Section III: The Hungarian Communities of Cleveland

World War II and Its Aftermath (1945-1980)


During the Second World War, the Cleveland Hungarian community was involved in the war effort to a greater extent than during the First World War. There were several reasons for this. The “old-timers” were for the most part, citizens of this country and property owners; several decades had passed since they first arrived in America. Thousands of second generation Hungarian Americans reached adulthood during the 1930s and 1940s, the fact that Hungary was on the “other side” did not create for them the conflict of interest such as that experienced by their parents during World War I. The second generation was ingrained with a pride in being American and this was reflected in the large numbers who volunteered to serve in the armed forces of the United States.

The first death in the community which occurred as a direct consequence of war relief work, happened in February, 1942. A nine year old girl, Mary Ann Kovach was fatally injured by an automobile while she was pulling her wagon in search of old newspapers for Kinsman School’s war salvage program. News of the tragic death reached the White House, whereupon Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt sent condolences and a large bouquet of flowers to the family of the deceased girl.

Within six months following Pearl Harbor, 1,300 Hungarian boys from Cleveland enlisted.[1] In the predominantly Hungarian 29th Ward, which had, at that time, a population of 33,000, thirteen percent or 4,305 served in the armed forces. This percentage is higher than the national average. One Hungarian woman, Mrs. John Hegedüs was presented with a banner from the mayor of Cleveland honoring her seven sons, all of whom served in the military. Szabadság commemorated the Hungarian American war dead by printing their name, rank, city and state of origin in a separate column on the front page of each issue. On the basis of this documentation alone, 325 Hungarian servicemen from Cleveland died overseas in 1945.
PHonor Roll of one of the Hungarian parishes in Cleveland, pictured here 24 out of a total of 180.(1994)
PHonor Roll of one of the Hungarian parishes in Cleveland, pictured here 24 out of a total of 180.(1994)
Various committees were formed to aid the fighting men overseas. The “War Relief Committee” was formed under the auspices of the United Hungarian Societies. The Hungarian Business & Tradesmen’s Club established the “Victory Boosters Club”. During the war years, most organizations sponsored card parties, socials, dances and plays for the benefit of the American Red Cross. The purchase of defense bonds was tremendous: the following examples illustrate the outstanding support of the project. The West Side Hungarian Youth Sick Benefit Society invested $3,000 in Defense Bonds. At times, individual contributions were just as great: Steven Varga, a resident in the Buckeye neighborhood purchased the same amount in bonds. The Cleveland chapter of the King St. Stephen Catholic Hungarian Insurance Association purchased $71,000 worth of U.S. Defense Bonds.[2]
Following the end of the war, the concerns of the community focused on the new wave of Hungarian immigrants: the Displaced Persons. Interestingly enough, despite more than thirty years of separation and relative isolation from the homeland, the community could still rally support for the needs of their fellow countrymen overseas. Visiting dignitaries from Hungary such as Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty and Zoltán Kodály related the situation in post-war Hungary. Speaking at Bethlen Hall at the First Hungarian Reformed Church, Zoltán Kodály was one of the first to refer to Hungarian Americans as part of the legendary “eighth tribe”. The “eighth tribe” in modern times, refers to all Hungarians living in the diaspora.
In response to the many requests for assistance, various programs were set up to ease the post-war suffering in Hungary as well as to assist the Hungarians living in camps in Europe. The Cleveland Chapter of the American Hungarian Federation made available $150,000 for this purpose. Eleven hundred care packages were prepared and sent to Hungary by the Cleveland community; they contained clothing, medicine, foodstuffs and money.[3] János Jakab, president of the local chapter of the A.H.F. was a key figure in the sending of these care packages. Many were active in the relief efforts, such as Teréz Stibrán and Teréz Dudás, who solicited contributions, organized cultural programs and did much to promote John F. Montgomery’s book, Hungary: the Unwilling Satellite, which documents Hungary’s forced nazification during the war. The American Hungarian Federation widely promoted Montgomery’s book, in a large-scale effort to extricate Hungarian Displaced Persons from the “ex-enemy” status they were given by the government after the war.


