Washington, DC – On May 19, 2018, the Third Regional Diaspora Meeting took place at the new building of the Embassy of Hungary in Washington D.C. Approximately 40 Hungarian American community leaders attended the conference, representing organizations based in the South and the Washington D.C. area. Several Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) leaders participated, including: President Andrea Lauer Rice, Vice President Stefan Fedor and Board members László Hámos, Enikő Basa Molnár and Gabe Rozsa, as well as Coalition Program Coordinator Noémi Bánhidi.
On May 18, Ambassador Dr. László Szabó hosted a reception to welcome Dr. Zoltán Kádár, Cabinet Leader of Hungary’s State Secretariat for National Policy. At the reception, participants had a chance to briefly introduce themselves and their organizations, and network during dinner.
Participants of the Third Regional Diaspora Meeting in front of the Embassy of Hungary and the 1956 ‘Budapest Lad’ (Pesti Srác) statue on May 19, 2018
The following day, Hungarian Diaspora Liaison Mr. Péter Gyombolai, welcomed the participants and Dr. Kádár presented a comprehensive report on the Hungarian government’s current institutional framework and strategy for developing relations with the diaspora. Highlights of the report included updates on: Mikes Kelemen, Kőrösi Csoma Sándor (KCSP) and Julianus Programs; annual Diaspora Council meetings in Budapest; grant opportunities offered by the Bethlen Gábor Fund and extending the family support system for Hungarians living abroad.
Other presentations focused on the ReConnect Hungarian Birthright Program; Hungarian Scout Association in Exteris’ school camps; the Rákóczi Association’s Diaspora and Expatriate Program; current state of the Kossuth House in Washington DC; Hungarian Hub’s recent Regional Diaspora Workshop in Daytona Beach, FL; prevention of illegal Hungarian immigration in the US and the Visa Waiver Program.
Mr. László Hámos, Coalition Board member and President of the US Diaspora Council, recounted the results and lessons learned from the Diaspora Council meetings, held annually in Budapest since 2010. He discussed the challenges and opportunities of Hungarian American organizations, and stressed the importance of comprehensiveness, coordination and mutual respect, and – above all – genuine reciprocity between the diaspora communities and the Embassy of Hungary, praising the indispensable role of the Hungarian diaspora liaison. He was very pleased with the recent success of the Minority Safe Pack Initiative. In addition, he commended the Coalition for hosting the recent Washington DC visit of Dr. László Brenzovics, the sole ethnic Hungarian deputy in the Parliament of Ukraine, to raise awareness of the challenges there.
Coalition President Lauer Rice talked about the importance of creating opportunities for community members and leaders to come together, share best practices and learn from one another. She recounted that over the past eight years, the Coalition has organized 10 Hungarian Americans TOGether (HATOG) conferences to accomplish this and will work with the Diaspora and Embassy representatives to ensure key takeaways are shared among all conference participants in the future. She said: “The main suggestion I will make based on what we have learned, is that we cannot create something for our community without involving the people it will affect. All of these concepts are fantastic, but must be grassroots tested.” In addition, she urged participants to continue to involve second and third generation Hungarian Americans, who may not speak the language, in their programming.
Lauer Rice also gave a brief introduction to the Memory Project: Hungarian American Visual History Archive, and talked about the recent decision with co-Founder Reka Pigniczky, to make the project global. She announced their plans to select and train 15-20 Kőrösi Csoma Sándor Program participants who will be posted in diaspora communities all across the world to conduct their own interviews to add to the growing archive.
Continuing with the theme of community initiatives, the creation of a Diaspora Council Document Archive; ‘DOTO’ and Diaspora TV, a EuroCable channel, were announced. The participants expressed great interest in two new community initiatives. Hungarian Hub, led by Piros Pazaurek from Daytona Beach, FL, based on technology created by Laszlo Galambos, is a community platform currently being created for Hungarian American organizations to share information, better communicate and coordinate with one another and become a portal to share community-specific announcements and opportunities.
A Diaspora Map App for Smartphones was also introduced by Anna Smith Lacey, Executive Director of The Hungary Initiatives Foundation. The app would include information on Hungarian events and areas of interest all across the United States, and would rely on information submitted through the Julianus Program and from KCSP interns based across the US. The beta version will be completed and tested this fall.
Coalition VP Stefan Fedor, Coalition Program Coordinator Noémi Bánhidi, Coalition President Andrea Lauer Rice and Coalition Board member Erika Fedor at the annual Hungarian Charity Ball on May 19, 2018
After the conference, participants attended the annual Hungarian Charity Ball organized by the American Hungarian Heritage House at Sheraton Premiere Hotel, Tysons Corner, VA. The proceeds from this event will benefit the restoration of Bocskay István High School in Transcarpathia, Ukraine as well as the American Hungarian Heritage House Scholarship Fund which was established 2 years ago. These scholarships will support 4-5 students from Hungarian diaspora regions as they pursue their studies at Marymount University in the 2018-19 academic year.
Regional Diaspora Conferences are planned annually in various locations across the U.S.