25 April 2010

When Chicago's Russians first visited Chicago's "Carpatho-Ruthenians".

The March 12, 1934, edition of Chicago's Russian-language Rassviet (Dawn) carried this article on a visit of delegation from Chicago's Russian community to St. Peter & St. Paul's Orthdox Church, then located on 53rd and Western Ave.

The parish, founded in 1931 by Rusyn immigrants who were originally parishioners of St. Mary's Greek Catholic Church, moved to west suburban Burr Ridge in 1998.

The photo at left, clipped from the Chicago Tribune, shows the ground-breaking for the church.

The second photograph shows Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral, a symbol of Chicago's Russian community -- actually founded by immigrants that included Carpatho-Rusyns from the Lemko region. It comes from the Chicago Daily News negatives collection in the Chicago History Museum.

I apologize for the misspellings of some of the names -- including that of St. Peter &; Paul's founding pastor, Nicholas Semkoff. But that's how they were transliterated from the Cyrillic by the Chicago Foreign Language Press Survey, published in 1942.

Here's the translated article from Rassviet:


The Carpatho-Ruthenian Russian-American Citizens Club held its meeting on Sunday, March 4, in the hall of the Carpatho-Ruthenian Orthodox Church at Western Avenue and West 53rd Street.

Mr. Peter Kaliniak was chairman, and Mr. Peter Rozdilsky, secretary of the meeting. Over three hundred persons were present at the meeting — members of the club and members of the parish.

Besides members of the Club and the parishioners there were also present the representatives of the central committee of the Russian-American Democratic League, the ward representatives from various parts of the city, and representatives of the city government. The Russian group was represented by thirty persons. Mr. S. Miroslawski, assistant district attorney, was at the head of the city and county representatives.

This meeting was of an historic character, for it was the first such get-together of the Russians and their brother Carpatho-Ruthenians in the city of Chicago.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Russians and the Carpatho-Ruthenians, being strangers to each other, felt perplexed and somewhat bashful, looking askance at each other, although in their hearts they felt mutually the fellowship and sincerity possible only among those bound by blood and spirit.

After the chairman opened the meeting, he asked the Russian representatives to take their seats on the stage. Then Reverend Semko, the pastor of the parish, in a short but very warm speech, greeted the Russians, praising highly the joining into one family of the two Slavonic peoples for their common good in achieving and extending all benefits arising from the rights and privileges of our citizenship. He described the meeting as a great historic event in the lives of the Russians and Carpatho-Ruthenians in Chicago.

The Russian speakers and the speakers from the central committee of the Russian-American Democratic League were the following: I.F. Erin, P. Lagunov, E. Kopernik, L. Stankowitch, ... and I. Sambor. The speakers from Cicero, Illinois, were V. Shumkov and Magus. From Argo and from Summit, Illinois, R. Homko.

The Carpatho-Ruthenian speakers were P. Semko, P. Kaliniak, P. Rozdilsky and P. Bodynchak. The speeches were made in the Russian, Carpatho-Ruthenian, Ukrainian and English languages.

The last speaker was Mr. S. Miroslawski, (a Pole), assistant district attorney. In his extensive speech, made in English, he explained clearly and in detail the meaning of an organized work in all community affairs and in public life in America, and the benefits accruing therefrom, to an organized society or its groups.

He appealed to all Slavs in America to unite into a powerful alliance.

He said: "When we Slavs are organized politically and economically into one strong union, then we will be able to participate in a full measure in the government not only of our city and of our county, but also of our state and of our country. In the city of Chicago and Cook County alone, proportionately, we are the largest and the strongest group, and should occupy the first place in our public life and not the last place that we occupy now."

During the speeches, which lasted for over two and a half hours, there prevailed an absolute silence and an excellent order in the hall. The people listened to the speakers with eager attention.

During the intervals between speeches, the Carpatho-Ruthenian mixed choir under the leadership of Ignatius Biegun sang Carpatho-Ruthenian songs. The meeting must be regarded as one of the most successful.

It would be well if our Russian organizations would follow the noble example of our Carpatho-Ruthenian brothers in their efficient way of conducting meetings.

