28 March 2011

An ambitious new project to preserve the Lemko-Rusyn heritage

The Lake Michigan Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society's own Richard Garbera Trojanowski is part of a new effort catalogue the history of the Lemko-Rusyn people of southeast Poland.

Here's the full description of the ambitious project:

The Wolanska family
The Carpatho-Rusyn Society’s Oral History Research Committee seeks to preserve the oral histories and artifacts of the Lemko people, and to explore the post-World War II expulsion campaigns  that resulted in the destruction of their settlements in Southeast Poland.  

In order to obtain and preserve firsthand perspectives of the events, C-RS is conducting extensive fieldwork, including recorded interviews with eyewitnesses in North America, Ukraine and Poland. The research team is seeking individuals to participate in the study who meet one or more of the following criteria:

(1.) Lemkos who recall life in their villages before or during World War II;

(2.) Lemkos who experienced the post-World War II expulsions from their homeland, and who were resettled in either Soviet Ukraine from 1945-1946, or in Western Poland (former German territories) in 1947 (Operation Vistula/Akcja Wisla.);

(3.) Lemkos who were displaced in Allied-occupied Germany during the time of the expulsions in the Lemko region, and who became separated from their relatives as a result;

(4.) Former members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) who witnessed or had knowledge of the expulsion operations of Lemkos;

(5.) Polish civilians who lived in the Lemko region at the time of the expulsions and bore witness to these events; and


(6.) Others with relevant, first-hand information about the events.

In addition to locating and interviewing subject participants, the research team is interested in procuring the following types of artifacts:

(1.) Photographs (originals or reproductions) from the Lemko region, especially prior to Operation Vistula (“Akcja Wisla” 1947);

(2.) Letters between expelled Lemkos and their relatives in North America or elsewhere;

(3.) Lemko clothing and costumes (original and artisan reproductions); and

(4.) Other Lemko artifacts, such as rare literature, paintings, carvings, etc.

The oral history research project will be ongoing indefinitely; however, the committee would like to receive as many leads as possible prior to July 31, 2011 to prepare for fieldwork in Ukraine and Poland this fall.

How To Help:  The committee is seeking volunteers with various skill sets to assist with interviews, transcription, and other duties.  We are also accepting monetary contributions, which will be used to procure and preserve oral histories and artifacts.  If you are interested in volunteering or in making a tax-deductible donation to the project, please email us at history@c-rs.org.

Historical Background:
In the summer of 1944, the pre-war Polish government was in exile in London, and the future of Poland was yet to be determined.  The Red Army had “liberated” Poland by driving the Germans westward to Berlin, and a power vacuum suddenly existed in the war torn country.  

During that time, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) hoped to establish an independent Ukrainian nation in the aftermath of the war, staking claim to territories of Southeastern Poland that contained a large number of “Ukrainian”2 settlements.  By “Ukrainians,” the nationalists were referring to the Lemkos, east Slavic highlanders who spoke a linguistic dialect similar to the Ukrainian language. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), the paramilitary wing of OUN, took up arms in Southeastern Poland, recruiting and drawing support from the local Lemko population. Violence between UPA and Polish forces did not spare civilians, and terror and instability spread throughout the region. 

That summer, Soviet officials and Polish communist party leaders held a meeting in Lublin to discuss the future of Poland, arriving at mutually beneficial terms for both parties.  By late July, they had installed a communist government in Warsaw, agreed on the new borders for Poland and Ukraine, and developed plans to address “the Ukrainian problem” through an ethnic purification campaign.  Though many of the Lemkos targeted for deportation were simple farmers rather than political activists, such matters were of little to no importance to the Polish and Soviet leaders, who carried out their mandate indiscriminately. 

From 1945 to 1947, the coalition executed three major deportation operations.  Some Lemkos left the region on their own volition, but most were resettled forcibly.  The first two operations in 1945 and 1946 were somewhat disorganized, and UPA was successful in disrupting the operations, enabling many Lemkos to avoid deportation and remain in their villages.  That would end in 1947, when the Polish government enacted the third and most comprehensive mass deportation campaign called “Operation Vistula.”  Polish forces vastly outnumbered UPA partisans and effectively suppressed their activities in the region.  The remaining Lemkos had no choice but to be deported, this time to former German territories that Poland had acquired as the result of the Yalta Conference (1945.)  Many of the Eastern Catholic (Uniate) churches and the Lemko homes in Southeast Poland were burned or otherwise destroyed to prevent the deportees from returning. 