Gaining entry to the United States was very difficult for Hungarians because of their “ex-enemy” status. Most Hungarian Displaced Persons waited in Europe for several years before coming to this country; the majority arrived in the early 1950s, when their status was finally reconsidered and changed. In order to be admitted, the newcomers were required to obtain a “Home and Job Assurance”, which was a guarantee, made by a U.S. citizen, that the immigrant would have a place of residence and employment. By the mid-1950s the Cleveland community had provided thousands of these “Assurances” for Hungarians in Europe. Some distrust existed, however, between the old-timers and the new wave of Hungarians. According to one source, one Hungarian American newspaper which was widely read in Germany and Austria among the Displaced Persons, carried an article which stated that “even the children of these Hungarians should be killed because they are already infected with Nazism.”[4] Although this article was extreme by any measure and not representative of the views of the majority of Hungarian Americans, it was based on some of the fears and suspicions which the old-timers felt towards the post-war wave.
To gain entry to this country, the D.P.s underwent many different forms of screening: there were extensive medical examinations as well as investigations into the applicant’s past. Anyone suspected of being involved in Nazi wrongdoings in any manner whatsoever could not even apply for emigration to the United States. The Hungarian newcomers who arrived in Cleveland were, overall, as ashamed of their country’s involvement in the Nazi era as were the old-timers.
The United States Army, in search of new recruits for the Korean War, enlisted Displaced Persons in Europe with the promise that if they served their term of duty, they would be granted immediate U.S. citizenship. Many young Hungarian men took the opportunity.[5] There were several risks involved, however, as if they were captured by the North Koreans, they surrendered all rights and privileges as U.S. enlistments.
Between 1947 and 1953, approximately six thousand Hungarian Displaced Persons arrived in Cleveland. They were generally from the middle and upper middle classes in Hungary and from urban areas. Many of them were lawyers, doctors, politicians, army officers and educators. Most were handicapped by the fact that they were middle aged. Losing everything and having to start anew proved to be extremely difficult for most, even traumatic for some. Hundreds were too old to begin new careers. They obtained employment in factories or machine shops, hoping to work long enough to secure a minimum amount of social security for their retirement.
Often, humor was the only way to combat the depression and hopelessness that came with the drastic change in occupation and status. At the Ford assembly plant in Cleveland there was an entire contingent of Hungarian D.P.s. One of them, who was formerly a Lieutenant General in the Hungarian Army, was quoted to have said, “Well, at least I haven’t lost my rank; I’m still a general, a general cleaner that is.”[6]  Another post-war immigrant, who was an elected official in Hungary, could read and write English well, but because he wanted to learn American English, he enrolled in the first grade in a neighborhood school. The emigré, who was over six feet in height, was quoted to have said, “The desks were small, but the instruction at this level for learning basic American pronunciation was very effective.”[7]
A comparison of the Displaced Persons and the old-timers reveals several major differences. The old-timers generally received few years of formal education and they were from the rural areas of Hungary. In contrast, the newcomers were generally skilled and/or educated, they came from the urban centers. The old-timers lived in one neighborhood, their sense of community was reflected in their local churches, schools and clubhouses. The D.P.s’ sense of community was intellectual and not geographical; they believed that through language maintenance programs and cultural associations, their ethnic identity could be nurtured and upheld. Concerning American politics, the differences were also profound. The newcomers were conservative and generally leaned towards the Republican Party, whereas the old-timers were affiliated with the Democrats, as a direct consequence of the Depression and the Roosevelt Presidency. Despite all these contrasts, however, the newcomers were dependent on the older immigrants for assistance and guidance The old-timers did not shirk their responsibilities towards the new wave; they helped the newcomers in many different ways.
Through community efforts, housing was made available for the immigrants. Each newly-arrived family was given a room in the house, all were allowed to reside there for an interim period, until employment was found by the breadwinner and relocation could be arranged. One Hungarian couple was remembered in particular by D.P. families for their generous assistance and kindness. Imre Olexo and his wife, Piroska, residents of lower Buckeye Road, obtained jobs and small loans and provided much needed guidance for many newcomers. One Hungarian D.P. recalled, “Mrs. Olexo took a group of us down Buckeye Road and explained the names of the more important streets, translating many of them into Hungarian so that we would remember them better. We were also provided with a tour of downtown, during which she pointed out the major landmarks in the city and familiarized us with the various sections of Cleveland. Piroska Olexo invited the group to lunch and somehow we were under the impression that this was all being paid for by a Hungarian organization or civic group. It was only later that I realized what a tremendous sacrifice this work was on the part of Imre Olexo and his wife in time, energy and funds expended.”[8]
The Displaced Persons left their homeland because of changes in the political system—not because of economic reasons; they intended to return to Hungary when the Soviet occupation of their homeland ended-and in these respects they were emigrés. They were the most politically conscious wave. Their emigré status was reflected in their organizations, publications and the strong emphasis they placed on transmitting the knowledge of the Hungarian language and culture to their offspring. Many post-war Hungarians initially settled in the Buckeye Road Hungarian neighborhood. The majority did not stay there, however, their attachment to the homeland was expressed through cultural organizations and institutions rather than by living in close proximity to fellow countrymen.
The D.P.s formed new organizations and institutions. Newspapers such as the Szabadság no longer catered to the needs of the entire community; the post-war wave established new periodicals. Despite the fact that there were always functions sponsored and supported by the old-timers as well as the Displaced Persons, the two have comprised very different segments of the community. Interestingly, the first D.P. association was organized by an old-timer, Imre Olexo, who aided the newcomers in resettlement. The Hungarian Aid and Cultural Society was founded as a mutual aid society for Displaced Persons. Its aim was to assist others in immigration and to support Hungarians in Europe who, because of old age or prolonged illness, were left stranded without any means of support.
Organizations such as the Committee for Hungarian Liberation were formed to protest the Soviet occupation of Hungary. Other political committees were established to represent the rights of approximately three million Hungarians living as minorities in territories partitioned from Hungary after World War I: in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia (USSR) and Transylvania (Rumania).
The Cleveland Hungarian Ladies Charity Committee Preparing packages of food for the needy during the Depression.
The Cleveland Hungarian Ladies Charity Committee Preparing packages of food for the needy during the Depression.
The founding meeting of The Old Settlers Association 1931 (Courtesy of the Cleveland Press)
The founding meeting of The Old Settlers Association 1931 (Courtesy of the Cleveland Press)

