Happy New Year, Happy Birthday. - By Nathanie Y. Yaskey

- By Nathanie Y. Yaskey

We are all waiting for the New York City Times Square ball drop, especially this year. To put one of the most challenging years in history to bed and with just 20 days before a more welcoming administration, we look for a year more compassionate for our immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. Other than your birthday, New Year’s Day is one of the most celebrated days of the year.

According to Business Insider, a sampling of immigration data shows that over 11,000 of the nearly 80,000 people admitted into the USA list January 1st as their birthday. This is especially so with our Somalian and Ethiopian sisters and brothers. So why is this? The answer is both simple and complex, depending on whose story it is. The main reason is that these refugees fled from nations that honor birth dates differently than we do. As they fled their homes with their families, leaving everything they knew in search of freedom and acceptance in a foreign land, important documentation was left behind as well. Often access to government documentation regarding birthdays is not always easy to find.

When these refugees come to the United States seeking asylum, they are often advised to list January 1st as their date of birth, as they have no formal birth records. Marilu Cabrera, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services notes, "[for those cases] the January 1 birth date is the common birth date that we assign." Among newcomers, the January 1st birthday is so common that at the stroke of midnight, along with Happy New Year, immigrant children also wish their parents Happy Birthday.

We honor and celebrate every single immigrant, refugee, asylum seeker, and newcomer who celebrates their special day on January 1, 2021. We thank you for blessing us with your unique cultures, special traditions, and profound stories of survival and hope. Happy Birthday 2021!

Fier and Cleveland - By Ezra Ellenbogen

Fier and Cleveland 

- Written by Ezra Ellenbogen

Fier, Albania is a beautiful city of nature and history, with a population of 56,297.[1] The city is a well known travel destination, its most attractive landmark being the ruins of the ancient Illyrian city of Apollonia.[2] In 2006, under the Honorable Mayor Frank G. Jackson, Fier was partnered as a sister city with Cleveland.[3]

The first large arrival of Albanian immigrants to Cleveland was in the 1890s, as a part of the larger influx of Italian immigration.[4] This group was known as the Arbëreshë; they were descendants of Albanians who had fled to Southern Italy to escape the Ottoman Empire. The second significant arrival of Albanian peoples into Cleveland mostly originated from Korçë, an educational and cultural center in Southern Albania. The vast majority of this second wave were seeking new labor opportunities in Cleveland. Most had little to no former education or resources. Most were planning to immigrate temporarily, and most were men. They were seeking a better financial future. Eventually, many settled their families with them in Cleveland. These groups primarily concentrated on the West Side near Detroit Avenue and Linndale, though some did settle on the East Side around E. 30th and St. Clair.

Statewide, fewer than two thousand Albanians had settled by 1914. Most Albanian immigrants settled near Lake Erie. Most found work in factories or as day laborers. Albanian institutions followed suit; businesses sold traditional Albanian foods and products, and a total of three Albanian newspapers were created: Dielli, Liria, and Shqiptari i Lire.[5]By the start of the 1940s, approximately 1,000 Albanians resided in Cleveland.

The next major wave of Albanian immigration occurred Post-WWII. Numerous groups of Albanians had been displaced and had ended up in refugee camps in Italy, Germany, and Austria. From there, many immigrated to Cleveland. However, in 1946, when Enver Hoxha’s government took control of Albania, no Albanians were allowed to leave their home. New immigrants to Cleveland founded social clubs and religious institutions; in 1938, the Society of St. E. Premte was established by Orthodox Christain Albanians, which is still in use today.

During and post WWII, the major incentives for Albanian immigration were: escaping conflict back home, economic motives, and seeking to build a new life, as countless Albanian homes and businesses were destroyed in WWII and following conflicts. The highest concentrations in Cleveland remained on the West Side and its suburbs, particularly Lakewood.

The most significant influx of Albanian immigration to Cleveland came after 1992, when Albania’s political regime fell. Immigration from Albanian areas exploded, especially from Fier and Kosovo. Two major factors made Cleveland a well-sought home for this new wave of immigration. First: Albanian American Cleveland Councilwoman Dona Brady made significant and constant efforts to help Albanian refugees resettle. Second: during the 1999 war in Kosovo, the then American President Bill Clinton selected Cleveland as one of five cities to resettle refugees and displaced persons from the conflict. In 2006, The Honorable Mayor Frank G. Jackson founded a sister city relationship with the Albanian city of Fier in recognition of the flourishing community.

The Albanian American Association of Cleveland was founded in 1998. The organization went on to become one of the most prominent sources of organization and longevity for Cleveland’s Albanian community through cultural engagement, educational assistance, humanitarian aid, and supporting the community.[6] The most critical, long lasting, and well known engagement of the association and its partners was the creation of the Albanian Cultural Garden.

Spearheaded by immigration attorney and author Richard Herman, City Councilwoman Dona Brady, and Federation Of India Community Associations of NE Ohio (FICA) president Asim Datta, the process of creating an Albanian addition to the Cultural Gardens started on May 30th, 2012.[7] Cleveland architect Jim McKnight designed the Garden; its most prominent feature, a statue of Mother Teresa, was made by renowned Albanian artist Kreshnik Xhiku. The dedication ceremony was attended by important figures, including Mayor Frank G. Jackson and former Albanian President Bujar Nishani. The dedication was also a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Albanian independence.[8]

The “Second Phase” of the Albanian Gardens was developed in 2013. It included a fountain from the 1920s rediscovered by Councilwoman Brady, walkways, and lights, making the area perfect for community events. The dedication of the new additions was attended by the then mayor of Fier, Baftjar Zeqaj, as well as a representative of the Albanian Prime Minister. In recent years, community events from operas to parades have been held at the Albanian Cultural Gardens. Most recently, during the Cultural Gardens’ 2019 One World Day Parade of Flags, Albanian Clevelanders wore traditional and cultural garb to celebrate their heritage, marching with Albanian flags (pictured at the start of the article).[9]

In 2014, Cleveland hosted highly acclaimed Albanian artist Fate Velaj and his exhibit, “Albania - Seen Differently.” Many of his works were on display in the Cleveland City Hall Rotunda. He hoped to reflect not only a new perspective of Albanian natural and architectural beauty, but also showcase the connection between Albanians and Cleveland.[10]

Albanian Clevelanders today make up a prominent and thriving community of the region. With numerous cultural and community-driven connections to Fier and Albania as a whole, Albanian Clevelanders have contributed to and embellished the city’s diversity and culture. Historic efforts of the sister city movement, from cultural showcases at fairs to operas, have connected the Albanian population of Greater Cleveland not only to Albania, but also establishing itself as a center for community and relationship building. Cleveland’s historic ties to Albania and Albanaian immigrants have made the community one of prominence and camaraderie.

