Hungarian American Coalition Holds First-Ever Mikulás Gala and Online Auction as well as 2020 Annual Meeting

Washington, DC –On December 4, 2020 the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) held its first-ever virtual Mikulás Gala and Online Auction honoring Dr. Katalin Kádár Lynn, historian and founder of Helena History Press. The next day, on December 5, the organization held its Annual and Board meetings also virtually.

The Virtual Mikulás Gala combined the scope and the spirit of the two traditional annual Coalition events, the Gala and Mikulás Dinners, with the theme “Preserving our Past, Focusing on the Future!”. His Excellency János Áder, President of Hungary, was Honorary Chairman of the event. All Gala proceeds will support the Coalition’s educational programs: the Dr. Elemér and Éva Kiss Scholarship; the Bognár Family Hungarian Scholarship and the John N. Lauer Leadership Training Program. The full video of the Mikulás Gala is available here.

The Mikulás Gala began with a video that provided a retrospective of Coalition Gala Dinner honorees from 2005-2020, and photos and video footage from previous Mikulás Dinners from 1990-2020.

After the video, Master of Ceremonies and Coalition Vice President Endre Szentkirályi greeted the distinguished gathering and special guests, including this year’s awardee Dr. Katalin Kádár Lynn. Founder of Helena History Press; Ambassador Szabolcs Takács, newly appointed Ambassador of Hungary to the United States; Ambassador April H. Foley, former Ambassador of the United States to Hungary and Chairman of the Board of The Hungary Initiatives Foundation; Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi former Ambassador of Hungary to the United States;, Governor George Pataki, former governor of New York; Ms. Susan Hutchison, Former Executive Director of the Charles and Lisa Simonyi Fund for the Arts and Sciences; Ms. Csilla Grauzer, Chairman of the Board of the Coalition; President Emeritus Maximilian Teleki; Chair Emerita Edith K. Lauer; Coalition Board members and guests.

Welcoming remarks were delivered by Ambassador Szabolcs Takács, who just recently arrived to Washington DC. Ambassador Takács began by thanking the Hungarian-American diaspora for its prominent role in strengthening the bond of friendship between Hungary and the United States by saying “I cannot underline enough how grateful we all are in Hungary – not only in the government, but all Hungarians – for all what you have done to bringing close ties with the motherland and building bridges with the great nation of the United States of America” and he also stressed that 1.5 million Hungarians living in the US are the “cornerstone and very solid part of being Hungarian by building Hungary and preserving Hungarian culture not only in the United States, but globally, including the mother nation.” Reflecting on 2020, Ambassador Takács mentioned the importance of commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Trianon when the country was torn the part, as the past 100 years were very turbulent and very difficult in Hungary’s history and that is why it is very important to underline that we can now live in a free and democratic world. He also mentioned that while today we can live in peace and security in Hungary and the United States, but this is currently not true for all Hungarian communities, and he expressed his deep gratitude to the Coalition and its member organization, Hungarian Human Rights Foundation (HHRF) who are doing everything in their power to help Hungarian communities in the Carpathian Basin who are still facing difficult challenges.

As for the plans for the coming year, Ambassador Takács highlighted the upcoming 65th anniversary of 1956, as well as the 100th anniversary of Hungarian-US diplomatic relations, to which the Embassy of Hungary is planning to prepare a comprehensive program in cooperation with the US government and the Hungarian-American community “to send a strong signal to the world that we, Hungarians and Americans share a very strong and very distinguished past.” He also reflected on the development of Hungarian-American relations in the past few years, highlighting the cooperation with NATO, economic ties (growing number of American companies in Hungary), and other fields e.g. energy, and he underlined that it is Hungary’s basic and key interest to maintain the good relationship with the United States. He finished his remarks by congratulating this year’s awardee, Dr. Katalin Kádár Lynn.

After Ambassador Takács’ remarks, a video was shown on the highlights of the Coalition’s flagship program, the John N. Lauer Leadership Training Program (LTP) that have sponsored 98 interns since 2005.

Next, a special musical performance was featured by Kaláka, an award-winning folk music group formed in Budapest, Hungary in 1969 and have released about 1000 songs and 25 albums since then.

Founding member of the group, Dániel Gryllus said a few words before the concert dedicated to the success of the Mikulás Gala, highlighting that “the Hungarian American Coalition has as one of its very important goals to send young Hungarians to the United States to study, and in doing so, strengthen the ties between the Hungary in the US. These are the most important of cultural ties, the preservation of identity, of traditions, and perhaps, we can relate to this the best (…) therefore we can truly say we all belong to the same Hungarian family, of those of you in America, or Transylvania or Slovakia, or the Vojvodina region of Serbia, or Buenos Aires. Everywhere we go there’s a Hungarian community, and this fills us with joy and keeps alive what we do with our music.” 

Some highlights from the Virtual Mikulás Gala’s program

After the concert, Coalition President Andrea Lauer Rice delivered her remarks. She started by saying that “I hope you will find this Zoom call special in a way that you are among friends, and at the end of this tumultuous year, this feels like a tremendous opportunity to gather together in whatever way we can for fellowship, to give thanks, and to indeed, celebrate: to celebrate the resilience of our organization and of our community, the coming of Mikulás, and the end of this unprecedented and hopefully, never-to-be-repeated-again year.” Reflecting on the event’s theme “Preserving our Past, Focusing on the Future!”, she commended this year’s honoree, Dr. Katalin Kádár Lynn, for her important work of preserving history and also highlighted that Coalition’s educational programs supported by the proceeds of the Mikulás Gala serve as important building block of the future. She underlined that “since we’ve been managing scholarship and internship programs ever since our founding some thirty years ago, we’ve seen an incredible alumni network emerged of more than 440 young Hungarian leaders in Hungary, in the United States, and across the countries in the Carpathian Basin. (…) Together these programs impact about 50 young Hungarians across the world every year, and together, they help us build an incredible foundation for partnership and even stronger bilateral relationship and helping make inroads with Hungarian communities across the Carpathian basin.”

