Skip Navigation

Dr. Peter Simon Awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of Hungary at Hungarian Heritage C

Dr. Peter Simon Awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of Hungary at Hungarian Heritage Celebration in Ottawa

Published on October 24, 2022

Dr. Peter Simon, President & CEO of The Royal Conservatory of Music, received the prestigious Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of Hungary, presented yesterday by the Ambassador of Hungary to Canada, Her Excellency Mária Vass-Salazar.

Dr. Peter Simon with the Ambassador of Hungary to Canada, Her Excellency Mária Vass-Salazar

The award is one of the highest orders of decorations that can be granted to civilian or military personnel by the Hungarian Republic, and is given on October 23 to mark the anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian uprising against the Soviet-backed communist regime and the subsequent invasion of the country by the Soviet Red Army under the Premiership of Nikita Kruschev.

“I accept this award to honour the bravery of millions of Hungarians who resisted Soviet oppression and to commemorate those who died defending the democratic principles of freedom and right of self-determination," said Dr. Peter Simon. “My Hungarian heritage is a source of pride, and the history commemorated on this day is an important part of my family’s story, as it is for other Hungarian-Canadians.”

The revolution, led by communist-turned-reformer Imre Nagy, shook the world and caused 200,000 Hungarians to flee their homeland – many emigrating to Canada. Up to 3000 Hungarians died, 13,000 more were injured, hundreds, including Nagy, were executed, and tens of thousands more sent to repressive communist-run prisons.

The Embassy of Hungary in Ottawa hosted the event which featured a performance by the internationally acclaimed Kelemen Quartet, comprised of award-winning Hungarian violinists Barnabás Kelemen; his wife, Katalin Kokas, an alumna of The Taylor Academy; violinist Jonian Ilias Kadesha and cellist Vashti Mimosa Hunter.

Founded in Budapest in 2010, the ensemble’s international acclaim was enhanced in 2011 when they received three prizes at the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition. They also received the first prize at the Beijing International Music Competition in 2011 and at the International Sándor Végh String Quartet Competition in Budapest in 2012.

Following their performance in Ottawa, the Kelemen Quartet performed at The Royal Conservatory’s Mazzoleni Hall, along with a chamber orchestra of students from The Glenn Gould School and The Taylor Academy.

The concerts also coincide with Ontario’s first-ever Hungarian Heritage month throughout the month of October.

The award certificate and regalia

Awards ceremony guests included Dr. Peter Simon, his wife Dianne Werner, the Kelemen Quartet and Her Excellency Mária Vass-Salazar

The Kelemen Quartet

Barnabás Kelemen and his wife, Katalin Kokas, alumna of The Royal Conservatory's Taylor Academy