Partner Church Soiree Benefited Ukrainian Refugees Too!
“A Little Night Music Soiree” planned for Saturday, APRIL 30, 2022 turned out be even more significant than the Partner Church Committee ever dreamed. Our dynamic Partner Church minister is now helping to house Ukrainian refugees there in Kolosvar/Cluj – read his letter below and view his video message here.
The fundraiser was the first special event to be held at the UU Congregation of Columbia since the nation locked down in the pandemic. The concert featured pianist Anna Hamilton and violist, Karen Peters, both generously giving their considerable talent for the cause.
In 1991 Columbia UU (then) Fellowship was partnered with a small Unitarian congregation in Beszterce (pronounced “Best-er-cha”), Romania. It is in Transylvania, the birthplace of Unitarianism. We celebrated our 30th anniversary in 2021 and, without holding a fundraising event, still sent our Christmas and Easter cards and a little money!
The 30 year friendship has been nurtured by in-person visits, mainly by Lee & Julian Minghi, and trips to Columbia by 3 different ministers. In 2016 and 2019, small groups of “pilgrims” went to Romania and were taken on tours of Transylvania, the Maramures region, and Budapest by the dynamic young minister, Rev. Zsolt Solymosi (pronounced “Jsholt Soy e mohsey”). In addition to serving as volunteer minister for the Beszterce church, driving 5 hours round trip each time he goes, Zsolt is Assistant Principal for a 1,000 student Unitarian school in Kolosvar/Cluj.
“Dear Lee, Dear All!
I am so sorry for not answering mails in time. This period is very overwhelming. It was a difficult time for school life dealing with covid, and teaching in masks for 10 hours, and suddenly as covid disappeared we woke up with war in the northern part of Romania. By the way, when we took the steam train, we were riding along the Ukrainian border…[he refers to members of his congregation and we American UU “pilgrims” traveling together in 2019.]
At this point my school community is helping several families who escaped from Kiev, Odessa and other places, and we offered them a shelter, food and whatever is needed. It is amazing to see how our community helps. Just in my apartment there are 12 people, because I still commute from the village, and the apartment was free and ideal to have the school cafeteria near by. It is very very sad to face the fact that these people needed to pack their life into a grocery bag and leave the bunker in 20 minutes. I don’t know where this is going because more and more people are coming over.
Regarding our Church: because covid ended here, we meet again on regularly basis, in our new meeting place, and we like it very much. [They had a free space before, but they sat shoulder to shoulder and social distancing was not possible.] Yes, all our money goes now to the rent, but it is important to have our own little room. As I wrote you rent is 50 euros/month, and your donation will help us pay for at least half of the year. We have no other plans so far.
I will try to do a video message for you in April, and of course [send] a link with a choir song and the dance from the school prom…Regarding your visit [Americans going to Romania]: I don’t think so it will be possible this year, but let’s hope for next year. Bringing Alex, the young firefighter boy [with me to visit you all] it is a big dream. He hopes very much that we can go together…
let’s keep texting or call each other – email is just crazy for me…
Much love, Zsolt
Our donations have meant a lot to them; their friendship and hospitality means so much to us. The funds we send help pay rent now, after their move during the pandemic. Over the years we have helped to bring the Romanian ministers over here, supplemented rent and gasoline expenses for the ministers, even some of the cost of replacing the minister’s cars, a scholarship for a young woman, and annual Christmas packages and luncheons. And now it seems we should consider sending more money, IF WE CAN, to help Rev. Zsolt and the school to support the Ukrainian refugees.