Retirement Celebration for Ms. Lucy Torres; 11th Carpatho-Rusyn Vatra; War and Art; Destruction and Protection of Italian Cultural Heritage During World War I; Pride in the CLE
After the City Club program, on Friday evening, we went to "Massimo Da Milano" on West 25th Street for one of the most heartwarming affairs that we have attended in a long time which was the retirement celebration for our dear friend Ms. Lucy Torres who we loved working with when she was the Hispanic Liaison on the Community Relations Board at Cleveland City Hall.
The program was emceed by our friend Mr. David Delgado and we shared a table with Ms. Linda Springer who has worked very closely with "Social Venture Partners" over the years. Another fine person that we got to meet was Ms. Lydia Caraballo who is a prominent leader in the Puerto Rican community of Cleveland who told us to be sure to thank Ms. Margaret W. Wong for frequent support of its coffee festival year after year.
During the course of the night, Ms. Torres was presented with a Proclamation from Mayor Frank Jackson which read in part:
"...Ms. Torres served as the Hispanic Liaison in the City's Department of Community Relations, under the direction of former director and Councilman Blaine Griffin for 11 years. Prior to her position with the City, she worked for Cleveland Metropolitan School District and dedicated many years to students and parents; and in her role as Hispanic Liaison, Ms. Torres spearheaded events such as Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta de la Reyes, the Puerto Rican Festival, Hispanic Heritage Month and various festivals. She engaged members of Cleveland's Hispanic communities through her work with the city. After her years of dedicated, the time has come for retirement..."
Mr. Delgado, himself, proclaimed Ms. Torres as "one of Cleveland's finest" and recalled that he had worked with her on a few events and found her to be "tireless" and "passionate".
Then quite a few people took to the podium to give testimonials as to how much they liked working with Ms. Torres. The speakers included:
***Mayor Frank Jackson who said that public service was indeed an honorable profession but it was not for everyone. When it is done right, and Ms. Torres did it right, it can have a great impact. The mayor said that the relationships that Ms. Torres built helped to move the city forward and she always made sure that all groups "had a seat at the table."
***Rev. Grady Stevenson, Interim Director of the Community Relations Board, spoke on behalf of Councilperson Griffin who sadly could not attend but still wanted it to be known that he never saw anyone who could do the things that Lucy Torres could do because she "had a great big heart" and the "ability to move people."
***Mr. Jose Feliciano said that he had known Ms. Torres for many years and he said that she taught him what grassroots was all about-its about the community. Mr. Feliciano admired Ms. Torres for always puting people first and herself second.
***Mr. Jim Craciun of the "Craciun Funeral Homes" (along with Mr. Joe and Mr. Jonathan Craciun who spoke too) said Ms. Torres was a "marvelous and wonderful person" and spoke about how Ms. Torres and his family worked together to help those who had lost loved ones but had a hard time coming up with money for funeral services.
***Dr. Maria Pujana said that Ms. Torres was the "epitome of caring" who brought "love and compassion" to her work. Dr. Pujana went on to say that she respected Ms. Torres so much that she could never say "no" to her when she approached Dr. Pujana for help on a particular project. She then presented Ms. Torres with a special Certificate of Appreciation from Mr. Juan Manuel Solana Morales, Consul of Mexico located in Detroit, "for your invaluable work building bridges for the immigrant community in the city of Cleveland." ***Pastor Jose Reyes said that he first came to Cleveland in 1993 and Ms. Torres was the first community leader that he met and whenever he needed anything, she was there to help him.
***Captain Keith Sulzer recalled that when he was appointed commander of District #2, Ms. Torres was upset because she believed that the appointment should have gone to a Hispanic person because Hispanics comprised a large portion of the populace of that district. Nevertheless, she worked with him and helped him learn Spanish. He then presented Ms. Torres with an RNC coin blessed by the bishop and told Ms. Torres, "I love you."
***Councilperson Brian Cummins said that not that many people understand the needs of the Hispanic community in Cleveland but Ms. Torres definitely did and thanked her for giving us a lifetime of services.
***Ms. Maria Ramos, an old and dear friend of Ms. Torres, sang the song "Amado Nio" in honor of her.
***Ms. Theasha Daniely and Mr. Rick Reynolds, both of whom worked with Ms. Torres in the Community Relations Dept., spoke of how Ms. Torres was great to work with and how much they benefitted from her advice and guidance.
In between testimonials, Mr. Delgado asked Ms. Torres such questions as what she thought she will miss the most now that she has retired. Ms. Torres, who has moved to Florida to be with her family but came back for this tribute, said that she will miss Cleveland and reminded us all that it had been her home since she came here from Puerto Rico forty years ago. She also asked all of us to do all we could to help not only the Hispanic community but the community as a whole. She correctly observed that the immigrant community is often afraid to ask for help when they need it so we must go the extra mile to give love and support.
