26 December 2010

The passing of John Warhola

John Warhola in front of Andy's portrait of
their mother, Julia, at the Warhol Museum

John Warhola, the older brother of the best known of American Rusyns, Andy Warhol, died Christmas Eve at the age of 85.

He is survived by his older brother, Paul, and his sons:  Donald, Mark and Jeffrey.  

Here is his obituary from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Here's the obituary from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Here's the report, in Slovak, from the Slovak press agency SITA.

Vičnaja jemu pamjat!

24 December 2010

Христос раждається! Christos Raždajetsja! Christ is born!

"Rusyn Christmas," an oil painting by Michal Sirik

12 December 2010

A little Rusyn Christmas music

With two weeks left until Christmas (unless you're on the old calendar and have a couple more weeks), I'm sure holiday preparations are going on in homes across North America.

A little Rusyn Christmas music may help when you're making nut roll, or wrapping presents, and the Internet offers a couple great choices.

The archive of Jerry Jumba's old "Carpatho-Rus' Radio Show" provides a few hours of Christmas tunes here, here and here.

And, of course, there's the continuing Sunday afternoon broadcasts of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society's radio show, hosted by Dean Poloka. Here and here are last year's Christmas special.

07 December 2010

The details of our January 15th Rusyn New Year pot-luck

The Lake Michigan Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society invites you to a Rusyn New Year Pot-Luck on Saturday, January 15 at St. Michael Orthodox Church, 7313 Waukegan Road, Niles, IL.

The doors open at noon for socializing, shopping at the Rusyn market and photo scanning.

We're collecting the history of Rusyns in the Chicago area and Northwest Indiana. You can help by bring your old family photographs and documents for us to scan and make digital copies without harming the originals. Please bring typed or printed names of the people and places and the date of the photo to include in the archives.

The feasting begins at 1 p.m., followed by some traditional Rusyn Christmas carols.

Bring your favorite Rusyn or other covered dish, or dessert. Beverages will be provided.

RSVP by January 10th the number coming and what you'll be bringing to  cpconjelko@frontier.com (Charlotte) or 708-895-3074 (Ken) Be sure & leave a message.

Directions from the north:  Take I-294 South to Exit IL-58/Golf Rd.  Turn left on East River Rd. then left (east) on Golf Rd.  Turn right (south) on IL-21/Milwaukee Ave.  Make a left on Howard St. and a right on Waukegan Rd.  Turn left into church parking lot across from Marathon Gas Station. 

Directions from the south:  Take I-90 to Touhy Ave. exit (I-Pass users stay to right as exit is immediately after tollbooth).  Stay on Touhy thru Park Ridge.  Turn left on Milwaukee (small park on right with Christmas display), staying in right lane and immediately after turning bear right onto Waukegan Road.  Church sits back off road across from Marathon Gas Station.

06 December 2010

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Here's a nice version of the traditional hymn to St. Nicholas, from St. George Orthodox Church in Taylor, Pa.

05 December 2010

Carpatho-Rusyns prepare to celebrate St. Nicholas Day

Traditional Rusyn image of St. Nicholas
December 6 (December 19 on the old calendar) is the feast day of St. Nicholas, one of the most beloved saints among the Carpatho-Rusyn people. 

Rusyns celebrate him with the hymn that begins with the words, "O Kto Kto, Nikolaja L'ubit":

O kto kto Nikolaja l'ubit,
O kto kto Nikolaju služit.

Tomu svjatyj Nikolaj,
Na vsjakij čas pomahaj:
Nikolaje, Nikolaj!

Here's an English version:

O who loves Nicholas the saintly,
Oh who serves Nicholas the saintly.

Him will Nicholas receive,
And give help in time of need.
Holy father Nicholas!

Here's a link to the melody, if you'd like to sing along. 