Several organizations were founded which sought to retain the traditions of the homeland, among them were the Hungarian Veterans’ Association and the Family Society of Hungarian Veteran Gendarmes. The tradition of the Debutante Ball was initiated within the community by the Hungarian Veterans.

Among the many cultural organizations established by the post-war wave was the Hungarian Association, which, since 1952, has promoted cultural activities through lecture series, Hungarian Congresses, the Árpád Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Árpád Society. The Hungarian Congress has been sponsored annually since 1961. At this forum, Hungarians from many parts of North America gather to discuss vital issues concerning their homeland and their communities in the diaspora. Several professional organizations hold their annual general meetings during the three day congress. Various topics have been presented during the lecture series. Lecturers are invited from as far away as Australia; over ninety lectures have been held since the series began in 1968. The Árpád Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Árpád Society were established as professional organizations recognizing those who write, sculpt or paint original and creative works. The founder of the Association was Dr. János Nádas, who has also directed the work of the organization for nearly twenty years.

The post-war Hungarians were successful in instilling a strong sense of cultural identity in their children. This was accomplished mainly through Hungarian Language Schools and the Hungarian Scouting movement.

The West Side Hungarian School of Cleveland was founded in 1958 by Dr. Gabor Papp, who, since its founding, has served as Director of the school. While tutoring his own children, Papp began teaching others as well. The first classes were held in a private home in April 1958 with thirty-six pupils. Since then, the School has been an integral part of the education of Hungarian-American youth in Cleveland.

The School provides a systematic program of education from kindergarten through the eighth grade. Since 1967, advanced high school level courses in Hungarian Studies have been offered, including topics as: the history of Hungary, Hungarian literature, geography and folklore. In recent years, Hungarian culture and heritage courses taught in English have been initiated.

