|About the American Hungarian Federation|
The American Hungarian Federation® (AHF) is a national, non-partisan, all-volunteer, independent, non-profit, charitable and educational 501(C)(3) organization representing the interests of its members and the Hungarian-American community. Founded in 1906 in Cleveland, Ohio, AHF (Amerikai Magyar Szövetség or AMSZ in Hungarian) is the largest Hungarian-American umbrella organization in the United States and among the oldest ethnic organizations in the country.
AHF was established as an association of Hungarian societies, institutions and churches to "defend the interest of Americans of Hungarian origin in the United States." The American Hungarian Federation strives to unite the American Hungarian community through work that supports common goals. Over the past 100 years, AHF's mission has broadened to include support of people of Hungarian descent on both sides of the Atlantic and in the successor states of the Carpathian Basin.
AHF believes in focusing on common ground issues and working with ALL Hungarian-American individuals and organizations, regardless of political, religious, or other affiliation that share our values. We have all heard, "a nyelvben él a nemzet" (in the language lives the people). While positive in principle and important historically as a measure of national identity, today there are many Hungarian Americans who feel strongly about their heritage but may not speak the language. Many of these individuals have felt alienated. With the lack of educational opportunity, others never had a chance to learn Hungarian properly. AHF feels these individuals represent an important and largely untapped resource of new energy. AHF's President ex-Officio, Stephen Varga, who doesn't speak Hungarian states, "I dare anyone to find someone that feels more Hungarian than I do." If you know him, you know not to dare him.
AHF strives to make sure its communication includes English to 1) reach out to next-generation Hungarian-Americans who may have lost their ability to speak Hungarian, but who have a love for their heritage and desire to work toward a better future for their people; and 2) to communicate our message to the Western media and to the world. Hungarian causes have been largely unknown outside the Hungarian community. We feel we must make others aware of our issues and seek friends and allies who may have been unaware of our concerns due to poor communication or exclusive use of Hungarian.
Hungarian and American - from the start!
AHF's Motto, "Fidelissimus ad Mortem" (Faithful Unto Death), was taken from a letter to Benjamin Franklin written by the Father of the US Light Cavalry when he offered his sword in service to the United States. The former Hussar Officer, Col. Commandant Mihaly Kovats, whose life and service is celebrated annually by US Military Cadets at the Citadel Military Academy, died in battle against the British in Charleston, S.C. in 1779. Our Motto reflects our virtues and historically and inextricably ties Hungarians and Americans together and symbolizes Hungarians' contribution to America right from the start.
AHF established the Colonel Commandant Michael Kovats Medal of Freedom to honor outstanding individuals and recognize their life's achievements, dedication to freedom and democracy, promotion of transatlantic relations, and meritorious contribution to society. The award, AHF's highest honor, is open to Hungarians and non-Hungarians alike. Inscribed on the medal is AHF's Motto, “Fidelissimus ad Mortem" or "Most Faithful Unto Death” (Híven Mindhalálig in Hungarian) representing Hungarian American historical committment to the United States.
A Brief History [See more on Looking Back: AHF History]
In 1902, a movement started to build a Kossuth statue in Cleveland. The movement was spearheaded by the "Szabadsag" Hungarian language newspaper and its editor Tihamer Kohanyi. The needed funds were raised within few short weeks. Some 60,000 people attended the unveiling, but there were no representatives from Hungary.As a sign of unity and to symbolize that Hungarians and Americans were tied together inextricably from the start, Hungarian American leaders conceived an idea to place a statue of George Washington in Budapest. AHF's "Statue Committee" was organized and the collection started with the Szabadsag's donation of $100. Fundraising was again successful and construction began on a site in Budapest's beautiful City Park (Város Liget). In 1906, several hundred American Hungarians traveled to Hungary for the unveiling led by Tihamer Kohanyi, AHF's first President. The group laid wreaths on the statues of Szechenyi, Petofi and visited the last resting place of Kossuth.
On February 22, 2006, U.S. Ambassador to Hungary George Walker joined distinguished Hungarians at the wreath-laying ceremony commemorating the founder and first President of the United States George Washington. In his remarks, Ambassador Walker noted that September would mark the 100th anniversary of the erection of the statue, and expressed great appreciation on behalf of the people of the United States that Hungary has so honored the founder of their nation. Later that year, top Hungarian leaders, U.S. Embassy officials and members of the Hungarian public celebrated the 100th anniversary of the unveiling of the George Washington statue in Városliget (City Park) on September 16, 2006.
With the aftermath of WWI and the tragic consequences that befell Hungary at the Treaty of Trianon, the American Hungarian Federation organized the 1st Hungarian American National Congress, a grand assembly of all Hungarian organizations held on May 29, 1929 in Buffalo, New York. The Federation obtained full support and was recognized by the United States government as the official spokesman of Hungarian-Americans. One of the American Hungarian Federation's early purposes was to coordinate efforts for the revision of the Treaty of Trianon and bring to the attention of politicians and lawmakers the importance of such a revision.
With its new mandate, a few months later in Budapest, AHF became a founding member of the Hungarian World Alliance at the first International Congress of Hungarians whose members included representatives of Hungarian communities from many parts of the world and friends of Hungary from foreign countries. One of the more spectacular projects aimed at calling attention to the plight ofHungary after her dismemberment at Trianon was the historic trans-Atlantic flight named "Justice for Hungary," marking the first time that an airplane crossing the ocean had radio contact both with the starting and landing aerodromes and also the first time such a flight was used for political purposes.