If you're looking for other ways to mark St. Nicholas Day -- which is honored by many other ethnicities -- you can browse through the countless and always growing offerings of the St. Nicholas Center

Icon from St. Nicholas
Byz. Cath. Church,
Munster, Ind.
The site offers plenty of beautiful images, holiday details and other materials on the model for Santa Claus. There's a lot of information on how various ethnic groups mark the fest of St. Nicholas. 

Many Rusyn-Americans have warm memories of waking up on the morning of Dec. 6 to shoes or stockings filled with little treats left by the saint the night before. It's a tradition that originates in our ancestral villages, in impoverished times when the gift of  an orange was a major treat.

In a more serious holiday tale, St. Nicholas figures in the survival of hundreds of Rusyn immigrants to the United States, coal miners, who weren't in the mines when disaster struck back in 1907.

The Carpatho-Rusyn Society's Christina Duranko tells that fascinating story here.

If you're looking for a modern version of St. Nicholas, the Smithsonian Channel offers "In Search of Santa Claus," which tells the story of the evolution of St. Nicholas into the modern symbol of Christmas gift-giving.

The one-hour special is  scheduled for 7 a.m. (Central) on Sunday, Dec. 5, with repeats at 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, and midnight Friday, Dec. 10.

04 December 2010

Finalizing plans for our Jan. 15 Rusyn New Year potluck celebration

The site of our board meeting on the grounds of Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church.
The board of the Lake Michigan Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society met Friday evening at Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen to finalize plans for our potluck lunch marking the old calendar Rusyn New Year on Jan. 15.

While we'll be getting out a flyer, here are the basics:

What: A potluck lunch, with some Rusyn Christmas tunes to celebrate the old calendar New Year (which falls January 14). We're hoping for traditional Rusyn dishes, favorite family recipes to share with other Rusyns.
When: Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011. Doors open at noon, lunch starts at 1 p.m.
Where: St. Michael Orthodox Church, Niles, Ill.

We're also hoping to begin collecting Rusyn family photos as we start to archive our history in Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. We'll have a scanner on hand to make digital copies of your treasured old photos if you'd like to share them with our Carpatho-Rusyn community.

It should be a great way to wrap up the holiday season and get to know each other in a relaxed social setting.

And while it's still a few months (and a full winter season) away, the board set a date for a Pysanky Workshop: Saturday, March 26.

We'll announce the location and other details later. But we plan on a speaker, who will explain the traditional Rusyn craft of Easter Egg design, and offer hands-on help in making your own pysanky.

Save the date for a look at one of the most treasured traditions of the Carpatho-Rusyn people.

We'll get you more information as the plans are set.

29 November 2010

It's just about time for holiday baking, Carpatho-Rusyn style

Barbara Rolek's fine Eastern European Food Blog at about.com is moving into holiday mode, with a step-by-step photo gallery of the ladies of St. James the Less Roman Catholic Church in Highland, Ind., making the jelly roll style nut roll.

It's part of the holiday tradition of many people with roots in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, including the Carpatho-Rusyns.

If you're looking for a basic recipe, Barbara offers Sophia Saliwonczyk's nut roll.

Here's a version from the Library of Congress.

And here is one more.

17 November 2010

A Christmas concert with a bit of a Carpatho-Rusyn flavor

The St. Peter and St. Paul Orthodox Church Choir and the Orthodox Concert Choir of Chicago will present a Christmas concert on Sunday, December 5th at 2 p.m. at St. Peter & St. Paul Church, 6980 South County Line Road, in Burr Ridge.

The concert will feature Christmas hymns and carols from Russia, Carpatho-Rus', Ukraine, Slovakia and the Czech lands. 

Admission is free.

The concert is under the direction of John Sutko of Burbank, Ill. Mr. Sutko is a member of the board of the Lake Michigan Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society.

