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4th annual Pork and Pierogies dinner; The Arts in Central; Cleveland Hungarian Museum's Spirit of Freedom; Legacy of Freedom Concert at St. Emeric Roman Catholic Church

On Saturday, October 22nd, we went to St. James Church in Painesville for the 4th annual "Pork and Pierogies" dinner. Let's backtrack for a minute; for three years it was the "Perch and Pierogies" dinner but, according, to three fishermen named Warren, John and Jim who were directing the parking outside, the fishing in Lake Erie just wasn't too good this year so a decision was made several months ago to substitute the pork for the perch for the 275-300 attendees.

No matter-even though we do not eat meat we brought a friend who did and she told us that the pork was cooked exactly right and we just loved the potato pierogies, the green beans and the onions. We went out of our way to attend this event because we know through our activities with the local chambers of commerce that St. James Church does a lot to help the Lake County community. Each Saturday, Sunday and national holiday, a hot meal is served there (with the assistance of volunteers from 13 other local churches) to some 90-135 clients.

img_5557Its rector, Vanessa Clark is known and respected by all. As we were eating, we visited for a moment with Rector Clark and her son, Thomas, who was perhaps 10 years old. Thomas told us that the purpose of occasion was to raise money to help the church remain stable and to invite people to worship there.

His mom, who was beaming, added that another reason for this event was to show hospitality to the whole community.

And then Thomas concluded by saying, "and to show talent for making pierogies!"

We arrived at St. James Church exactly at 4pm, when the event started and left by 5pm so that we could get back to Cleveland in time to attend our second event for the day which was a concert presented by the Foloke Cultural Arts Center featuring Grammy Award winning bass-baritone, Mr. Mark Doss, a Cleveland native, who has sung with orchestras of quite a few big cities and has performed with at least 60 opera companies throughout the world.

This concert was titled "The Arts in Central" and was held at the Phillis Wheatley Association on Cedar Avenue and "Margaret W. Wong and Associates" was one of the sponsors.

According to our souvenir booklet, it is the mission of the Foluke Cultural Arts Center to make "performing arts and arts education available to all, particularly img_5576those who live in 'underserved' areas. The programming of Foluke is family oriented with focus on at-risk children and youth. The goal is to provide positive alternatives to negative behaviors by instilling discipline, self-pride and boosting self-confidence through self-expression and self-discovery..." It's vision is "to provide arts services to the greater Cleveland area with a special commitment to the Central 'Promise' Neighborhood, with a goal to utilize the arts to serve as a catalyst for academic achievement, socio-economic development, and community pride."

Prior to the start of the concert, Ms. Dava Cansler, Foluke's Founder and Executive Director, said that this event marked a new partnership between Foluke and the Phillis Wheatley Association. When we talked to her at the reception that preceded the concert, she reminded us that we sat with her and husband, Mr. Roger J. Cansler, at the annual MLK breakfast in 2015.

img_5563 We got to talk to some very nice people at the reception like Mr. Leilani Barrett, the nephew of Mr. Mark Doss and a performing artist in his own right, and Mr. Kevin Marr, II who was instrumental in putting the concert together.

Needless to say the concert was quite wonderful. Mr. Doss, with the help of his accompanist Mr. Jerry Maddox, performed selections from operas composed by such artists as Wagner, Strauss, and Kurt Weill and explained each piece to us before he sang. He impressed us as being a very humanitarian-oriented person.

Before we left that night, we got to visit with Mr. John Wilkes, Board President of Foluke Cultural Arts, who told us that what he wanted to see was for the Central 'Promise' Neighborhood to move forward while preserving its traditions. We went on to discuss the important role that the arts has the potential to play in character development and working together as a team. We know this because we were theatre majors in high school. In addition, Mr.Wilkes img_5562told us that Ms. Margaret W. Wong once helped a from of his immigrate to the United States from Japan.

What we liked most of all was talking to Ms. Michelle Guerry, a very upbeat person who was cheerfully serving wine to the guests. Ms. Guerry is currently studying international business at CSU and has been involved with productions at the Karamu House and Cleveland Public Theatre. Her first love is Gospel and Christian music and she loves to perform "to make people happy."

