31 May 2010

October 26 declared Carpatho-Rusyn Day in North America

One thing we American Rusyns have lacked is a common holiday here in North America, and the new Carpatho-Rusyn Consortium has come up with one.
Here's the release from that coalition of Rusyn organizations in U.S. and Canada:
Contemporary news clipping identifies Rusyns as "Uhro-Rusins."
MINNEAPOLIS / SASKATOON – The Carpatho-Rusyn Consortium of North America, a coalition of six cultural organizations representing the Rusyn people, has designated October 26 as Carpatho-Rusyn Day in the United States and Canada.  

The Consortium is asking its constituent organizations, and civic bodies in those countries, to commemorate and celebrate, at their discretion and in an appropriate manner, the history and culture of Carpatho-Rusyns on or near this date. 

The designation comes after a decision by the World Council of Rusyns, in which the Consortium participates, for Rusyn organizations in each country in which they live to choose an appropriate date on which Rusyns will be recognized at a national level.  

October 26 was chosen for the United States and Canada to commemorate a gathering at Independence Hall in PhiladelphiaPennsylvania, in 1918 at which Carpatho-Rusyns were recognized for the first time as a distinct nationality by the member nationalities of the Mid-European Union as well as by the United States government.


In the fall of 1918, Carpatho-Rusyns joined in New York City with representatives of twenty other stateless peoples to form the Mid-European Democratic Union.  The three-member delegation representing Carpatho-Rusyns was chosen by the community’s largest immigrant organizations, comprised of members living in the United States and Canada

On October 26, 1918, representatives of twenty-one stateless peoples gathered in historic Independence Hall in Philadelphia (in the very room where America’s Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in 1776), where they signed a Declaration of Common Aims.
A better photo of the participants in the Mid-European Democratic Union

Lemko Rusyns living on the northern slopes of the Carpathian Mountains also expressed a desire to be part of Rusinia, and they proposed that idea to the Paris Peace Conference.  In the end, only Carpatho-Rusyns living south of the mountains were allowed to join, on a voluntary basis, the new state of Czechoslovakia.  

According to the Paris Peace Conference (Treaty of St. Germain, 1919), Rusinia—now renamed Subcarpathian Rus’—was to function as an autonomous (self-governing) territory within Czechoslovakia.  The head of the Carpatho-Rusyn delegation at the Mid-European Union in Philadelphia, the American lawyer Gregory Zhatkovych (in English, Zatkovich), was appointed the first governor of Subcarpathian Rus’.

27 May 2010

"Closet Rusyn" Bret Michaels wins NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice"

If you're not a reader of The Huffington Post, you may have missed Megan Smolenyak's piece on the Carpatho-Rusyn ancestry of rocker Bret Michaels -- who was the last celeb standing on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" Sunday night on NBC.

Smolenyak, a Carpatho-Rusyn herself and a member of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society, traced Bret Michael Sychak's great grandparents to the villages of Habura and Kalinov in modern-day Slovakia.

As she began her search for his ancestry -- he's one-quarter Rusyn -- Smolenyak suggested he might be a "closet Rusyn." That's an interesting term that provides a neat label for those of us who, intentionally or not, have a hidden Rusyn identity. How many of our relatives are "closet Rusyns"? 

As for Smolenyak, a while back I posted an interview I did with her in connection with her work on NBC's fine "Who Do You Think You Are?" The series looked at the family histories of a group of celebrities, from Lisa Kudrow to Spike Lee.

While that series looks at the famous, and Smolenyak has studied the family backgrounds of people like First Lady Michelle Obama, she noted in out conversation, "there's no such thing as a boring family."

The NBC show, which offers a basic primer on family history research, has been renewed for the fall. Here's a link to that earlier interview with Smolenyak.

By the way, she's authored a number of good books on genealogy and family history, including the companion book to "Who Do You Think You Are?" I've provided a link to the book on Amazon.

And here's the AP report on Michaels, who has faced a series of health problems, getting the "You're hired!" from Donald Trump on Sunday night.

26 May 2010

Delving into Mark Wansa's "The Linden and The Oak"

I've been trying to post something new at least once a week, more frequently if events warrant.

But I've been traveling over the weekend and haven't had a chance to offer something fresh. In the course of my travels, I've spent a few hours on airplanes.

That block of time locked in an airplane -- with layovers in Atlanta -- offered me the time I needed to get into Mark Wansa's novel "The Linden and The Oak."

This isn't a complete review of the book. I'm only about half-way through the 535-page novel about Carpatho-Rusyns in the homeland. I know the traditional method is to finish it and then ponder it. Consider this a review-in-progress about a read-in-progress.