15 November 2010

The 2011 summer school on Carpatho-Rusyn language and culture

Here's everything you need to know about next summer's Carpatho-Rusyn language and culture program at Prešov University in Slovakia:

Studium Carpato-Ruthenorum 2011
International Summer School for Rusyn Language and Culture
Prešov, Slovakia
June 12-July 3, 2011

Prešov University in Prešov, Slovakia, announces its second annual three-week Studium Carpato-Ruthenorum International Summer School for Rusyn Language and Culture to be held from June 12-July 3, 2011 (applicants from North America may begin arriving from Saturday, June 11, 2011). 

The program is hosted by the university's Institute of
Rusyn Language and Culture. Prešov University is the only university in the Slovak Republic offering a full-time accredited academic program in Rusyn language and literature.

The Studium summer school is intended for those interested in studying the Rusyn language and the history of the Carpatho-Rusyns, including high school (18 and over) and college students, as well as Slavists and any who wish to broaden their knowledge of
East Slavic language, history, and culture. Participants can expect to acquire a familiarity with or strengthen their competency in the Rusyn language, as well as gain a deep understanding of Carpatho-Rusyn history and culture.

The Studium Carpato-Ruthenorum is held on the campus of Prešov University, with the dormitory, cafeteria, and classroom building all located on 17th of November Street (ulica 17. novembra). Instruction is provided by university professors, distinguished Slavists, and specialists in Carpatho-Rusyn history from Slovakia, Ukraine, the United States, and Canada. The language of instruction, in parallel courses, is either Rusyn or English. 

The program offers 30 hours of history lectures; language instruction consists of two hours per day of grammar and conversation, also for a total of 30 hours. Participants who complete the program receive official certificates from the Studium; transcripts will be available for students who wish to earn credits for the program through their home universities.

Carpatho-Rusyn History:
The history lecture series focuses on Carpathian Rus' and the Carpatho-Rusyns worldwide from earliest times to the present. Lecturers include Professor Paul Robert Magocsi, University of Toronto, and Dr. Valerii Padiak, Researcher and Publisher, Center for Carpatho-Rusyn Studies, Uzhhorod, Ukraine. The mini-course in Carpatho-Rusyn folklore will be taught by Dr. Patricia Krafcik, The Evergreen State College Olympia, Washington).

Rusyn Language:
The Rusyn language is offered at three levels: 1) for beginners; 2) for students who have some knowledge of Russian, Ukrainian, or another Slavic language; and 3) for native speakers of Rusyn. These classes are intended to help participants acquire an understanding of the theoretical linguistic aspects of the Rusyn language, as well as to develop proficiency in the spoken and written language. Instructors include Professor Stefan Pugh, Wright State University (Dayton, Ohio), and from Prešov University: Dr. Vasil' Jabur, CSc., Dr. Kvetoslava Koporová, and Dr. Anna Plišková, Ph.D.
Extracurricular Activities: 

The following activities take place after classes and include:

--presentations on Rusyn traditions, folklore, and the socio-cultural life of Carpatho-
Rusyns in Slovakia, including a visit to the Medzilaborce Folklore Festival and
Rusyn cultural institutions in Prešov;
--presentations on Rusyn folk architecture and culture, including visits to museums,
skanzens, and wooden churches;
--a Rusyn literary evening;
--visits to the Alexander Dukhnovych Theater and film viewings;
--pysankŷ (wax resist egg decorating) and folksong workshops;
--excursions in Prešov and the Prešov Region of northeastern Slovakia where Rusyns

Housing and Meals:
Participants are housed in a Prešov University dormitory in standard 2-bed/2-room suites with Internet access for laptop computers and dine in the university cafeteria. The dormitory provides a communal kitchen with refrigerator, washing machines, and dryers. Wireless Internet is also accessible in the cafeteria building. 

Available in the university neighborhood are grocery stores, a pharmacy, restaurants, Internet cafes, bookstores, and easy access to city transportation.

Applications and a complete program schedule for the Studium may be found at http://www.unipo.sk/9040 and http://www.c-rs.org.