On Thursday, October 20th, we attended the commemoration of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against the Soviet Union that took place at Cleveland City Hall. On Saturday and Sunday we several events associated with this watershed event that took place 60 years from October 23rd to November 4th, 1956.

First, on Saturday afternoon with attended the opening reception for a new exhibit at the Cleveland Hungarian Museum titled the "Spirit of Freedom 1956" which, as the flyer indicated, "pays tribute to the courageous freedom fighters and examines the events and the aftermath and the legacy of the uprising that shook the Soviet Union at its core."

There must have been 75 people there and quite a few of them were '56ers who had immigrated to the United img_5529States from Hungary soon after the revolution was crushed by the Soviet army.

The speaker for the day was Ms. Edith Lauer, Chair Emerita of the Hungarian American Coalition, who was born in Budapest and was 14 at the time of the rebellion. After the revolution, she and her family fled to Austria and eventually immigrated to the United States. In an article that she wrote for updated October 21, 2016 titled "Eyewitness to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and its Aftermath of Freedom" she mentioned that soon after the revolution started, "my sister and I were soon prying up paving stones on the busy nearby intersection to build barricades against the tanks. My mother, a pharmacist, was helping injured freedom fighters and supply alcohol for Molotov cocktails. My father was a member of the Revolutionary Committee at his workplace, the Hungarian National Bank. My grandfather, a realist, feared certain reprisal but still encouraged us to 'take part in the miracle around us.'"

img_5524 On this day, Ms. Lauer made excellent use of slides to show what happened on each day from October 23rd to November 4th. She then showed a film containing testimonies from other '56ers about their own experiences. She opened it up for other '56ers there at the museum to share their stories.

We appreciated the very warm greeting that we received from Ms. Mary Jane Molnar who was working in the gift shop and enjoyed talking to Ms. Susan, a '56er, about the refugee policies of the United States back then and now. Not surprisingly, Ms. Susan had heard of Ms. Margaret W. Wong and said that many foreign-born people eventually go to Ms. Wong for help with immigration matters but if they had gone to her in the beginning they could have saved themselves a great deal of trouble.

img_5520The next day on Sunday, October 23rd,  Ms. Lauer again shared her memories at the Legacy of Freedom Concert at St. Emeric Roman Catholic Church which was attended by a very large number of people who either immigrated to the United States from Hungary themselves, were of Hungarian descent, or were friends of the Hungarian community as we are.

The concert itself consisted of Mr. Robert L. Cronquist conducting the Cleveland Women's Orchestra and the results were beautiful. Among the music played was that of composers Liszt and Brahams and the audience was most receptive.

Before the concert started, we visited with Mr. Tom Rotani-Nagy, a 56er who came to the United States with his img_5600mother after the revolution when he was only 10 years old. He told us how they had been processed in Camp Kilmer in New Jersey that was the Ellis Island of its day for Hungarian refugees.

We also said hello to quite a few people there that we knew like Mr. Ernie Milhaly who had worked tirelessly on behalf of the Hungarian Garden and was inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame in 2014.

Earlier on Sunday we had gone to Mindszenty Plaza at the Corner of Lakeside Avenue East and East 12th Street for a wreath laying ceremony largely conducted by the Hungarian Scouts.

We talked for a few minutes with Mr. Steven Kekedy who designed the statue created in honor of the Hungarian Freedom fighters of 1956.

img_5609Most of the ceremony was conducted in Hungarian but Ms. Andrea Meszaros, one of the speakers, showed us the English translation of her statement that in part read, "so what's our take-away today? Well, I think it's that we can do a better job of supporting human and civil rights in all cultures and nations, believing that everyone can have a share of these gifts that we call 'rights' and 'national sovereignty.' There have always been historic times when powerful forces moved to squelch individual and national liberty, freedom if you will. But just because it's always been that way doesn't mean that we should cease trying to live these ideals and support those who still struggle for sovereignty  and individual human and civil rights."


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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