I met the author last year at the Carpatho-Rusyn Society anniversary in Pittsburgh, and found him to be a pleasant, soft-spoken man. His personality gave no hint at the work he obviously did in researching his novel. Yes, it's fiction, but for any of us with ties to a Rusyn village in Northeast Slovakia, with family stories of World War I, this book makes those family stories we all share come to life.

His main character, Vasyl Rusynko, could have fought alongside my own grandfather, Petro Cuprišin, in the Austro-Hungarian Army.

I'm hitting the road again on Thursday, taking a brief trip to Brussels. Two trans-Atlantic plane trips will provide the time I need to finish the book. 

I'm really looking forward to my trip. But I'm almost as excited to finish Mark Wansa's fine book.

I've included a link to Amazon if you're looking to buy a copy.

15 May 2010

The Carpatho-Rusyn "Old Country" reconstructed in Chicago in 1937

This 1937 photograph shows a play recreating life in the Carpatho-Rusyn homeland as presented at St. Mary's Greek Catholic Church on 49th and Seeley Avenue in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood.

My father, John Cuprisin, is the third from the right in the back row.

At the left, is Rev. Eugene Bereczky, the pastor of St. Mary's up until the early 1960s. At the right is Paul Kabaczi, the parish's veteran cantor, who served into the 1970s.

Formed by Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants in 1903, St. Mary's closed in 1996, along with St. Mary's, in Joliet. Both parishes merged into the new Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church, in Homer Glen.

Do you have any photographs or other material from the history of Chicagoland's Carpatho-Rusyn community? Let me know so we can collect and share our heritage.

You can e-mail me at lakemichiganrusyns@gmail.com

10 May 2010

National president headlines June 12 meeting

John Righetti, national president of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society will speak at the next meeting of the Lake Michigan Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society at 1 p.m., Saturday, June 12, at St. Peter & St. Paul Orthodox Church, at the northwest corner of County Line Road and Carriage Way, in Burr Ridge, Illinois.

Righetti's informative and entertaining presentation "Who Are the Rusyns?" describes our people in an easy-to-understand way. John is a valuable resource for any questions you may have on Carpatho-Rusyn culture and customs.

Admission is free, but donations will be accepted to defray costs.

How to get to Sts. Peter & Paul from the North: Take I-294 south to I-55 (Stevenson Expressway) south and exit at County Line Rd north (exit 276B). Turn left at the first traffic light (Carriage Way).

From the South: Take I-294 (Tri-State Tollway) north to I-55 towards St Louis. Merge on I-55 south. Exit at County Line Rd north (exit 276B). Turn left at the first traffic light (Carriage Way).

From the West: Take I-55 east and exit at County Line Rd north (exit 276B). Turn left at the first traffic light (Carriage Way).

From the East / Northeast (Chicago): Take 90/94 (Kennedy / Dan Ryan Expressway) south to I-55 south and exit at County Line Rd north (exit 276B). Turn left at the first traffic light (Carriage Way).

08 May 2010

Listening to our culture: Rusyn liturgical chant.

Prostopinije, Rusyn "simple chant" continues to be practiced in Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches  both in the North American diaspora and in the Rusyn homeland in Central Europe.

Thanks to the Internet, we have an opportunity to listen to Divine Liturgies in Church Slavonic from Rusyn villages of modern-day Slovakia through Radio Patria, which broadcasts in the various languages of the country's ethnic minorities. 

Here's the page that lists recorded liturgies by date. The most recent was recorded May 2 in the Orthodox church in Sobrance, Slovakia.

If you don't understand the Slovak, Pravoslávna or PC means Orthodox liturgy, while Grécko-katolícka or GKC signifies Greek Catholic/Byzantine Catholic. In some cases, the individual villages are labeled, such as Jarabina, Osadné, and Ruský Hrabovec.

03 May 2010

"Ruthene Likes Life In America" -- a page from our past.

A century ago, the Chicago Daily Tribune published a series of articles on the travels of renowned anthropologist George A. Dorsey. This is one of his dispatches, published Sept. 1, 1910, from the Rusyn village of Volocz/Volovec, in Trans-Carpathia in modern-day Ukraine.

Volocz, Bereg, Hungary, Sept. 1 -- Only a country village. But as interesting as any community in the world to study what man had done and can do.

Volocz is a great deal like Tennyson’s little flower -- “if we knew it all, root and branch,” we would know much that we do not know. I have seen enough to make me willing to lay a small wager on the Ruthenes. One never knows what is in any people or in any man until opportunity knocks. Opportunity knocked here; and the man was ready.

It was all so unexpected. First, as we walked down into the village from the station we met a man I thought looked suspicious. I addressed him in English. Seemingly, he did not hear me, but walked on. I felt I must be right, so I went back and asked him to direct us to a restaurant. Without a word he led us to a little tavern kept by a genial Jew, and was about to leave us when I literally forced him to talk English. He knew little because he had not been in the United States long, bue he said he would take us to a man who could talk English.

