Steve Ban                                               Steve at 9 Years old                                                                 Steve's Family                                                                                                                                                                        
                          Freedom!!                                                      Bellingham Herald NW Indian Affairs reporter Natasha Brennan

August 30, 2021 

Opening Welcome:  
President Peter rang the bell to open the club’s 4706th meeting, the 8th in-person since the pandemic restrictions were eased. He told the members that his wife had reminded him not to try to be “too charming, witty or intellectual,” in other words, to be himself. He will be happy to know that he succeeded.
Book Review:
Jodi Borrelli reviewed Fighting For Space, a non-fiction book written by Travis Lupick, published in 2018. The book recounts events in the 1990s in the lower east side of Vancouver, B.C.,  a neighborhood plagued by addiction, poverty and homelessness. Two women, Liz Evans and Ann Livingston, treated the addicts with empathy and respect, resulting in the neighborhood turning around. The author highlights the triumphs and failures of the struggle, noting that, what started out as a localized street battle, ended up in Parliament. The author recounts how slippery the slope into addiction can be, noting how one character, Matt Bell, a model citizen, started innocently, using Percocet to relieve the pain of a shoulder injury, and ending up hooked on heroin. Health authorities and law enforcement in Vancouver worked together to pursue the same bottom line: keeping people alive. They accomplished this by adopting  a “Four Pillars” approach to addiction: Health authorities and law enforcement continued with prevention, treatment, and enforcement and, in addition, implemented a series of complimentary programs known as harm reduction. Addiction was finally recognized as a health crisis rather than as criminal behavior.  The city of Vancouver provides a working model for other cities facing this common problem.
Club and Committee Announcements
1. Paul Grey announced that the International Service Committee submitted a District Grant proposal for a project (total of $10,000) for latrines in our adopted village of Las Penas in Copan, Honduras. Our club will contribute $5,000 and the District will match it if the proposal is approved. We should know if our grant is approved by mid-October.
2. There will be NO meeting next week, September 6th, due to the Labor Day Holiday.
3. There will be a Board of Directors meeting on Zoom, September 9th at 4:30 PM.
4.  The Football Pool will be starting at the next meeting, September 13th, so bring your cash.
5. President Peter Theisen: If we’re sick of being reminded about the opportunity to sponsor the RCOB website, now is the time to act.  Annual sponsorships cost $350.00. The rotating ad appears on the RCOB webpage and a link takes people directly to your personal business webpage.

Weekly Meeting instructions:

You will still receive an email from Sandee each week prior to the Monday 12:30 meeting if you are unable to attend in person (you can start logging in at 12:00 for short socializing) with the link for that privacy protected meeting.  If you have not done so, please download the Zoom app on your computer (you need a camera and microphone on it), iPad or phone.  There is no cost to you.  If you do not have either, you can also call in.  On the invitation, there are US phone numbers you can call and enter the meeting ID number also indicated on the invitation.  HERE ARE ZOOM INSTRUCTIONS.

Four Points is not requiring a Contract thru 2021 and need only 72 hours to cancel an event. We will continue to evaluate other locations for a permanent location.   Lunch will be $22 for a sit down meal. We must notify them by Wednesday at 4:00 pm each week prior to the Monday meeting as to the number of members attending.  We are sending out meeting “Invite's” weekly and members are asked to sign-up ASAP. You can also sign-up by going to the event section of our website at  If you sign up for a meal at the meeting, you will need to pay the $22 even if you don't wind up attending the meeting after numbers are turned in.  If you plan to attend but not eat, PLEASE indicate that on your sign-up so we don't overorder meals and still make sure there is enough seating. 

Four Points also will not collect the payment weekly, so the Club will collect payments prior to the meeting or at the door.

We urge members of the RCOB has set up a Venmo account for ease in payment of Meeting lunches, Happy Bucks, Minister of Fun, Dues or donations to the club.  Our account is @RCOB-Bellingham.  If you do not have a Venmo account you can set up an account with your computer then download the app. on your phone (just Google "Venmo" and you will find all the information you need)  You then attach it to a debit or credit card (a fee on your end) or attach to your checking account at no cost.  Payment will be sent directly to the RCOB checking account. When you use it for the first time it may ask you the last 4 digits of the RCOB phone number which is 0282.   Give Sandee a call if you need help.  360-734-5532

Other payment options are to bring a check in the correct amount to the meeting made out to RCOB or cash in the exact amount to speed up the payment process.  There is also the PayPal option as usual and we are set to take payments at the meeting.  We have a QR Code that you can simply click on to pay thru paypal also.

