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Carpatho-Rusyn Day Ceremonies; Visit to Hershey Montessori Farm School; 13th Annual Dia De Muertos; Annual Perogis and Park Fundraiser

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On Thursday evening, October 26th, we took part in the Carpatho-Rusyn Day ceremonies in the Rotunda at Cleveland City Hall presided over by our good friend, Ms. Laurel Tombazzi from the "Eastern European Congress of Ohio" and Ms. Marcia Benko, Co-President of the Cleveland Chapter of the "Carpatho-Rusyn Society".

As our invite for the event reminded us, "Carpatho-Rusyns are a small Slavic, ethnic group who live in the Carpathian Mountain region of Eastern Europe. Today, this region is in the countries of Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Serbia, and Romania. In 2010, the Carpatho-Rusyn Consortium of North America designated October 26, as Carpatho-Rusyn Day in North America. Thereby, commemorating the gathering in 1918 in Independence Hall in Philadelphia where Carpatho-Rusyns were recognized for the first time as a distinct nationality by members of the Mid-European Union and the United States."

Through the literature we obtained from "The National Carpatho-Rusyn Cultural and Educational Center" we learned that the Carpatho-Rusyns have often been referred to as the "people from nowhere" because they have been stateless and dominated by many countries over the years. At the present time there are perhaps 1.2 million of people of Rusyn descent in Europe and perhaps 650,000 in North America with small numbers in South America and Australia.

On this date in the Rotunda, about 35 people gathered including Mr. John Krenisky who has been the main caretaker at the Rusyn Garden in the Cleveland Cultural Gardens network for many years now and Mr. Tom Katrenich who provided us with some lovely accordion music. Likewise, Ms. Bonnie Burke and her husband, Bob, traveled all of the way from South Carolina to be at this ceremony that started with Ms. Tombazzi introducing special guests (including ourselves from "Margaret W. Wong & Associates") and reviewing the history of the Carpatho-Rusyn people.

Then Ms. Benko clued us in on the activities that the Cleveland chapter of the "Carpatho-Rusyn Society" is engaged in like visiting the places where its ancestry lived and worked when they first immigrated to the United States.

A prominent person of Rusyn descent is Ohio State Senator Michael Skindell (District 23) who was the guest speaker of the evening. Senator Skindell proudly shared with us the story of two of his great grandparents, Mr. Michael and Ms. Eva (born Marek) Jarosz, who were born in Southeastern Poland and were married there in 1910. In 1911 they both immigrated to the United States (passing through Ellis Island) and settled in Wheeling, PA. Although, his great grandmother, Eva, died before Senator Skindell was born, he did have a relationship with his great grandfather, Michael, and learned a lot from him about his family's heritage.

As Ms. Tombazzi very eloquently stated, "it is important to keep one's distinctive cultural heritage alive and preserved so future generations can move forward and be known in society. Knowing about these stateless peoples can make the world smaller and better place to live."

 

The next day was Friday, October 27th, and we looked forward to attending our event for the day which was an invitation to visit "Hershey Montessori Farm School" in Huntsberg to watch some presentations made by the high school students regarding topics pertaining to immigration as part of a humanities project.  We were invited because a month or so previously "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" hosted these students and several of their instructors including Ms. Danielle Hayes (who initially contacted us) in order to share with them the duties performed by our office did and talk about recent immigration trends from a legalistic standpoint.

After we arrived at "Hershey Montessori", we learned that the students were to make their presentations to a panel of adults who would ask them follow-up questions, offer suggestions, and rate their presentations, their knowledge of the subject, and their demeanor (i.e. professional appearance, choice of clothing) on score sheets given to us. Other panelists included the school principal Ms. Paula Leigh-Doyle (herself an immigrant from Ireland some thirty years ago), other teachers and school officials, a local DACA beneficiary that we had met the previous weekend at a fundraiser in Painesville, and (a nice surprise) Ms. Katrice Williams, policy analyst with the ACLU in Cleveland. To be sure, we were quite honored to be asked to join this group as a panelist.

The format consisted of the students, taught by Mr. Ryan Tucker, who researched issues pertaining to immigration issues in Europe going first. They were to give an overview of the immigration/refugee situation in a particular country and then present a viable pathway for reform or betterment. These students and the countries they were assigned were Miss Jordan Thierry (France), Miss Taylor Riegle (United Kingdom), Mr. Shaun Edwards (Italy), Mr. George Ferguson (Italy), and Miss Amy Weeks (Spain).