Applications will be accepted online until February 1, 2011, and should be sent to the
following email address: urjk@unipo.sk

The online application process is preferred, but
hard copies may be sent to the following postal address:
Prešovská univerzita
Ústav rusínskeho jazyka a kultúry
Nám. legionárov 3
080 01 Prešov

The cost for the three-week session, including tuition, housing, three meals daily, all excursions, and all museum admissions, is 1200 Euros or $1668 (at an exchange rate of 1 Euro/$1.39). A non-refundable administrative deposit of 100 Euros or $139.00 is due by April 15, 2011. This fee will be applied to the total cost, with the remainder of 1100 Euros or $1529.00 due by May 15, 2011. 

Participants are responsible for their own travel costs to and from Prešov.

Payment by bank check is preferred and is to be sent to the following address:
Slovenská asociácia rusínskych organizácií
Duchnovičovo nám. 1
080 01 Prešov

Bank transfers are also possible to:
Československá obchodná banka, a.s.
pobočka Prešov
Hlavná 96
080 01 Prešov
Account name: Slovenská asociácia rusínskych organizácií
Account number: 4010764555/7500
IBAN: SK 50 7500 0000 0040 1076 4555

Within Slovakia and Europe, contact Mgr. Timea Verešová, Ph.D. (also English speaking) for information, at urjk@unipo.sk, tel.: +421 (51) 7720 392, +421 915 412 917.
Within North America, contact Dr. Patricia Krafcik, at krafcikp@evergreen.edu.

Interested in possible group travel arrangements from North America? Contact Nancy Revak at NSREVAK@aol.com.

01 November 2010

A traditional Slavonic Divine Liturgy at Munster's St. Nicholas Church

With the successful celebration of Carpatho-Rusyn Day at St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church in Munster on Saturday, we can't complete our visit to Northwest Indiana without noting what may be the last regular weekly Church Slavonic Divine Liturgy among Byzantine Catholic churches in the U.S.

Father Frank Korba celebrates the Slavonic liturgy at 8:30 a.m. each Sunday, and the parishioners participate in the true Rusyn manner, singing our traditional prostopinije in congregational style.

It's not 100% Slavonic, but it's pretty close.

St. Nicholas is one of three Byzantine Catholic churches in Northwest Indiana founded by Carpatho-Rusyns.

According to the parish history, St. Nicholas church was not incorporated as a Greek Catholic church in union with Rome until 1922, with the parish history noting that it had both Orthodox and Greek Catholic priests serving there until then.

The original church was located in Hammond, Ind., ultimately moving to Munster in 1962.

Father Korba is an enthusiastic advocate of his Carpatho-Rusyn identity, and has been a generous supporter of the Lake Michigan Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society.
The interior of St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church in Munster.

30 October 2010

More than 100 mark Carpatho-Rusyn Day in Munster, Indiana

The crowd began gathering an hour before the 1 p.m. event began.

More than 100 people gathered at St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church Saturday afternoon to mark the first Carpatho-Rusyn Day in North America with the Lake Michigan Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society.

The program was headlined by author Mark Wansa's presentation on his novel, "The Linden & The Oak," but began with a program that opened with the singing of "Ja Rusyn Byl," and included remarks from Dana Hunatova, the Consul General of the Czech Republic in Chicago.

Hunatova told the audience she had two reasons for accepting the invitation to the event. First, she recognized the connection between the Carpatho-Rusyns and the first Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1939), and second, her Czech father was born in Trans-Carpathia.

Dana Hunatova
John Sutko, a member of the board of the Lake Michigan Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society, used his skills as choir director at St. Peter & St. Paul Orthodox Church to lead the audience in the Rusyn anthem, the folk song "Červena Ruža Trojaka,"and, in closing, "Mnohaja L'ita."
Mark Wansa

The hospitality of the St. Nicholas Parish was noted on many levels, from the comfortable facilities to the  hot dog and sloppy joe lunch provided by the parish women. The pastor of St. Nicholas, Father Frank Korba, welcomed  his guests by leading the singing of "Carju Nebesnyj" in Church Slavonic.

