Report on the activities of the Canada Hungary Educational Foundation (CHEF) since April 2006
The Canada-Hungary Educational Foundation (CHEF) was incorporated and registered as a charity in the fall of 2005. Its main objectives were to help mark the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Hungarian refugees to Canada in 1956/57 and, in partnership with others, develop educational activities to create awareness among Canadians for the value of immigration and cultural diversity in general. The founding reception of CHEF took place on Parliament Hill in April 2006 in the presence of the speakers of the House and of the Senate as well as the Canadian ambassador to Hungary and the Hungarian Ambassador to Canada. A number of MP’s, ambassadors, distinguished guests and interested community members were in attendance. A national advisory council was put in place during 2006 and information was circulated and shared across the country (through a temporary website and direct outreach) with respect to activities to commemorate the arrival of Hungarian refugees to Canada in 1956-57. The Governor General was approached in 2006 and has graciously accepted Honorary Patronage of the Foundation. The following is a list of the major activities undertaken by the Foundation since its inception. The list is not exhaustive.
1. Projects undertaken or initiated by the Foundation:
CHEF’s major 2006 anniversary project was the Canadian gala première of Freedom’s Fury, a Canadian directed documentary feature about the famous water polo semi-final between Hungary and the Soviet Union at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 which took place against the background of the 1956 revolution in Hungary. Some four hundred people, including many young water polo players, enjoyed the evening at the National Gallery of Canada hosted by Canadian Olympian, Carolyn Waldo. Special guests included one of the original Hungarian team’s players, Ervin Zador and Valerie Gyenge, former Hungarian Olympic champion and participant at the Melbourne Games. Ms Gyenge was sponsored to come to Canada after the Games in 1956 by Peter Munk (himself a refugee to Canada in 1947) who also attended the gala and spoke about his recollections of 1956. This event was co-sponsored by Water Polo Canada and other sponsors included Charlesfort Development, Mr and Mrs Peter Munk, The Norman Patterson School of International Studies at Carleton University and a number of individuals. For more details see http://www.hungarianpresence.ca/Anniversary/freedom.cfm
In October 2006 CHEF arranged for a special screening of the prize-winning feature film Sunshine, produced by Robert Lantos and directed by Istvan Szabo at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC). Mr Lantos attended the event and answered questions from the audience. The MC was Laurier Lapierre. The pre-event reception was attended by Mrs Laureen Harper. CHEF is grateful the CMC and its Director General, Victor Rabinovitch for having hosted this event.
During 2006 CHEF raised funds for a national monument in Ottawa to thank Canada and Canadians for their role in receiving and helping to settle the refugees. Contributions were received from all parts of the country. The monument was unveiled in October 2006 by Members of Parliament and is located on NCC land on Maple Island in the Rideau River, near Government House and the PM’s residence. Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom laid a wreath there during his state visit in 2007.
In late 2006 CHEF competed successfully for a grant from the Canadian Culture Online Program of Canadian Heritage for what has become a major ongoing project: the development of a website on the diversity of the Hungarian experience in Canada. The website www.hungarianpresence.ca went live in the summer of 2007 and had two official launches: the first one at the National Arts Centre in March of 2008 on the occasion of a concluding concert by the Ottawa Youth Orchestra upon its return from a successful tour of Hungary. The second took place at the annual conference of the Hungarian Studies Association of Canada as part of the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences in May 2008 in Vancouver. The site is growing and becoming a resource on Hungarians in Canada, reaching an increasingly larger audience.
Plans for its development include outreach to young people and to refugees/immigrants of all origins. To further this goal, in the spring of 2008, CHEF announced an essay, short story and video competition aimed at Canadian young people of all origins on the immigrant and refugee experience. Details are on the site at http://www.hungarianpresence.ca/youth/youth.cfm . The competition will be adjudicated by an appropriate jury, depending on the nature of the entries submitted. Winning and other deserving entries will be posted on the website. As part of the promotion of this project, CHEF Board members have been interviewed by CBC Radio’s Newfoundland and Ontario Today programs, CBC Radio Canada International, CHIN radio. News items, letters and short articles have appeared in numerous student newspapers and the regular mainstream as well as the ethnic press across the country. Winners will be announced in January 2009.
In 2006 and 2007 a book launch and a poetry evening with guest artists from Hungary to promote the work of Hungarian Canadian writers were sponsored by CHEF at the Library and Archives Canada and the Dominican University College of Canada respectively.
In September 2008 CHEF produced a special literary and artistic evening devoted to the work of well-known Hungarian poet Miklos Radnoti with a young talented actor (Miklos Turek) and visual artist (Kornel Nagel) from Hungary. This event was part of a North American tour by the two, with the only other stop in Canada being in Toronto. CHEF collaborated in this venture with a new arts promotion foundation in New York, Transartarea.
Currently CHEF is negotiating with the Balassi Institute of Hungary, an arm’s length international educational and cultural agency financed by the Government of Hungary, to assist it in promoting its scholarship programs for Canadian students interested in studying in Hungary. In addition, CHEF is still working on the development of an apprenticeship or internship project to provide opportunities for exchanges between Canadian and Hungarian young professionals to learn from each other.
