Students Without Boundaries:
The Students Without Boundaries Program is a unique educational program that brings together bright students from at least four different countries throughout East-Central Europe along with students from Canada and the USA. The goal is simple: to shatter the myths and misconceptions that have caused endless strife in the region… by opening the hearts and minds of young people… the very people who will be the builders of the new east-central Europe!
Since 1994, the program has evolved, bringing together high-school-aged students (13 to 19) from Canada, the United States, Croatia, Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine and Romania. It is an intensive program meant to break down the myths and misconceptions felt by many Hungarian minorities living outside of Hungary’s borders. These students, who live as minorities in their home countries, are exposed first-hand to their cultural roots through visits to historical and cultural sites including castles, museums, and landmarks. They attend lectures on human rights, the building of grass roots democratic organizations, media, as well as cultural integration and preservation. Participants develop a bond with like-minded students from all over the world, they recognize their similarities, and start to work together to help find ways to better their own lives and the lives of their communities. Bonds formed last a lifetime and the participants continue to connect and meet on a regular basis to assist both a younger generation and to continue to improve their lives by spreading the message of inclusiveness and cooperation.
A memorial year of Prince Ferenc Rákóczi II was announced by the Hungarian Government in 2019. The Rakoczi Foundation in Canada hosted a three-city tour of a show highlighting the life of Ferenc Rakoczi as well as the 25 years of the Rakoczi Foundation’s Students Without Boundaries program. The event was held in Calgary on October 4th, Toronto on October 5th and 6th and Niagara Falls on October 6th, 2019.
Prince Rákóczi Ferenc II was a widely respected historical figure who led an eight-year fight for freedom (1703-1711) against oppression by the Habsburgs. The Rákóczi, or Kuruc, uprising was the first to bring together the aristocracy and peasantry of several nationalities in east-central Europe in the fight to better the lives of people.
The Rakoczi Foundation in Canada continues this legacy of bringing together young people in an effort to build bridges of understanding in east-central Europe.
The program consisted of two parts: the first presented three very talented young people: two from Felvidék (presently Slovakia) and one originally from Transylvania in Romania. The performers presented historical events and aspects of the life and times of Ferenc Rákóczi in song, readings and poetry. The three artists, namely Zoltan Csadi, Anita Varga and Kriszta Koncz are all members of the Rakoczi Family Circle, former attendees of the Students Without Boundaries Programme, in addition to having reached significant milestones in their careers in theatre and music.
The second half of the program presented the documentary film commissioned by the Rakoczi Foundation on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Students Without Boundaries program.
Rakoczi Family Circle Events:
Since 2011, the regional leaders have organized meetups every year in different regions. Lectures, volunteer projects, sightseeing and reconnecting have become the hallmarks of these get togethers. In addition to support from the Foundation, regional leaders have been able to partially finance the meetups/conferences by applying for and receiving funds from different local sources.
Informal social gatherings referred to as R-Cafés where members come together for social gatherings and/or to discuss specific topics. R-Cafés are organized in towns and cities across east-central Europe and are an effective way to connect with past participants to expand the network as well as to reminisce about the experiences from the Students Without Boundaries programs and to stay in contact with each other.
More formal Rakoczi Retreats are organized once or twice each year. These gatherings are usually held over the course of a weekend with attendees coming from various regions or countries. The weekend gatherings are usually based around a theme and the assembled students part take in educational lectures, brainstorming or problem-solving activities, charitable activities as well as social events. These events form an important part of the work of the foundation that brings together students from various regions and age groups extending the network but also giving back to the function of the organization and the community. Such recent retreats have been held in Sepsiszentgyörgy (Sfantu Gheorghi, Romania), Budapest. The organization of such retreats has gone on-line since the start of the pandemic.
In 2020, due to the worldwide pandemic, these meetings have gone online, reaching even more past participants through the Rakoczi Virtual Academy and on-line workshops.
Visit to the Carpathian Basin:
As the borders in east-central Europe have become easier to cross since 1990, the leaders of the Foundation answered the call of past participants to be able to reconnect and build on their camp experiences. In 2008, ten senior leaders from Canada and Hungary travelled to Transylvania to meet with over 80 past participants in Csíkszereda (Miercuria-Ciuc, Romania) and hold mini-conferences on a wide range of current topics. This first meetup became the foundation for subsequent meetings in the different regions where the participants live. “It also reminds us,” as one Canadian leader said, “of the economic hardships of the regions our participants come from.” In 2009, the senior Canadian leaders travelled to Vajdaság (Vojvodina, Serbia) and Kárpátalja (Transcarpathia in Ukraine) for meetups/conferences. In 2011, another trip was organized to Erdély (Transylvania, Romania).
The Rakoczi Foundation, along with the Canadian Embassy in Budapest and the Canada Hungary Educational Foundation was instrumental in bringing to fruition a monument recognizing Canada’s role following the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The text written on the monument is to honour Canada for accepting some 40,000 Hungarians following the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
On Nov 26, 2008, Her Excellency, the Governor General and Mr. Jean-Daniel Lafond concluded Canada’s State visit to Hungary with a moving ceremony, remembering Canada’s role in welcoming 40,000 Hungarian refugees after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The event highlighted the importance of people-to-people contact and presented Canada as a successful model of integration for newcomers (in contrast to assimilation). Through the Governor General, the Canadian people received well-deserved credit for their selfless support in 1956/57.
The fact that Canada with its small population at the time (about 14 million) accepted almost 40,000 Hungarian refugees — made the Hungarian exodus to Canada outstanding. The new arrivals made a significant contribution to Canadian society because they came in such a large group and found themselves in different parts of the country (e.g. the Sopron University’s entire Faculty of Forestry, a group of 200 individuals, including professors and students, moved to British Columbia, completed their studies and became influential in BC’s forestry industry). The Hungarians were one of the largest influx of refugees who were non-English or French speaking.
This legacy project could not have been realized without the generous support of two Canadian-Hungarian organizations, the Rakoczi Foundation and the Canada-Hungary Educational Foundation Partners included the Mayor’s Office, the City Gardens and the Budapest Gallery. With 10-12 media representatives present at the unveiling, press coverage included Duna TV, the daily Magyar Hirlap and Calgary Herald coverage and the largest Hungarian newspaper published in Canada, the Kanadai Amerikai Magyarsag.
Hungarian Exodus Exhibit Openings:
The Exhibit has travelled extensively across the country during the past 14 years, from the Pier 21 Museum in Halifax to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and many points in between: Halifax (twice), Montreal, Toronto (five locations), Ottawa, Hull, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver. It has been exhibited at museums, city halls, churches, libraries, universities, health centers and public areas of provincial parliaments. Both the Oral History project and the Hungarian Exodus exhibit were created primarily to inform the Canadian public about the events of 1956 and the positive impact the Hungarian refugees have had on Canada since.