In addition, there were two other speakers, both of whom were part of Ms. Torres' family. First, Ms. Ilsa Rodriguez, her niece, spoke of how Ms. Torres took her in when she was a teenager and gave her guidance and understanding at a time when she desperately needed it and then credited her aunt for helping her to move on and live a successful life.
And, finally, Ms. Torres' young grandson, Christopher, said to all of us and to his grandmother that "this lady is an angel to me and I love you so much!"
The next day was Saturday, June 3rd, and our big event was the 11th Carpatho-Rusyn Vatra that took place at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch on Mumford Road in Burton.
It was organized by the Cleveland Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society whose literature stated that "Carpatho-Rusyns live in the heart of Europe, along the northern and southern slopes of the Carpathian Mountains. Their homeland, known as Carpathian Rus', is situated at the crossroads where the borders of Slovakia, Ukraine, and Poland meet. Aside from these countries, there are smaller numbers of Carpatho-Rusyns in Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and the Czech Republic. Beyond the Carpathian homeland, Rusyns live in the United States, where between the 1880's and 1914 about 225,000 Carpatho-Rusyns immigrated. Western Pennsylvania is the American region with themost number of Rusyns, followed by NE Ohio. They primarily settled in the industrial regions of the northeastern and north-central states where most of their descendants still live to this day. Smaller numbers of Carpatho-Rusyns immigrated to Canada and Argentina in the 1920's and to Australia in the 1970's and 1980's."
In addition to Cleveland, the Carpatho-Rusyn Society has chapters in the areas of Arizona; Dallas, Texas; Delaware Valley; Lake Erie; Lake Michigan; Washington, D.C.; Eastern Pennsylvania; New England; New Jersey; New York; Pittsburgh; and Youngstown-Warren-Sharon.
We arrived at the Vatra just as the Parochial Vicar Jan Cizmar (from Brecksville) and the Very Reverend Protopresbyter Myron Zuder were completing the Slavonic Divine Liturgy and the Panachida at the church service so we didn't have too long to wait until dinner where we consumed we enjoyed some excellent halusky (fried cabbage, noodles, and onions) that we liked so much that we got a double order to take home to eat the next day. Of course we would have liked to have sampled some "slanina" a delicious-looking bacon sandwich but, alas, our vegetarianism prevented us from doing so.
We visited for a long time with Mr. Jim Kopko (visiting from Arizona) who was Carpatho-Rusyn on both his father and his mother's sides of the family and had devoted a lot of rewarding time to researching his own heritage. Subsequently, he was able to point out on a map exactly where his people were from in Europe.
Soon it was time for some entertainment and our good friend Ms. Laurel Tombazzi, who was acting as Mistress of Ceremonies, introduced the "Living Traditions Folk Ensemble" which "proudly performs"the song and dances of our Carpatho-Rusyn heritage under the leadership of Mr. Tom and Ms. Cathy Katrenich."
It was very fun listening and watching them perform and we even got up and tried a couple of dances on our own. On a lark, we participated in humorous drinking song in which we pretended to down a swig of vodka. We then flapped our arms and exclaimed, just like Jack Nicholson in "Easy Rider", "nik, nik, nik, firewater!" Happily, this earned us a laugh.
The evening drew to a traditional closing with the lighting of the actual "vatra" or bonfire and after a long day it was relaxing to just sit beside it and feel the warm heat while watching the sparks jump and listening to the crackling wood.
The next day was Sunday, June 4th, and we headed off to the "Western Reserve Historical Society" (WRHS) to attend the opening reception for the "War and Art; Destruction and Protection of Italian Cultural Heritage During World War I" photo exhibit which was presented by the WRHS in partnership with the Hon. Consul of Italy in Cleveland and Ohio, Northern Ohio Italian American Foundation, and the United States 332nd Infantry Regiment WWI Centennial Committee.
As the WRHS website reads:
"Based on images from the Museo de Risorgimento's archive, the exhibit highlights the ravages that war can wreak not only human beings, but also on what should be the involate beauty of art. Poignant images from World War I era display efforts to sandbag and board up architectural and artistic treasures. Seeing the efforts to protect iconic works of art from the perils of war reminds us of the works that were lost forever in that conflict. It also underscores the value of preserving our own history here in the United States. Viewing the striking images represents a unique opportunity to recapture and gain more insight into the significant historical event of WWI. The specific focus on preserving cultural heritage provides a first-hand cultural and historical perspective of the conflict, as well as of the broader Italian framework. It was also thanks to the vital support of the U.S. that Italy was able to preserve most its artistic treasures-and thus of its identity-from ruthless annilhilation...."