In all three operations, Lemkos were dispersed during the resettlement process, depriving them of a sense of community with their own people in order to encourage their assimilation into communist societies.

The Research Team:

Corinna Wengryn Caudill is a professional freelance writer and editor, and the chairperson of the C-RS Oral History Research Committee. Previously, she has worked as an analyst and consultant for several government agencies in Washington, D.C.  Corinna holds an MA in Public and International Affairs and a BA in Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh.  Her roots are from the Lemko villages of Vola Petrova3 (Wola Piotrowa), Karlykiv (Karlikow), and Prybyshiv (Przybyszow.) 

Maryann Sivak is the Chief Financial Administrator for C-RS and the Chairperson for the Cultural Center Committee, A founding member of C-RS, she has also formerly served as Vice President and Recording Secretary for the organization.  Maryann was born in Jakubany, Slovakia, is fluent in Rusyn, Czech, and Slovak, and is proficient in Russian and Ukrainian. 

John Schweich is an adjunct professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh. For the last three years, he has conducted oral history interviews with senior officials of the US national security establishment. An avid scholar of Eastern-rite churches, he has developed an extensive collection of Rusyn and Ukrainian parish histories, and is proficient in Russian and Ukrainian.

Richard Garbera Trojanowski is a founding member of the CRS Lake Michigan Chapter.  He is a production analyst for Siemens Medical, Inc. in Chicago, Illinois, and holds a BA in Russian and Eastern European Area Studies from the University of Illinois.  Richard speaks Ukrainian, Rusyn and Polish and is proficient in Russian.  His Lemko roots are from the villages of Koroleva Ruska (Krolowa Gorna), Tylicz, and Muchnacka Nyznja (Mochnaczka Nizna.) 

Stephen Rapawy, Ph.D. is a specialist on Soviet and Russian Area Studies, and an independent scholar of Lemko history.  In addition to his scholarly credentials, Dr. Rapawy brings an eyewitness perspective to the research, having been an Operation Vistula expellee.  He is originally from the village of Karlykiv (Karlikow.)

Michael Buryk has done many years of research in Lemko and Ukrainian genealogy.  He is a freelance writer specializing in articles about the Lemko people and the history of Ukrainians in the United States.  He has been a contributor to The Ukrainian Weekly, Lemkivshchyna Magazine and other publications such as "The Ukrainian Heritage in America", UCCA, 1991.  Mike holds an M.A. in Russian Area Studies from Hunter College, the City University of New York.  His paternal grandparents emigrated to the U.S. in the early 20th century from the village of Siemuszowa (Semushova.) 

Please email us at:  history@c-rs.org or call  (703) 987-0592

26 March 2011

Practicing our Carpatho-Rusyn pysanky tradition

Saturday's pysanky workshop drew a healthy crowd.

Around 60 people of all ages gathered Saturday afternoon at Nativity BVM Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in southwest suburban Palos Park, Il., for the first pysanky workshop sponsored by the the Lake Michigan Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society.

Mary Ann Woloch Vaughn practicing her craft
with board member Michael Baron.
Father Basil Salkovski, the pastor at Nativity, warmly welcomed the group; and pysanky expert Mary Ann Woloch Vaughn presented an overview of the art form shared by Rusyns and other neighboring Central European people.

She then offered hands-on help to a group of people willing to try their hand the traditional Easter egg design.

In the meantime board member John Sutko marked he season by leading the group in traditional Rusyn Lenten and Easter hymns.

Another board member, Arlene Dremak Gardiner, showed off her large collection of Rusyn Easter eggs. Earlier, she had offered genealogical tips to Rusyn Americans interested in researcing their family history.