Website and Phone App instructions:
Here is a tutorial on how to login for the first time.  (Click here)  In order to login you need to know your user name and password in your Clubrunner account.  The user name is Yourfirstname.Lastname.264 unless you have changed it.  Example: Sandra.Lindhout.264  The password is initially set by Clubrunner at 264 unless you have changed it.  Sandee can see your Username from my computer but not the password.  She can also change your password for you from her computer at your request if you run into problems.
Once you have originally created your User Name and Password you can download the ClubRunner Mobile app on your phone:                                                             
Here is a link for you to take a look at the app:

Please contact Sandee at 360-734-5532 or if you run into any trouble.
Dale Rings zoomed in from Arizona with member Chuck Snyder, along with former member Ben Kuiken & Julie Shirley.
Doug Cole  introduced the Bellingham Herald's new Northwest Indian Affairs reporter, Natasha Brennan, who explained her new role.  
Other members who were on Zoom:  Monty McAllister, Jennifer Moehl, Robin Halliday,  Scott Wallace, Frank King, John Harris, John Pedlow, Ken Marzocco, Michael Mallory and Rick Haggen
Steve Ban again introduced his guest, Corey Chaplin, who has been proposed for membership in the RCOB.
Today's Program Speaker, Steve Ban, also had family members join us for his presentation today, including his brother, George Ban, his daughter, Julia Ban and his cousin Michael Schonberg.
Presentation:  Service Fund Grant
Doug Cole presented one of the Club’s Service Fund Grants to the McClatchy Journalism Institute for its hiring of Northwest Indian Affairs reporter Natasha Brennan. Doug Cole introduced Natasha, who joined us on Zoom to accept the award. Natasha, a graduate of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC, has worked for the Bellingham Herald since June 1. In her role as the indigenous affairs reporter, she writes about news involving the local tribes. Natasha said she appreciates the RCOB’s commitment to promoting diversity. Natasha’s goal is not just to cover news stories involving the tribes, but to build lasting connections and relationships with the tribes. She has met with officials of both the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe. The Nooksack leader said he saw that she could bring a tribal voice to stories and the community at large. It is Natasha’s commitment to cover tribal stories with sensitivity.
Doug Cole introduced Club member Steve Ban, who presented an uplifting talk entitled “Escape From Autocracy to Democracy.” Doug prefaced the talk by noting that, although half a million Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust, there were still 150,000 Jews in Hungary ten years later. 
Steve’s talk recounted his family’s harrowing and inspirational escape from Hungary to the United States during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. His family consisted of his father, Ernest, a high school math teacher, his mother Noemi, an elementary school teacher, his brother George, age 7, and himself, age 9. The Revolution began on October 23, 1956. University students, professors and journalists rebelled against the Communist government installed by the Soviets after WWII. The hammer and sickle added to the middle of the Hungarian flag was a symbol of oppression and was cut out by the rebels. They overthrew the government, and a cease fire was declared. However, many Hungarians predicted that the Soviets would not allow this victory to last and therefore started making plans to escape the country. Those predictions proved accurate when, on November 4, Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest and reinstalled the Communist government.
Noemi, who survived the Holocaust, wanted to escape from Hungary, not only to get out from under the Communist autocracy, but because the Revolution had significantly increased anti-Semitic sentiment in the country. Ernest was reluctant, because, not knowing any other language, he felt that he wouldn't be able to support his family. Noemi risked her marriage and defied patriarchal cultural norms by giving him an ultimatum, saying that “The boys and I are leaving, whether you come with us or not.” Ernest chose to stay with his family and escape with them.
One morning soon after that, the boys were told that the family was going by train to visit a former nanny in another city. Actually, the train was filled with around 100 escapees who had arranged with a cooperative train engineer to be taken within 3 miles of the Austrian border. So as not to arouse suspicion, they didn’t take any luggage but wore multiple layers of clothing. As planned, the escapees got off the train at the designated place and started walking towards the Austrian border. However, the Russian border guards saw them, rounded them up and transported them back to Budapest. Steve noted that there was a significant housing shortage in Budapest at that time because many apartment buildings had been destroyed during the Revolution. So, if an escaping family vacated their apartment, they could expect that another family would move in quickly. To protect themselves if the escape did not work out, Steve’s grandfather stayed in their apartment while they were gone, so they had a place to return to.

In late December, the Bans tried to escape again. Noemi's best friend heard that a co-worker and his wife and young daughter were going to escape in a truck carrying bales of goods to the city of Sopron, which was 3 miles from the Austrian border. The co-worker sat in the truck's cab with the driver, both of whom had the necessary papers to pass through the many checkpoints along the way. The wife and daughter, joined by the Bans, hid in the bed of the truck in a small space under the bales of goods. The small space was equipped with a lightbulb, but nothing else. As the truck traveled west from Budapest toward Sopron, the earlier checkpoints, manned by Hungarian guards, were passed easily. However, as they got closer to Sopron, Russian soldiers manned the checkpoints and were more vigilant about checking for escapees and contraband. At one point, the soldiers poked bayonets into the bales, looking for escapees. Fortunately, the two families inside were able to avoid the bayonets. Everyone stayed quiet and made it through.