The Hungarian school has served the community for over twenty years: the ever increasing enrollment and more than 700 graduates are eloquent testimony to its success. Some sixty-five volunteer teachers, the majority of them women, have instructed and assisted through the years. It has been through their selfless help that the school has been able to maintain a high standard through the years.

The first Hungarian Scout troop in the United States was founded in Cleveland in 1951 by Ferenc Beodray and Ede Császár. This first troop, number 22, Bessenyei Gyorgy, was located on the east side. In 1952, the first girl scout troop, number 34, Zrinyi Ilona, was organized on the west side by Melinda Dolesch, who served as troop leader for twelve years. By the mid-1950s, over 300 boys and girls joined the ranks of scouting. Membership was again boosted by the Hungarian refugees who settled in Cleveland following the Revolution of 1956.

The movement has prided itself with being the strongest Hungarian youth organization in Cleveland-since the early 1960s, four troops have been active. As part of a joint venture, the scouts purchased a 200-acre farm near Rome, Ohio, to be used as a site for summer camps and weekend excursions. The regular meetings of the individual troops are held at the community owned churches and halls.

Puplis at West Side Hungarian School. 1978.
Pupils at West Side Hungarian School. 1978.
Faculty of West Side Hungarian School. 1979.
Faculty of West Side Hungarian School. 1979.

The Hungarian Scout Folk Ensemble, established in 1973 by the west side troops, has attempted to preserve not only the traditions of Hungarian Folk Dance, but of folk art and customs as well. The Ensemble has given new life to the movement, many members in their late teens and early twenties have remained in scouting as a direct result of this unique folkloric group.

The post-war wave of Hungarian immigrants produced more writers and published more books than any other wave of Hungarian immigrants.[9] Most of their contributions to Hungarian-American literature were made after working all day in a factory. Few, if any, actually made their living by selling their poetry, prose or novels. If their writings were published, this was usually accomplished through considerable financial sacrifice on the part of the writer and/or the family of the writer. Despite these factors, many succeeded in publishing their works. New journals and newspapers were founded by this wave. The ownership and editorship of several newspapers which were founded much earlier were transferred to the post-war Hungarians, they included: the Katolikus Magyarok Vasárnapja (Catholic Hungarians Sunday) and Az Ujság (The News).

Stephen Eszterhás, a prolific writer, became editor of the Vasárnapja in 1951, shortly after he arrived in the United States. Eszterhás served as editor for twenty-six years, during which time he often wrote about the failings of Hungarian Communism and campaigned continuously for free elections, human rights and religious freedoms in Hungary. Dr. Eszterhás wrote extensively about the role of the emigré, and the ideology of living in exile. He authored over a dozen books, many of them are novels which are based on sociological, historical and political studies. Joe Eszterhás, son of Stephen Eszterhás, wrote a novel entitled F.I.S.T. which is a story of a Hungarian immigrant from the flats of Cleveland who became a powerful union leader. Rights to the novel were purchased by United Artists Corporation and F.I.S.T. was made into a movie in 1978.

Rev. Zoltan Kótai founded the Kárpát Publishing Company, which published Kárpát, a monthly journal and Az Ujság, a weekly newspaper. The Cleveland community was enhanced by such poets and essayists as Márton Kerecsendi Kiss, Louis Illés, Joseph Kossányi, John Kerecseny and Julius Bedy. Charles Hokky, a former senator in Hungary, was a political and historical writer. Imre Sári Gál wrote about the history of the Hungarian community of Cleveland in his two works, Az Amerikai Debrecen and Clevelandi Magyar Museum, published in 1967 and 1978, respectively. Erno Kálnoky wrote several educational textbooks which have been incorporated into the curriculum of Hungarian language schools in North America.

Ferenc Somogyi, historian, writer and professor of Hungarian studies made significant contributions in the areas of Hungarian history and literature. His comprehensive works, Mission: History of the Hungarian Nation and Hungarian Language and Literature, are used as textbooks as well as important reference books. Dr. Somogyi’s most recent publication, Faith and Fate, written in English and co-authored with his son Lél, is a short cultural history of the Hungarian nation. 