19 April 2010

Coming together to celebrate the sacred music tradition of the Carpatho-Rusyns

Thanks to Maria Silvestri for this video of Homestead, Pennsylvania's St. Nicholas Orthodox Church choir singing at "He Granted Life: Songs of Pascha," at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral in Munhall, Pa, yesterday afternoon.

The choir director is Andrew Talarovich.

The event brought together choirs from both Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches in a joint celebration.

Paschal Hymns / Saint Nicholas Choir from Maria Silvestri on Vimeo.

18 April 2010

This week's Carpatho-Rusyn Society's Heritage radio program

Here's the latest installment of the weekly radio show out of Pittsburgh's WPIT-AM radio.

If you're interested in donating to keep this broadcast going, send your checks to Dean Poloka, 2201 Forest Grove Road, Coraopolis, PA 15108-3355 (Make checks payable to the Carpatho-Rusyn Society).

You can also contact him by e-mail.

17 April 2010

Volcanic ash covers the Carpatho-Rusyn homeland

This map, from the BBC, shows how the volcanic ash from Iceland is spreading across Europe, including Carpatho-Rus'.

We're in the New Rusyn Times

The latest issue of The New Rusyn Times, the bi-monthly publication of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society, has a brief report on the Lake Michigan Chapter of the C-RS:

Potential Chicago-Area
C-RS Chapter Gathers Supporters

"In an attempt to organize the Rusyn community in the Chicago are (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin,) with the hope of starting a C-RS Chapter for that region, a group of Rusyn Americans has started a Facebook page under the name Lake Michigan Carpatho-Rusyns. So far they have almost 50 members, so if you're on Facebook, look them up and send a friend request! Also, check out their blog or follow them on Twitter. We plan to report news of the prosepective chapter's organizational meeting in an upcoming issue."

The Lemko-Rusyns of Lublin, Wisconsin

Carpatho-Rusyn immigration to the the Great Lakes region wasn't limited to large urban areas, like Chicago. A series of North Wisconsin towns attracted sizable enough communities to form churches.

One example is the North-Central Wisconsin town of Lublin, a community which attracted a settlement of Lemko-Rusyns from what today is Southeast Poland, along with ethnic Poles.

That these people had a Lemko identity is demonstrated by the fact that four of them -- Andrew Klisch, Anna and Frank Kucynda, and John Wasylko -- were listed as "boosters" in the 20th anniversary program for Lemko Hall in Yonkers, N.Y., in 1958.

In 1976, Lublin's 4-H compiled a history that included a look at the foundation of Holy Assumption Orthodox Church, the spiritual home of the community's Lemkos, who also considered themselves "Carpatho-Russians."

Here's an excerpt from that history (complete with some of the original spelling quirks):

"In the early 1900's, land developer Marion Durski advertised land for sale in Lublin and its vicinity. The first of the Carpatho-Russian to heed this call was Daniel Majkowicz, who arrived here from Mississippi while the village was still in its infancy.

"He in turn served as an assistant to the land developer Marion Durski to persuade his fellow countrymen who temporarily settled in the East, mainly Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and also Mississippi to come to this area to buy farms and to supplement their income by working in the forest in the winter.

"Most of the original parishioners in Lublin were under the influence of the
Unia (Greek Catholics), coming from the area of Galicia, southeast of (the Polish city of) Sanok; which was known as Carpatho-Russia.

"Their first concern after settling in the vicinity of Lublin was to provide a place where they might worship and baptize and educate their children. This is shown by the fact that in 1908, shortly after Daniel Majkowicz's advertisement was fulfilled, youthful emigrants arrived. Immediately they met to discuss and to organize an Orthodox community in their new homeland.

"Among the early pioneer-founders and organizers were: Daniel Majkowicz, Theodore and Simeon Dubiak, Stefan Lencz, Harry Kucynda, Elias Koruc, Wasyl Kawalkiewicz, (Timko) Hnat, Stefen Kahan, (Timko) Kon, Sylvester Pogar, Ambrose Peleschak, Andrew Bahur, Osafat Sweda, and Theodore Polonczak.