- by Ezra Ellenbogen

Ezra's blog: One Page Stories

[1] https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/albania-population/

[2] https://www.intoalbania.com/city/fier/

[3] https://case.edu/ech/articles/cleveland-sister-city-partnerships

[4] https://case.edu/ech/articles/a/albanians

[5] http://ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Albanian_Ohioans

[6] http://albaniansofcleveland.org/index.php?p=home&op=more

[7] clevelandpeople.com/groups/albanian/albanian.htm

[8] https://www.clevelandculturalgardens.org/albanian-cultural-garden/

[9] http://www.clevelandpeople.com/events/2019/owd-2019-parade-3.htm

[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52FwyE5isXw

Klaipėda and Cleveland - Ezra Ellenbogen

Klaipėda and Cleveland

- Written by Ezra Ellenbogen

Klaipėda, Lithuania is a beautiful seaside town, located where the Curonian Lagoon empties into the Baltic Sea. The city is the most prominent point for international trade that goes through or into Lithuania, and is the only large sea port. The port can manage up to 40 million pounds of cargo annually.[1] The population of the Klaipėda is near 200,000.[2]Klaipėda’s history is interesting and intricate.

The 1250s were a memorable decade: the Seventh Crusade ended, Nichiren Buddhism got popular - good times. Also in the 1250s, Teutonic Knights established Klaipėda on an empty shore, calling it Memelburg.[3] The Teutonic Knights had been told to convert or destroy the local Pagan Baltic tribes, and chose modern day Klaipėda as a base. Originally, the area consisted of just a castle and a small town. In the 16th century, the local Teutonic Order secularized, and Memelburg became part of Prussia. It was then that the town started being called Klaipėda. Klaipėda was briefly Prussia’s capital during the Napoleonic wars, when the royal family retreated there. The 19th century brought thousands of new people to Klaipėda. In 1854, a devastating fire burned down two-thirds of the city, but it was rebuilt.

By around 1871, the first Lithuanians had immigrated to Cleveland. Early Lithuanian immigrants in the city concentrated around St. Clair and Oregon Avenue (which is now Rockwell Avenue).[4] The early Lithuanian community in Cleveland established the St. George’s Lithuanian Church, which became the center of activity for the predominantly Catholic community. Around that time, only around 1,000 Lithuanians lived in Cleveland.

Back home in Lithuania, the entire Klaipėda region had been absorbed into the Entente States from Germany. The region was ruled by the League of Nations until the Lithuanian supported Klaipėda Revolt of 1923. It was successful, and the League of Nations and the Entente states recognized the transfer of the Klaipėda region into Lithuania as an autonomous incorporation. At this time, Klaipėda was home to 45,000 people, 70% of whom were German.

By 1930, back in Cleveland, the Lithuanian population had grown to over 10,000 people. Cultural and religious centers, newspapers, and communities were being formed. A major reason for the spark in Lithuanian immigration to the US was the rise of political tensions at home.

The rise of Nazism in the 1930s spread into Klaipėda, but not without strong resistance. Germany sought to annex Klaipėda, despite being former allies. Lithuania was unable to gain major support to keep Klaipėda and gave in to the ultimatum, ceding it to Nazi Germany.

Nearing the end of World War II, Klaipėda was overrun by Soviet armies. At one point, the invading forces only found 20 inhabitants left, the rest having immigrated or died. The city was captured and incorporated into the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. Through the 1940s and 1950s, primarily Russians and Lithuanians repopulated the city. Klaipėda’s population skyrocketed; even just by 1950 it had grown larger than pre-war years. The region of Klaipėda soon became a major economic driver for Lithuania.

Post-World War II in Cleveland, there was a major influx in Lithuanian immigrants. Approximately 4,000 Lithuanians arrived in Cleveland, among them was Antanas Smetona, a former president of the Lithuanian Republic. Institutions established by these new immigrants tended to be distinct from those established by the first wave; as they mostly sought to renew or recreate organizations that had been banned or had collapsed in Soviet Lithuania.

Numerous organizations organized Lithuanians in Cleveland around culture, politics, language, and more. For instance, the Lithuanian-American Council lobbied during and after the war to bring attention to the troubles of the Lithuanian state under Soviet rule. Local organizations were also quick to organize around teaching culture and language. In 1973, a new community center, Lithuanian Village, was built along E. 185th St, and community activity shifted towards there and eastern suburbs.

During the re-establishment of an independent Lithuanian state, Cleveland was recognized for the Lithuanian community’s significant role in lobbying for liberation. The leader of the new state, Vytautas Landsbergis, visited Cleveland multiple times seeking support from local groups. When the US recognized the new Lithuanian state, the new US ambassador to it, Darryl N. Johnson, made his first visit as ambassador to Cleveland.

In 1992, under Mayor Michael R. White, an official sister city relationship between Klaipėda and Cleveland was formed.[5] In the modern day, Lithuanian-Americans in Cleveland interact frequently with their home state, with the establishment of business ties and assistance.The population of Lithuanian-Americans in the city numbers around 16,000.

The relationship and its history has been critical to both sides. Cleveland gained huge cultural and economic boosts from waves of Lithuanian immigrants, and, in the modern day, the city has helped Klaipėda with medical services and facilities, seeking to help improve the conditions of their sister city. Under the Hope Medical Mission, Cleveland nurses and doctors, in an effort founded by Dr. Gerald Goldberg, have worked directly with Lithuanian medical offices and workers to make medical treatment more accessible and better quality.[6] Not only that, but the group has worked to directly treat local patients and improve the quality of equipment available

Altogether, Cleveland and Klaipėda have had a long history of working together. Cleveland helped serve as a large base for lobbying against Lithuanian oppression, and works today on spreading culture and improving medical facilities in Klaipėda. Klaipėda and Lithuanian Americans in Cleveland have contributed greatly to work, culture, and community formation in the city. Despite being thousands of miles apart, Klaipėda and Cleveland have managed to both be critical to each other’s history.