Teréz Stibrán was the first Hungarian American woman to write a novel about the processes of immigration and assimilation. Stibrán’s novel: The Streets are not Paved with Gold, published in 1961, examines how the lives of individual immigrants evolved in America.

Several women were noteworthy for their contributions to Hungarian American poetry, they include: Mária Tóth Kurucz, Stella Magyary and Eszter Zilahi Farnos. Judith Petres, journalist and author, edited the Világhiradó (Illustrated World Review) for over five years. Fréda Kovács, author of over a half dozen novels, taught Hungarian language and history courses in the adult education division of the Cleveland public school system.


The Revolution in Hungary in October 1956 brought a new wave of immigrants to the United States: approximately 41,000 refugees were admitted to this country. The refugees of 1956 were different from previous waves in many ways. They were the youngest group of Hungarian immigrants and many possessed a technical trade and/or several years of university study. They evoked great public sympathy in the United States because of their fight against Communism and numerous opportunities, such as scholarship programs, job placement and financial assistance were made available to them.

The Revolution was unexpected, the community only recently absorbed some 6,000 Displaced Persons. Hungarians in Cleveland reacted quickly and determinedly; however, within the first days of the crisis mass rallies were organized and community organizations initiated relief programs. According to one major Cleveland daily newspaper, as many as 5,000 were present at each of the rallies held to protest the invasion of Soviet forces and plead for assistance for Hungary. College students held silent marches through downtown Cleveland to demonstrate their solidarity with the Hungarian students killed during the Revolution. Hundreds of young men volunteered to fight for Hungary; many of the Hungarian volunteers were D.P. immigrants who had already served in the armed forces of the United States.[10] A delegation was sent to Washington to request government authorization of this special military force.

Rally organized by Cleveland Community during crisis in 1956. (Courtesy of the Cleveland Press).
Rally organized by Cleveland Community during crisis in 1956. (Courtesy of the Cleveland Press).
The transport of humanitarian cardgo to refugees - donated by citizens of Cleveland.
The transport of humanitarian cardgo to refugees – donated by citizens of Cleveland.

Numerous Hungarian women, old-timers and D.P.s alike, lent their assistance during the crisis by collecting relief funds for the refugees. They accomplished this by working in shifts, standing on the street corners of downtown Cleveland during the cold and damp days of November and December. They made and distributed paper flowers as a small token of gratitude to all who donated.

Several relief programs were established by the community following the tragic end of the Revolution, the largest of these was the Hungarian Freedom Fund, formed under the auspices of the United Hungarian Societies. Through the fund, citizens of Greater Cleveland contributed $47,796 in humanitarian cargo which was sent to Hungary and $67,000 which enabled the resettlement of 6,511 Hungarian refugees in the Cleveland area.[11] The fund provided financial aid, housing, furnishings, clothing in addition to securing employment and covering medical bills. Included in the figure of 6,511 were fifty-four American citizens, born in Cleveland of refugee parents.

Other relief efforts organized by the Cleveland community included: the Hungarian Central Committee for Books and Education, established to provide educational programs for children in western Europe whose parents had been killed by the Revolution. In addition to sending Hungarian books to the schools housing the orphans, the committee campaigned for their financial support and for the publication of educational materials.

Problems developed when refugees in different areas of the United States drifted to Cleveland after losing their first jobs.[12] This city, with its large Hungarian neighborhood, was the obvious choice for the disoriented, unemployed new arrivals. There were many cases of refugees arriving in Cleveland with no job prospects or money.

In response to the problem, a care kitchen was organized in December 1958 to feed the unemployed or laid off newcomers, many of whom were sleeping in bus stations and eating very little. Mrs. Betty Galgany purchased the foodstuffs and Mrs. John Kocsany headed the women’s committee which prepared the meals. Mrs. John Sutula taught English to the group on a volunteer basis; classes were held three times a week in the Verhovay Hall on Buckeye Road. An estimated fifty refugees benefited from the daily meals and English classes.

