Thanks to the ReConnect Hungary program and its patrons, people from all over the world are now able to discover, many for the first time, their Hungarian ethnicity and self. Lianna Hedrick (22) of Cleveland, Ohio is about to set up an English language club at the Kolozsvári Református Kollégium where she volunteers since the 2018 academic year started on September 15. She advertised her club to students by visiting all secondary and high school classes (11-18 year old kids). The interest was outstanding, more than half of each class applied causing a serious logistical problem. Sweet problem.
This young American lady told TransylvaniaNOW that she came to Transylvania at the beginning of July, 2018 with a larger group of Hungarian-Americans to participate in the week-long ReConnect Transylvania program. They visited cities and tourist sites, were introduced to local leaders, getting a feel of the region. Lianna’s bags were a bit larger because as the first recipient of the ReConnect Transylvania+ scholarship she planned to spend the next 6 months in Transylvania.
The program is made available to American 20somethings of Hungarian descent who would like to reconnect with their Hungarian selves. It all started back in 2001 when the first group of Hungarian-Americans flew over to Hungary for a two-week stay with the Reconnect Hungary birthright program. Since then they form a more than a 300-strong Alumni many of them volunteering at their universities, local Hungarian churches and festivals. Simply put, they’ve been infected with the “Hungarian germ.”
George E. Pataki, former three-term governor (1994-2006) of the State of New York, is the patron of ReConnect Hungary. The former governor is the highest ranking ethnically Hungarian American elected to public office. Despite his distinguished academic credentials, public prominence and professional successes, he has never forgotten his roots and is committed to being a true Hungarian-American. He has handed down to his children the family legacy of love of freedom and the ancestral homeland, and it is no accident that his daughter, Allison, is ReConnect Hungary’s inspiration and Ambassador. Another of his children, Owen Pataki is also a proud alumnus of ReConnect Hungary. For more about New York and Hungary’s special connection, take a look at From Szeklerland to the New York City Police Department for the story of Sarolta Toscano.
Five years into the ReConnect Hungary program the organizers – the New York-based Hungarian Human Rights Foundation – decided to offer a week-long extension to the trip in Transylvania. The mythical sound of the region drew a lot of interest; dozens of Hungarian-Americans have now been reconnected with the largest Hungarian community outside the current borders of Hungary.
But this was still not enough. Starting this year – Lianna Hedrick being the guinea pig – the ReConnect Transylvania+ program was launched. This 22 years old Ohio State University graduate volunteered for two months with the Bonus Pastor Foundation, an organization set up to help those seeking rescue and recovery from addiction, including alcohol, drug, gambling, and sexual addictions, their families and dependents. She spent the summer months in camps throughout Transylvania caring for children of Hungarian ethnicity – and in the process learned even more about herself.
Since the beginning of September she moved to the fast-developing city of Kolozsvár where she tutors the students of the Református Kollégium. She teaches the kids English, the kids return the favor with sweets words of their shared Hungarian mother tongue.
A good deal for everybody.