- By Ezra Ellenbogen

Ezra's Blog - One Page Stories 

[1] http://www.cleveland-oh.gov/CityofCleveland/Home/Government/MayorsOffice/Office_of_Government_Affairs/SisterCities#klaipeda

[2] https://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/lithuania-population

[3] http://www.truelithuania.com/history-of-klaipeda-memel-447

[4] https://case.edu/ech/articles/l/lithuanians

[5] https://case.edu/ech/articles/cleveland-sister-city-partnerships

[6] https://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/archives/rx-for-transforming-lives-of-lithuanians/article_c5fc93ae-0ef5-5149-a2a8-54a493d355fd.html


How to be an Emotional Ally to the Immigrant Community - By Nathanie Y. Yaskey

How to be an Emotional Ally to the Immigrant Community

- Written By Nathanie Y. Yaskey

When I first heard the statement, “we are living in unprecedented times,” I chuckled. The word “unprecedented” is so grandiose within itself that it reflexively induces a cringy feeling of melodrama.

I write comedy, I tell jokes on stage, I prefer to keep things light whenever and wherever possible. This was my attitude going into quarantine. I (like many others) thought the world was just being melodramatic and as soon as we got over this “flu,” Oprah would finally run for president, Cardi B would be her trusted Vice President, Beyoncé would be Secretary of State, and our new national anthem would be “Who Run the World? Girls!” … SPOILER ALERT: things didn’t exactly turn out that way.

Now, over six months into quarantine, I shudder to think that I ever remotely found entertainment in the current state of affairs. As social unrest grows louder, as violence catapults at an alarming rate, as extremist groups are birthed from pain and frustration, as othered bodies are slayed and politicized, as society increasingly places more value upon property than humanity, as life as we know it shatters upon the golden chandelier fan of America, all I can say is; “Um. Yeah. We’re definitely living in unprecedented times.”

As an African immigrant and naturalized Black citizen, I have experienced a range of emotions throughout my quest to naturalization, but nothing as sharp and soul-piercing as what quarantine has forced me (and so many other immigrants) to reckon with: fear.

We see ourselves unfairly generalized in print, we see our parent’s sacrifices dismissed, we see our pain spectacled. These experiences reduce us to a state of sheer fear and panic.

If you are looking for ways to support and peacefully embolden the immigrant community—even whilst safely distancing— please continue reading.

  1. More than anything else, we want to be heard. The acknowledgement of our humanity and right to occupy space can be as simple as asking, “How are you feeling?” And genuinely listening to our response.
  2. Silence speaks. If you don’t know what to say, that’s okay! Few things are more upsetting than describing a personal experience to someone from another cultural background who then morphs said experience into a particular language, code, or context that they are more comfortable with addressing. For instance, the time my Dad was publicly demeaned for having an accent is not the same as the time your Dad was publicly demeaned for incorrect grammar; I’m sure that both were scaring and painful in their own way, but reframing and comparing trauma is a dangerous game for all involved parties.
  3. Dialogue, not monologue. Talk to us, not at Over the years, I’ve come to realize one universal truth: dialogue empathizes, monologue sympathizes. Sympathy rarely does much good.
  4. Accentism. Guess what, folks?! It’s real! It’s discriminatory and it is not going anywhere until its damaging effects are properly addressed. My father is the smartest man I know, yet when he makes phone calls in America, I speak on his behalf. Not because he’s not fluent in English (he’s actually fluent in four languages), rather, the level of respect that he is treated with drastically changes when a stranger associates his accent with mutism. If you see this being done in public, call it out. It has been my experience that most people don’t even realize that their tone is inappropriate until they are confronted about it. Remember, ignorance does not equate maleficence.
  5. Speak out and speak up, but do not speak for These days, wars are waged on social media left and right. Interestingly enough, I often see people lending voice to the suffering of a group that they have no cultural ties to. Empathy is great, but self-righteous indignation on behalf of a marginalized group is, at its very root, based in colonialism and inherent disrespect. When you speak for me, you are unilaterally telling me that you can do a better job of evoking my own feelings; you are insinuating that you have a stronger voice than I do. Now, if you decide to respond to an offensive post on your own behalf, that’s great! Believe it or not, you can acknowledge your lack of first-hand experience whilst still making your point. For instance, a 28-year-old Black woman who is a naturalized American citizen, I would never try to speak on behalf of all 80-year-old Caucasian women who were born and raised in Australia. That’s to say, when discussing something that is beyond the scope of my lived experience, I provide my point of view strictly as someone outside of the demographic of which that issue directly impacts.
  6. Understand that we experience historic events differently, and that’s okay. I still remember the day of the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks. I vividly remember my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Pope, wheeling in a television into the classroom and keeping the channel on CNN; she casually ate a sandwich as we watched graphic footage of people jumping from what seemed to be the height of the sky. In the coming days, I saw the nation come together in a way that I had never seen before. At the time, my family and I did not yet have our green cards as we were still under Political Asylum. I remember overhearing teachers and other adults talk about immigrants and the need for stricter immigrant policies. I remember feeling, in the pit of my stomach, intense fear that my family and I would be forced to return to Sierra Leone, where we would most certainly have been persecuted. As the weeks passed, galvanized patriotism morphed into threatening language and threatening language ultimately erupted into hateful xenophobia. My mother was so scared for our safety, that she rushed out and bought “Proud to be an American” t-shirts for my siblings and I (mine featured Scooby Doo standing in full salute before a very bright, beaded and sparkly American flag). My mom warned me not to tell people where I was from and to only speak when I was spoken to (my accent was still distinguishable at that point). I share this story to illustrate the importance of recognizing that our lived experiences are different; many Americans remember the immediate aftermath of 9/11 as a time of altruism, heroism, sacrifice, brotherhood and sisterhood … while, I remember those aspects, I also experienced penetrating fear that was distinctive to being a new immigrant to the United States.
  7. I will end where I began; listen. Even within our silence, we are screaming to be heard. We are not complicit nor complacent and we are every bit as human as you and your loved ones. Sometimes the strongest support that you can offer is an open-mind and a conscientious ear that does not impose the need to direct, change, or adapt our language.