Despite the fact that the newcomers adjusted with greater ease than previous waves due to their youth and the many opportunities they were offered, there were problems created by the fact that the changes in their lives were so sudden and drastic. One resident of Buckeye Road, Andrew Dono, who played a major role in their resettlement, said of the newcomers: “I admired these kids. They were going to live their lives and do things which they couldn’t do in Hungary. When they came out here and saw all the things you could do, they didn’t hold back. I once asked a group of them, ‘When are you going to start going to church, and take part in Hungarian life?’ They answered, ‘We’re too young for that yet, wait until we get to be around forty or forty-five years old.'”[13]

It is difficult to determine the exact number of Hungarian refugees who settled in Cleveland after 1956. United States Census data of 1950 and 1960 demonstrate a significant increase in the Hungarian foreign-born population of Cleveland, however, a percentage of the post-war immigrants, many of whom came in 1952, were also included in these census figures.

The geographic settlement patterns of the newcomers may be determined on the basis of census tract statistics for the City of Cleveland. Between 1950 and 1960, there was a marked increase in the population of the Hungarian neighborhood: over 4,000 Hungarians of foreign birth settled in the Buckeye Road neighborhood. Furthermore, the Hungarian foreign-born population of the following cities bordering Cleveland were each augmented by approximately 1,000: Lakewood, Euclid, Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights; the increase in the City of Parma was by over 2,000.

In 1962, five years after the refugees had resettled in Cleveland, a survey was completed by Gábor Brachna Jr. based on a sample of two hundred Hungarian refugees. The results were the following. By 1962, twenty percent attained university degrees and the majority had attended some sort of schooling since their arrival. Fifty percent were homeowners; ten percent owned some sort of business, Forty-three percent were United States citizens, thirty-nine percent had applied for citizenship and only eighteen percent remained non-committed. Less than nine percent returned to Hungary. By 1962, over thirty percent moved from the City of Cleveland to the suburbs.

As a direct result of their relatively rapid adjustment, the newcomers exhibited less attachment to community organizations and institutions than previous waves.

Soccer Team Cleveland Magyar Athletic Club – 1972
Soccer Team Cleveland Magyar Athletic Club – 1972
Boxing class at C. M. A. C. - 1972.
Boxing class at C. M. A. C. – 1972.

Some new organizations were founded by the post 1956 Hungarians, two of them were: the Freedom Fighters Circle and the Cleveland Magyar Athletic Club (C.M.A.C.). The Freedom Fighters Circle founded a Hungarian language school, the Sándor Reményik Hungarian School on the east side in 1962. The school operated effectively until 1967. Annual enrollment was, on the average, between sixty and seventy students.

The Cleveland Magyar Athletic Club was founded in 1957 by Dr. Oscar Bakó. The Club has offered facilities and training for more than 200 athletes in the divisions of soccer, fencing, boxing and riflery. The Club purchased a two storey building on Lorain Avenue, which was officially opened, following major renovations, in 1970. The clubhouse represents the only real estate acquired by the community in Cleveland since the Second World War which was not church affiliated.


