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When being Hungarian makes you really proud - Eszter Balla (San Francisco) / May 10, 2015
Translated from the Hungarian by Dr. Gergely Toth


Do you think bringing a diverse group of Hungarian Americans and curious Americans together should be a tough task? It doesn’t seem that hard, judged on this weekend’s outstanding San Francisco event.


Everyone had a great time at the fourth annual Hungarian Heritage Festival held in Belmont, just south of San Francisco. About 4,000 visitors attended and it was a wonderful opportunity to meet old Hungarian friends, and introduce our American ones to Hungarian traditions, culture, and cuisine.
The organizer, the Hungarian Heritage Foundation, started the preparations back last September. The location had to be secured, artists and performers invited, volunteers recruited, says Szilvia Gilbert, head of the Organizing Committee. The result is obvious: a rich and colorful program and a pleasant atmosphere.
The schedule included the exhibitions of contemporary artists such as the acclaimed Tibor Simon-Mazula, folk art shows, and historical presentations. György Tilesch, president of the Neumann Society introduced his recently formed nonprofit transatlantic innovation center which advises and networks for new talent.
In one of the tents we met director-producer Réka Pigniczky who told us about her new venture, the American-Hungarian Visual Memory Project. Its goal is to illustrate the life of the Hungarian émigré community – especially the 1945 and 1956 generation – through personal accounts; the video interviews will be available to the public. She met some people even here at the Festival whose journey is worth documenting.
Sociologist Dezső Farkas advertised the online survey titled “American Hungarian or Hungarian American?”, supported by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. It aims at gaining a better understanding of the attitudes towards and feelings of Hungarians living in the US for the old country and the new world.
Eleni Kounalakis, former US ambassador to Budapest was also present: she signed her new book on her Foreign Service years in Hungary in the tent of the Neumann Society.
Popular pianist and composer Bálint Sapszon, a frequent performer in the Bay Area, accompanied Diana Pray, a local Hungarian-American soprano singing works by the Hungarian composers Lehár, Bartók, and Erkel. The program also featured Hungarian Gypsy music, as well as the Bay Area’s own Eszterlánc folk dance group. Children enjoyed themselves at the play house, while their parents strolled between the neatly set up stands selling Hungarian folk art items and souvenirs. Textile artist Sarah Pedlow of Berkeley offered Transylvanian embroidery. She fell in love with Transylvanian Hungarian folk art during her visits.
The famous Hungarian dishes and beverages also greatly contributed to the event’s success: lángos, szilvásgombóc, hurka, Gerbeaud cake, red wine, beer. The widow of the former Calvinist reverend Jenő Katona was a true master of home-made krémes, a staple of every Hungarian pastry shop. We were also very impressed by an American bank employee whom we saw enthusiastically making the lángos dough. He and his family, of Hungarian origin, donated the profits to the local Hungarian scout troops.
The diverse visitor group included Google engineers, a Hungarian Benedictine priest, and a Protestant reverend. But Austin Hudler, and American financial expert was also in attendance: his Hungarian spouse brought him to the Festival as he is ever eager to get to know and immerse in Hungarian traditions.
According to the Honorary Consul of Hungary in the Bay Area Eva Voisin, the number of Hungarian immigrants is growing. Among them are researchers at the large local universities and innovators arriving in Silicon Valley. San Francisco is thus becoming one of the main Hungarian centers in the US.
Dr. László Kálmán, Hungarian Consul General in Los Angeles noted that this Festival was indeed the second largest event in the US honoring Hungarian traditions since the immensely successful Hungarian Heritage Festival in Washington DC two years prior. The Hungarian government is happy to assist such occasions.
Still, the biggest compliment came from a Polish-American lady who was asking for advice about how to organize such a truly entertaining and impressive heritage festival in America.


October 8, 2010


Gov. George Pataki to Spearhead Fundraising Efforts
Washington, DC - Graphic photographs in the international media have stunned and saddened concerned citizens around the world: on October 4, the wall of a reservoir at an alumina plant in northwest Hungary collapsed, unleashing a flood of toxic red sludge that killed 6 people until now and injured more than 120, according to the Hungarian government's spokesman. Several towns were virtually destroyed, displacing hundreds of residents, who will probably never be able to return home. While its full long-term impact is not yet clear, the event represents a human and environmental disaster affecting not only the immediate region, but the larger ecosystem as well.
Source: MTI - Sándor H. Szabó
The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) has approved the establishment of a "Red Sludge Disaster Relief Fund" to help the victims. Donations to the fund will be used to help the most needy as determined by Hungarian authorities.
This Disaster Relief Fund is established in response to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has asked Hungarian Americans to contribute to the relief effort, and who called upon Governor George Pataki to coordinate fundraising efforts in the United States.
Gov. Pataki will spearhead fundraising efforts to benefit the Coalition's Disaster Relief Fund. The Coalition urges all of their members and other organizations to join this effort and to donate generously, either to the fund established by the Coalition or through the charity of their choice.
Donations to the Coalition's fund are tax deductible and can be made by sending a check made out to: Hungarian American Coalition - Disaster Relief Fund, to the following address:
Hungarian American Coalition
Red Sludge Disaster Relief Fund
1120 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 280
Washington, DC 20036
Donors who would like to use credit cards can call our office at (202) 296-9505 or (202) 828-8300 or send us a fax at (202) 775-5175 to safely process their donation.
For more information on relief efforts, please visit our home page at
The Hungarian American Coalition is a nationwide non-profit organization that promotes public understanding and awareness of Hungarian American issues.
For more information please contact the Hungarian American Coalition's Washington office:
1120 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 280, Washington, DC 20036.
Tel: (202) 296-9505
Fax: (202) 775-5175
Contact: Janos Szekeres
The Hungarian Heritage Foundation of the San Francisco Bay Area promotes, shares and educates the public about Hungarian culture, language and art.

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Victoria Szabo-Lengyel

Szilvia Gilbert