Yes, we are living in “unprecedented times, and unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions. Unprecedented actions yield unprecedented results. If my 28-years of life has taught me anything, it has taught me that humanity —at its very core— is inherently good. Americans are strong, adaptable, and more often than not, willing to listen to that which defies everything that they have known to be true through their own lived experience.

When I attend peaceful protests, I see people of every race and creed beside me. When I march for gender equality, I see men steadily matching my pace and chanting in unity. When I disagree with others, I see them willing to listen and grapple with foreign concepts that they once considered beyond their comprehension. When I see parents separated from their children, newcomers degraded on the national stage, I also see volunteers rushing to the streets in protest, lawyers spending days at a time in airports ready to offer pro-bono services to detainees, young people stepping away from computer screens and into the street because they understand that actions speak louder than words … I see resistance.

Today, stay calm, reach out to an immigrant and ask, “How are you feeling?”


What’s there to lose? After all, only through unprecedented compassion can we bring about unprecedented change.

One Love.

My Journey from Bhutan to US - Officer Damber Subba

My Journey from Bhutan to US

- Written by Officer Damber Subba

I was born in Bhutan. I’m from Lhothsampa (Southerner) ethnical group. My great-great grandparents migrated from Nepal to Bhutan and they became Citizens of Bhutan. We speak Nepali. Ngalop (Western and Northern Part) People were culturally dominant in the country. King, Royal Family, and Ministers are from Ngalop. Ngalop originally migrated from Tibet. They speak Dzongkha.

In 1980s, The Government of Bhutan, King, implemented “One Nation One People” policy. The policy was basically a propaganda against Nepali  Speaking Bhutanese Citizens. It was an ethnic cleansing movement against us. We were forced to speak Dzongkha. We were forced to wear Ngalop’s outfit. Our Nepali books were burned by the royal army. We protested peacefully against the dictatorship Monarchial System and asked for a fair/impartial treatment. In return, we were tortured physically and mentally which resulted into hundreds of casualties on our side. We ended up leaving our village and our country Bhutan. Many people died in the jungle as we were escaping from the persecution. There were more than 100,000 people left the country.

I was only two and half year old when we left Bhutan. We settled on the bank of Mahi River, which is one of the borders between India and Nepal. We made a small hut from tree branches and leaves. Nothing was free and available, but water from Mahi River. I lost one of my older sisters from poor living situation. She was one of thousands who died in Mahi Camp from lack of food and nutrition and viruses. There was no health center. We stayed there over six month.

Eventually, UNHCR and Nepal Government CARITAS Nepal rescued us and put us in seven different camps in Eastern Part of Nepal. I spent 17 years in Beldangi – ll Refugee Camp. I remember vividly how it feels not to have food, clothes, and securities and to be discriminated from local people. I remember clearly how it feels for not able to dream who you want to be when you grow up. I remember like yesterday my parents struggle each and every single day to buy one pair of new school uniform for me or to buy a nice meal once in a year for Dashain and Tihar.

In 2008, USA, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, and UK offered to resettle refugees. I chose USA since this is the “Land of Opportunities.”  I even heard that heaven is only couple miles away from US. I came with my mom, dad, one younger brother, and two younger sisters in July 2008 in Akron, Ohio through the International Institute of Akron. I have been blessed to have agencies like IIA, Asian INC and other.

I worked in Akron Foundry Company at first and at the same time going to college and getting trainings to become a professional interpreter. I became Nationally Certified Medial Interpreter in Nepali Language and I started to work for Akron Children’s Hospital. It was very fulfilling experience to be conduit between immigrant community and mainstream population. I always enjoyed helping Healthcare Providers and Non-English Speaking patients.

In 2014, I became a US Citizen and that moment was one of the GREATEST moments of my life. As soon as I became a US Citizen I bought a big US Flag and hung in front of my house and a flag in my car. Then, I started to train to become a police officer so that I could be helpful for Akron Police Department and for the community. I was trying to find a way to give back to this community and ultimately to this country since this country have done so much to us.

I became an officer in Akron Police Department in 2018 and I was the first officer from refugee background. Since I became police, I was able to help so many people in so many different instances such as elderly person paralyzed lying in the house for couple days without any help, rescuing dogs, rescuing children, solving violent crimes and neighbors disputes due to cultural differences and so on. Every single day young boys and girls from different ethnical background such as from Bhutanese Nepali, Burmese, Karen, Congolese, and Afghans ask me how to become an officer. My one brother is Mechanical Engineer. The other brother is in military. Two sisters work in Hospital. I’m living the American Dream big time and I’m proud to be an American!

Gdańsk and Cleveland: Twin Cities and Twin Lighthouses - By Ezra Ellenbogen

Gdańsk and Cleveland: Twin Cities and Twin Lighthouses

- Written by Ezra Ellenbogen

The Gdańsk Nowy Port Light, inspired by the Cleveland Harbor Lighthouse

Photo Credit to Nancy J. Rau via Lighthouse Digest

In 1893, a delegation from Gdańsk, Poland, visited Cleveland on their way to the World Exposition in Chicago.[1]There, the group saw the 1873 Cleveland Harbor Lighthouse, known as one of the most impressive American lighthouses in history. Later that year, the lighthouse had a Polish twin. Gdańsk’s Nowy Port lighthouse went into operation the following year, and even played a part in World War Two.[2] Gdańsk and Cleveland have had a long history of immigration, cultural exchange, and lighthouses, among other things.