The Buckeye Road Hungarian Neighborhood has experienced decline since the 1960s. This decline was brought about through several factors. The old-timers who built the neighborhood community had grown old and the neighborhood failed to attract younger generation Hungarian Americans. Following the Second World War, returning veterans who had grown up on Buckeye preferred buying modern homes in the suburbs rather than moving into the old homes on Buckeye Road. The expectation that the D.P. immigrants or 1956 refugees would rejuvenate the neighborhood never materialized. No other middle class ethnic elements pushed into Buckeye from the inner core of the city. As the residents began moving out, Blacks moved in. What followed was a story of white flight, fear, hostility and instability in one of Cleveland’s oldest ethnic neighborhoods.
In the 1970s it was assessed that many of the ethnic people who live in the neighborhood were past fifty-they were too old, too poor or too Hungarian oriented to move away. Twenty-eight percent of the residents on Buckeye were over the age of fifty-five.[14] This fact alone made the area an easy target for crime. Buckeye experienced a spiralling rate of crime in the late 1960s and early ’70s; between 1966 and 1970 alone, the number of homocides, robberies, assaults and breaking and enterings doubled.[15] The number of cars stolen during these years more than tripled. In 1974, it was determined that fifty-one percent of the residents had been victims of crime.
The sharp increase in crime frightened many individual store operators into closing their businesses. Stores on lower Buckeye and Woodhill ceased to exist. Only upper Buckeye Road, between East 116th Street and East 130th Street still retains its Hungarian character. Even in this area, quality merchandisers such as jewelers and furniture stores have disappeared. From 1925 until 1960, 311 Hungarian owned or supported businesses thrived on Buckeye. Today fewer than fifty exist.
Community activities have dwindled in number. There were once twelve grape harvest festivals — by the end of the 1970s there were two. New Year’s Eve Dances on Buckeye numbered eleven in 1940, at present there is one. In 1940, there were an estimated fourteen picnics, twenty banquets and one hundred Hungarian weddings; now there is one of each. Plays and concerts are rarities. All the theatres on Buckeye have been closed and/or demolished. Of the nine clubhouses once abound with activities, two are still in use today. Only the numerous churches, church halls and schools remain in silent testimony to a once dynamic Hungarian neighborhood.
Despite all this, the old Hungarian residents of Buckeye refuse to leave. These lifelong residents cling to their neighborhood, determinedly supporting the remaining institutions, organizations and businesses. Many of them have sons and daughters living in the suburbs who would gladly take them in. However, most share the sentiments of one lifelong resident, Mrs. Elizabeth Mudri, who states: “I’ve lived here fourty years in the same house. It’s hard for me to make a decision to leave now-I live alone… but my roots are here, my church is here, my friends are here.”[16]
The struggle on the part of the residents to provide stability in a volatile neighborhood has brought attention to the Buckeye area. Local and national government agencies realized that the loss of old ethnic neighborhoods is tantamount to the death of American cities in the northeast. Programs to rejuvenate and stabilize Buckeye have been instituted on the grass-roots level as well as through government assistance. In recent years, there have been signs that the efforts to save Buckeye are bearing fruit.
Since 1970, there have been several significant institutional attempts at solving the problems of the Buckeye area, such as the Community Relations Board, the East End Neighborhood House, the Buckeye Area Development Corporation, the East End Community Development Foundation and the Buckeye Woodland Community Congress. Of these the Buckeye Area Development Corporation and the Buckeye Woodland Community Congress have been the most successful at stabilizing the neighborhood through various programs encouraging middle class and ethnic residents to stay.
The Buckeye Woodland Community Congress was founded in 1974, as a representative body of 135 community groups: Hungarians, Blacks, Italians, Slovaks and others working together to attain integration along with stability. Kenneth Kovach served as first president of the Congress, which through positive, legal action has already tackled some of the complex problems burdening the area.
One of the primary culprits for the white flight experienced by the area have been real estate agents, who through the use of pressure tactics and unscrupulous enticements practically forced residents to sell their homes. Other institutions responsible for the demise were banks and savings and loan companies, which redlined the neighborhood and cutback investments. The Buckeye Woodland Community Congress, through its Redlining-Disinvestment Committee brought about the toughest law ever enacted regarding redlining. It says that “banks that have city money deposited in them must give mortgages in the city equivalent to a certain percentage of the deposits they have.”[17]
The Buckeye Area Development Corporation, one of three such ethnic neighborhood projects in the nation is funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Corporation initiated the following programs: the Buckeye Police Community Outreach Station with its auxiliary police program, the senior citizens mini-bus program, the Senior Citizens Center and the summer festivals. The B.A.D.C. is concerned with the commercial corridor of Buckeye; it developed plans for major public site improvements and sponsored among others a storefront beautification drive. The Corporation spearheaded the “I’m Stayin'” slogan campaign to convince people that leaving is not the solution.
For over 100 years a distinct and unique Hungarian community has existed in Cleveland, one which was constantly rejuvenated by new waves of immigrants, new goals and new ideals. Despite the fact that the majority of Hungarians in Cleveland no longer live together in the Buckeye Road neighborhood, the community is still a viable entity. Many predictions have been made as to when the Buckeye Road Hungarian neighborhood will cease to exist altogether; all of them have thus far proven false. According to recent estimates, there are 113,000 Greater Clevelanders of Hungarian birth or origin.[18]
1980 may be deservingly commemorated as the Centennial Year of the Cleveland Hungarian community; the 1880s marked the initial stages of its development. Illustrating the youth and stamina of the community are the following indicators: the eleven Hungarian churches, representing six denominations, built on the east side and west side around the turn of the century, have been consistently supported by Hungarian congregations. One of these churches, the West Side Hungarian Reformed Church, recently completed a new church hall/community center costing $450,000. In 1977, the United Hungarian Societies reported fifty member organizations in their seventy-fifth Anniversary Booklet. Nearly ten Hungarian-language newspapers and journals were reported to be published in Cleveland in 1980, and in the same year, over thirty hours per week of Hungarian-language broadcasts were aired on the nationality radio stations in the Cleveland vicinity. The West Side Hungarian School reached a peak enrollment in the late 1970s; the estimated 200 children attending come to the school with a working knowledge of the language.
Statue of Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty, Erected: 1977.
Statue of Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty, Erected: 1977.