At the lower end of the village, near a brook, stands a new house. Behind it is a barn, also new, and some small outbuildings equally new. We entered the house and got the young wife to show us her finery. She served out heaps of it, including old style fabrics of hand-woven linen, beautifully embroidered.

House Homelike and Clean.

The floor was wood and clean. A new bed was piled high with beautiful drawn work of lace ends. A broad painted bench extended around two sides of the room; in the corner thus formed was a big substantial table. Table and bench were painted with flower designs. The big oven had a metal top. The smoke is carried to a narrow middle room by a pipe, which opens into a wide, wattled flue, contractin toward the ceiling and containing cross bars, on which hams were smoking. Back of the main room is a storeroom. More big chests of clothing and many rough woolen garments on lines. Curious fur caps. Spindles, bits of looms, and much flax.

In the front room, we found some photographs of Ruthene bridal couples, taken in Passaic, N.J., and South Chicago. These people bore no resemblance to those about us. A peasant looks out of place in store clothes. Apparently, he feels out of place when he is having his photograph taken. He looks astonishingly awkward. The new clothes do not set comfortable. He looks better and probably feels much better in his white linen and big sheepskin coat.

Until now we had found no one spoke better English than the man we first met. The owner of the house entered. He looked like any other peasant until we looked him in the face. Then we saw the difference, especially between him and those who never had been out of their native village. There was nothing about his dress to indicate that he had ever been outside Volocz, for each piece of his costume was of native make and clean. He did not invite us to sit down. He did not offer us a glass of wine or an apple or a plum. I have come not to expect such marks of hospitality from Slavs. But we felt that we were welcome so we sat down on a chest, and he told us about things.

His Own House Builder.

First about his house and barn. He pointed out the spot on the mountain side where he got the timber, showed us the oxen that hauled the timbers down to the valley, the ax with which he had hewn the timbers and the saw with which he cut them. And he built the house and barn himself. The money saved abroad he used for the “fixings,” and to buy a wagon and a little more land.

We complimented him on the cleanness of his house. Apparently he was not conscious of it, for he remarked that he and his wife have little time to keep the house clean, especially at this time of the year when there is work for both of them in the fields.

“Didn’t you work hard in America?

“Yes, I worked too hard.”

“Did you work harder in America than you do here?”

“In America, I worked hard -- for money: here I work hard -- for nothing. There is no money here. Everything is dear -- eggs, chickens, bacon, meat, flour, salt, sugar, everything is dear. Taxes take too much money. Count Schoenborn owns all the land.”

We asked how it is that he knows so much more English than other men of Volocz who have been in America. He told us that he had been in the United States longer, had been thrown with Americans and had studied continually an English-Ruthene dictionary. He told us that he had a bicycle, but he sold it before coming back. Said he couldn’t afford to keep it here because it costs so much as a horse.

Inherits Acre and a Half.

Charley Hoden -- for that is the English of his unpronounceable Slav name -- worked for years in a South Chicago steel mill. You would not expect a man to learn much of the English language in that time, nor would you expect his horizon to be broadened greatly. Yet he was there long enough to learn to like it. He came home because his father died. He inherited one and one-half acres, married, built his house. He has a complete plant. I have no means of ascertaining his relative worth in the village, but he is one of the well to do men in town.

But he is not satisfied. Now, this is contrary to the books. Why should a man of this fine little mountain town, near the summit of the Carpathian mountains, with good water, pure air, and the friends of his youth about him, with a farm, for this community, of good size, with one of the best peasant houses in the village -- why should he want to go back to South Chicago? He says he is going, if only for two years.

“Would the lady like to go?”

She spoke for herself; she would.

“Take her? No, not this time. Maybe we will sell out everything and go over there for good.”

“How many hours a day to you work here?”

“O, we get up at 3 in the morning.”

“And what time do you go to bed?”

“At 9 o’clock.”

That makes eighteen hours’ work.

Misses Joy of Conquest.

There is just enough of certainty about Charley Hoden’s life as it is to deprive him of the joy of conquest, which the man has who does not know where he is going to get his next meal. Hoden misses that joy. He is not conscious of what he misses, but he is dissatisfied. He can work from 3 in the morning until 9 at night for the remainder of his mortal days and it is a thousand to one that he would not be able to transmit to his offspring a foot more land than he now owns. In South Chicago, he might get blown up, freeze to death, or meet with one of the thousand accidents likely to befall a work in the steel mills. But his work would furnish excitement.

When Hoden went to America he experienced the first crisis in his life. It upset all his habits. He wasn’t in America long enough to acquire new habits. But the crisis itself shook him from the old ones. When he got home, he hung up his American clothes in the storeroom, donned linen and moccasins, tried to take up the old life where he left off; improved it with a new house, stove, and rag carpet. But it is not enough.