Gdańsk (pronounced g-Dy-an-sk) and Cleveland originally pursued a sister city relationship under Mayor Ralph J. Perk, and the partnership was established in 1990 under Mayor Michael R. White.[3]

Polish immigration to Cleveland was critical to the city’s history, especially during its industrialization. Poles constitute one of the largest ethnicities in Cleveland and nearby areas.[4] The first major settlement of Poles in the Greater Cleveland region occurred in the late 1860s, in Berea, a suburb located south of the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.[5] By 1870, 77 Poles lived in Greater Cleveland. Polish immigration to Cleveland soon picked up - cultural and political pressure and oppression in Prussian and Russian Poland drove a lot of Poles away. At the same time, Cleveland industries were rapidly growing, and transportation across the ocean was inexpensive. By 1920, Poles in the city numbered 35,024, with the highest amount of growth seen between 1900 and 1914. The entire state of Ohio reflected similar patterns, with the Polish population soaring to 67,579 by 1920.[6]

From the 1870s on, significant Polish neighborhoods began to form. Major early concentrations of Polish immigrants included Rolling Mills in Newburgh and the E-65th-Fleet Avenue area. The latter of the two saw significant growth from the 1920s to 1990s, and is now known as Slavic Village or Warszawa. The second major Polish settlement was Poznan, around 79th Street and Superior Avenue. The third early major Polish settlement rose about in Tremont, called Kantowo. In 1882, the Cleveland Rolling Mills Strike led to a considerable growth in Cleveland’s Polish population. Primarily Polish immigrants were recruited in New York to break the strike. Poles became the most prominent group in heavy labor and industry in the city.

Religion was a very important force in early Polish Cleveland politics. In fact, it was the center of the community’s largest conflict. Local church politics drove a division in the city after the removal of Father Anton F. Kolaszewski from the St. Stanislaus Parish in 1892. These church politics heavily divided the community, leading to the establishment of separate newspapers and fraternal organizations, and it even became a force that influenced local elections.

The Polish population of Cleveland peaked in 1930 with 36,668 people. By then, the Polish community of the city had multiple newspapers, banks, churches, and more. Even though religious conflicts within the community had worn down, political differences became chief divisions of Polish communities. Poles in Kantowo, which was originally settled by mostly Russian Poles, tended to be Socialist and tended to support Marshal Joseph Pilsudski. Poles in Warszawa, which was originally settled by mostly Prussian Poles, tended to be in favor of   Ignace Paderewski. This was incredibly divisive for Poles in Cleveland. Even the two newspapers reflected the split, with The Wiadomosci being pro-Pilsudski, whereas The Monitor was anti-Pilsudski. Unifying Cleveland’s Polish community, even with the help of organizations, was difficult.

The German invasion of Poland temporarily put the issue aside. However, after World War Two, political divisions became prominent again, this time over opinions on the new Communist state of Poland.

Cleveland’s Polish community was much less divided on American politics, especially after the Great Depression. The city’s Polish community has been predominantly Democratic since then. One important thing to note is that Warszawa and its people have been represented much more within Cleveland politics than other Polish communities. Prominent Polish political figures from Cleveland include Joseph Sawicki, who was elected to the state house in 1906 and to the municipal court in the 1920s and 1930s.

After the 1930s, Cleveland’s Polish population began to decrease. It rose and fell numerous times for decades. However, nowadays, the urban area of Cleveland’s Polish population accounts for almost 33% of the entire state of Ohio’s Polish population.[7]

Cleveland and Gdańsk saw decades of positive interactions, trade, and events before tragedy struck (warning: mention of murder). On Sunday, January 13th, 2019, Paweł Adamowicz, a six-term mayor of Gdańsk, was stabbed brutally at a charity event in Cleveland; he died the next day at the age of 53. Adamowicz was a well-known liberal mayor who made historical strides in defending the rights of immigrants, refugees, and LGBTQ+ people in Gdańsk. The assailant had been released from jail within the past month, and blamed Adamowicz’s former political party, Civic Platform, for his jailing in 2014 following violent attacks.[8] A national mourning was held from the 18th to the 19th of January across Poland. Numerous cities, including Gdańsk and Warsaw, held events of mourning.

Cleveland and Gdańsk’s partnership have had a positive legacy of immigration, cultural exchange, and more, even if there is a tragic event that taints it. Adamowicz will live on in Cleveland and Gdańsk’s heart. As sister cities, the two have built each other up, and it is important to recognize all that has come from their partnership, as well as to keep Adamowicz’s legacy alive alongside it.

- Ezra Ellenbogen

Ezra's blog: One Page Stories

[1] https://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=282

[2] http://latarnia-morska.pl/en/lighthouse-gdansk-nowy-port/

[3] https://case.edu/ech/articles/cleveland-sister-city-partnerships

[4] https://www.cleveland.com/datacentral/2011/10/searchable_database_shows_ethnic_breakdown_for_ohio_cities.html

[5] https://case.edu/ech/articles/p/poles

[6] http://ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Polish_Ohioans

[7] https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=SELECTED%20SOCIAL%20CHARACTERISTICS%20IN%20THE%20UNITED%20STATES&g=0400000US39_400C100US17668&tid=ACSDP1Y2019.DP02&hidePreview=true

[8] https://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2019/01/14/mayor-of-clevelands-polish-sister-city-assassinated-at-charity-event

Studying in Japan: My Personal Pilgrimage and Self-Reflection - By Collin Derrig

Studying in Japan: My Personal Pilgrimage and Self-Reflection

– Written by Collin Derrig

I spent the second semester of my Sophomore year at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka Prefecture, Japan. That I went alone with no real connection and no peers, actually made the experience even more enriching because I was forced to branch out and not lean on the support structures, I had grown accustomed to during 20 years of life in Northeast Ohio. This lack of structure allowed me to connect with people and places that I never would have and to find a better understanding of my own fears and loves.

I arrived in Osaka via airplane in mid-January of 2019, the first few days were a whirlwind of excitement and orientation where I knew nothing and no one, however the first weekend gave way insecurity. I was lost and nervous till I started walking and watching life around me. Kids played in parks, laundry air-dried hanging from balconies, and people went to the Konbini(Convenience Store). Just as in Ohio, Japan was a place full of people simply trying to live their lives, just like me. That simple walk assuaged my fears and was the true start of a wonderful 5 months.

Walking introduced me to people from all over and by talking to them I quickly discovered group of friends from all over the world; Japan, Italy, Florida, Singapore, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, and even the remote exotic land of Ravenna, Ohio. Who knew I would find a friend from so close to home by traveling to the other side of the globe? My travels with my friends took us to shopping districts and vibrant urban centers, as well as densely forested mountains and gorgeous Buddhist Temples. These trips to the mountains and the monastic communities that were often centered on them helped me discover my deep fascination with Japanese religion. This worked in perfect tandem with the courses I was taking giving me both classroom and experiential learning all at the same time.