But the main focus of the afternoon was Wansa's illustrated presentation on the research he did to turn his family story into the expansive novel "The Linden & The Oak."

Wansa repeatedly touched common chords with the audience, composed of Rusyn-Americans, some of whom drove two hours to attend the day's festivities.

Another Lake Michigan Chapter board member, Michael Baron, and his cousin, Jim (Pudlik) Lilek, helped prepare a fitting gift for Wansa to thank him for coming from Albuquerque, N.M., for his presentation -- a bottle of homemade slivovitza that was sampled by members of the board after Saturday's event.
Tasting the homemade slivovitza

26 October 2010

Greetings on this first Carpatho-Rusyn Day in North America

Today, Oct. 26, is the official observance of Carpatho-Rusyn Day in the U.S. and Canada.

While we're marking the day Saturday at St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church in Munster, Ind., here's a rendition of the the Carpatho-Rusyn anthem by the Slavjane folklore group from Pittsburgh to get the juices flowing:

Welcome the Carpatho-Rusyn American to cyberspace

The Carpatho-Rusyn American was published as a quarterly journal from 1976 to 1996, and that collection of articles on Rusyn history and culture is being reprinted on a regular basis in blog form,  as "another look at classics of Rusyn scholarship."

The first reprinted piece is a quick bio of Alexander Duchnovyč, the 19th Century "national awakener of the Carpatho-Rusyns."

It looks to be another great resource to get your grounding in Carpatho-Rusyn topics.

23 October 2010

A Chicago-area family history event for Czechs, Slovaks, Rusyns & others

The Czech and Slovak American Genealogical Society is sponsoring a family genealogy workshop for Saturday, Nov. 6 from 1 to 3 p.m. at T.G. Masaryk School, 5701 W. 22nd Place in Cicero.

CSAGI can be a great resource for folks doing family history research from the former Czechoslovakia -- including modern-day Transcarpathia, when it was a part of the first Czechoslovak Republic  (1918-1939).

Here are the details on their workshop (click for a larger copy):

22 October 2010

Ukrainian news agency notes Rusyn event in Mukachevo

It's rare when an official Ukrainian entity refers to Rusyns as simply and straightforwardly as this dispatch from Ukrinform/Укрінформ:

KYIV, October 22 /UKRINFORM/. The 12th Rusyn Culture Festival has opened in Ukraine's western Mukachevo with almost 30 Rusyn folk teams.

In his opening speech, Mukachevo Mayor Zoltan Lendyel said the Rusyns of the Transcarpathia have an opportunity to safeguard and develop their language, songs, dances and hand them over to next generations.

The Rusyns are an Eastern Slavic ethnic group who speak an Eastern Slavic language or dialect known as Rusyn. They live in Ukraine, Slovakia, Poland, the Serbian Province of Vojvodina, and in Hungary.

17 October 2010

Some classic advertising from the Carpatho-Rusyn press

I love old advertisements, and while I was doing some research today in the microfilm version of the Amerikansky Russky Viestnik -- once the main source of Rusyn news in the U.S. -- I came up with a few ads for mostly familiar products to share.

13 October 2010

The Chilean mine rescue stirs up a Carpatho-Rusyn immigrant story

The miraculous rescue operation ongoing in Chile has brought to mind story from my family that's not uncommon for Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants, the story of my grandfather and his life and death in the mines.

I blogged about it as part of my day job,

George Cordak and his family in Clymer, Pa. My mother, Helen, is the youngest child.

11 October 2010

A Carpatho-Rusyn celebration in Pittsburgh this weekend

Here's the schedule of activities:

11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Rusyn Fall Festival with Rusyn food vendors, artisans and ethnic items Costume display from Spis¹ County One day display of the art of the Warhola Family.