Indeed during her short talk, Ms. Serena Scaiola, Hon. Consul of Italy in Cleveland, paid tribute to the U.S. for its sacrifices for the sake of Italy during World War I and embraced the fact that the two countries enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship now and will continue to do so in the future. Also speaking was Ms. Pamela Dorazio Dean, Curator of Italian American History for the Cleveland History Center. Ms. Dorazio Dean noted that on June 2nd of this year Italy celebrated its 71st anniversary as a Republic so it was very appropriate that this exhibit, which was about preserving the past from the ravages of war, open at this time.
As for ourselves, we had never heard about these efforts to preserve art and we learned a lot from the photos that included such images as the transportation of the gypsum statue of George Washington by Canova after the museum was bombed in 1918 andthe Basilica of St. Antony with protective anti-aircraft casing.
While we were there we spoke to a family who was interested in obtaining dual citizenship for one of its members who plans to study in Italy for an extended period. We also introduced ourselves to Mr. Tony Marotta, who conducts an Italian radio show each Saturday from 6pm to 8pm on 91.1, WRUW from Case Western Reserve University. He recalled meeting Ms. Margaret W. Wong at either the 70th annual celebration of Italy's independence or at Italian Heritage Month. On this day, he brought with him recordings of both the Italian and the U.S. National Anthems which were played before the start of the brief program.
Another person who we enjoyed talking to was Mr. Ken Crisafi who is very involved with the "Cleveland Italian Ancestory Organization" better known as "CIAO!" and has traced his father's side of the family back several generations and is just now starting to explore his mother's.
We also want to say that we were warmly greeted at this event by Ms. Angie Lowrie, Director of the "Western Reserve Historical Society" who told us that the "War and Art..." exhibit will officially open to the public on June 6th and that what should be a very exciting exhibition entitled "Cleveland Starts Here" will be opening in the last part of November, 2017. "Cleveland Starts Here" will explore the story of Cleveland from all aspects and perspectives including those of immigrants so we will definitly make attending it a priority.
In addition to our main outings on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, we made brief appearances at two others which, oddly enough but much to their credit, were also attended by Judges Jimmy Jackson, Jr. and Janet Rath Colaluca of the Cleveland Municipal Court.
The three of us were there for the "Pride in the CLE" festival which took part on Saturday afternoon in downtown Cleveland.
As its website tells us, "Pride in the CLE" is an "official program organized by the LGBT Community Center of Cleveland" and that it is a representation of "the National LGBTQ Pride Month and movement that showcases the strength and visibility of LGBTQ individuals across the country and the world."
We, ourselves, got there early so we could take part in the parade that precedes the festival and it was fun being one of the many people who helped to carry the huge yellow and blue equality banner from Cleveland City Hall to Public Square. We had a good time spotting and calling out "hello!" to a lot of our friends from the "Human Rights Campaign", "PFLAG", "Equality Ohio", and the "Cleveland Stonewall Democrats".
Plus, we got a fun photo of Cleveland City Councilpersons Kevin Kelley, Kerry McCormack, and Brian Cummins all standing side-by-side wearing sunglasses.
We are very proud to mention that "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" bought a program ad for this event.
On Sunday afternoon, Judge Jackson, Judge Colaluca and ourselves bumped into each other (at least in the figurative sense) again at a fundraiser for Judge Michael R. Sliwinski, also from Cleveland Municipal Court, that was held at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church on Detroit Avenue.
During his remarks, Judge Sliwinski gave a special "thank you" to Ms. Irene Morrow from the "American Nationalities Movement" who organized this event for him.
Judge Sliwinski went on to say that each day he was thankful to be a municipal court judge because it gave him the opportunity to affect people's lives in a very positive way. Going a step further, he told us that the municipal court is sometimes referred to as the "treatment court" because it offers the opportunity to deal with small-time offenders and arrest their problems/issues before they become big-time offenders. He also talked about the huge responsibilities that a judge handling domestic violence cases is confronted with; for instance, the judge doesn't want to discharge a person who can do more harm but he has to be very careful because if a person is wrongfully convicted then he/she will have a damaging record for life.
On a lighter note, we enjoyed visiting with Judge Sliwinski who had just seen the film "West Side Story" with full orchestra accompaniment the previous evening at Severance Hall.
We also met Mr. Dushan Kaluzniak who for many years until he retired was an important official in the Building and Housing Department of Cleveland and thus had several stories to tell us of the many projects that he was involved with (including several in the Flats) as well as of the extensive process that he had to go through when he immigrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia back in 1969 when he was 20 years old; but it was worth it because, as he said, "the United States is my home now."
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC