10/21/2004 - Former Prime Minister Viktor Orbán visits Cleveland to help commemorate the 1956 Hungarian Revolution... The United Hungarian Societies in Cleveland has invited former Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for two days of meetings with AHF and other Hungarian-American community leaders and multi-denominational clergy culminating in a commemoration of the 48th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution in which thousands died and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee.

“The anniversary of the 1956 Revolution is important to Hungarians around the world – here in America and at home in Hungary.” says former Prime Minister Orbán. “It’s an especially significant date to Freedom Fighters, many of whom now live outside Hungary, some right here in Cleveland. I’m honored to be invited to share this occasion with them and all Hungarian-Americans.”

WHY CLEVELAND? The 1956 Revolution was Hungary’s own “shot heard ‘round the world” and marked the beginning of the end for Soviet domination in Central and Eastern Europe. Cleveland was boasted the third largest Hungarian population after Miskolc in Hungary. The Cleveland community played a major role in both garnering support for the Democratic forces and in assisting the over 200,000 refugees that fled Soviet tanks

More than 200,000 ethnic Hungarians live in the Ohio region. Cleveland once boasted the third largest Hungarian population in the world, after Budapest and Miskolc in Hungary.

“It’s especially appropriate for Mr. Orbán to attend an event like this outside Hungary.” Says Sandor Nagy, President of the Center For Hungarian-American Relations. “Many Hungarians, and now second-, even third-generation Hungarian-Americans appreciate this kind of gesture.”.

A POPULAR FIGURE: Viktor Orbán remains a popular figure in the Hungarian American community. In 1988, Viktor Orbán helped found the Federation of Young Democrats or FIDESZ, one of Hungary’s first anti-communist, opposition parties. On June 16, 1989, Orbán gave a speech at Hero's Square on the occasion of the reburial of Imre Nagy, the revolutionary Prime Minister executed by the Soviets, which brought him wide political acclaim. He demanded free elections and the withdrawl of Soviet troops from Hungary. In 1998, at the age of 35, Orbán was elected Prime Minister - Europe’s youngest in history.

The Hungarian American community in Cleveland and across the U.S., many of whom were “Freedom Fighters” themselves in 1956, appreciated Orbán’s anti-communist activities and support for the millions of Hungarians cut off from Hungary when borders were unjustly re-drawn after WWI at Trianon.

Bryan Dawson-Szilagyi, Vice President of the American Hungarian Federation adds, “Hungarians are a fiercely independent and freedom loving people. We offered our service and our lives to America’s independence; we fought again to help save the Union; and rose up against the mighty Soviet Empire in 1956 against impossible odds. Hungarian Freedom Fighters and the entire Hungarian American community greatly appreciate Viktor Orbán, one of the most important leaders in Hungary’s final victory against communism.”

AHF is coordinating with the United Hungarian Societies (UHS) and the Center for Hungarian-American Congressional Relations (CHACR).

About CHACR: The Center for Hungarian-American Congressional Relations (CHACR) serves as a bridge between elected representatives and their Hungarian-American constituents. The Center is an independent, nonpartisan lobby organization that initiates, influences, and monitors legislative activities for the benefit of Hungarian-Americans. Through the establishment of a national network of members and volunteers to reciprocate the friendship and efforts of our allies in Congress, CHACR aspires to foster and coordinate the participation of Hungarian-Americans in governmental, political, and civic affairs. CHACR is determined to eliminate intolerance, prejudice, and discrimination against Hungarian minorities anywhere in the World. Founded in 2002, CHACR has pledged to defend Hungarian individual and communal rights and to prevent the deterioration of Hungarian communities in countries where they represent an ethnic minority. Located on Capital Hill in Washington, DC, CHACR cultivates a spirit of mutual interest and sociability among Hungarian-Americans while looking forward to harmonizing efforts with other civic and community organizations for similar functions and activities. For more information visit www.chacr.org.

About UHS: The United Hungarian Societies (UHS) was formed in 1902 with the mission to erect the statue of Louis Kossuth in Cleveland as an expression of the high esteem Hungarians in America held Kossuth. It was the original group that recognized the need for a national umbrella organization and formed the American Hungarian Federataion. Today, the 30,000-member UHS is a regional umbrella organization for everything from Hungarian war veterans to Hungarian Scouts.

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10/23 - 10/24/2004, Cleveland: Special Event Coverage:

About 30 Hungarian-American leaders met with Viktor Orbán and advisors in a closed dinner session at the home of Honorary Consul Laszlo Bojtos. Participants had the chance to exchange ideas on how to better coordinate and strengthen the Hungarian-American community.

Ohio State Representative Peter Ujvagi (D) and AHF Vice-President Bryan Dawson-Szilagyi both called for a new way of doing business based on cooperation and better coordination of efforts. "Effective coordination is the only way to exercise the community's collective power to influence media and government leaders," emphasized Dawson-Szilagyi.He added that we must "turn the way we did business in the past upside down. We must realize that media is the key to getting our message heard. We must communicate in a way that the world will understand - that includes using English. We must also realize that to survive, it is imperative to reach out to the next generation. Most importantly, it is time we learn to set aside differences and work together for the common good." Monika Elling, Global Marketing Director for the highly successful Hungarian international wine distributor, Monarchia, agreed and added that the Hungarian government must do more to encourage Hungarian firms to expand their markets internationally and in the United States. Viktor Orban alluded to this in his keynote address the following day when he remarked that the US offers a competitive advantage for Hungarian firms given the large population of Hungarian Americans and Hungarian-American-owned businesses.

It was standing room only as almost a thousand filled the meeting hall of St. Emeric's (Imre) Catholic Church in Cleveland to commemorate the 1956 Hungarian Revolution in a patriotic flair that showed so clearly the profound love these immigrants have for not only their motherland Hungary, but for their adopted home in the United States. The popular center-right political figure, Viktor Orbán, arrived to a standing ovation. 1956 "was a very vivid part of our lives, and one we'll never forget," said Jack Korossy, who was 14 when he saw Soviet tanks rumble into Budapest. As president of United Hungarian Societies in Cleveland, Korossy helped to organize this weekend's commemorations.

The Hungarian Girlscouts, or "Cserkeszek," re-enacted the Hungarian radio broadcasts calling for Western help that never came which resulted in the re-invasion of Hungary by some 200,000 Soviet troops thus crushing the hopes of a free Hungary. Soon after came a delightful dance presentation by local young Hungarians highlighting traditional Hungarian folk dress, song, and music.

Viktor Orbán opened his speech saying "Two Hungarians are talking to each other, and they both apologize. One is sorry because he is leaving Hungary, the other, because he is staying." He said that such dialogue expresses the passion of the Hungarians in the 20th century. According to Orbán, the traditions of commemorating the 1956 uprising are richer in the United States than in Hungary because Hungarians in communist- ruled Hungary were taught to forget the past.Whenever a Hungarian is harassed anywhere in the world, the whole nation must stand up for him. Orbán brought up the example of the divided village of Szelmenc, where the Slovakian-Ukrainian border cuts across the village.

Thanks to the efforts of the Hungarian-American community in asking Congress to help unite the the village that has been divided by an iron curtain since 1944, Ukraine and Slovakia promised to open a border crossing in Szelmenc. At this point, Orbán switched to English in his speech to thank the members of the Hungarian American Caucus, and its co-chairs, Rep. Ernest Istook and Tom Lantos.

The surprise of the day came when Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) personally greeted the audience and delivered a stirring speech in which he thanked Hungary and her people for their "strong belief in dignity and human rights" and their historic fight against tyranny that was the first "rip in the iron curtain." He added, "Thank you Hungary, thank you Hungarian People. God Bless Hungary and God Bless Viktor Orbán." Kucinich presented Sandor Nagy, President of the Center for Hungarian American Congressional Relations (CHACR) with a Congressional Proclamation that is entered into the Congressional Record honoring the aniversary of the 1956 Revolution and Orban's visit.

Adding to the list of dignitaries was Theresa Coaxum, assistant to Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), a member of the Hungarian American Congressional Caucus (see CHACR for more). Ms. Coaxum commented that it was "wonderful" to see young people learning about their history and heritage. She also thanked Hungary for helping to bring an end to communist dictatorship in Central and Eastern Europe. Both the Kerry and Bush campaigns sent congratulatory statements to the Hungarian American comunity.

Following his speech, Orbán presented St. Emeric's church with a flag commemorating Hungary's 1000 years of nationhood. One side bore the Hungarian Coat of Arms with the Holy Crown of St, St. Stephen and the words "Magyar Millenium." The flag's reverse side was blank. Orbán commented that while one side commemorated Hungary's last 1000 years, the blank side was waiting for the next generations to make their own mark. Before returning to Hungary that evening, Viktor Orbán met with the young members of the Hungarian Scouts Association and their leaders.
- Bryan Dawson-Szilagyi, AHF.
Thanks for contribution from the CHACR News Service.

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