“Culture is a window reflecting the history, culture and spiritual world of a nation. Cultural exchange is a bridge to enhance the mutual understanding and
friendship between the people of different nations.“
– Hu Jintao
In June 2013 SPSCA President Clarissa Szabados-Mish visited Pécs and met with Mayor Dr. Zsolt Páva and János Girán, Head of Departments in the Office of the Mayor, to update the Mayor on the association’s programs and to discuss future exchanges. Mayor Páva invited SPSCA (and Seattle) to participate in an international music festival, planned for 2015.
In May 2013 H.E. György Szapáry, the Hungarian ambassador to the United States, visited Seattle. He met with local businessmen and discussed trade opportunities between the two countries. The Hungarian-American community organized a reception in his honor.
Between April 25-27 2013, a delegation from the office of the mayor of Pécs visited Seattle. It included Éva Mikes, Legal Director of Pécsi Városfejlesztési Zrt. (Pécs City Development PLC.) Péter Csizi, Deputy Mayor of Pécs and Member of the National Assembly, and János Girán, department head at the office of the mayor of Pécs. They visited Seattle’s most famous sites, met with local Hungarians, and gave a presentation about Pécs to the president and members of the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle Area. They also met and exchanged goodwill gifts with Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith.
In 2012, Dr. Zsuzsa Hantó, a University of Pécs sociologist, included Seattle in a book-signing tour of her recent book, a description of the lives of the families displaced by the Communist regime during the mid-fifties. She gave talks about her book at the University of Washington and other venues in Seattle as well as other cities in the Northwest.
Also in 2012, Prof. Dr. Ágnes Dárdai Fisher, director of the Center of Knowledge library of the University of Pécs came to Seattle to exhange best practices in her field with local library leaders. She visited the King County and the Seattle Library systems and participated in SPSCA events.
In October 2011 SPSCA, in collaboration with St. James Cathedral Music Director, Dr. Savage, organized the public performance in St. James Cathedral of Pécs Cathedral’s organist, Mr. Szabolcs Szamosi. The program included music by Hungarian composers as well as Mr. Szamosi’s own compositions. The concert was well attended and was followed by a reception at St. James. The Hungarian community later welcomed Mr. Szamosy and his wife at a luncheon in their honor, wich was attended also by Archbishop Brunett.
In 2010 SPSCA donated two gifts to Pécs to honor its being chosen the Cultural Capital of Europe by the European Union. One was a plaque made by a local Native American artist, Mr. Andrew Peterson, and the other a totem-pole like wooden column, made by a Hungarian émigré, Dr. Laszlo Jozsa. Both gifts are now on permanent display in the new regional library and multi-media center of the University of Pécs. One of the artists and a SPSCA delegation attended the dedication ceremony in October.
In 2009 Seattle’s Archbishop Alexander Brunett and a delegation including Seattle’s cathedral organist, Mr. Joseph Adam, visited Pécs in honor of the millenium celebration of the foundation of the Pécs Archdiocese. The visit included a performance by Mr. Adam in the Pécs Cathedral and a visit to the city’s famous Zsolnay ceramic museum.
In March 2007 the University of Washington Chamber 30-member Choir toured Hungary accompanied by Maria Kramar, president of SPSCA, and several association members. The Choir spent 4 days in Budapest and a few days in Pécs, and gave concerts in various locations. The performances were very-well received and the puplic was visibly moved when the American choir surprised them by singing the Hungarian Anthem. They were hosted for a reception and dinner by the Mayor of Budapest.
In October 2006, a “Kopjafa”, which is a traditional symbolic Hungarian commemorative pole, analogous to the Native American Totem Pole, was displaid in Seattle’s City Hall, in remembrance of the 1956 revolution in Hungary against the Soviet rule.
In 2004, a delegation from the Trade Development Alliance of the Greater Seattle Area was sent to Europe to explore trade opportunites. Organized by SPSCA, the group of businessmen and leaders went to Pécs as well, accompanied by the president, Maria Kramar, and other members of SPSCA. Groundbreaking meetings occurred between the Seattle delegation and various business leaders of Pécs.
In March 2002 the Mayor’s delegation (5 members) together with the Youth House String Orchestra (25 members) of Pécs, visited Seattle. The program included a meeting with Seattle’s Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis, a visit to various city departments, and a presentation on trade opportunities in Hungary with members of the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle. A trip to Boeing company and other local places of interest followed. The Youth House String Orchestra presented its repertoire at Overlake’s Fulton Performing Art Center and also for the Hungarian American community on Mercer Island during the commemoration of Hungary’s 1848 Revolution. The musicians and their conductor, Mr. Kornel Gyori, met the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Dan Peterson, General Manager of SYSO, hosted a luncheon for them.
In 2000 the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra toured Hungary. There were 64 students and 24 parents travelling. Lieutenant Governer Brad Owen also accompanied. The orchestra, invited by ambassador Peter Tofu, performed at the US Embassy in Budapest at the July 4th reception, and did a concert at the Liszt Ferenc Academy Music Hall as the final act of the millennium celebrations. They then headed to Pécs to take part in the Pécs International Music Festival. Their performance at Pécs Cathedral was broadcasted by the Hungarian national TV.
Summer Student Visit
We started the SPSCA Summer Student Program in cooperation with the City of Pécs and the University of Pécs in 1998. Our primary aims with this program are to: give the possibility to some Pécs university students to expand their knowledge about Seattle, to broaden their professional experience, and to familiarize them with the American way of life. The program is now run by the SPSCA and the University of Pécs.
The program consists of professional meetings relevant to the students’ field, sightseeing in the Seattle area, touring national parks and beaches, visiting the best-known and influential local companies (Starbucks, Microsoft, Boeing) and last, but not least, meeting members of the local Hungarian community.
Gandhi Highschool Project
The Gandhi Közalapitványi Gimnázium és Kollégium is a boarding school in Pécs for Roma students. Romas are a large ethnic group in Hungary, usually living on the fringes of society. The school, founded in 1994 by the Gandhi Foundation, is unique, as it is the very first ethnic highschool for Roma youth not only in Hungrary, but in all Europe.
In 2012, a joint effort of the Rotary Club of Seattle, Seattle Pécs Sister City Association and the Rotary Club of Pécs funded the replacement of the 50-year-old windows and doors of the school cafeteria building. The SPSCA was awarded a grant of $1000 from the Sister Cities Association of Seattle to contribute to the project.
The SPSCA is hoping to find ways to continue supporting this very worthwhile institution in the future.
Photo credit: John Fehér