WHENEVER A PEOPLE FORGET ITS WORTHY PAST, THE DAY WILL COME WHEN IT WILL NOT HAVE A PAST WORTH REMEMBERING.
-Inscribed on the crypt wall of the Alba Regia Memorial Chapel
BRINGING TOGETHER VOICES OF FREEDOM
The Alba Regia Chapel and Memorial Park are located on Mount Tabor, outside of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. Built in 1980, out of the vision and tenacity of its founder, Ilona Mária Győrik, the Chapel and park are maintained by the Hungarian Freedom Fighters Federation, Inc. (HFFF).
ILONA MARIA GYORIK
July 10, 1925 – May 7, 2011
Founder of the Alba Regia Memorial Chapel
Past Secretary of the World Hungarian Freedom Fighters Federation
Ilona Maria Győrik, together with her husband, József and their four children, fled Hungary during the 1956 uprising against Soviet occupation. After narrowly escaping death, when Mrs. Győrik reached Austrian soil, she vowed to devote the rest of her life to the service of mankind.
The family first settled in Denmark and was later relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1959, following a National Science Foundation award to her husband. It was in the United States where Mrs. Győrik fulfilled her promise to serve others. She quickly became immersed in political and social causes.
Mrs. Győrik was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Council for the Advancement of Retired People and participated in the monthly White House Prayer Breakfast for many years. She formed a Capitol Hill lobbying team, with István Gerebend, and regularly briefed the President and Members of Congress on Hungary’s political status and impact on national and global affairs. Mrs. Győrik participated in the Captive Nations group and under their auspices testified in Congress. She helped initiate the participation of the Hungarian Freedom Fighters Federation in the annual wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Mrs. Győrik arranged the historic visit of Cardinal Mindszenty to the United States, as well as his celebration of Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. She honored the last request of the Hungarian born American Civil war hero, Major General Alexander (Sándor) Asbóth to be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
Mrs. Győrik was distressed at the tragic plight of too many Hungarian émigrés. When an elderly Hungarian lady without any family passed away, Mrs. Győrik arranged for a priest to officiate at the funeral and brought flowers. She and he were the only ones in attendance at the cemetery and were shocked when cemetery officials removed the casket, saying the old lady would be buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave. This incident motivated her for the rest of her life. Her goal was to care for Hungarian refugees by helping them to assimilate into American life, while maintaining their culture from their native home. She also raised awareness of the shared values between the United States and Hungary, especially the importance of freedom.
In 1966, Mrs. Győrik organized and hosted a Hungarian Ball which drew numerous international guests becoming her major fundraising benefit for the next 25 years. In all there were 29 Debutante Balls. She arranged to have the U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen escort the Hungarian debutantes. Among the ball patrons she garnered over the years were Vice Presidents’ wives, ambassadors’ wives, and luminaries such Mrs. Jouett Shouse (née Catherine Filene) and Major General Donald Shelton Dawson USAF (RET). Major General Dawson, attorney and presidential aide, masterminded President Truman’s famous whistle-stop tour and was married to Hungarian actress Ilona Massey.
In 1981, Mrs. Győrik established the Alba Regia Chapel and memorial cemetery in Morgan County, West Virginia. Alba Regia is the only memorial chapel in America, which honors Hungarian Freedom Fighters. Hungarians from all over the world are buried there. Her legacy of preserving Hungarian culture and reminding others of the strong democratic values shared by Americans and Hungarians alike lives on in her name.