After the truck arrived in Sopron, they met a local farmer who would be their guide to the border. They gave him all the money they had and he led them by foot to the border, walking through deep snow in the forest and avoiding roads. After crossing the border into Austria,  they saw a small cabin nearby, where a tired Ernest wanted to spend the night. However, Noemi felt it was too close to the border and the Russians could catch them there. At her urging, the boys said and did things to make Ernest angry, which re-energized him, allowing them to set out for a nearby Austrian village.
When they arrived, they found a village that looked like a Christmas postcard. They were fed and housed overnight at a Red Cross facility and then took a bus to Mullendorf, a city on the way to Vienna. After a restless night in a high school gym crowded with many other refugees, they were bussed to Vienna on December 31. The streets were crowded with New Years Eve revelers. The Bans knew no one and had no money, so they spent the night in the Vienna city jail.
On January 1, 1957, the family went to the immigration office and found a local family to stay with. For two weeks, the boys stayed with the family while Ernest and Noemi spent every day at the immigration office trying to arrange passage to America. They needed an American citizen relative to send them $100 and to promise to financially support them in the US if necessary, since they would not be eligible for welfare. Noemi’s Uncle Joe, in New York, had come to America before World War II and was now a citizen. He agreed to help them and sent the money.
The Bans then were bussed to Salzburg, Austria, near the German border. They stayed in a refugee camp where other Hungarians, non-Jews, shouted anti-Semitic insults at them. They then took the train to Bremerhaven, Germany, and there boarded an old WWII US Army transport ship bound for New York. Despite rough winter seas, they made it to New York in two weeks, entering New York harbor on February 14, 1957. They stayed briefly with Uncle Joe, then took a train to St. Louis, where they began their new life.
Eventually, after the Bans learned English, Ernest resumed his career as a high school math 
teacher in the St. Louis suburbs and Noemi became a decorated 6th grade teacher there. The family became U.S. citizens in 1962. In response to a question, Steve said that the Communists who ruled Hungary before and after the Revolution were not anti-Semitic, so that his family would have survived if they had stayed, but would have had a much lower quality of life and much less personal freedom.
Covid Report:  
Gary Goldfogel reported that numbers had not improved from last week. There are currently 39 Covid patients in St. Joseph Hospital, of which 14 are in the ICU, including 6 on ventilators. The reporters did not know if any of the patients had been vaccinated. It seems that the sickest patients are non-vaccinated.
Final Announcement: 
President Peter thanked all participants in today's meeting and adjourned the meeting with the ringing of the bell.
September Rotary Anniversaries - Thank you! 
J.C. Hickman
Member Since 1987
Kathy Hughes
Member Since 2002
Greg Baker
Member Since 2011
Nathan Twining
Member Since 2012
Chip Lauckhardt
Member Since 2012
September Birthdays - Happy Birthday and Enjoy! 
  • Ward Naf
  • Jim Cunningham
  • Herb Ershig
  • John Harris
  • Nancy Jordan
  • Jan Marchbanks
  • Steve Gray
  • Sara Maloney
Sep 20, 2021
Chris Kobdish - Way Station
Sep 27, 2021
Doug Ericksen, Washington State Senator
Oct 04, 2021
Beyond Net Zero Commitment, PSE's Clean Energy Implementation Plan and local clean energy projects
Oct 11, 2021
"Port of Bellingham 101"
View entire list
Upcoming Events
RCOB In-Person Meeting September 20, 2021
Four Points by Sheraton
Sep 20, 2021
12:00 PM – 1:30 PM
RCOB In-Person Meeting September 27, 2021
Four Points by Sheraton
Sep 20, 2021
12:00 PM – 1:30 PM
View entire list
Interested in being a sponsor?
Download the website sponsorship guide
Executives & Directors
President Elect
Executive Secretary
Vice President/Program Chair
Past President
Director/Vocational Service & Membership
Director/Community Service
Director/International & Youth Service
Director/Club Service & Meetings
Website Administer
Editor:  Steve Ban
Reporter:  John Moffat
Invocation:  Doug Cole
Greeter: James Pyles and Jodi Borrelli
Raffle Sales:  Brad Burdick
AV:  Mark Knittel and Ward Naf
Photographer: Shauna Naf
Music:  Rick Kaiser
Book Review:  Jodi Borrelli