"A very small chapel, only large enough to accommodate this small group, was built on two acres of land donated by Marion Durski. This chapel was dedicated to St. Demetrios, and was built in 1908 under the skilled carpentership of two brothers Simeon (Sam) and Theodore (Frank) Dubiak.

"Within a five year period, with the arrival of new emigrants, this building became to small for the community which necessitated the enlargement of the chapel to double it size. Being without a belfry, a bell was purchased, mounted on a concrete slab and was manually rung.

"For the period 1908-1917, St. Demetrios Orthodox Church was served by a missionary priest from Minneapolis. However, in 1918, a resident priest was assigned to serve
St. John's Orthodox Church, Huron and St. Demetrios. The priest and his family resided with parishioners for two weeks and then traveled by horse and buggy to Huron where he would reside and serve for the next two weeks.

"During the time the community was in a missionary status as well as when the priest was at his other parish, laymen services were conducted on feast days as well as on Sundays, under the talented and musically-inclined psalmist, Averky Kosheluk, whose melodies are still being used at the present time.

"Once again the community outgrew their chapel. In 1927, the present church was built. Most of the lumber was donated by Daniel Majkowicz, and Simeon and Theodore Dubiak were once again the main carpenters. Each member had to contribute at least twenty hours of labor.

"The shape of the new church was like a ship facing East with one large cupola, topped with a three-bar cross, built by the Dubiak brothers. The bell was removed from the slab and was mounted permanently in the fifty-foot belfry.

"The Slavonic Holy Gospel, Service books, chalice, candelabra and brass enameled banners were imported from Russia in 1913, while the shroud (Plaschenitza) was imported from Jerusalem and is used at Good Friday services to the present time. In 1961, the crystal prism or chandelier was imported from Czechoslovakia, and was installed.

"On the parish level, the parish council is headed by a starosta ("elder"), Daniel Majkowicz served as the first starosta, Joseph Pawlik Sr. is the present starosta. However, Simeon Dubiak and his son Frank Dubiak have served as starosta numerous times.

"Special recognition must be given to the pioneer,
a cappella, choir director, and psalmist, Averky Kosheluk, who loved his work and put into it his entire soul, effort and knowledge from about 1913-1950's, commuting either on foot or horse and buggy, seldom absent for a feast day and Sunday service and serving without pay, and to our present choir director, Mrs. Irene (Peleschak) Jasinski, who continues with the work that her predecessor established.

"The church had operated a Russian school in the 1920's and 1930's. The classes were taught by the pastor to read, write, and sing in Russian,
Church Slavonic, the language in which the church services were served. Gradually and unfortunately, this class disappeared as a church function. Since the services are served in the vernacular of the people, which is English, the church school replaced the Russian school.

"In 1931, the chapel was converted into living quarters for the priest. It was moved to its present location, and was double in size, and placed on a foundation. The downstairs of the rectory serves as the church hall and all purpose room.

"Holy Assumption (Dormition) Cemetery with its triple-barred Cross Monument and tombstones facing east, is north of the church. The first infant and first adult had been buried in 1908.

"It is also a final resting place for S/Sgt. Harry Shewczuk, who lost his life in Italy during World War II, and several of the pioneer founders, including: Daniel Majkowicz, Simeon and Theodore Dubiak, Ambrose Peleschak, Stefan Lencz, Stefan Kahan, Theodore Panlonczk, and Elias Koruc."

13 April 2010

Finding my Rusyn identity

11 April 2010

Following the tragic news from Poland

While U.S. media has covered the tragic plane crash near Smolensk, Russia, that wiped out many top Polish leaders, the Internet offers us many other sources of of more detailed news from the region.

A good place to start is Polish Radio, with regular English reports. Here's where to listen to the Sunday evening recap of events, including the sad return of the body of the late president, Lech Kaczyński,  to Warsaw.

Polish journalist and blogger Raf Uzar offers this interesting look at both the impact of the crash -- and it's connection to the World War II tragedy at Katyń.

The English-language Krakow Post offers detailed coverage of the unfolding story.

You can also watch coverage from the Russian side from the English-language TV outlet, Russia Today.

