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Out & About in Cleveland

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Back to School Brunch at the East Side Irish American Club

We started off our Sunday, August 24th, at the "Back to School Brunch" put on by the Bluestone Division of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians at the East Side Irish American Club on Lake Shore Blvd. in Euclid. We got to say hello to the people that we knew there who serve on the Executive Board like Mr. Francis McGarry (President), Linda Carney (Recording Secretary), and Mike Gronick (Treasurer). The food was provided by Koumbaros Catering and was spread out on several buffet tables along with omelettes that were prepared on the spot.

We ate at the same table as a very knowledgable librarian so we talked about where various ethnic groups settled when they first arrived in Cleveland. Even though we were at the Irish American Club we learned that the Slovenians first settled around 65th and St. Clair and later resettled along Lake Erie in Collinwood, Euclid and Mentor.

There are several very promising events coming up at the this club and we look forward to attending the Irish Fall Fest, the Shamrock Shuffle 5K, and the Arts & Crafts Fair in November.

The club publishes a newsletter called "The Schanachie" and on the front page of the August, 2104 edition, President McGarry wrote that "to paraphrase an Irish hero, 'our success will be the laughter of our children.' The Irish American Club is part of that laughter. Our brethren had to battle Cromwell, the Famine, the Erie Canal and a harsh and unforgiving immigrant life so that we may have an Irish Club. In our own family histories, previous generations have made sacrifices so that their children and their children's children may have a better life...That is part of the laughter. I am bound by the contributions that previous generations have made to this club, this city, this country, and in Ireland. My responsibility as President is to make our Irish Club a tribute to their successes. My pledge is to amplify the volume of our laughter."

And we wish him well.

After our meal, we drove over to St. Casimir's on Sowinski Avenue where a program was conducted after the 11:30 am mass commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the "heroic and tragic" of World War II, which began on August 1, 1944 and lasted for 63 days until the Poles were overwhelmed by the German Forces.

During the mass that preceded the commemoration, Rev. Fr. Eric S. Orzech praised the spirit and determination of the Polish People and urged all of those in attendance to stay for the program.

Much of the credit for organizing this program goes to Mr. Joseph Feckanin, who is a writer and amateur historian that we met earlier on July 18th at the Polish Cultural Center Picnic at the St. Sava Picnic Facility in Broadview Heights. Only about three weeks ago, we watched the DVD of Roman Polanski's film "The Pianist" which was set in Warsaw during World War II and the Warsaw Uprising. We mentioned this to Mr. Feckanin who told us that based on his own research "The Pianist" was a very accurate depiction of what happened and this was largely due to the fact that at that time Mr. Polanski, himself, was street kid living in Warsaw doing anything he had to do in order to survive.

But several other people made significant contributions to the commemoration such as Mr. Wojciech Fleszar who is the brother-in-law of Ms. Ilona Fleszar who works for Margaret W. Wong and Associates. Ilona's uncle and aunt Czeslaw and Elzbieta Stachowicz were also there as were parishioners from the Polish churches of St. Casimir, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and St. Stanislaus. It was a beautiful program consisting of readings, song, music, short film and eyewitness accounts of Clevelanders who were actually in Warsaw and witnessed what happened in August and September of 1944.

At the commemoration, we sat with Mr. and Mrs. Stachowicz as well as Mr. Mieczyslaw Garncareu and his wife who immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1972 and worked in Cleveland as a machinist. In 1996 they became American Citizens. Even though this was a solemn occasion, we were delightfully surprised to run into Mr. Larry Bender from St. Stanislaus who arranged for us to table at their festival in 2013. Mr. Bender liked seeing us too and invited us back for the festival this October and we just might take him up on it.

Our last event was a concert at the the site of the future Russian Garden, on Martin Luther King across from the Armenian Cultural Garden, titled "Grand Piano in the Russian Garden".

We got there a little early and got to talk to Ms. Svetlana Stolyarova who is the President of the Board of the Russian Cultural Gardens. Ms. Stolyarova admits that it will be a "long, long road" to the dedication of Phase 1 of this Garden but she is nevertheless optimistic that this will take place in 2016. She went on to say that today's concert is the first annual concert and she wants one to take place every August from now on. In fact, she is hoping to dedicate Phase 1 in August of 2016!

On this day, the concert consisted of pieces written by the great composers Chopin, Liszt, and Verdi played by three very gifted young people who were Ms. Nara Avetisyan, Mr. Dimitry Tyurin, and Mr. Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev. At least 175 people attended the concert and we got to sit next to our friend Mr. Ernie Mihaly who was just honored by the Cleveland International Hall of Fame for his tireless work in establishing the Hungarian Cultural Garden.

By all accounts, the concert was a wonderful success due to careful planning, lovely music and the fact that the afternoon weather was neither too hot nor too cool but just right which allowed the attendees to sit back and be comfortable with the beauty.

When we asked Ms. Stolyarova why she wanted to have the annual concert in August of each year, she laughed and said, "no particular reason...August is a good month!" And for an outdoor event of this nature, she couldn't be more right...at least for this year...who knows what the so-unpredictable weather of August, 2015 or 2016 will be like?

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