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.


  1. This was interesting enough until I read about the choir and realized the leader was my cousin-in-law. Then it became fascinating. Funny how much more meaningful things are when they become personal. Thanks so for the post.

  2. Ignatius Biegun was Ignatz Bihun cousin-in-law.
    His name was mispelled.