2. Collaborative and partnership projects
In the fall of 2006 CHEF collaborated closely with the National Arts Center and its Director General, Peter Herrndorf, on one of their 50th anniversary projects, New Lives, a specially commissioned photo exhibit of 50 prominent Hungarian Canadians by Canadian photographer V. Tony Hauser. The exhibit opened in October 2006 in Ottawa and travelled internationally and within Canada including to Pier 21 in Halifax where many of the refugees landed. For more information on this project, see
Collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Civilization resulted in the CMC’s decision to digitize its Hungarian collection as part of its “Crossroads of Culture” virtual museum project. The CMC is considering a further update and enrichment of its Hungarian related material.
In October 2006, CHEF was an organizing partner with the University of Ottawa and the Hungarian Studies Association of Canada of an international scholarly conference on the 1956 Revolution and its international and Canadian perspectives. This was the first time such a conference included investigation of the Canadian aspect of this story. The conference Proceedings are about to be published by the University of Ottawa Press; CHEF President Judy Young and Secretary Christopher Adam are members of the editorial committee for this project.
CHEF is frequently called upon as a resource and to provide advice or information on Hungarians in Canada as well as on Canada-Hungary relations. Both the Canadian embassy in Budapest and the Hungarian one in Ottawa regularly consult board members about projects and exchange opportunities or simply to share information. CHEF has approached The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Parks Canada to suggest recognition of the arrival of the refugees in 1956/57 as an event of national historic significance; discussions are going on with respect to a plaque or some other means of recognition. CHEF has been invited to nominate a representative to the Advisory Board of the Taras Shevchenko Foundation’s “Recognition Fund on Canadian First World War Internment” which has received a $10 million contribution from the Canadian Government to develop educational resources about the internment of Canadian immigrants from Eastern Europe during World War I. Chris Adam, Board member, PhD student and lecturer in history at Carleton and Ottawa universities is CHEF’s representative.
In 2008 CHEF helped to coordinate the participation of well-known specialists from Hungary at a number of universities across the country in special lectures, discussions and sections of conferences on themes relating to diversity, multiculturalism and Canada-Hungary relations. Similarly, our advice has been sought about Canadian experts or cultural personalities who might represent Canada in Hungary. CHEF feels in particular that it has an expertise to provide with respect to the Canadian experience with diversity and multiculturalism and we have been gratified by the way in which our assistance has been sought on the situation of minorities in Hungarian society as well. Conversely, we were able to assist in having a number of well-known Hungarian social scientists participate in discussions on such issues in Canada. They include Csaba Bekes, Anna Borgos, Ferenc Eros, Miklos Hadas, Victor Karady, Maria Palasik, Andrea Peto.
In September 2008 CHEF arranged a special reception and meetings with Canadian counterparts for Secretary of State for International Cultural Affairs of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Katalin Bogyay on the occasion of her visit to Canada. We are trying to create better linkages between our two countries and hope to obtain her ministry’s support for further exchanges. We also assisted a Hungarian television crew from TV1 (the main national broadcaster) by setting up meetings for them across Canada with individuals and organizations representing many aspects of Canadian life and society from aboriginal issues to diversity in broadcasting, academic programs, charitable activities, and national/ regional cultural institutions. Hungarian TV is preparing two documentaries about Canada based on this visit.
CHEF has frequently assisted with the promotion of events such as concerts, lectures, exhibitions by Canadians in Hungary or vice-versa. The website HYPERLINK "http://www.hungarianpresence.ca" www.hungarianpresence.ca especially through its Home and News Archives pages, acts as a resource and shares information across the country about events and activities from Victoria to St John’s.
3. Projects supported by CHEF
During 2007 and 2008 CHEF supported a number of projects that were felt by the Board to fit within its mandate. Most of these projects received a small grant (the largest being $1000 and the smallest $250). Some were supported because they provided content for the website. Among these were the following:
Canadian Hungarian Artists’ Collective for their educational workshops in Tantramar, New Brunswick (to include greater diversity of artists from other regions of the country).
The Sacred Music Festival of Quebec City to bring over three young musicians from Hungary.
The Montreal Philharmonic Society to promote its anniversary music program on Zoltan Kodaly
The Ottawa Youth Orchestra to enable its members to go on tour to Hungary.
The Canadian Chess Federation’s Annual Youth Chess Championship to bring Hungarian born world chess champion Susan Polgar to teach participants.
The University of Ottawa’s 2006 international conference on 1956 and their 2008 international conference on the legacy of the Habsburg Empire.
The Regnum Marianum High School in Budapest to enable a group of students to visit Canada on a bicycle tour.
The Foundation has been approached for assistance by various organizations and is working with them on possible fundraising for exchange programs. These include the University of Manitoba’s Hungarian exchange programs, the University of Toronto’s Hungarian Studies Program, the University of Alberta’s proposed Hungarian programs and others.