Mrs. Lauer Rice also repeated Ambassador Takács’ concern that in some cases Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin continue to struggle for even the basic human rights and highlighted the fact that just recently armed commando units of the Ukrainian Security Forces (SBU) raided top Hungarian minority institutions throughout the Subcarpathian region, as well as the home of leader László Brenzovics.

Mrs. Lauer Rice also remembered that 2020 was named by the Hungarian government the ‘Year of the Hungarian National Unity’ and ‘Year of Strong Hungarian Communities’ which was very fitting in her opinion, so she listed the following things she learned in 2020 facing the pandemic: community matters to everyone and in fact, it is oftentimes a lifeline referring the outreach to the elderly; community is not based on proximity; that the most seasoned veterans of the Hungarian-American community are so wise that they will also learn to adapt no matter how challenging the circumstances; sometimes creativity trumps convention; widening the tent is always a good idea; it’s all in the way we look at things; individually, separately we can do great things, but when we work together, we can accomplish so much more; and this year provided many more life lessons.

Finally, Mrs. Lauer Rice advertised the Coalition’s first-ever online auction that will run until December 18, 2020 available for bidding here.

Next, Governor Pataki said a few words praising the accomplishments of the Hungarian American Coalition.

After Governor Pataki’s remarks, Coalition Chair Emerita Mrs. Edith K. Lauer introduced this year’s honoree, and read the laudation on her award: “In appreciation of Dr. Katalin Kádár Lynn, whose commitment to professional scholarship on Central East Europe contributes to a deeper understanding of the region’s history and cooperation among its peoples and has earned the enduring gratitude of the Hungarian American community.” 

A video was also shown to further familiarize the attendees with Dr. Kádár Lynn’s personal life and motivations from interview with Memory Project recorded back in 2014 conducted by Coalition member Ms. Réka Pigniczky.

In accepting the award, Dr. Kádár Lynn said that she is very proud of this award and talked about the work of Helena History Press. She said: “It is our authors and our dedicated publication team that make these books possible. This award today is their award as well. It is my honor and pleasure to share this award with them, and regardless the challenges facing the book industry today, I can assure you that we will continue with our work as there is much more to be done.” In closing, she also dedicated this award to her recently deceased husband, Douglas Lynn without whom Helena History Press wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

The evening concluded with toasts delivered by Ms. Susan Hutchison, Coalition President Emeritus Mr. Max Teleki and the honoree herself, Dr. Katalin Lynn surrounded by her friends in her home in Reno, NV. In her toast, Ms. Susan Hutchison said: “It occurs to me that through my experience through the Hungarian American Coalition, my wonderful friendships with those of you who are Hungarian Americans, and Hungarians, I feel that perspective is one of the greatest gifts you’ve given me. And as you know, I can hardly make through one of these dinners (…) where I don’t well up in tears because of the stories and your history, what you have endured, what you have suffered, what you can teach us. (…) So my toast is to you, the Hungarian Americans, and the Hungarians, who we love here in America, to the courage you show us, that we would be able to hang on to that courage as we move forward in the next years ahead. So thank you for the gift you have given me, your perspective!”

We are grateful to all our sponsors, who made this event possible, especially: Centene Corporation, Mrs. Edith K. Lauer, Ms. Sandra Froman, Ambassador Colleen Bell, Mrs. Anikó Gaál-Schott, Ms. Mary Mochary, Mr. Timothy Lynn, Mr. John Lipsky and Dr. Péter Wm Forgach.

At the Annual Meeting held on Saturday, December 5, Chairman of the Coalition Csilla Grauzer greeted all members before presenting her formal report of the Coalition’s accomplishments in 2020.  Next, members heard the detailed report given by Coalition President Andrea Lauer Rice about the organization’s 2020 projects and activities.  The Annual Meeting voted to renew the terms of the following individual board members: Mr. Stefan Fedor and Mr. Péter Wm. Forgách.

In the afternoon Board Meeting the three-year term of the following organizational board members were renewed: Hungarian (Magyar) Club of Chicago; Hungarian Society of Massachusetts and Civic Enterprises. The Board also approved Ursula Cox (Sterling, VA) as new individual member. The following officers were also reelected for a two-year term: Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice, President; Mr. Julius Várallyay and Stefan Fedor, Vice Presidents; Mr. Zsolt Szekeres, Treasurer; Mr. George Pogan, Secretary and Mr. Géza Kádár, Jr., Legal Counsel.

Mrs. Csilla Grauzer remained the Chairman of the Board for 2021 and Dr. Endre Szentkirályi was elected as Rising Chair for 2022.

The members of the Coalition’s Executive Committee were elected as follows: Ms. Anne C. Bader, Ms. Csilla Grauzer, Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice, Mr. George Pogan, Mr. Zsolt Szekeres, Mr. Endre Szentkirályi and Mr. Max Teleki.

At the Board meeting, members shared their insights on how to maintain the apolitical nature of the organization, and also discussed plans for celebrating the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Hungarian American Coalition and the 65th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and Freedom Fight next year, as well as the current situation and difficult challenges the Hungarian minorities need to face in the Carpathian Basin.

The meeting concluded with Andrea Lauer Rice saying a special thank you to all Coalition leaders and members who had worked so hard throughout the year.

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