In recent years, the community has experienced an upsurge of youth organizations: those initiated by and/or whose membership is composed of mainly second or third generation Hungarian Americans. The Hungarian Theatre and Dance Group and the Hungarian Scout Folk Ensemble, founded in 1970 and 1973, respectively, demonstrate an interest on the part of Hungarian youth to preserve and promote Hungarian traditions through folk dance and art. The Patria Civic Society published an English-language newspaper and sought to obtain greater civic involvement. To generate greater participation in the Hungarian language and literature courses taught at Cleveland State University, the Hungarian Students’ Association was founded in 1969.

The visit of Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty to Cleveland in May 1974 was an event which brought together many segments of the community. The momentum of the historic visit was felt for several years afterwards. The Cardinal Mindszenty Plaza, located at East 12th and Lakeside Avenue, was dedicated in 1976 and one year later, a bust of the Cardinal was erected by the community at the same site.

  1. Szabadság, January-July 1942.
  2. "Ujabb $20,000-Ért Vett Honvédelmi Kötvényt A Sz. István Király Biztosító Egylet," Szabadság, 28 January 1942, p. 5.
  3. Istvan Balogh, ed., Tenth Anniversary Report (Washington, D.C.: (American Hungarian Federation). , 14 November 1948), p. 19.
  4. Interview with Mrs. Margit Hokky, 11 March 1978.
  5. Interview with Ferenc Beodray, 23 April 1979.
  6. Interview with Árpád Szentkirállyi, 22 December 1978.
  7. Interview with Mrs. Margit Hokky, 11 March 1978.
  8. Interview with Dr. Gábor Papp, 13 June 1978.
  9. Joshua Fishman, op. cit. , p. 36.
  10. Interview with István Hokky, 3 April 1978.
  11. 55th Anniversary of the United Hungarian Societies and Dedication of the Kossuth Memorial 1902-1957 (Cleveland: (United Hungarian Societies). , 6 October 1957).
  12. Theodore Andrica, "Hungarian D.P.'s Flocking to City from All Over U.S.," The Cleveland Press, 3 December 1957, p. 1.
  13. Interview with Mr. Andrew Dono, 17 July 1979.
  14. Mary Swindell, "Buckeye Road Has New Spirit but Keeps Old Tradition," The Cleveland Press, 15 February 1973, p. G4.
  15. Joe Eszterhas, "Buckeye Road: Neighborhood of Fear," Cleveland Plain Dealer, 18 January 1971, p. 1.
  16. Interview with Mrs. Elizabeth Mudri, 16 February 1978.
  17. Caren Goldman, "Buckeye: A Bicentennial Report," Sunday Plain Dealer Magazine, 5 September 1976, p. 9.
  18. Geraldine Javor, "City Second Only to Budapest in its Hungarian Population," The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7 September 1964.


Hungarian Americans and Their Communities of Cleveland Copyright © by Cleveland State University . All Rights Reserved.

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