Source: hungarianconservative.com

Piros Pazaurek used to work in the sports marketing world in Hungary, but upon arrival to the US she fell in love with volunteer work performed for the Hungarian American community. Seven years ago, she created the HungarianHub informational site, and four years ago launched the in-person Hungarian Summit, which will take place this year in Daytona Beach (Florida) on May 23⁠–⁠24, seeking to connect the two countries in five areas: higher education, economy, diaspora community, sports and culture. As Honorary Consul of Hungary, she encourages the cooperation of Hungarian organizations in Florida and as Vice President of the Hungarian American Coalition (HAC), she focuses on its youth programs.

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How did you end up in America?

ReklámTas J Nadas, Esq

My husband’s employer, the Kingspan global company, offered him a job in Columbus, Ohio. It started as a temporary assignment, but he was soon asked to stay permanently, with the promise that he would then have to continue working in Florida. We have been living in the Daytona Beach area, Florida for eleven years. In the meantime, my husband’s job has changed: he became responsible for the LATAM region and has been travelling for a few years across Central and South America; now he’s working on a project basis, currently managing the launching of a new business in Illinois. We were contemplating moving to somewhere in South America with him, but fortunately we didn’t, as the schools are very good here. Our son is fifteen this year and really loves life in Florida. We spend two months at home every summer and try to visit Hungary also during the year, because we find it very important for his Hungarian identity. In the meantime, we have become US citizens. I took the oath of citizenship in Jacksonville during the break of an NFL game, in front of 50,000 people. Since then, we have tried to maintain our dual Hungarian American identity and integrate into the local environment. Moving back to Hungary is a long-term plan for us; for the time being we feel very comfortable here.

Piros Pazaurek with her family after becoming a US citizen PHOTO: courtesy of Piros Pazaurek

What were you doing before you moved here, and what did you do in America?

I was a board member of the HÖOK (national student self-governing body) in Hungary and involved in higher educational, sports and economic affairs. Later I was working in sports marketing, leading projects on a national level. For example, with the Hungarian Football Federation we built 200 soccer pitches across the country. Afterwards, I got the opportunity to work for the NatHungarian ional Basketball Federation, organizing one of their most successful All Star gala events. After giving birth to our son, I started my own marketing agency, having clients mainly in the field of sports. Later, I also set up my own marketing agency in Florida, and at its peak I had a team of eleven. In the meantime, I started working on local Hungarian matters. Seven years ago I founded the nonprofit HungarianHub, as I saw the need for gathering information affecting Hungarians in the US. I fell in love with this project and that’s all I wanted to deal with.

What was its original goal?

It started with a charity event by Tvrtko Vujity, a Hungarian journalist. His first appearance in the US was a great success and we allotted the revenue to local Hungarian organizations. In HungarianHub we give space and an opportunity to present Hungarian people, organizations and projects that may be of interest to others. We would like to offer help to tourists, newcomers in finding their way around, and to provide support to those who have been living in the US for a long time. We published contact details of agencies, authorities and a wide array of national organizations to channel the public interest to relevant information. We pay special attention to diaspora community organizations, and provide space for Hungarian-related businesses. Our goals are constantly changing based on feedback. During Covid, we had several online programs. We had a virtual theatre event series and we also tried to provide a social network with the KorHatártalan (Ageless) program to offer spiritual help to people in need, because experience has shown that it is easier to express our problems in our language, i.e. Hungarian. We also offered offline help: if we found out that an elderly person needed help, we got them a volunteer. We produced a podcast series of discussions on anything related to physical and mental health, from mobility in old age to depression, but also on more general topics like travel to Hungary, obtaining visas or citizenship. We had podcasts with famous people and interviewed diaspora organization leaders as well. This is still ongoing, with new episodes released every month or two. We recently started to publish more in English since a very large percentage of people who claim to be of Hungarian origin no longer speak the language. It certainly has a lot of potential, but the progress always depends on our resources. We receive some state support from the Bethlen Gábor Fund of the Hungarian government, but currently this is still a non-profit ‘love job’ and we are investing our own time and money in it. However, by now we are being found and recommended—the best motivating feedback. The key to this, apart from our volunteers, is that we always try to look for common ground.

