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Out & About in Cleveland

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Grand Opening of the Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Society Museum

On Saturday, April 11th, we represented Ms. Margaret W. Wong at the ribbon cutting/grand opening program for the new location of the Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Society Museum which is now on the first floor of the Galleria in downtown Cleveland. Mr. Andrew Lazar, the museum's curator for its 30 year history, spoke of how the museum had moved to several different places over the years before it settled on one of the upper floors of the Galleria in 2003 but because the space was needed for another project it was re-located to the first floor where it will be secure until at least 2020. Mr. Lazar said that although each move was a challenge it also presented new opportunities. Mr. Lazar was quite proud of the museum's new multi-media equipment which will enhance the latest exhibits which document the end of World War II and the end of the Cold War.

Mr. Elmer Meszaros, the program's emcee, said that with each move the museum grew more beautiful and more elegant. He went on to say that no one had worked harder for the museum than Ms. Eva Szabo, the President of Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Society, who had been planning the move since December, 2013. When Ms. Szabo was given the opportunity to say a few words she spoke of the importance of the museum by calling it the "heartbeat of Hungarian culture in Northeast Ohio."

Dignitaries were then introduced to say a few words including Dr. Imre Szakacs, Hungarian Consul of National Cohesion; Mr. Laszlo Bojtos, Hungarian Honorary Consul; and Ms. Valeria Ratoni-Nagy, President of United Hungarian Societies.

Soon it was our turn to speak so we read a few lines from Ms. Wong's book, "The Immigrant's Way" which dealt with the time period of 1880-1914 when 1% of the Hungarian population immigrated to the United States and many settled in Cleveland. We praised the courage and the initiative of these Hungarian immigrants and said that they were a good example for those who seek to immigrate to the United at this time.

It was said that a "surprise guest" would also say a few words and he turned out to be our former Mayor/Governor/U.S. Senator George Voinovich who, of course, was greeted with great enthusiasm. Just as we had done, Mr. Voinovich praised the contributions of Hungarian immigrants to the Northeast Ohio Region and to the United States. He cited several things that he had done for Hungary during the course of his career including pushing for Hungary to be admitted into NATO and his support of the VISA Waiver Agreement back in 2007. He said that Hungarian immigrants should be proud of the values and the work ethic that they brought with them when they came to the United States. In fact, Mr. Voinovich said that "you show me an immigrant who is proud of his heritage and I'll show you a true American."

We then took part in the ribbon cutting and got to keep a piece of the ribbon. We then moved indoors to enjoy some refreshments and look over a few of the exhibits including those dealing with the Hungarian-American Harvest Festival, the Hungarian Churches of Cleveland, and Early Hungarian Immigrants.

As we were leaving we learned that the money that financed the re-location of the museum not only came from individual contributions and a grant from the Hungarian Initiatives Foundation in Washington, D.C. but from the Hungarian government which sometimes steps in and helps with worthy projects like this because it wants to create and expand a positive relationship with those who have immigrated to the United States.

After we left the museum, we drove to the Church of the Savior in Cleveland Heights for the Easter Celebration of the Indian Christian Society of Northeast Ohio. We were greeted by Mr. Alfred KanagaRaj who stepped in to help out because his son, Mr. Cyril KanagaRaj couldn't make it on this day. Another congregational leader was our friend, Mr. Michael Srestha.

The church service itself consisted of hymns, spiritual readings, and songs sung in native languages. It was attended by about 50 people of several ethnic backgrounds and this was noted by the Rev. Dr. John Cerrato of St. John's Episcopal Church of Chagrin Falls as he said, "you come from different backgrounds and different Christian traditions" but "we all gather here together in the faith of Christ" before he started his sermon which dealt with the resurrection.

After the service, there was a potluck which, unfortunately, we couldn't stay for but we liked sharing with these people even though our time together was brief. Mr. Srestha announced that there will be a picnic on July 18th and we certainly hope we are able to attend it.

Our last event for Saturday was the Liberian Association of Cleveland's Dinner, Ball and Fundraiser Program which was held at St. Helena's Party Hall on West 65th Street in Cleveland. We arrived at 8pm said hello to our friend Mr. Martin Zeinway, the President of the organization, who told us to be sure to stay there for a while because there might be a surprise for us later on. We wondered what this could possibly be so we planted ourselves at a table with Dr. Jessica Kumar, an Infectious Disease Fellow at Case Medical Center who would talk later about Ebola, and her father, Mr. Mehesh Kumar.

We liked talking to Mr. Kumar who immigrated to the United States from India in 1967 and now lives in Richmond, VA where he works as an engineer who renovates and sometimes builds schools. He drove all of the way from Richmond on this day so we were both a little tired.

Later in the evening after dinner, Dr. Kumar gave a very all-encompassing talk about Ebola. She only had about 15 minutes to make her presentation but she covered the history of the disease; how it is transmitted; how it is being treated; what we are learning through research; and the public health aspects that are being addressed. She concluded with an "outbreak update" as of April, 2015.

Another speaker that we met was Mr. Isaac Monah, who was here to talk about the Douge River Presbyterian School which is the first school to operate in the Twarbo Region of Liberia. Mr. Monah talked about his own history and how he came to help establish this school. He was born in 1970 in Liberia but had to flee the country in 1990 after civil war broke out. Eventually, in 2002, Mr. Monah was able to immigrate to the United States where he eventually settled in the Northeast Ohio area. He never forgot where he came from though and wanted to do something to help Liberia. Finally, in 2012, the school was opened and today there are 154 students attending classes there but Mr. Monah would like to see this number expanded to 500 students.

Awards were given out and, to our surprise, we received a certificate "in recognition of helping families in Liberia, West Africa, affected by the Ebola Epidemic." Mr. Zeinway explained that we received this honor because we always do our best to attend the Ebola walk and other events organized by the Liberian Association of Cleveland and because Ms. Margaret W. Wong is an excellent supporter.

We left the gathering after midnight very tired but very happy.

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