This fascination inspired me to take two solo trips centered on the Shingon Sect of Esoteric Buddhism, one of Japan’s oldest Buddhist sects. I undertook a section of the Shikoku Henro, Japan’s largest pilgrimage, a 1400-kilometer trek around to circumference of the island of Shikoku to 88 Shingon temples. I only had a few days so I visited the first 8 temples on foot and it was a wonderful trip where I was reminded once again of the wonders of people. I traveled for stretches with two different people. On the first day I walked for a while and was guided in the right direction by an elderly Japanese man, without his map I would have bee
n very lost. I spent my third day with an Irish travel writer who regaled me with tales of India and Central Asia. My other solo trip was to Mt. Koya the mountain, the center and location of the headquarters of Shingon Buddhism. The mountain is also home to one of the world’s oldest active cemeteries which has been active for over 1,100 years. The cemetery and temple complex is located in a forest of 100 foot tall cedars. It was the most fantastical feeling place I have been to in my life. I really can’t put it into words.

Coming back to America has been a mixed bag, I miss the places, people, and infrastructure of Japan, but I also love Ohio and home. I hope to go back, but I know because of that journey I gained a more nuanced appreciation for my home and for the struggle of newcomers to it. From a personal perspective I can now relate a little to feeling lost in a new place and part of the struggle people coming to America or more specifically Ohio face, but I also recognize I had an end date. I knew eventually that I would be going “home” for better or for worse. Many others don’t have that reassurance for reasons of both physical and economic security. However, I do know that my experiences, both struggles and joys, in Japan have made me a better more understanding person.

Note: Collin Derrig is Global Cleveland Research Associate , a 4th year student at John Carroll University from Cuyahoga Falls. This article discusses how study abroad in Japan shaped him and made him a better person.

A Brief History of Cleveland's Sister Cities 

A Brief History of Cleveland's Sister Cities

- Written by Ezra Ellenbogen

Image Credit to Jenika Gonzales via Global Cleveland

Cleveland has a very large number of sister cities - 23 to be exact.[1]This is quite a few, especially compared to larger cities in the US, such as Houston (18)[2] or San Diego (16)[3]. Cleveland’s sister city partnerships are not only quite numerous, but also, very historically, economically, and politically significant. First, let’s look at the overall rise in the concept of sister cities - and then Cleveland’s own history with them.

Although cities had been unofficially partnered before it became popular, the concept of sister cities gained traction only after World War II.[4] World War II left the world in a very fragile state, and most countries wanted to work towards new goals of international diplomacy, connectedness, and above all else, some form of peace. Average citizens wanted to create a sense of international community but did not have the resources to establish treaties or international organizations. “Sister Cities” or “Twin Towns” became popular, starting in Europe. Towns on opposing sides of past or current conflicts created partner city programs to spread culture and a sense of community, as well as to primarily try to undo any sense of mutual animosity. In the 1950s, The Council of European Municipalities made the “sister city” movement a priority for European localities. In 1956, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the Sister Cities International Organization, a nonprofit that promotes international sister city connections and aims to foster bonds between cities and regions.[5]

The most prevalent trends of the post-WWII rise of sister cities are in sister cities in areas that were formally in conflict, including, most prominently, partnerships between the UK and France and partnerships between the US and Japan. Another trend that can be observed is the natural tendency of cities to create relationships with cities that have the same (or a very similar) name as them, though this can be seen even before WWII. Most interestingly, US geographic trends show that West Coast cities are more likely to pair up with Japanese cities, whereas East Coast cities are more likely to pair up with European cities.

Even though sister city partnerships have become more economically-motivated in recent years, Cleveland and numerous other cities have done amazing jobs creating important cultural connections between cities as far as continents away, while also being able to maintain economic relations.

In 1964, under the Mayoral Administration of Ralph S. Locher, Cleveland founded its first sister city partnership with the city of Lima, Peru. This partnership was the result of an initiative by the Women’s City Club of Cleveland. The decision to create the partnership was made in collaboration with Lima City Councilman Fortunato O. Brown. In 1965, a delegation from Northern Ohio, led by Mary Hirschfield, the Plain Dealer’s Latin American correspondent, toured Lima, Peru, and met with the city’s (then) mayor, Luis Bedoya Reyes. The sister city partnership was very exciting for the city and even inspired local suburbs to start their own, though more Cleveland sister city partnerships would not be created until 1973.

In 1971, Mayor Ralph J. Perk took office. Mayor Perk was well known for his participation in the affairs of Cleveland’s Eastern European communities from which he hailed. In 1973, Perk’s administration created a second sister city relationship - with Brașov, Romania. Nicolae Ceaușescu himself chose Cleveland for a new sister city, as a part of a broader political strategy to undermine the USSR’s exertion of its political sphere. Cleveland was the 10th largest city in the US at the time, and the sister city partnership set an important precedent for Romanian foreign policy. However, Mayor Perk saw the partnership as a new avenue into cultural and economic opportunities, and his administration went on to establish ten sister city partnerships, as well as reportedly pursuing partnerships with seven more cities. Cleveland’s high number of sister cities is one of the most prominent legacies of the Perk Administration.

Subsequent mayoral administrations did not dedicate much energy to international relations, focusing instead on domestic issues. Cleveland was pulled back into the global stage with the Cold War. In 1985, left-leaning residents of Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights sought a partnership with the Soviet city of Volzhsky, an effort which succeeded by 1988. Nearby Clevelanders began to seek a similar city sister association with Volgograd. This was initially vetoed in 1989 but later established in 1990. These sister city partnerships (alongside many others in American cities) were influential to the development of detente between the United States and the Soviet Union. Resulting cultural change helped spread Russian culture through the city. At the time, Russian and Soviet culture was quite demonized, so this was an important step towards both detente and the bettering of relations. Business relations and agreements with the Soviet Union were helpful to the late USSR’s economic goals envisioned under Khrushchev, and even benefitted Cleveland companies.

The impressive successes of Cleveland’s association with Volgograd prompted further enthusiasm for establishing global relations. Under the administration of Michael R. White, six more sister city associations were forged. This included the sister city association with Miskolc, Hungary, which was highly anticipated because of Cleveland’s very significant Hungarian population. In fact, Cleveland’s Hungarian population has historically been one of the largest globally.[6] Unfortunately, Fort Worth, Texas was first in line to create a partnership with Budapest, though Hungarian-Clevelanders were still very excited to have connections with Hungary.