Volunteers at the Hungarian Summit PHOTO: courtesy of Piros Pazaurek

That’s what your slogan is about, ‘Together.We Can.Cooperate’, right?

We really believe that

we can maintain our Hungarian identity in America not by competing with each other, but by working closely together.

This is the spirit that I try to represent also as an Honorary Consul of Hungary. With 23 million inhabitants, Florida is the third most populous and fourth economically strongest state in the US. The 110,000 Hungarians or those of Hungarian descent living in Florida rival the size of the Hungarian presence in New York/New Jersey and Cleveland, Ohio. With fourteen active Hungarian organizations and many Hungarian businesses, we boast one of the strongest and largest Hungarian communities in three defined areas: Miami, Sarasota and Daytona Beach⁠⁠Orlando, which cooperate strongly with each other. Most recently, eleven of the fourteen local Hungarian organizations were in attendance at an online presentation as part of the Diaspora Network organized by Pécs University, Hungary. We help each other closely, and if there is a problem, e.g. when there was a big family tragedy or during the hurricane season, we immediately organize a community fundraising campaign to help those in need. We continue the monthly online meetings started during the pandemic and we try to visit each other’s events.

How and why did HungarianHub’s flagship event, the Hungarian Summit, start?

The idea of the Hungarian Summit was born in 2019, with the aim of trying to connect the two countries in five areas: higher education, economy, community, sports, and culture. After much planning, two weeks before the first event, the Covid-pandemic broke out, so we had to improvise. Since Budapest was already open by that summer, we were able to put together an event there for nearly 150 people, and it was a great success. The following year we also had 150⁠–⁠170 people showing up in Florida for the second Hungarian Summit. We were able to build a close relationship not only with Hungarians, but also with Americans. I’m very grateful that the county leaders and mayors here have not only heard of us, but also see us give back to the local community. That’s what I encourage everyone to do: try to introduce ourselves to the American community, because we Hungarians already know each other, but it’s very important to show what we can do while living in this country. I am delighted that we are now known and sought after, which greatly strengthens the credibility of the event and justifies its existence. Colleagues play a very important role in all this. They are all volunteers, and most of them have been with us since the beginning. Dr. Judit Trunkos is leading the higher education section, and my husband runs the business side on a non-profit basis. We’re working with the Hungarian American Coalition (HAC) regarding the work focused on the diaspora community, with the Liszt Institute New York taking the lead on culture. Finally, as for sports, we’ll have Dénes Kemény, the former captain of the Hungarian Water Polo National Team with us helping establish a sports scholarship, which we started to plan after Katinka Hosszú swimmer champion’s visit last year.

Hungarian Summit delegation in 2023 PHOTO: courtesy of Piros Pazaurek

Why these five areas? You were involved in sports marketing, there is no life without culture, community-building efforts are also important in the diaspora. What seems to be new compared to other organizations is the involvement of higher education and business.

This is perhaps the most important question because what works incredibly well in America is the very close cooperation between these five areas. Particularly in Florida, where business and higher education go hand in hand, operating in a harmonious symbiosis with each other locally. For example: Daytona State College says they really need events like the Hungarian Summit in the county, so they gave us the event venue for free because they know it can generate new investors for them.

Connecting universities and the business world internationally can create new opportunities for development.

Last year, when we held the Hungarian Summit in Budapest, I accompanied seven university delegations from six US states. We were joined by the mayor of Daytona Beach, a board member of the Southern Economic Association, a NASCAR general manager and other economic experts and the director of the incubator program of the University of Central Florida (UCF), the second largest university in the US in terms of the number of students. As a result, we have developed a five-day super-intensive so-called Soft landing program for Hungarian companies looking to enter the US market. This year we are expecting 10⁠–⁠15 university delegations from Hungary to attend the event, who will also visit various campuses of four US universities, from Orlando to Daytona Beach. This is again unique and important for us because we want to be more than just a Florida-centric project. We are trying to explore the depth of the opportunities for collaboration and come up with best practices that can be implemented elsewhere, too. So, in many cases, this will be the third time when we will bring the same universities together to strengthen their links even more. The most recent development we are very proud of is that Széchenyi University in Győr, Hungary is launching a joint engineering program with UCF. There are also some professor exchanges. At the Hungarian Summit we will have a big panel discussion relating to your questions, i.e. how these fields are interconnected and how important they are for the maintenance or survival of a country or a nation.

