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55th Annual Captive Nations Dinner Held by American Nationalities Movement

On Thursday, July 14th, we attended the 55th Annual Captive Nations Dinner put on by the American Nationalities IMG_2902 Movement. It took place at Wal-Tam's Grand Ballroom on Granger Road in Garfield Heights, and Margaret W. Wong and Associates was one of the 13 Bronze Program Sponsors for the event. Also in attendance was Mr. George Koussa, our associate from Ms. Wong's office. When we arrived we visited with several people including Ms. Anita P. Kazarian who is very involved with the Armenian Cultural Garden and is Clevelandpeople.com's ambassador for the Armenian community. Ms. Kazarian was accompanied by Mr. Herman Muller, a person of German American heritage whowas attending his first Captive Nations Dinner.

We then spoke with Mr. Alex Machaskee who said the he really appreciated Ms. Margaret W. Wong and her family attending the Serbian Golf Outing dinner last Saturday evening. Likewise, Mr. Pierre Bejjani shared with Judge Janet Rath Colaluca, her husband Mr. Tom Colaluca, and ourselves a video he had taken of Ms. Wong dancing at the CAMEO picnic on Sunday. IMG_2900

When it was time to eat, we shared a table with Ms. Valerie Schwonek Blazey, Corresponding Secretary of the American Nationalities Movement, and her husband and friends. When we told her that we didn't eat meat, Ms. Schwonek Blazey went out of her way to obtain more delicious pierogies and cooked vegetables for us.

The program started with a "Welcome" from the Hon. Ralph Perk, Jr., President of the American Nationalities Movement and an Invocation delivered by the Reverend Father John Loejos, from St. E. Premte Church in Seven Hills.

Then Cleveland City Councilman Michael Polensek introduced all of the dignitaries present. He said that he was very honored to have had the late U.S. Senator George Voinovich (who was consistent supporter of this organization) and his family as his constituents. He went on to say that he knew that the late U.S. Senator (who held several other prominent offices including Mayor of Cleveland and Governor of Ohio) wanted to be remembered most of all for being a loving son, husband, father and concerned member of the community.

The tributes to the late U.S. Senator Voinovich continued with both Mr. Alex Machaskee and Mr. August Pust sharing personal remembrances and praising him for his many accomplishments. Among others, Mr. Machaskee noted that Senator Voinovich did everything he could to assist the people of Kosovo after their tragedy, had helped bring the IMG_2904International Children's Games to Cleveland, upheld Cleveland as a model of what a public private partnership could accomplish, and applied constructive pressure to get the long-delayed Jennings Freeway finally completed. Mr. Machaskee concluded by saying that, from his standpoint, Senator Voinovich was a "good, decent, Christian public servant who never sacrificed his principles for political expediency."

This belief was echoed by Mr. Pust who said that he believed that Senator Voinovich's success could be attributed to his hard work and accomplishments but also because people could really relate to him, due to his decency and sense of purpose, and thus regarded him as "one of us" even if they didn't agree with him on every issue. Mr. Pust said that Senator Voinovich "built bridges" between his neighbors, the many ethnic communities of Cleveland, with Ohio, the United States as a whole, and with the many countries of the world that he visited.

Earlier, Mr. Pust had told us that another noteworthy thing that U.S. Senator Voinovich did was to nominate Ms. Margaret W. Wong to be inducted into the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame back in 2000 making her the first Asian Women to receive this honor. It was then time to present the annual "Freedom Awards" to this year's recipients who were Ms. Erika Puussaar President of the Estonian Cultural Garden, and Dr. Joseph Wendel, author and longtime radio broadcaster. IMG_2909 In her acceptance speech, Ms. Puussaar talked about how her family was forced to flee Estonia due to the Soviet occupation and live for seven years in a displaced persons camp in Germany. She talked about life in the camp and how grateful her family was to finally be able to immigrate to the United States where they settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Just as Ms. Margaret W. Wong does in her book, "The Immigrant's Way" Ms. Puussaar had advice to offer to newly arrived immigrants which she, herself, learned from her parents. Among her recommendations was to save money, be thrifty, keep family traditions perhaps by celebrating holidays together, and be helpful to other immigrants.

When hIMG_2915e accepted his award, Dr. Wendel credited the late Mr. Ralph Joseph Perk, the former mayor of Cleveland from 1972-1977 and founder of the American Nationalities Movement, for bringing all of the different ethnicities of Cleveland together to form a strong political force. Accordingly, it was during this time that German Americans, whose reputation was severely damaged by the two world wars, really came into their own and begin to showcase their many talents and their heritage which he, himself, had been promoting since he started broadcasting from the former ethnic radio station WXEN-FM back in 1961. He has also used the airwaves to challenge misleading things that have been said about German Americans over the years. Dr. Wendel went on to talk about the need for the U.S. government to finally acknowledge its unjust treatment of the Germans who were sent to internment camps during WWI and WWII. Dr. Wendel acknowledged that not much has been written about these shameful incidents but his own book about German American history titled "Justice Denied" will hopefully be available to read by the end of the year.

 The evening closed with Ms. Irene Morrow, former president of the organization, saying that we live in a free country but remaining free is up to us. Therefore, we must educate future generations about what makes America free to avoid being taken over by an oppressive government.

By:

Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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