4 p.m.
C-RS Annual Meeting with Guest Speakers - Ted Zatkovich Gregg and Connie Zatkovich Ash - children of the first governor of Subcarpathian Rus'.

6 - 10 p.m.
Rusyn Dance Party featuring the music from Rus'kyj Muzikanty. Dance instruction available from Slavjane's Dean Poloka. Rusyn food and drinks for sale. BYOB.

For more information, call 412-567-3077, or email president @c-rs.org.

01 October 2010

Sunday is election day for the Rusyn minority in Hungary

Hungarian flag
Members of Hungary's 13 recognized ethnic minorities -- including Rusyns, go to the polls Sunday to elect local authorities. Each of the 13 -- Romas, Germans, Slovaks, Croats, Romanians, Ukrainians, Serbs, Slovenes, Poles, Greeks, Bulgarians, Rusyns and Armenians -- have local authorities.

The Hungarian Act on National and Ethnic Minorities provides minorities of at least 1,000 people who have lived on Hungarian territory for at least a century legal rights to participate in public life. In addition to forming local units of government, they can foster their culture and ethinc identity, through use of their native language, including in street signs and public notices.

An estimated 1.2 million Hungarian citizens profess to belong to a minority, but some 228,000 have registered for Sunday's vote.

26 September 2010

Post-communist Carpatho-Rusyn writer Mária Maľcovská dies

Mária Maľcovská
We've received word from the Carpatho-Rusyn Cultural Center of the death of Mária Maľcovská. She was 59.

Maľcovská was the editor of the Rusyn-language newspaper "Narodny Novynky," launched after the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia. She was also a professor of Rusyn literature at the University of Presov in Slovakia.

Services are planned for Tuesday in Ruský Potok, Slovakia.

19 September 2010

Planning for our Oct. 30 event in Munster, Indiana -- and beyond

The board of the Lake Michigan Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society met Saturday, September 19, in the basement of St. Michael's Orthodox Church, in Niles, Illinois, to make final arrangements for our October 30 event to mark the first Carpatho-Rusyn Day in North America.

The headliner for that event will be Mark Wansa, author of "The Linden and the Oak," and the board assured that we'll have sufficient copies of Mark's novel on hand to sell to those in attendance at St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church, in Munster, Indiana.

Planning also began for a potluck lunch celebrating Rusyn New Year's Day, scheduled for January 15, in the church basement at St. Michael's in Niles. We'll have more details as that event nears, but the potluck will mark the traditional New Year's under the Julian Calendar (January 14). 

We'll ask folks to bring their family favorites to share, in a relaxed environment. If possible, they can bring the recipes, which we'll share with our members.

And if you haven't seen it, here's the flyer for the October 30th event:

17 September 2010

A common Carpatho-Rusyn tale of questions and more questions

This interesting blog explores one Rusyn's quest for information on what it means to be a Rusyn. It's a journey that most of us take, in one way or another. Whether we were raised with some sense of our identity, or have come to understand it in adulthood, it's often a confounding road to discovery.

Thanks to the Carpatho-Rusyn Society, there's an organization that transcends some of the complicating factors of religion that have confused and divided our people for so many decades, here in North America.

04 September 2010

A weekend of free genealogical research

Ancestry.com is offering free access to its immigration records this Labor Day weekend. It's a great opportunity to do some family history research.

03 September 2010

Vladimir Lenin transmogrified into pioneering Carpatho-Rusyn bishop

Bishop Andrey Bachinsky
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
Interfax reports that the Užhorod City Council has presented a monument to the October Revolution, and its main leader, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, to the Greek Catholic Church.

It's not that the church has any interest in Lenin. The monument is being recast and turned into a memorial to Andrey Bachinsky, the 18th Century Rusyn bishop who moved his residence and seminary to Užhorod.

