It’s Sunday afternoon. The clock strikes 2 p.m., and five radio show hosts with passions for Hungarian culture, language, community events, literature and music take the air.
For the next three hours, listeners will hear nothing but the Hungarian language across the WJCU 88.7 FM radio waves.
And, that’s the way it’s been for the last 30 years.
Listeners around the United States hailing from New York, California and many other states, and in countries across the globe such as Hungary and Transylvania, stream the program online, allowing the tones of traditional and modern Hungarian composers to fill their homes.
They gather around and listen to current host Istvan Hargitai read Hungarian poems and literary works. They take note of the Hungarian events in the Cleveland area where they can come together as a community that are promoted by the hosts.
Although this source of programming for Hungarian-Americans in the Cleveland area has grown and evolved through the years, it all started with one man. In 1984, JCU student Andras Toth wanted to fill a void in the local Hungarian community.
In the 1980s, Toth’s neighbor, Frank Szappanos, broadcasted a well-known and beloved Hungarian program every Sunday that featured both gypsy and contemporary music.
However, the program ceased to exist in 1984. Toth decided to use his resources at WJCU FM to give back to the Hungarian community and provide it with a way to preserve its culture.
According to Hargitai, “The Hungarian broadcast was the first nationality radio show broadcasting from the tower at JCU. Soon thereafter, other nationality programs came into existence as the opportunity presented itself.”
Since its start in 1984, the radio show has seen a succession of hosts throughout the years. As the hosts have come and gone, the show has changed, evolved and been tailored to fit the needs of its target audience – the local Hungarian community.
“Our mission is to bring [the Hungarian community] together so they know about each other and their activities,” said Hargitai. “This is the force we want to be in the Cleveland area.”
And, as the years have gone by, the number of listeners the show reaches has grown.
Co-host and technical producer Zsolt Molnar, who first came to the show in 2012, values the chance to give back to the local Hungarian community.
“I’ve gained a lot from them, and this show is my way of thanking them,” he said.
The hosts also noted that the main intention of the show is to preserve the Hungarian culture, language, music and overall identity in the United States.
“I’ve lived in the U.S. since I was 12, so the radio show is a good way to keep up my language skills,” said Hargitai. “Also, it’s about sharing the culture with the younger generation, my son’s generation and my grandchildren’s generation. “
Hargitai added that, “Sometimes, if you have mixed marriages, it’s difficult to keep up the language and have the child be bilingual or trilingual. My motivation is to be able to instill a bit of Hungarian identity on top of the American identity, which is already there. There’s not conflict. It’s just a different dimension. It’s a plus.”
The Hungarian radio show at WJCU FM paved the way for a diversity of ethnic programming that still is thriving today, according to General Manager Krieger. Every Sunday, WJCU FM features back-to-back radio shows that feature countries across the globe.
The Sunday community ethnic programs include everything from a Lithuanian show to an Armenian show – and much more.
“Ethnic programming has been a staple of WJCU for decades, and there’s a demand for it. As a noncommercial radio station, we don’t sell advertising time,” said Krieger. “The fact of the matter is that broadcasters are given access to the airwaves and granted that license with the explicit expectation that they will serve the community of license as a public trustee. For WJCU in particular, one of our missions is to do just that. We look for segments of the community that are underserved by commercial broadcasters. And, there are virtually little or no commercial broadcasting carriers for these ethnic communities within the Cleveland area.”
On Saturday, March 29, the Hungarian radio show – Bocskai Radio the Voice of Cleveland Hungarians – is celebrating 30 years of Hungarian community programming.
The Tim Russert Department of Communication & Theatre Arts, the Classical and Modern Languages and Cultures Department, WJCU FM and Bocskai Radio will be hosting an event to celebrate this milestone in the D.J. Lombardo Student Center Atrium from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. the following day, Sunday, March 30.
The event will feature guest speakers, including Deputy Consul General of the Consulate General of Hungary in New York Zita Bencsik, professor of Nordonia school system and member of American Hungarian Educators Association Endre Szentkiralyi, Chairperson of the JCU Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Cultures Martha Pereszlenyi-Pinter, Krieger and Hargitai.
Performances from the Hungarian Scout Folk Dance Ensemble, a well-known group of Hungarian Scout youth, will follow the speakers.
The radio show will also feature a special programming during its normally scheduled time for the Hungarian audience. The 30th anniversary show will feature old recordings, past broadcasts and a walk down memory lane.
At the end of the day, the celebration on March 29 is the Bocskai Radio’s way of thanking WJCU FM.
“Not only do we want the other community radio stations and programs to see how strong we are, but we want this day to be one where we thank the teachers and students of the University for giving us a home for the past 30 years,” said Molnar.