Celebrating St. George With Charity Fundraising

In Budapest

The U.K. Ambassador to Hungary Paul Fox (left) and Stephen Linfitt, publisher of and organizer of the St. George’s Day event.

The celebration of St. George and England drew a full house to the ballroom of the Budapest Marriott Hotel on April 22, also raising HUF 1.924 million for the Food Bank for Ukrainian Conflict Refugees in Budapest and UNICEF, to help children affected by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, the two charities say.

Dignitaries included Ambassadors Paul Fox (United Kingdom), Désirée Bonis (the Netherlands) and Camilo Sanhueza (Chile).

“We can and should celebrate our heritage, our history and our culture,” said Fox in his opening speech. St. George, adopted as England’s patron saint around the early 1400s, has a “shared significance for many,” he added. Greece, Bulgaria, Ethiopia and Syria also have the saint as a patron, among others.

“It was an honor and a pleasure to attend the second St. George’s Day celebration organized by XpatLoop. [….] I was proud to be a part of this event, which is becoming a fixture in Budapest’s social calendar,” Ambassador Fox said after the event. 

Stephen Linfitt, the publisher of and event organizer, noted that St. George’s Day is heralded as the arrival of spring in the traditional Ukrainian calendar.

“England’s patron saint was a truly international figure. St. George is a positive symbol of multiculturalism, as the great range of guests here tonight shows,” Linfitt said.

Ukrainian children’s choir.

English Rose

He presented red roses (the symbol of English county Yorkshire and the national rugby union team) to key ladies and thanked everyone for joining the event.

“It’s what St. George stands for that counts most, basically the courage to face adversity in order to defend the innocent. That’s why tonight it’s appropriate to stand with Ukraine, and specifically to help the innocent affected by the conflict,” Linfitt concluded.

Event MC and actor Alexis Latham gave his take on St. George’s Day, the day on which Shakespeare was both born and died in 1616, then introduced the Reverend Frank Hegedűs, the priest at St Margaret’s Anglican Church in Budapest who gave a light-hearted talk on the life and legacy of St. George.

TV personality Zsuzsa Demcsák led the auction, which included a waterpolo ball signed by members of Hungary’s Olympic and European Championship winning men’s team.

There was plenty of food and drink on offer, including English classics like fish and chips and curry. In additions to games and other diversions, there was also a broad range of musical entertainment.

Concert pianist Mariann Marczi serenaded guests with classical renderings of Elgar, Purcell and Handel before an uptempo version of Jerusalem was sung by opera singer Lucie Juránková.

Globetrotting six-piece band Just Showband covered English pop and rock touchstones and dance numbers in two sets, while tribute band the Bowie Boys also entertained the crowd.

DJ Woods played tunes from England’s pop and rock canon, and it was time to throw a few shapes on the dancefloor and cap off the event with pure partying until early the next morning.

But perhaps the musical highlight, gaining a standing ovation, was a choir of  14 Ukrainian children, mainly from the east of the country and displaced by the war and attending the Ukrainian Refugee Educational Project at the American International School of Budapest. The children were led by Oksana Matviishyna, who happened to be in Hungary with her children when the war broke out.

A qualified teacher with 25 years’ experience, she was allowed to set up “a school within a school” at the AISB, allowing around 300 refugee children to continue their education in their own language, retain their identity and regain a modicum of normality.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of May 19, 2023.

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