The Bachinsky monument will be set up in Užhorod Cathedral Square.

30 August 2010

Johnstown Tribune-Democrat looks at the Carpatho-Rusyns

The newspaper in Johnson, Pa., The Tribune-Democrat, published a package of stories in its Sunday edition looking at the Carpatho-Rusyns as part of an on-going project called "Homelands," which studies the ancestral homes of the residents of Western Pennsylvania.

Here's the link to the package, which offers a nice overview of our people. It has a few weaknesses, like the Spanikopita recipe included in a list of Rusyn recipes. That spinach pie is Greek, not Rusyn. But the effort is appreciated.

18 August 2010

Check out "The Daily.sk" for news from Slovakia

I was checking the readership stats for the blog today and came upon a burst of readers from Europe yesterday.

All were referred from an English-language news outlet called The Daily.sk from Bratislava, which linked to the post on Streator, Illinois, in a post on the closing of what may be the oldest Slovak Roman Catholic parish in the U.S.

So, thanks to The Daily.sk for the increased traffic, and be sure to click on them if you're interested in news from Slovakia.

Jerry Jumba: a cultural resource for Carpatho-Rusyn Americans

Jerry Jumba is certainly the greatest living storehouse of Rusyn secular and religious music in North America, and the breadth of his knowledge is outlined in a website profiling Pennsylvania folk artists.

A click on the web site will let you hear some of Jerry's singing and playing, as well as his description, in his own words, of the meaning of Rusyn religious chant.

Says Jerry, "As an inheritor of this song tradition, I try to keep its joy and beauty alive, and creative."

If you'd like to hear more of Jerry, check out the archive of his Carpatho-Rus' radio show.

12 August 2010

A little Rusyn church on the prairie

Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church, in Homer Glen, Ill., traces its roots to Rusyn parishes in Joliet and Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood.

In Chicago, an empty lot was often dubbed a "prairie." But in the wide open spaces of Homer Glen, the church is located on an actual prairie, hence the parish's annual Prairie Fest.

As the flyer at left shows, events are planned for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and you can expect some good Rusyn food, along with some Central European music.

10 August 2010

"The Goulash Train" stops in Andy Warhol's Rusyn backyard

The Warhol Museum of Modern Art

The Goulash Train, an interesting blog on travel through Central and Eastern Europe, has a piece today on a stop in Medzilaborce (Medžilabirci in Rusyn), the town near Andy Warhol's ancestral village of Mikova in northeast Slovakia. The blogger, "Wildroo," calls Medzilaborce's Warhol Family Museum of Modern Art one of the "stranger places of interest" in Slovakia. Unlike many visitors to the region, Wildroo gets the background of Andy and his ancestors just right.

06 August 2010

A lost piece of Carpatho-Rusyn history in Streator, Illinois

Word of the impending demise of one of the oldest Slovak Roman Roman Catholic parishes in the U.S., shines a light on some nearly forgotten Rusyn history in Streator, Illinois, about 90 miles southwest of Chicago.

St. Stephen's in Streator, Ill.
First, the situation at St. Stephen's, a Roman Catholic parish that was founded in 1883 by Slovak immigrants to what was a coal-mining community. Some sources consider it the first Slovak Roman Catholic parish in the U.S.

The Times, the local newspaper, reports that St. Stephen's, St. Anthony, Immaculate Conception, and St. Casimir (remember that name, because St. Casimir is the Rusyn connection) are merging into St. Stephen's church building, with the new consolidated parish renamed St. Michael the Archangel.

St. Stephen had been offered to the Slovak Union, but the expense of maintaining the building killed that idea.

Such church consolidation is a common thing as small parishes can no longer survive. But it means the loss of a landmark for the descendants of immigrants -- even if the building, which dates from 1896, survives.

Now, onto the Rusyn part of the story.

That St. Casimir church that's part of the merger originally occupied the structure that had been home to the Three Hierarchs Orthodox Church, a parish that was formed in the late 19th Century with a strongly Carpatho-Rusyn foundation.

