The former president of the Okanagan Hungarian Society remembers how difficult it was to find a job after migrating to Canada, knowing a few English words and having less than a formal education.
Lagos Papp discussed his personal history and why Hungarians migrated to Canada with the Capital News as part of Carli’s Cultural Connections, and society member Paul Domby highlighted popular Hungarian events.
Q: Why did Hungarians decide to migrate to the Okanagan?
Papp: In the 1920s and 1930s, Hungarians were mostly working in the agricultural fields, so naturally being a good climate, fruit growing region, they came over here. Like myself, I’m an old Vancouverite, but when I retired, I love the climate, I love the area so that’s why I moved to the Okanagan.
Q: Where you born in Canada?
Lapp: I was born in Hungary, but it was 1956 when I came here. Hungarians migrated to Canada in three waves, the ‘20s and ‘30s group, not a large group came to Canada after the Second World War and the third wave came to Canada after the 1956 revolution (the revolution was a revolt nationwide against the communist government). These people were mostly students and tradespeople.
Q: What made you migrate to Canada?
Papp: We were looking for a country to accept us and there was always a problem in Europe. Even in those days we didn’t know what the future held. We didn’t want to be in a troubled spot. Canada was nice enough to take in so many Hungarians in 1956.
Q: What were some of the challenges?
Papp: The biggest challenge was the language. I knew yes, no and OK. That was my English knowledge at the time when I arrived in Canada and in the late ‘50s there weren’t many jobs available, so it was difficult to find a job.
Q: Can anyone join the club?
Papp: Anyone can join, anyone can attend our meetings, our functions, it’s open to everyone.
Q: What are some traditional Hungarian functions you hold?
Papp: Being in Canada, we always celebrate Canada Day July 1. Every year we go to Prospera Place and you find all the nationalities there. We also make some langos, some call it Canadian Elephant Ear and also smokies.
Occasionally there is a dinner and dance in the club and also cultural events. We’ll have performers coming from Hungary and it’s a famous opera composer evening, where these two performers will bring alive some of these old songs.
We usually have the grape harvest dance at fall time. In the valley, pretty well all the nationalities support each other because there aren’t enough members that attend this function.
Domby: March 15 is another holiday we celebrate here, that’s from the 1848-49 revolutions that swept throughout Europe and Hungary. We also get together on June 4 which is the date of the Treaty of Trianon when Hungary lost part of its territories and on Oct. 23 for the 1956 revolution.
This next event, on April 18, we have a dinner and show and the topic is Lehar. He’s incredibly popular, his music that is, he lived about a 100 years ago. These gentlemen will be presenting a musical about his life. The dinner is at 6 p.m.The dinner is gypsy steakes and we’ll have some apple strudels at the end.
Q: Why is it important to have these different nationalities coming together to support these events?
Papp: Basically friendship and just to keep the clubs going, including us and many other nationality clubs.
To find out more about the Okanagan Hungarian Society call 250-769-1609. The cost of the Varga Emese Lehar dinner and performance is $25 at 1670 Ross Road in West Kelowna. To sign up call Papp at 250-768-9823.
Every two weeks, Carli’s Cultural Connections publishes a video segment on culture and history in the Central Okanagan at kelownacapnews.com. Email email@example.com.