As the description for this section read: "We focused on the current refugee crisis impacting Europe. We approached it from both sides. This involved looking at the people who were coming and the citizens of the country they were coming to. First, we looked at the makeup of the European Union and how the member countries are affected by European laws. Discussions revolved around the question of national sovereignty and immigration laws. We then looked at the recent climate of the Middle East and North Africa. Individual research was done on the Arab Spring and its causes and ramifications. The students then chose a European country to study. Their project was to look at the current immigration/refugee situation that country faced including where the majority of refugees and immigrants were coming from. They also researched the current political climate in the country and the existing policies regarding immigration. Finally, the students decided on a policy that they feel should be enacted to address the issues they researched. That policy is being presented today."

Next up were students taught by Ms. Hayes who focused on specific issues regarding U.S. immigration policy. These students and their areas of study were: Mr. Noah DeSantis (Workers' Rights), Mr. Lucas Susan (Pathways to Citizenship), Miss Erin Finan (DACA Reform), Mr. Jack Hanson (Deportation Process), Miss Maya Harwood (Border Wall), Miss Ella Ergazos (Education K-12), and Miss Abriella Minotti and Miss Sylvia Altman (U.S./Mexican Collaboration).

As the description for this section read: "The students delved into the history of immigration to the United States, studying the changing demographics of immigrant groups, the mixed responses from citizens, and the evolution of immigration law. Early on in the project, students had the opportunity to learn from an immigration attorney at Margaret Wong's Cleveland offices, visit an art exhibit on the experience of being in exile at SPACES gallery, hear from a DACA recipient and an ally of HOLA, a grassroots Latino organization based in Painesville. In addition to a historical survey, students read poetry about 'the immigrant experience' from a variety of perspectives and time periods. Students engaged in a passionate seminar after reading a recent investigate essay on the brutal working conditions for undocumented immigrants at a chicken plant here in Northeast Ohio. Before beginning to formulate their own research questions, students analyzed polices policies on immigration from across the United States, including our local Painesville Police Department and Lorain Police Department."

As for ourselves, we found the presentations as a whole to be very enlightening and we learned things about the situation in Europe that we didn't know before. As for the solutions, we agreed with some of what was said (such as classes to help the immigrants adjust to their new culture) and didn't agree with some of what was said (since deportation of most of the undocumented was going to happen anyway due to the intentions of our government so let's not fight it as much but concentrate on doing it in the most painless and expedient way possible) but we credit the students with making a sincere attempt to analyse current trends and to come up with viable solutions.

Another one of these involved transporting some of the refugees from Europe to Nigeria where there was more room for them to settle; it was certainly an ambitious proposal but we will have to think about its viability for a while. One of the things that we didn't know but we learned was that a proposition had been submitted to build the controversial U.S./Mexican border wall out of solar panels; we would not rather have a wall at all but if we had to have one...well, at least solar energy (which we are for) would have the chance to get a terrific boast...

Anyway, let us now note that on this day we had a choice: we could stay for the entire program at Hershey Montessori or leave early to attend the annual meeting of the City Club of Cleveland that would feature the noted attorney, Mr. Floyd Abrams. We chose to stay for the entire program at Hershey Montessori and as much as we would have liked to have heard Mr. Abrams, we do not regret our decision for a moment.

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On Saturday, we scurried around in the damp and rainy weather but still managed to spend short periods at two annual events that we look very much forward to attending each year.

The first of these was 13th annual "Dia De Muertos" or "Day of the Dead" presented by the "Artistas Latinos Unidos" and "Cleveland Public Theatre" at their church, parish hall and other surrounding areas. Needless to say that as always, it was a perfect addition to the fall season. We arrived early and viewed the beautiful eight altars inside of the church, one of which was constructed by those attending classes at the "Cleveland High School of Digital Arts" so we got to meet Mr. David Manuelle and Ms. Jillian Baughnan who supervised its creation.

On the outside of the church, we viewed the spooky artwork constructed inside of the cemetery and got to meet Mr. Mark Jenks, an artist who has been involved with this project since it started who was more than happy to pose by his sketal monkey, cigar and all.

That evening we went to the annual "Perogis and Park" fundraiser at St. James Episcopal Church in Painesville. We like to come here because the food (perogis, pork, macaroni and cheese, onions, sauerkraut, and green beans) is always so good and the atmosphere is always so warm with friendship.

Accordingly, we were happily greeted by Mr. Tom Hill (one of the hosts for the event) and were told by the Rev. Vanessa Clark how much she and her church appreciate it that "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" cares enough to support this event by sending us there.

We assured her that the pleasure is all ours and really respect the work that St. James does in terms of, as the dinner menu stated, "serving the people of Painesville and the surrounding area through various outreach and mission programs that nurture the mind, body, and soul."

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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