Arlene Dremak Gardiner shows off her pysanky collection.
The full day of activities included plenty of socializing, sales of Rusyn items, including plenty of pysanky kits, so the skills acquired Saturday could be practiced at home.

Rounding off the day's various treats was plenty of sampling of sweets, including board member Richard Garbera Trojanowski's delicious home-madkoláčky

24 March 2011

Carpatho-Rusyns in Pennsylvania's Mon Valley

The Carpatho-Rusyn Society has been helping The Greater Monessen Valley Historical Society with an exhibit on Rusyn settlement in the Western Pennsylvania region popularly known as the Mon Valley.

Today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers details of the exhibition, which you may want to stop and see if you're passing through the area. The exhibition runs through mid-June.

17 March 2011

A new Carpatho-Rusyn genealogy resource

Here's a new Rusyn genealogy blog that appears to have launched in the past couple days.

Blogger Christina George describes herself as a Philadelphian whose genealogy passion was stirred by research into her maternal grandmother who wasn't quite clear on "what she was."

So far, she has two posts. Let's hope for many more.

15 March 2011

Funeral service for Metropolitan Nicholas is Friday

Metropolitan Nicholas

The American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA has announced that funeral services for Metropolitan Nicholas will begin at 10 p.m. Eastern Time (9 Central) Friday at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Johnston, Pennsylvania.

Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, will be the celebrant.

The other scheduled arrangements are listed here.

You can watch live video of the funeral here.

Here is a touching personal account of his final days.

14 March 2011

RSVP for our March 26th Carpatho-Rusyn Pysanky workshop

We're asking for RSVPs by Tuesday for the Lake Michigan Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society's Pysanky workshop in Palos Park, Ill., if you're interested in participating in the hands-on demonstration, or reserving a pysanky kit for purchase.

Kits will be available in our Rusyn Market during the event, and you don't have to RSVP to attend the workshop and learn about Pysanky making from expert Mary Ann Woloch Vaughn.

RSVP by email to Charlotte or call Ken at 708-895-3074 and leave a message.

Once again, here's the flyer with all the details:

13 March 2011

Metropolitan Nicholas, Carpatho-Rusyn spiritual leader, dies

Metropolitan Nicholas
The American Carpatho-Russian Orthdox Diocese has announced the passing of Metropolitan Nicholas today in Johnstown, Pennsylvania:

"JOHNSTOWN, PA - His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas, 75, spiritual leader of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A., reposed in the Lord today, March 13, 2011 after waging a courageous battle with cancer.  

"All Diocesan Clergy and Faithful are asked at this time to remember the Newly Reposed +Metropolitan Nicholas as well as his brothers George and Michael and the entire Smisko Family in their prayers.
"May Almighty God rest His Newly Departed Servant, Our God-Loving Metropolitan Nicholas in the Heavenly Mansions, where there is neither sickness, sorrow or pain, but Life Everlasting!
"May His Memory Be Eternal!"

12 March 2011

Prayers requested for Metropolitan Nicholas

Metropolitan Nicholas
The following statement was released by the American Carpatho-Russian Orthdox Diocese:

"Johnston, PA -- Prayers are requested of all the venerable clergy and faithful of the diocese for His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas who is gravely ill. His Eminence, who has been undergoing treatment for cancer, was admitted to the hospital yesterday and is receiving hospice care.

"Prayers are especially requested at Divine Liturgy tomorrow, March 13, 2011, as it marks the 28th Anniversary of His Eminence's consecration to the Episcopacy.

"May Christ our True God, the Physician of Souls and Bodies, bestow His Grace and Mercy to His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas, as he patiently endures his bodily afflictions."

09 March 2011

NW Indiana's Dual Centennial: Gary's Lemko Sojuz

In our ongoing look at the thriving Carpatho-Rusyn community that formed two churches in Gary, Ind., in 1911, here's a 1938 photograph of the Gary chapter of the Lemko Sojuz, or Lemko Association, taken from the pages of the 1940 Lemko Sojuz Kalendar, or annual.

The caption notes that the majority of the members of this chapter aren't Lemkos from southeast Poland, but from the Presov region and Trans-Carpathia in what was then Czechoslovakia.

05 March 2011

NW Indiana's Dual Centennial: Carpatho-Rusyn advertising

To mark this year's centennial celebrations of two Northwest Indiana parishes, Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic, founded in Gary by Carpatho-Rusyns in 2011, Lake Michigan Rusyns will be shining a light on the settlement that has since moved from the city to the suburbs of Merrillville and Hobart.

Today's offering is a look at some advertising target the thriving Rusyn community that was originally centered in Gary. These examples come from the Greek Catholic Union's 1930 Kalendar, an annual put out by the fraternal group. That came before the creation of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, in 1935.

While the area's Rusyn community was made up of Orthodox and Greek Catholics, it's a safe bet that these businesses didn't draw any distinctions between their target audience.

02 March 2011

Details of this summer's 11th Carpatho-Rusyn Heritage Tour

The Carpatho-Rusyn Society has announced details of its 11th Carpatho-Rusyn Heritage Tour visitng Rusyn areas of Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine from July 14-26.

You can find all the cost information, contacts and an application at the Carpatho-Rusyn Society website.

To whet your appetite, here's the complete itinerary:

THURSDAY, JULY 14 ‑ NEW YORK (JFK) or WASHINGTON DC ‑ VIENNA Via  Austrian Air (international)


WE ALL MEET IN VIENNA and fly to Kosice in eastern Slovakia, then board Heritage Tour private motorcoach for a leisurely ride to the Hotel Dukla in Presov Check in and, relax. Dinner in the hotel dining room featuring the local cuisine.


After breakfast, Go directly into the high Beskyd chain of the Carpathians AND STOP IN AN ACTUAL Rusyn villae for local Rusyn food and entertainment. Then we head to Krynica in Poland, a health spa town with mineral waters and renowned topiary. It was home to the World Congress of Rusyns in 1993 and 2005. Arrive at the Nikifor Hotel and check in. Meet local Lemko Rusyn poet and cultural leader Petro Trochanovskyj, who will highlight the day with a walking tour to the tomb of the famous Rusyn Lemko primitive artist Nykyfor Drovnjak, Then study the interesting contrasts between the newly built Orthodox Church and the older Byzantine Catholic Church – the largest Byzantine church in all of Lemkovyna. Enjoy some of this classic spa town and its shopping and ambience. Traditional Rusyn dinner at the hotel, then, practice singing for the Lemko Vatra – a traditional Rusyn outdoor bonfire – to be held the next evening with Lemko Rusyns.


.After breakfast and church of your choice, visit Kamjanna, where the traditional Rusyn honey wine is made. See the beekeepers museum  and sample the honey wine. Back to Krynica to visit Nikifor’s Museum and new statue and take in the town. Walk the pedestrian zone, sidewalk cafes  and general atmosphere. Return to the Nikifor Hotel  and that evening, we`ll attend the Lemko Vatra – a traditional mountain bonfire, complete with food, drinks,  singing and the fellowship of local Lemko Rusyns.
Those who wish go with drivers to the villages. The rest of us visit the traditional Rusyn wooden churches, including the oldest in the Lemko region. Back to Krynica for shopping and to take in the town, then dinner at the hotel and pack for tomorrow.

A PACKED DAY! After breakfast we depart for Gorlici to visit the new Holy Trinity Orthodox Church and view its spectacular iconography and learn about St. Maxim Sandovych, a Rusyn priest martyred for his faith and Rusyn nationality and canonized in this very church just 15 years ago. Then onto the Ruska Bursa, or Rusyn High School, one of only three founded at the turn of the century in Lemkovyna. Taken away by the Communist state, it has now been returned to the Rusyns of Poland and is serving as their cultural center. On to the ancient mountain city of Dukla, with its charming town square  then to Zyndranova  to visit and view the historical and folk treasures at the Rusyn Lemko Museum there – an outdoor museum set up to resemble a Lemko homestead 120 years ago.
We cross the Dukla Pass through the mountains into Slovakia, stopping there to visit the Dukla open air battlefield where some 90,000 men lost their lives in battle during World War II. Then to Nyznyj Komarnyk, an isolated Rusyn village with a unique Boyko wooden church. Then on to Presov, cultural capital for Rusyns . Check into the Hotel Dukla Dinner and local entertainment..

After breakfast, visit the new Rusyn Museum in Presov and the tombs under the Greek Catholic Cathedral. Then up in the mountains to visit the Rusyn Icon Museum in Bardejov, then the Svidnik outdoor Rusyn Museum – an entire village set up as the Rusyn lived 120 years ago!. On to Krasny Brod, site of an historic Rusyn monastery and a holy site to the Rusyns from pagan times.  Stop in a little Rusyn village to experience a small town korcma (tavern) just like your ancestors did.

Dinner that evening in the Saris Restaurant in Presov with local Rusyn entertainment

For those visiting the villages and relatives in Slovakia, leave early with drivers from the hotel lobby. For the rest, take a walking guided tour of the city. Learn about Presov`s colorful and challenging religious history.  Finish shopping, relax and get to know Presov better.

In the evening , walk to the  theater  for a command performance by a Rusyn ensemble. Pack to leave for Ukraine in the morning.

After breakfast, leave for Uzhorod. Arrive there, cross the border to the capital of the Rusyn territory since the 600s! Check into the Hotel Uzhorod. See the ancient sites of Uzhorod, including Uzhorod castle and see where the Union of Uzhorod took place in 1646. View the museum of Rusyn folk life and then on to the Outdoor Museum of Rusyn Folk Culture which features traditional Rusyn homes from every region of Transcarpathia. Back to the hotel for dinner and local Rusyn entertainment.


Travel east by motorcoach  to the city of Mukachevo, the second largest city of  Transcarpathia and the religious and cultural center of Rusyns from earliest times. We stop and visit the sacred historical site for all Rusyns, St. Nicholas Monastery on Cerneca Hora (Monk’s Hill) – now  home to almost 100 Orthodox nuns.  The monastery church was built in the late 1700s and holds a miraculous icon.
Lunch on your own in the sidewalk cafes in downtown Mukachevo.Then to Palanok,  the renowned Mukacevo Castle. The view is incredible from there and the castle is filled with a museum of local Rusyn culture. Then we travel to Ivanovci and visit the Romzha Memorial, the site where recently beatified Greek Catholic Bishop Theodore Romzha was martyred by the Communists in 1947, beginning the liquidation of the Greek Catholic Church in Transcarpathia. Dinner in hotel – then off to the Philharmonic Hall for a performance by the world renowned Transcarpathian Folk Ensemble.


Church of your choice or early departure after breakfast for those going to the villages.. For the rest, a tour of historic Uzhorod-- see the architecture of the Hungarian times, the shops and the sites. Cross the pedestrian footbridge, walk through Korjatovych Square, sample the local foods Time for walking in Uzhorod. Dinner with local entertainment. Pack for tomorrow.


Breakfast then onto Slovakia’s second largest city – Kosice. Take in the sites of this spectacular city including several museums and spectacular shopping! Farewell dinner and overnight in one of the city’s hotels.


Depart from Kosice for Vienna then for New York/Washington DC and back to wherever you call home!

01 March 2011

More recognition of Carpatho-Rusyns from a Ukrainian source

In a two-paragraph brief on its website, the Religious Information Service of Ukraine reported the visit of Metropolitan Volodymyr of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church visited Transcarpathia, and identified it as "part of the homeland of the Ruthenian (or Carpatho-Rusyn) people in the Carpathian Mountains.

It's a little thing, but every bit of recognition Carpatho-Rusyns get from Ukrainian sources is a victory.

A scholarship for Chicago-area Carpatho-Rusyn law students

The Bohemian Lawyers' Association of Chicago is once again offering a $2,000 scholarship for persons of "Czech, Moravian, Ruthenian, Silesian or Slovak ancestry" enrolled in an accredited law school in the greater Chicago area.

Ruthenian, of course, means Rusyn, and the scholarship covers nationalities of the original Czechoslovak Republic.

Applications have to be postmarked or e-mailed by March 31.

You can find an application and more details at the Bohemian Lawyers' Association of Chicago website.