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A Whirlwind Weekend of Multicultural Celebrations

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On the weekend of July 27-July 29, we spent a lot of time tabling on behalf of Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC at the St. Sergius Annual Russian Festival at German Central Foundation's Farm in Parma, a Southwestern suburb of Cleveland.

On Friday night, we arrived about 5:00 pm and, under the directon of Ms. Laura Verbiski, the festival's main organizer, set up inside the main vendor hall. This time we had problems hanging our banner in back of our booth, so we were helped by Mr. Sergei Ilchenko, who knew all about knots and shared his expertise with us.

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Others tabling were representatives from the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, along with some commercial vendors. Among them were two brothers named Igor and Alex, who immigrated to the United States from Russia many years prior and now sell Russian novelty items. We had met them at the Russian Festival in 2017.

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We had conversations with several people who stopped by our table, including a woman who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1952 but her U.S. citizenship was never properly documented. She found out about this when she applied for Social Security benefits. So she was quickly re-processed and officially became a U.S. citizen all over again in 2018. In celebration, we gave her a copy of Ms. Wong's book, The Immigrant's Way.

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As we tabled, we were serenaded by Ms. Nina Tritenichenko and her husband, Gene, who played Russian and Ukrainian songs, as well as popular songs (i.e., the "Pennsylvania Polka"), as they watched over tables containing items from the Bayanina Slavic Shop.

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The next day was Saturday and we decided to take in two other events before we headed back to German Central Farm later that day. First of all, we went to Landerhaven in Mayfield Heights, where we attended the Eliza Bryant Village Auxiliary 1 2018 Annual High Tea Luncheon. There we were warmly greeted by Ms. Teena Copeland, President of Auxiliary 1, and Mr. Danny R. Williams, President and CEO of Eliza Bryant Village.

From the souvenir booklet we were given, we learned that the Eliza Bryant Village is now 121 years old and as its history page states, "provides high quality services and outreach programs along a continuum of care in a dignified, compassionate and secure living environment for seniors and their caregivers. Standing as the oldest continually operating African American-founded, long-term care facility in the United States, we proudly serve more than 1,200 seniors annually with more than 260 compassionate employees and nearly 300 volunteers."

The keynote was given by Ms. Danita Harris, WEWS News5 Cleveland anchorperson, who is also an ordained and licensed minister. Over the last several years, we have watched as Ms. Harris moderated several discussions at the City Club of Cleveland but before this time, were not aware of her dynamic oratory skills which were put to good use at this event, as she urged us all to follow the example of Ms. Eliza Simmons Bryant who saw that there was work to be done in terms of assisting seniors and thus stepped out of her comfort zone and took on the task.

We were also quite impressed, to say the least, by the violin playing of Mr. Obed "Obie" Shelton, who offered one of the most beautiful renditions of "We Shall Overcome" that we have ever heard. We were so moved that, upon its completion, we got up from our chair and hurried over to Mr. Shelton so we could shake his hand and thank him.

Introductions for the day were done by Mr. Peter Lawson Jones, formerly (among other offices) a Cuyahoga County Commissioner and currently a dramatist and professional actor. He acknowledged that Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC had financially contributed to the affair. He then said that "you are doing God's work as immigration lawyers."

The theme of this year's program was "It Takes a Village" because, as Mr. Williams said during his remarks, it does indeed take a village to "help kids and to serve seniors long past their childhood days."

More information about Eliza Bryant Village and its auxiliaries can be found here

After we left Landerhaven we hurried over to St. Casimir Church in Cleveland to enjoy a little bit of the festival that also was taking place over the weekend. Not a lot of people were there at that time, but we were able to see the Statue of Fatima of the World Apostolate that was residing at the church for the duration of the festival.

Throughout the week, our friend Mr. Joe Feckanin had been emailing us about various festival developments so we knew that this statue had been purchased by the Cleveland Diocese and blessed in Portugal by Pope John Paul II. Mr. Feckanin also let us know that a delegation from Poland was visiting over the weekend who "are on a mission to document important Polish built churches throughout the United States."

While we were inside the church, we listened to a lecture about the parish's history delivered by Mr. John Niedzialek, who was well-qualified to do so since his family had been worshipping at St. Casimir since they immigrated from Warsaw in 1913. One of the focal points of Mr. Niedzialek's talk was how St. Casimir's parishioners, as well as other Clevelanders, came together in 2009-2012 to successfully combat its closing. He then introduced us to Dr. Michael Klymiuk who was instrumental in the triumphant fight.

It was then time to return to the Russian Festival at German Central Farm, and we arrived just in time catch the last part of a performance by the Cleveland Ballet. Afterwards, we listened to the music of the Barynya Trio composed of Mr. Mikhail Smirnow (from Moscow), Ms. Elina Karokhina and Mr. Sergey Isnook (both from St. Petersbug), who performed masterfully on Russian Instruments, particularly the balalaika. We especially liked a rendition they played of "Lara's Theme" from the film "Dr. Zhivago."

When it was time for the Barynya Trio to relax, Ms. Nina and Mr. Gene Tritenichenko took over, so there was, most appreciably, music for the entire time we were tabling there inside. To be sure, in the Outdoor Pavilion, such groups as Cuyahoga Cossacks, Paprika Dancers, and  Golden Gates Family Show performed throughout the weekend.

Inside on Saturday, our table was visited by Mr. John Petkovic. He's a longtime friend of our friend, Mr. Alex Machaskee, who has seen Ms. Wong at many events over the years. Another person who knew Ms. Wong was a man named Vasile who came to the U.S. from Serbia in 1994. In fact, Vasile told us that it was Ms. Wong who helped him become a citizen in 1999.

Finally on Sunday, we went back again for the last day of the Russian Festival. Soon after we got there, we were visited by a woman named Terry, a retired teacher who was very upset about the attitude that the Trump administration has taken about the young people in the DACA program. For references about the history of immigration to the United States, we gave her a copy of The Immigrant's Way.

Once again, we settled back to listen to the music performed by the Barynya Trio, including a song titled "Tundra," which contained elements of Deep Purple and the "Pulp Fiction" soundtrack. 

The day went fairly quickly and we closed down a little bit after 5:00 pm when the crowd was numerically starting to decline. Before we left, however, we requested that the trio play a rendition of the "Sabre Dance" for us. They were quick to oblige.

As we were packing up, we conversed with a man whose son-in-law from England was in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. To no surprise, he was being assisted by Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison

Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC

Aimee Jannsohn