AHF's original mission was:
"...to direct immigrants of Hungary into such parts of this country where they are mostly needed; to further the cultural development of Americans of Hungarian birth or decent; to spread the knowledge of American Institutions among them, so as to further their Americanization; to give material and moral aid to those who need it; to get free legal advice aid to American-Hungarians without means; to promote cordial commercial relations between this country and Hungary; to defend the good name and reputation of Hungary against attacks and defamations; and to organize branches for the purpose of accomplishing the several aims of the Federation." But With the tragic events unfolding in Europe in WWI, WWII, and then again in 1956, AHF's mission evolved.
The reluctant player in WWI was punished heavily, paying a price no other modern nation had ever before been subjected to. The French, despite American protests and calls for plebiscites, with troops in Northern Hungary in violation of the peace, pushed through the Treaty of Versailles (Trianon) which cost Hungary 2/3 of it territory, 1/3 of its Hungarian population, and up to 90% of its resources, railroads, and industry. Rumania, herself created only in 1862, switched to the French side almost at the very end of the war, gained all of Transylvania and majority of the Banat. The Czechs got all of Northern Hungary to create Czechoslovakia, the Serbs got Southern Hungary (Vojvodina) and Croatia, and most amazingly, the Austrians who were responsible for getting Hungary into the war in the first place, got Western Hungary (Burgenland). AHF was instrumental in organizing the American Hungarian Community in efforts to influence US policy in order to illuminate the unjust dismemberment of Hungary at Trianon and seek re-unification.
In the aftermath of WWII, AHF worked closely with the Hungarian Reformed Federation of America and started the first Hungarian Relief Program. A total of $1,457,743.00 was sent to the needy people of Hungary in the form of money, clothing and medicine.
In 1956 the American Hungarian Federation activated the second Hungarian Relief program for the refugees of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, providing $512,560.00. With the support of the American Hungarian Federation, over 65,000 refugees arrived in the USA, many to historic Camp Kilmer.
The AHF has been a stalwart supporter of freedom both at home and abroad, often sending memoranda to the US President and Congress, as well as testifying before Congress on the "Desperate Plight of the Hungarian People." On December 13, 1974 a bill was passed in the Senate, in response to energetic lobbying by the American Hungarian Federation, on the basis of the text drafted by Szabolcs Mesterhazy. The bill provides that any country desirous of acquiring the status of the "most favored nation" must agree to allow the free emigration of its citizens who wish to join their relatives in the United States. This bill was submitted by Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina) and is humorously referred to as "the Hungarian Amendment." In 1974, AHF published a two volume set containing the speeches and correspondences of various distinguished members of the US Senate and House of Representatives with references to the Hungarian questions.
In 1990 March 15, a Lajos Kossuth Bust was dedicated by the leaders of the American Hungarian Federation in the United States Capitol Rotunda. The welcoming text was delivered by Honorable Tom Lantos (D-CA). The sculpture was unveiled by the sculptor and AHF Board Member, Csaba Kur of Youngstown, OH. The "Father of the Rumanian Revolution," Rev. Tokes of Transylvania, was also present. After the Ceremonies there was a reception given by influential AHF members such as the Hungarian Reformed Federation (HRFA), the William Penn Association and the Congressional Human Rights Foundation in the Statuary Hall of the US Capitol.
The Next 100 Years
In the 21st century, AHF continues its tradition of helping those in need and supporting educational and cultural preservation programs. AHF continues to support the Hungarian Scholarship Fund and the Hungarian Scouts, helped the Hungarians of Louisiana rebuild after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and in 2010 - 2011, raised over $200,000.00 to help victims of devastating flooding and Toxic Sludge. AHF also continues to raise its voice and regularly calls attention to gross violations of human and minority rights against Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin. Yes, we need your support now more than ever.
Despite many successes, the situation for millions of Hungarians, especially in those areas lost after WWI at the Treaty of Versailles (Trianon), remains grim. Oppressive language laws in Slovakia, the lack of formal education opportunities in the mother tongue, the forced confiscation of private and church / synagogue property in Rumania, falsification of history and defamation of Hungarian Holocaust Heroes in Slovakia, and vandalism and violence against Hungarians in Vojvodina are but a few indicators that there is much work still to do. The pathetic story of the tiny Hungarian village called Szelmenc that was literally divided in two by two successor states sums it all up very well.
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AHF's logo was designed by Bryan Dawson, who is now AHF's Executive Chairman. The 13 stars represent the original 13 colonies during the American War of Independence in which the Founding Father of the U.S. Cavalry, Col. Michael Kovats de Fabricy, died while leading the Continental Army cavalry he had trained in Hungarian Hussar tactics against a British siege of Charleston in 1779. At the "heart" of the logo is the historic Hungarian Coat of Arms representing our pride in our heritage and our goal to represent the interests of our members and the Hungarian-American community in these United States. Our logo represents Hungarian-American loyalty and unwavering historical commitment to the United States and to freedom, democracy, human and minority rights, and the ideals of our forebearers who, like Col. Kovats or the 1956 Freedom Fighters, were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for that freedom, "Fidelissimus ad Mortem / Most Faithful Unto Death."
The 1907 Kohányi Szózat (Appeal)
“Amerika egy millió magyarja, nemcsak hogy követeljük, de keresztül is visszük azt, hogy Magyarország népének ugyanabban a szabadságban, ugyanabban az igazságban, ugyanabban a jólétben legyen resze, mint a mely szabadság, igazság, es jólét abban az Amerikában van amelynek lakósai, polgárai vagyunk.”
“We, America’s 1 million Hungarians, do not just demand, but will work to ensure that the people of Hungary may partake in the same freedom, the same justice, the same prosperity as we, citizens of America, partake.”
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