Hungarians celebrate culture

Cimbalom Player

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Andrew Check, 19, is keeping alive the Hungarian tradition of playing the cimbalom.

By Christine Keeling


Members of the American Hungarian Club of Youngstown celebrated their culture Sunday during the club’s annual Hungarian Heritage Days.

“This is my dream — to bring our Hungarian culture to the Mahoning Valley,” said Irene Nemeth of Youngstown.

Nemeth, who has organized the event since it began in 1985, proudly showed off artifacts brought from Hungary by older generations and chatted about her family’s history.

Her mother, Anna Kovach, traveled on the USS Grant and arrived at Ellis Island in 1914, when she was 14 years old.

“She worked scrubbing floors in a boarding house,” said Nemeth. “They had to earn their own living.”

Nemeth remembered making food during the holidays and performing as a Hungarian dancer at the former Idora Park.

Those traditions, she said, must be passed on.

Andrew Check, 19, of Chesterland, said his grandfather was the driving force of his Hungarian heritage. When he died in 2004, it inspired Check to learn how to play the cimbalon, an instrument that resembles a piano, from his father.

“If someone doesn’t keep the tradition, it will fade,” said Check. “If it fades, it would be a tragedy.”

He said when he thinks of things Hungarian, chicken paprikash, music and wine come to mind.

Food is what brought Jack and Judy Kuti of Boardman to the heritage celebration.

The smells of home-made stuffed cabbage filled the air. A large pot of goulash simmered over a wood fire. Slices from 60 dobos tortas (cakes) that took 19 people three days to make sold quickly.

“Everything was delicious,” said Judy. “The stew was fabulous.”

Cade Santha, 12, of Boardman said he was starting to learn how to cook some of the traditional food. He has come to the event as long as he can remember, his great- grandfather, Joseph, helped build the hall the group uses.

“Hungarians are loud,” said Cade. “So there’s no silence here.”

Guests could buy raffle tickets, pasta and cookies. They danced to the music from The Hungarians of Akron and shared stories of the past.

“In today’s world, people are so busy they forget,” said Nemeth. “But people came from all countries, and those traditions shouldn’t be lost.”

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