By the start of the 21st century, the administration of Jane L. Campbell established two more sister city associations. Under the current administration of The Honorable Mayor Frank G. Jackson, 4 more sister city associations have been founded - including, most recently in 2019, one with Beit-She’an, Israel.

Finally, here is a quick rundown of the “four waves” of Cleveland’s sister cities.

1964 - Lima, Peru

1973-77 - Brașov, Romania; Ibandan, Nigeria; Ljubljana, Slovenia (then Yugoslavia); Taipei, Taiwan; Bangalore, India; Alexandria, Egypt; Holon, Israel; Cleveland, UK

1990-95 - Volgograd, Russia (then the USSR); Gdańsk, Poland; Bratislava, Slovakia (then Czechoslovakia); Conakry, Guinea; Segundo Montes, El Salvador; Klaipėda, Lithuania; Miskolc, Hungary

2003-19 - West Mayo, Ireland; Bahir-Dar, Ethiopia; Fier, Albania; Rouen, France; Vicenza, Italy; Beit-She’an, Israel

Cleveland has a very important history as a global city. From Lima to Beit-She’an, every single one of Cleveland’s sister cities has been incredibly important to the cultural and economic development of the city. Some prominent sister cities such as Rouen, France and Volgograd, Russia have had very significant histories that have shaped Cleveland and themselves. Cleveland has indicated it is open to new partnerships as well as maintaining its current ones. What’s for sure is that Cleveland will continue to strive for international diplomacy and multiculturalism through its diverse and historic sister city program.

- by Ezra Ellenbogen

Ezra's blog: One Page Stories


[1] https://case.edu/ech/articles/cleveland-sister-city-partnerships

[2] https://www.houstontx.gov/abouthouston/sistercities.html

[3] https://www.sandiego.gov/insidesd/san-diego-sister-cities

[4] https://priceonomics.com/why-do-we-have-sister-cities/

[5] https://sistercities.org/about-us/

[6] https://case.edu/ech/articles/h/hungarians

Cleveland and Rouen: A Pair of Sister Cities That Go Back 100 Years - By Ezra Ellenbogen

Cleveland and Rouen: A Pair of Sister Cities That Go Back 100 Years

-Written by Ezra Ellenbogen

A Picture From the 10 Year Anniversary Celebration (clecityhall.com)

Although Rouen and Cleveland technically established their official sister city relationship in 2008,[1] the strong cultural and political relationship between the cities has existed for over a century. The sister city relationship between Rouen, the French city of around 112 thousand, and Cleveland, the American city of around 388 thousand, started unusually. That is, it started with a medical unit in World War I France.[2][3]

When World War I broke out, the American Ambassador to France, Myron Herrick (a Clevelander himself), asked renowned surgeon and physician, George Washington Crile, to organize a surgical team to assist French forces.[4] Dr. Crile recruited a team of volunteer nurses and surgeons from Lakeside Hospitals in Cleveland (now University Hospitals). The “Lakeside Unit,” as it was called, worked across Northern France, especially near Rouen and Paris. Through the two years of being stationed in France (1915-1917), the Lakeside Unit grew significantly in size and treated over 83,000 patients from both sides of the war. Dr. Crile and his group heavily changed the quality of overseas medical services for the better and were able to apply results from their work to further innovations in the medical field. Dr. Crile’s revelations and new medical ideas inspired him to co-found today’s Cleveland Clinic along with three other doctors from the Unit: Frank E. Bunts, William E. Lower, and John Philips.[5]

Cultural and economic links between the cities exist as well. First, French immigration to Cleveland never grew especially rapidly, and instead, developed gradually. That is, although the number of French immigrants was often rather low in pre-Industrial Cleveland, they certainly influenced the culture and diversity of the city and its surrounding region over time.[6]

As for economic ties: a handful of Cleveland companies, including most prominently, Lubrizol, Lincoln Electric, and MTD Products, are major employers in Rouen.[7][8] In fact, business ties helped drive the decision to partner the cities. Yannick Le Couedic revived the local chapter of the French-American Chamber of Commerce and encouraged the city of Cleveland to build on its foundation of relations with Rouen. Le Couedic is a retired Lubrizol executive who grew up in France and lived in Northeast Ohio. In 2008, Mayor Frank G. Jackson established a sister city partnership with Rouen with hopes of economic and cultural exchange. This sister city relationship went on to become one of the most productive, as well as one of the most culturally and economically significant that Cleveland has ever had.

Since it was established, the Cleveland-Rouen sister city relationship accomplished numerous goals. In January 2008, a delegation from Rouen visited and toured Cleveland Clinic. Since then, medical facilities in both cities have kept in touch. Later, the head of MTD Products in France, Philippe Obadia, checked out a new commercial mower in Cleveland and toured MTD factories across the state. Airlines, businesses, mayors, artists, and more have all been involved in the action.

In 2018, Cleveland and Rouen’s sister city relationship reached its 10th anniversary, strong as ever. In celebration, Cleveland and Rouen had a ‘mural exchange’ project and coordinated a Bastille Day celebration on July 14th in Cleveland. Bastille Day is a French national holiday commemorating the storming of Bastille - a fortress and prison - on July 14th, 1789, an event which helped usher in the French Revolution.[9] The 6-hour Bastille Day reflected French culture with a celebration that included food, live entertainment, and more.

The mural project started with Paatrice Marchand, a Rouen artist, creating the well-known “fried eggs” mural on the side of Market Garden Brewery.[10] The mural depicts fried eggs floating about the sky like clouds, and says, “If you see a cloud behind the sun, it must be an egg.” Later that year, local Cleveland artist Lisa Quine was chosen to paint a mural in Rouen in collaboration with French graffiti enthusiast group “Idem & Mozaik.” The roughly 2,500 square feet large mural ended up as a splash of color and geometry, with a broad banner that reads “All colors are beautiful.[11]

Rouen and Cleveland have a strong sister city partnership that has promoted economic and cultural development and exchange. In fact, the two cities, in collaboration with the French-American Chamber of Commerce, are designing and launching a French cultural garden in Cleveland by Spring 2020.[12] You can find out more about this exciting project at faccohio.org/foundation. From the arts to business, Rouen and Cleveland have helped develop each other culturally and economically. Here’s to another 100 years of good relations!

