.
He told me that the “very beautiful” Naomi — she is 19; he is 23 — was studying to be a physical therapist, and she wanted to one day own a “big, big” house in Sweden and possess extremely expensive things.
This wall in Hungary had been a flashpoint in the migrant crisis;
I asked if he thought it was good for Hungary to be trying to seal its borders when so many people were intent on getting through anyway.
Robert said he didn’t have an opinion either way. And so I asked about Naomi, what does she think, this policeman’s daughter? And of course Naomi had an opinion. I could hear that by the way her voice was spilling out over the edges of Robert’s cellphone. “She said she thinks the wall is a good idea, and that she also understands why the people are leaving their countries,” Robert said.
“And Sweden?” I asked. “Was there any contradiction in her wanting to go there for the ‘big, big’ house, and people wanting to come to Europe for a house?”
He didn’t know. I didn’t either.

There is, of course, more to the refugee crisis than the one scene here. Still, one wonders, why can’t Hungary abide terrorized people passing through? Is Hungary worried that they’ll see how wonderful Hungary is and change their minds about continuing on? Is Hungary concerned that they’ll devour all available food and leave the country so Hungary that it will starve? Is Hungary afraid they’ll leave a trail of drugs, crime, and raped women in their wake? If so, why doesn’t Hungary say so? When it comes to demonizing illegals crossing borders, Hungary’s right wing counterparts in America have no such qualms (and, unlike America, Hungary’s “illegals” don’t come to stay).

This is a post without a happy ending….but before I close, you younger-than-I trivia buffs may be interested in the origin/meaning of the idiom on which the post’s title is based:

Strictly From Hunger: Explanations, investigations


  1. arekhill1 says:

    Lucky we live here, Sr. Muse, and have birth certificates that mean we can’t get kicked out. If I were a refugee, though, I’d dream about a big house in a warmer climate than Sweden’s.


    • mistermuse says:

      Well, if I were a refugee running for my (and my family’s) life, any war-ravaged country is too “hot” to either stay in or go to. But, given the luxury of a choice, I’m with you – I too would prefer the climate of, let’s say, Hawaii (not that Sweden wouldn’t be a nice place to visit but not live, as they say).


  2. Don Frankel says:

    I find this incredibly ironic because my family fled Hungary in 1919. Actually that part had become Czechoslovakia. Then I remember back in the 1950’s after the Hungarian uprising against the U.S.S.R. some distant relative made her way to the U.S. We all went out to the airport to pick her up. I remember it so vividly, as my father spoke to her in Hungarian which seemed so strange. Hearing my Father speak a foreign language.

    I guess it’s.


  3. Mél@nie says:

    I must have watched “Casablanca”… 10 times, and I’ve never been tired of it!!! 🙂
    * * *
    a human tragedy has been going on in “old Europe” these past months… and no country(government) has any steady or solid solutions!!! I was born in Romania and Hungary’s attitude hasn’t surprised me… history often repeats itself… btw, Hungarians have NO European origin, they’ve been the descendants of the Asian Huns(migratory people!), just like the Finnish people: their native languages sound almost alike, being reckoned as Finno-Ugric language family…


  4. mistermuse says:

    Don, the story of your family fleeing Hungary in 1919 is very interesting. WWI was over by then, so I assume the country was so devastated that living conditions were terrible. An excellent movie could probably be made of every refugee’s story.

    There’s another scene in CASABLANCA which reminds me of the “price” refugees pay to escape, such as what Syrian refugees pay smugglers to take them to Greece in overcrowded small boats which may capsize in rough Mediterranean waters:


  5. mistermuse says:

    Thank you, Mel@nie, for the info about the Hungarian people – I didn’t know they aren’t of European origin. History often repeats itself, indeed.
    I too have watched Casablanca many times – in my opinion (and that of many others), it’s the greatest movie ever made.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. michele39 says:

    History repeats itself.


  7. mistermuse says:

    Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, as George Santayana said (or words to that effect)…and, unfortunately, sometimes it seems even those who do learn from history repeat it.


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