Here's the latest video from Russia Today:


09 April 2010

Pittsburgh's Carpatho-Rusyn Cultural Center enters cyberspace

The  Carpatho-Rusyn Cultural Center, housed in the former Byzantine Catholic Cathedral in the Pittsburgh suburb of Munhall has begun its own blog, Adventures of the Cultural Center.

The blog promises to provide updates on the renovation of the building, along with a schedule of events.

You'll also find an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which offers a little bit of  background on this historic structure.

07 April 2010

National Czech and Slovak Museum launching oral history program

The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is launching a new oral history program to gather personal stories, family sagas, and community histories of communist-era (1948-89) émigrés from Czechoslovakia who settled in Chicago, Washington DC, and Cleveland.

Of course, that would include Ruysns who were citizens of Communist Czechoslovakia.

They're in the process of setting up the framework and plan on interviewing in June, in these three cities. 

If you fit the criteria, or know someone who does, or can give the project any leads, please contact
Rosie Johnston, Project Coordinator, 319-362-8500 ext. 214, or Dave Muhlena, Project Director, 319-362-8500 ext. 202.

04 April 2010

Today's Easter Broadcast

Here's today's one-hour Easter special edition of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society Heritage radio program from Pittsburgh's WPIT-AM.

Христос воскрес! Воистину воскрес! Christos Voskres! Voistinu Voskres!

Easter falls today, April 4, for both Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Rusyns, and I titled this post with the traditional Easter greeting: "Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!" used by Rusyns and all Slavic Eastern Christians.

To mark the day, I've posted an artifact from Chicago's Carpatho-Rusyn history, the original Resurrection icon from the old St. Michael The Archangel Church on 2417 N. Campbell Ave. 

It was founded in 1914 as a Greek Catholic (Byzantine Catholic) parish by immigrants from the Rusyn villages of  Veľký Lipník, Folvark (now Stráňany) and Kamienka in modern-day Slovakia. St. Michael's became part of the American Carpatho-Orthodox Rusyn Diocese and relocated in the mid-1960s to suburban Niles, Ill.

The icon's style is simple, and very Westernized, a fashion at the time of the great migration of Rusyns to North America in the early years of the 20th Century.

It currently hangs inside the sanctuary of St. Michael's in Niles. Thanks to Father Sam Sherry for allowing me to photograph it.

03 April 2010

A musical background for our last-minute Easter preparations

Thanks to the archived broadcasts from both Jerry Jumba's "Carpatho Rus'" radio show on Pittsburgh's WEDO-AM, and "The Carpatho-Rusyn Society Heritage Program" on Pittsburgh's WPIT-AM, we can listen to last year's Easter shows.

Because last year's Orthodox and Western Easters didn't coincide, there were separate shows for each, giving us even more to listen to.

Here are the April 12, 2009 Easter broadcast, and the April 19 edition of Jack and Dean Poloka's WPIT show.

Here are the April 12 edition of Jerry Jumba's show, and the April 19 edition.

02 April 2010

My hrudka is ready, it's almost time to bake the pascha

In Carpatho-Rusyn homes both here in North America and in the European homeland, last-minute Easter preparations are underway.

My chrin is ready, eggs have been cooked and dyed, and the hrudka spent much of today hanging from a kitchen cabinet door, its rich whey draining into a bowl.

I'll use that sweet, eggy liquid in my pascha, just as my mother did. I'm not much of a baker. But at Christmas and Easter, I do what I can.

The ham and sausage are the easy parts, and I picked up an butter lamb from my neighborhood grocery store.

There isn't a meal I look forward to more than that first bite of our Easter  delicacies, which comes after church on Sunday morning.

If you're still putting together your Easter meal -- or preparing a basket for blessing, the Cleveland Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society has prepared a simple brochure explaining our Rusyn Paschal traditions.

01 April 2010

"You say Lwów, I say Lviv"

This entertaining piece from the Economist samples of the frequently silly arguments that divide the various peoples of Central and Eastern Europe.

The paragraph focusing on "us":
"Any talk of a Ruthenian nation is ill-informed, stupid, possibly mad and the product of Muscovite attempt to split and destroy Ukraine."

You know how it goes: you say Ruthenian, I say Rusyn (and I'm right).