At the time of its formation, the Streator Orthodox parish was one of only two "Russian" Orthodox churches in Illinois. The other was Chicago's St. Vladimir -- now Holy Trinity. And the uniqueness of the Streator settlement was honored by the Tsarist Russian government, which gave the parish the edifice of an Orthodox church built for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

Here's the account, from "Orthodox America: 1794-1976:"

The Russian Exhibition at the 1893 World's Fair
"The chapel, which had been built in Russia, dismantled, and brought to the Exposition, was moved again: to Streator, Illinois, where another small community was established to service the church on a regular basis.

"A number of Slovaks -- Catholic and Uniate -- settled in Streator... in the late 1890s. Knowing of the return of Uniates to Orthodoxy in other parts of the country, Father John Kochurov began to learn their dialects in order to do missionary work among them. An Orthodox community was formed and Father Michael Potochny, who had been the choir director for Father [Alexis] Toth in Minneapolis, was assigned as the first pastor of the congregation."

Father Kochurov, by the way, is an Orthodox saint.
Father John Kochurov

Of course, we know that those "Slovaks" described as "Uniate" (or Greek Catholic), would have been Carpatho-Rusyns.

The next chapter in this bit of Rusyn history comes from William Furry, executive director of the Illinois State Historical Society. He wrote an article on the roots of Orthodoxy that appeared in Illinois Heritage magazine and, later in Springfield's "Illinois Times."

Furry wrote that the structure had been originally ordered by Tsar Alexander III, who "commissioned his favorite architect, Petrovo Ropette, to design the Russian Pavilion."

The architect is actually Ivan Petrovich Ropet, who pioneered the Russian Revival style. Here's a link in Russian, on the architect. And if you prefer English, here's the Wikipedia article on Ropet.

Furry wrote: "Father John arranged for the facade, tower and traditional ornamentation of the Russian Pavilion to be shipped to Streator, where all were reassembled as the new sanctuary for the Three Hierarchs Church, officially listed in the 1901 Steator city directory as the Russian Greek Catholic Orthodox Church. Although the church's sanctuary was of simple construction, its ornate facade turned heads in Streator.

The lost church of Streator, Ill.

"After Father John left America in 1907, the church passed into the hands of a fringe Baptist congregation, which sold the structure in 1916 to the Polish Catholic community in Streator, which renamed it St. Casimir's. The church was demolished in the 1960s and a new modern building erected in its place."

And, also apparently lost was the Rusyn community of Streator.

In "The World's Columbian Exposition: A Centennial Bibliographic Guide," it's noted that "over the years, every detail of [the] ornate wood facade disappeared. At the time of its demolition in 1964 to make way for the congregation's present church, every surface of the original building had been covered with brick patterned asphalt siding."

An interesting footnote to this story is the fate of the bell from the Russian exhibit at the 1893 World's Fair.

The fine Orthodox History blog details the story of the bell, that was given to Chicago's Orthodox Church and would have made it into the belfry of what's now Holy Trinity Cathedral, founded largely by Lemko Rusyns.

Quoting Chicago Tribune articles of the time, the post details the theft of the bell in May 1902, as the new church, designed by Louis Sullivan, was nearing completion.  Three men, including at least one parishoner, were believed to have rolled the bell onto a wagon and taken it away -- presumably to be melted down for its metal.

It's not clear if that ever happened, or if the bell survived somewhere, and the author of the piece is still looking for answers:

"Alas, I haven't been able to track down the rest of the story," writes Matthew Namee. "If anyone knows what became of the bell, please send me an email."

And my plea is the same. Do any remnants of the architectural oddity that was Three Hierarchs church survive? While the building is long gone, perhaps a piece or two remains. At least, there have to be some  later, and better, photographs of this unusual relic.

If you know anything, send me an email.