52nd Annual Luncheon of the American Nationalities Movement of Ohio
On Saturday, December 17th, we drove to Wal-Tam's Grand Ballroom on Granger Road in Garfield Heights in order to attend the 52nd Annual Luncheon of the American Nationalities Movement of Ohio.
This event had many sponsors including "Margaret W. Wong and Associates" and the banquet hall had just the right amount of people to render it cozy and inviting. In fact Judge Ralph J. Perk, Jr., the president of the organization, said that even though it was quite cold outside the host of warm hearts gathered there in this room more than made up for it.
On this day the three people honored with the very prestigious Freedom Award were Ohio State Rep. Marlene Anielski (Republican-6th District); Mr. Wasyl Liscynesky; and Mr. Richard Konisiewicz all with very impressive resumes in terms of advocating for those who do not enjoy the freedoms that we have in the United States.
Oddly enough, we had first met Mr. Liscynesky the previous week at the annual holiday party at the Ukrainian Museum and had written about him in this blog. A person of Ukrainian birth, he first arrived in the United States in 1950 (via Germany) where he distinguished himself by performing superbly at his job in U.S. military intelligence and, later, as a businessperson forming his own company, Data Management Services in Parma. He never forgot his early European roots and was (and remains) quite active in the Ukrainian community. When he accepted his award, he had his great grandson (not more than five years old) accompany him to the stage signifying his concerns about the future. In his acceptance speech, he urged the post-cold war American Nationalities Movement to re-mobilize itself (Judge Perk announced that meetings will be held to do this very thing) and continue to combat international tyranny and repression. He also upheld Cleveland as a beautiful "mosaic" rather than a "melting pot" of great diversity that has few rivals.
Of course we know Mr. Konisiewicz quite well from his interim (but effective) presidency of Global Cleveland. He now is the Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Ursuline College and once served as president of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation as well as holding several other worthy posts. The subject that he addressed during his speech that really touched us was how his grandparents who immigrated to the United States from Poland taught him to respect all peoples and cultures. Thus, Mr. Konisiewicz has great admiration for those who have taken substantial risks to immigrate to the United States to start life anew.
Ohio State Rep. Anielski spoke of her genuine commitment in terms of providing aid to children in need and to veterans who have sacrificed so much for this country. She reflected back upon her own history of public service particularly when she first ran successfully for the village council of Walton Hills. She became motivated to get involved in local government when she, as a young mother accompanied by her children, attended a council meeting to ask some legitimate questions about the village's plans to encourage the development of local businesses and was rudely brushed off. As a result, she became determined to become involved with government in order to make a difference and stunned a lot of people when she defeated a wide array of opponents and jump-started her distinguished career as a public servant.
Another highlight of the program was when Mr. Terrence J. Smith re-created Winston Churchill's December 24, 1941 White House Tree Lighting speech in which he said (just weeks after the United States entered World War II) that all children should have the right to live in a free and decent world. Before the program started, we talked with Mr. Smith who reminded us that Winston Churchill was one of only eight people to have been granted honorary U.S. citizenship.
During lunch we sat with a man who wore a name tag that read "Ilia Bulgaria" so we asked him if "Bulgaria" was really his last name. He smiled and said that "no" it was not; his last name was actually quite long but Bulgaria was his country of origin. Sadly, Bulgaria was dominated by the Soviet Union for a long time but he managed to escape from there in 1968 via the Orient Express. He then lived in Italy for 14 months and immigrated to the United States in 1969 and became a U.S. citizen in 1977.
In addition to meeting new people like Ilia, we also got to say hello to old friends like Ms. Irene Morrow who gave us one of the beautiful boxes of candy that she orders from a company in Canton each year to distribute to her friends. She perfectly shared our sentiments when she told us that each time she drives in wintery weather she prays that the other people piloting cars use "common sense" and not drive like "maniacs".
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC