New Groups Reflect Growing Hungarian Population in Southeastern U.S.
Washington, DC – The seventh Hungarian Americans Together conference (HATOG VII), held in Atlanta, GA, brought together representatives from twelve states and Hungary last weekend. The conference, the first of its kind to be held in the Southeast, was co-sponsored by the Hungarian American Coalition (HAC) and the Hungary Initiatives Foundation (HIF).
Funding for the conference and the 1st Atlanta Hungarian Festival was made possible by a generous grant of $20,000 from the Hungarian Initiatives Foundation, $500 from the William Penn Association, and the invaluable contribution of many volunteers and supporters.
“We have been looking forward for some time to organizing this regional conference in the Southeast. There are so many great initiatives in this part of the country that many people don’t know about, so I’m excited we have been able to provide an opportunity for networking and exposure on a larger stage,” said conference organizer Andrea Lauer Rice.
Among the attendees were Coalition members: Edith K. Lauer from Cleveland, OH, Dr. Peter Kovalszki from Detroit, MI, Max Teleki from Washington DC, László and Ágnes Fülöp and Csilla Grauzer from Minneapolis, MN, Enikő Basa Molnár from Chevy Chase, MD. Anne Lynch of the Atlanta Hungarian Meet-Up and Atlanta’s Honorary Consul John Parkerson provided major assistance during the conference.
From Florida, the following organizations were represented: Noémi Szilágyi, Global Friendship Foundation, Hungarian Christian Society/Petofi Club and Sarasota/Venice Scouts; Ottilia Varga, Napraforgók/Sarasota Folk Dance Camp; Zsuzsa Csajkás, Hungarian Children’s Club, Sarasota; Anikó Rákoczi, Safty Harbor Néptáncosok; Dénes Szakács, Hungarian Kossuth Club, Miami.
From North and South Carolina, the attendees were: Katalin Beck, Carolinas Hungarian Meetup Group; Julianna Babits, Szivárvány Magyar Ovi-Suli, Durham; Zsuzsanna Nagy, Triangle Hungarian Club, Raleigh-Durham-Cary; Melinda Kozo, E-skola – Hungarian Online School; Dr. Eszter Karvazy, Charlotte Hungarian Community; Judit Benedek, Hungarian Junior Club and Judit Trunkos, Professional Hungarian Athletes.
Texas was represented by: Louis Ott, Metroplex Magyar Cultural Circle & Fort Worth Sister Cities International; and Richard Graber, Hungarian American Cultural Association of Houston. Gyula and Magda Szita, represented Louisiana and Attila Kulcsár, Hungarians of Louisville, represented Kentucky.
The ambitious program kicked off with Edith Lauer’s historic overview of HAC’s programs. An in-depth introduction of the mission and goals of HIF followed by Dr. Tamás Fellegi. “The Southeastern HATOG Conference was a great success and a unique opportunity to learn about the many new organizations in this area of the country. The conference focused on ways to build community and on linkages between the organizations and with Hungary.”
Andrea Lauer Rice made a brief presentation on the state of the Hungarian American community – including a brief overview of the Southeastern community – and the meaning behind some of the latest U.S. census figures. The schedule provided an opportunity for each of the regional organizational representatives to give a brief overview of their activities and their greatest areas of challenge.
The largest communities represented were from Florida and the Carolinas. Their presentations drew an impressive picture of the variety of organizations in areas with increasing Hungarian American populations. Some of the major issues and initiatives discussed included: offering Hungarian cultural/language schools for children; engaging the next generation; cultivating young leadership within our communities; addressing the differing wants and needs of new Hungarian immigrants as well as 2nd and 3rd generation Hungarian Americans; using technology for communication and Hungarian e-learning; and addressing challenges of fundraising for programs.
In addition to the presentations from regional as well as several national representatives – including Anna (Stumpf) Lacey Smith from the Hungarian Embassy, Ágnes Fülemile from the Hungarian Cultural Center, NY, Tamás Marshall from the Hungarian Scouts Association in Exteris, László Fülöp, Immigration History Research Center, University of Minnesota, Róbert Velkey, ReConnect Hungary – participants were treated to the U.S. premiere of “Megmaradni/Heritage,” a new documentary film by Coalition member Réka Pigniczky.
The day also featured a roundtable discussion by nine Körösi Csoma Sandor interns who have spent the past 6 months working at Hungarian American organizations in the United States. They related some of their favorite memories, recalled challenges and shared insights gained into Hungarian American communities. Anna Boldog, who was based in Minnesota, claimed “I have never felt this Hungarian before. All I read before I came here to the U.S. became real and turned out to be true.”
Sunday morning provided an opportunity for break-out sessions on those conference topics the participants considered to be the most critical: Hungarian schools and Scouts – generational and leadership shifts; structural and management issues for organizations; the use of online technology for teaching language and culture.
Following the conference, HATOG attendees participated in the 1st Atlanta Hungarian Festival at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA. The event drew about 400 people and included performances by the Életfa Folk Music Band and local Atlanta singer, Gabriella Toth. Dr. Elizabeth Kiss, the President of Agnes Scott, is a proud Hungarian American and heralded the Festival as the start of a new tradition in Atlanta.
“This seventh HATOG, comprised mainly of the Southeastern community leadership, was both incredibly dynamic and substantive. I personally learned a great deal about the quality of our regional organizations and their amazing programs. I left Atlanta both energized and hopeful for our community’s strength, dedication and future,” said HAC President, Max Teleki.
“The conference was a historical event in the lives of the Carolinas’ Hungarian communities: it was the first time that we were addressed and recognized by national organizations. We, community leaders, as well as embassy representatives, leaders of HAC and HIF, were all united in the intent to help keep the Hungarian culture and language alive in the widely dispersed Hungarian diasporas. Meeting and sharing with other South-Eastern Hungarian-American groups was a wonderful experience, and the cooperation that was set in motion will benefit all of us,” said Katalin Beck, Carolinas Hungarian Meetup Group.
The conference and festival were covered by Réka Pigniczky for Hungary’s Duna World Television, “Five Continents, One Nation” program.
The next HATOG conference is planned for the spring of 2014 in Boston, MA.