- by Ezra Ellenbogen

Ezra's Blog: One Page Stories

[1] https://case.edu/ech/articles/cleveland-sister-city-partnerships

[2] https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/france-population/

[3] https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population/?TB_iframe=true&width=370.8&height=658.8

[4] https://www.cleveland.com/metro/2017/04/cleveland_clinic_co_founder_george_crile.html

[5] https://ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Cleveland_Clinic

[6] https://case.edu/ech/articles/f/french

[7] https://www.cleveland.com/business/2008/04/it_was_the_war_to.html

[8] https://clecityhall.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/2018-rouen-cleveland-sister-city-10th-anniversary-proc.pdf

[9] https://www.history.com/topics/france/bastille-day

[10] https://clevelandtraveler.com/cleveland-mural-guide/

[11] https://rouen.fr/idem-mozaik

[12] https://www.faccohio.org/foundation.html

Taipei and Cleveland - By Ezra Ellenbogen

Taipei and Cleveland

- Written By Ezra Ellenbogen

An image of a Pride event in Taipei

Image Credit to Carl Court / Getty Images

June is Pride Month in the United States! In the United States, LGBTQ+ rights have come a long way since the original Stonewall riots (though there is still some progress to be made), but globally, LGBTQ+ citizens are most often not given the same rights as straight citizens, and even sometimes considered illegal. Unfortunately, Asia is home to little progress in this field, but Taiwan has pioneered LGBTQ+ rights in a region where such rights are almost unheard of.[1]Taiwan’s capital is Taipei - and the city of Taipei is a sister city of Cleveland. First - a bit of background.

On September 25th, 1975, former Cleveland Mayor Ralph J. Perk and former Taipei Mayor Lin Yang-Kang partnered their cities as sister cities.[2] Taipei City is a very friendly city, as shown with their total of 52 sister city partnerships (Cleveland has 23 including Beit-She’an).[3] In 1985, Taipei City generously gifted the Chinese Cultural Garden to Cleveland.[4] The beautiful garden was modeled after the Chinese Imperial Palace and includes two Chinese dragon statues as well as one of Confucius. In 1990, the state of Ohio and Taiwan became “sister states.[5]” Ties between the two regions have been positive throughout the sister city relationship.

In 2016, Taiwan was the 6th largest export market in Asia for Ohio. Business interactions between Taiwanese businesses and the city of Cleveland have helped diversify the reach of numerous Taiwanese products. Moreover, Taiwanese students have had numerous scholarly opportunities in Cleveland, especially with Case Western Reserve University. Reciprocally, Cleveland students have had similar academic opportunities in Taiwan, and both sides of the exchange have helped spread Taiwanese and Cleveland culture.[6] For instance, in May 2019, 16 Taiwanese high-school-age music students visited the city of Cleveland, welcomed by a local delegation that later traveled to meet the same group in Taiwan. While visiting Cleveland, the students toured three world-renowned music conservatories across Northeast Ohio, learned about music therapy, and more. In Taipei in October, Cleveland’s delegation of 3 high-school students participated in local music-themed activities and music service learning projects, visited local temples, learned about playing the Chinese Zither (Guzheng), and more.

Taiwan is known for its progressiveness with LGBTQ+ rights, as well as its festive Pride celebrations. The country’s rights for members of the LGBTQ+ community are still developing, but they are certainly the most forward in the region. Taiwan has a large and flourishing LGBTQ+ community, and a record 200,000 people participated in Taipei’s 2019 Pride parade.[7] For comparison, 80,000 people attended the 2015 Taipei Pride event.[8] The main reason for the sudden influx of pride and celebration was that Taiwan legalized same-sex marraige that year. The struggle for LGBTQ+ rights in Taiwan has been a long and politically divisive one.[9] Taipei’s Pride march started in 2003, and since then, there has been a major political movement behind legalizing same-sex marraige in the country.

In 2016, the first female president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, was elected, and expressed clear support for the LGBTQ+ community as well as its members’ legal rights. In 2017, the Taiwanese constitutional court struck down the Civil Code’s definition of marriage being only between a man and a woman, and this led to a political struggle throughout Taiwan’s government that resulted in the 2019 legalization of same-sex marraige by President Tsai.

Taiwan is well-known globally for its modern Pride celebrations. In fact, Taiwan’s Pride parades most often include international groups. Taiwan is a beacon for LGBTQ+ rights in Asia, and the country’s Pride celebrations include Pride movements from other countries that are not supported by their own state, including prominent Hong Kong LGBTQ+ movements.[10]

Pride celebrations in Taiwan typically occur in the month of October, which is known as LGBTQ+ History Month, or sometimes Queer History Month. In the United States, Pride celebrations are typically in June, to commemorate the Stonewall riots. October was chosen for other countries’ Pride months to coincide with Coming Out Day - which is October 11th.[11]

Taipei City and Cleveland have a history of cooperation and beneficial cultural exchange. Moreover, now is a good time to recognize and appreciate the progress made by Taiwan, not only for its cultural diplomacy with the United States and especially Cleveland, but also for its wondrous progress with LGBTQ+ rights. It is important to recognize the progress that has been made globally, as well as what still needs to be accomplished.

Happy Pride Month!

[1] https://www.ozy.com/news-and-politics/special-briefing-is-asia-becoming-gay-friendly/94470/

[2] https://english.sec.gov.taipei/cp.aspx?n=2789B64DFDD8B838

[3] http://www.tcc.gov.tw/en/cp.aspx?n=81569D74DD82C7DB

[4] https://case.edu/ech/articles/c/cleveland-cultural-gardens

[5] https://english.moe.gov.tw/fp-117-22292-DAE02-1.html

[6] https://www.ccwa.org/building-bridges-from-cleveland-to-taiwan/

[7] https://focustaiwan.tw/society/201910260006

[8] https://oftaiwan.org/social-movements/lgbtq-movement-in-taiwan/

[9] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/24/world/asia/taiwan-same-sex-marriage-court.html?mwrsm=Facebook&_r=0

[10] https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/taiwan-pride-bigger-ever-beacon-lgbtq-rights-asia-n815641

[11] https://www.wright.edu/diversity-and-inclusion/culture-and-identity-centers/lgbtqa-affairs/international-lgbtqa-dates-to-know