On Father's Day, Sunday June 15th, we attended four local events and each one of them was very well attended despite the holiday. First we went to a ecumenical prayer service titled "Remembering Baltic Victims of Mass Deportations" at the United Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church on Andrews Avenue in Lakewood. Starting in June of 1941, which became known as the Black Days of June, the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia and deported tens of thousands of people to Siberia in order to suppress resistance to their authority. During today's service both Rev. Dr. Sarma Eglite, presiding Minister of the Church and Father Joseph Bacevice, Roman Catholic-Lithuanian, drew parallels between the "Black Days" of 73 years ago and what is happening now between the Soviet Union, Ukraine, and Crimea.
We sat with our friend Ingrid Bublys, Honorary General Consul of the Republic of Lituania, and her husband Taurus. Sitting very close to us also was Dr. Vik Stankus who is very prominent in the Ohio Lithuanian Community. Even though the small church was packed with people, these people were mostly older in their 50's and up so Ms. Bublys expressed concern to us that younger people are losing track of their heritage and are no long interested in vital historical happenings such as what was being discussed today.
We told Ms. Bublys about the June meeting of the Cleveland-Bratislava Sister Cities Group in which John Righetti of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society was the guest speaker. This same issue came up and Mr. Righetti, who spends a lot of time with young people in their teens and early twenties, assured us with a twinkle in his eye that the young people care a lot about their heritage and world happenings but they communicate mostly by computer with people of shared interests all over the world and for this reason, they are less a lot less likely to actually attend a meeting like the one this Sunday at the Latvian church.
Afterwards, we went to the reception for a little while where there was a large spread of very delectable food. We could only stay a few minutes but we enjoyed talking with Dr. Mitch Bienia of the Polish American Congress about the goings-on in the Polish Community.
We then had to leave because we had a ticket waiting for us at the Father's Day concert at Waetjen Auditorium at Cleveland State University presented by the Federation of India Community Associations (FICA). The concert was titled "Inheritance; Parampara-Tradition in Transition" featuring the Indian Classical Vocalists Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty and his daughter Kaushiki Chakraborty. When she introduced the program, Mona Alag of FICA said about Kaushiki Chakraborty had an "unbelievable golden voice blessed by God" and her father Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty was "equally wondrous".
When we first arrived, we went backstage and got to meet Mr. Chakraborty who seemed like a genuinely charming man. Before the show started, we visited with Piya Roy and introduced ourselves to a gentleman who turned out to be Dr. Hans Nagpaul, a CSU professor who knows Margaret W. Wong. By this time we were a bit hungry so at Mona Alag's suggestion we bought a wrap from Chutney Rolls, an Indian Fusion bistro in Cleveland. This wrap was a delicious blend of potatoes and peas and more than sustained us.
Probably the most touching moment of the concert occurred when Ms. Chakraborty told the attendees that today's concert was the last duet concert of this particular tour and she loved being here performing with her father on Father's Day.
Next we drove over the St. Sava's on Wallings Road in Broadview Heights because they were having "An Urgent Fundraising Banquet for the Flood Victims of Serbia and the Republic of Srpska". We had learned that Facebook had indicated that only about 60 people had committed to coming here but, thankfully, about 600 showed up to pay $20 to attend this banquet to aid the flood victims. Additional donations were requested and by the midpoint of the evening, it was announced that a total of $42,200.00 had been raised which created a cheer that could be heard all the way to the parking lot!
After we arrived we asked to speak to the coordinator of the event so Mr. Milovan Andonov, who was helping seat the attendees, walked us over to Mr. Simo Petko who was flattered that Margaret W. Wong had taken an interest in what was happening. Mr. Petko introduced us to prominent people at the head table included Pete Svilar, the President of the Congregation who told us that he had met Ms. Wong several times over the years. We also got to meet the guest speaker who was Mr. Obrad Kesic, Director of the RS Office For Cooperation, Trade and Investment in Washington, DC. who was here because he was connected with Srpska.
We were seated at the same table as our friends Asim Datta who had hurried over her from the FICA concert just like we did, Michael and Flavia Sreshta, and Mari Galindo-DaSilva from MetroHealth who we often meet at events such as 2014 Cinco De Mayo at Cleveland City Hall where her mother was honored. Nadia Martinovich sat with us for a little while; but she didn't have too much time for visiting because she was working very hard tonight due to the fact that she immigrated to the United States from Serbia but her family still lives there and they were victims of the flooding which destroyed their property but fortunately they, themselves, are doing okay. Ms. Martinovich said that she plans to go back to Serbia to visit her family and we gave her our contact information in case an immigration matter comes up.
There was a short film about the flooding that captured the seriousness of the situation, and, on a lighter note, there were Serbian singers and dancers. When the time came for the short program, Mr. Petko mentioned that Margaret W. Wong, the reknowned immigration attorney, had sent a representative so we received a good round of applause.
Interestingly all of the speakers including Mr. Petko, Father Matic from St. Sava's in Broadview Heights, Father Zivojin from St. Sava's in Parma, Mr. Svilar, and even Mr. Kesic the guest speaker all stressed the point that this was a terrible tragedy but were grateful indeed that Serbian people and non-Serbian people were coming together to do whatever they could to assist the victims. As Kesic was concluding, he said that "may we always be human and show compassion to those in need."
The emotion displayed at the last event was a bit overwhelming but there was still one more place we wanted to visit today before we turned in so we headed over to the Islamic Center of Cleveland because tonight they were having a program honoring the high school graduates of 2014. Needless to say we arrived late for the program but just in time to see the young people called up to be congratulated. All told there were at least 30 graduates and each one got to say which college that she/he was going to attend and what their major was going to be. We were very impressed that quite a few of them had chosen to major in the sciences.
After the ceremonies, everyone gathered for cake and we got to speak to Nabia Madhun the principal organizer for this event. Ms. Madhun is a board member and on the women's committee for the center. She said to tell Ms. Wong thank you very much for caring about them.
Our event program guide told us that Brother Ahmed Fellague, HDJ, a member of the ICC Council of Elders gave the opening remarks so we located him and we talked for about 10 minutes. Mr. Fellague immigrated to the United States from France many years ago. He told us that he was dismayed by the Islamic countries who are at way to each other. Mr. Fellague believes in the faith and he told us that his message to the young people was to actually live the faith because it is very beautiful; it is only when people attend worship services one day a week or so but otherwise do not live the faith that there is trouble. We told him that what he just told us could apply to any religion and he readily agreed.