Piros Pazaurek in Budapest with the Parliament building in the background, holding her book titled Seven Tips for Building a Strong Hungarian Community in America. PHOTO: courtesy of Piros Pazaurek

Then please let’s go deeper into the other three areas as well.

The community theme is key for the diaspora, as we are the ones who promote our traditions, values, and language locally. This also includes economic cooperation, because people often forget how important role the local Hungarian businesses can play in the life of the community. We are trying to keep raising awareness of the need for local businesses to give back to the Hungarian community. I even wrote a book about this, self-published in 2020, titled Seven Tips for Building a Strong Hungarian Community in America, from an organizational development point of view. Sports and culture form the so-called soft power and are also indispensable diplomatic tools. There will be a big auction at the Hungarian Summit, where we will exhibit some sports relics, such as Áron Szilágyi’s sword or Katinka Hosszú’s swimming cap; we are still collecting more items for the auction. When Katinka was here last year, my first question to her was: what is the most important thing that America has given her? I asked her for a one-word answer and it was: self-confidence. This is the idea we want to put into practice via the sports scholarship that we are launching, so that young Hungarian sportsmen and -women could come to the US and learn self-confidence and take it back home and win gold medals for Hungary. At the outset, we are planning a two-week camp at a private sports academy, which later can be extended to a higher education course. The non-profit foundation Parents’ House in Hungary founded and led by Judit Regős is involved in this project, because we are thinking about talented young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Culture is the best way to create a desired image of Hungary. For instance, members of the seven university delegations we took home last year just fell in love with the country. The Hungarians invited here could see how much they can learn from the US, for example, about the relationship between business and higher education, which is under development in Hungary too, but it could be much more conscious and focused: learn from examples that work well and try to apply them back home.

It seems clear that Hungary benefits from all of this. Why is this advantageous for the US?

It is very important that this is a two-way street. American companies also want to expand in Europe, where they have an affordable, well-educated workforce and from where they can basically cover a large Pan-European market. Hungary is the perfect starting point for that. There is a lot of interest from universities, professors, and students in studying in Europe, because we can offer an affordable degree and high-quality education in a world-class city. After half a year of training or education, students and teachers develop a commitment to Hungary that is a huge asset for the future. By the way, the Diaspora Higher Education Scholarship also brings a lot of people to Hungary. Not to mention the fact that universities and students go where they are invited, so if we are the early bird in this space, they will come to us in the first place. It is very important for us that people who think about Europe at large choose Hungary.

HAC Santa Claus dinner party PHOTO: courtesy of Piros Pazaurek

You are founder of HungarianHub and the Hungarian Summit, an Honorary Consul of Hungary and also Vice President of HAC. How are these tasks separated and interlinked?

HungarianHub is a national platform providing equal opportunity for everyone and everything Hungarian in the US. My duties as an Honorary Consul are obviously more focused on (Central) Florida, but one doesn’t exclude the other. It’s worth starting an American investment, company or study in Florida because it’s affordable and there are so many opportunities, and later you can go anywhere from here. Florida is the perfect place to start: we can be a gateway to America, we can educate newcomers about how the country works, who then can go anywhere in the US. In HAC, I was a board member for a long time, and then I got the opportunity to be the vice president and pursue youth connections, which is a strength of the Hungarian Summit, too. We co-organize the community diaspora section at the Hungarian Summit with HAC, because that’s their strength. It is a great honor to be a (board) member of one of the oldest umbrella organizations. Our Chair Emerita, Edith K. Lauer is a living legend; there is almost no living American president with whom she has not sat at the same table. She and her colleagues have brought a lot to the table, which is very motivating for us. The world has changed a lot since its foundation, but the founders’ work is still very inspiring, and we are honored to be involved.

Ildikó Antal-Ferencz 

Source: hungarianconservative.com

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