Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Heritage Tour 2012

A few years ago, Lisa Alzo gave a presentation on her book Slovak Pittsburgh at the Slovak Embassy in Washington DC.  She was asked to recommend tour possibilities for visiting Slovakia.  "That's easy," she said, "the most informative and fun tours are those given by C-RS."

As a veteran of C-RS Heritage Tour XI (July 10-20 2012), I can agree with Lisa.  I and the 22 other participants from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia received a sampling of Rusyn life in the three countries which compose the "Staryj Kraj" that was both entertaining and sobering.  Our journey began at the Hotel Dukla in Prešov where enjoyed dinner and a performance by the Slovak dance troupe, "Šarišan."  The next day we visited the Rusyn Icon Museum in Bardejov, known as  the best repository of authentic Rusyn iconography.  Bardejov is also the home of a 12th Century Gothic church.   We also took in the Outdoor Museum, observing Rusyn village life in the 19th Century including one of several wooden churches. We later stopped at the the Krasny Brod Monastery , a sacred site fro Rusyns since pagan times.  At the end of the day we "took over" a Slovak korčma (pub).  The proprietress and her son did not seem to mind.

On a day set aside to visit ancestral villages, were were driven to Matysova, a town now largely depopulated and little more than a collection of "weekend get away" homes. One of my fellow travelers was delighted (and moved) to discover that the grave of one of his relatives was still being cared for in cemetery that was largely overrun by weeds.   The former wooden church (St. Michael's) was moved to another outdoor museum in Stará L'ubovňa.  I can only describe the interior of that church as ..well, magical...featuring authentic Rusyn iconography influenced by the nearby iconography school of Muszyna, Poland.

En route to Poland, we stopped at the village of Jarabina, birthplace of Michael Strank, one of the US Marines who raised the Stars and Stripes  atop  Mt. Surabachi in Iwo Jima.  Jarabina was part of the agricultural commune Polana during the Communist era and a huge mural remains in the community dining hall as a reminder, perhaps,  of the way things used to be.  Jarabina was the home village of numerous Rusyn settlers in northern New Jersey and metro New York.  A photo of St. Nicholas Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church in New York City  hangs in the town's community center.

While in the Polish resort town of Krynica, we met the incomparable Petro Trochanovsky, (born 1947) was born in Silesia in the southwestern part of Poland to Lemko parents from Binczarowa. He is the editor of Besida, published in Krynica since 1989. He is a spokesperson for the Lemkos  in Poland and internationally known.  Some call him the Lemko Chaucer but I think he looks like Mark Twain. He is also the choir director at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Church.  He lent his voice to the folks songs "performed" at the Vatra that evening. We also visited the grave and museum of  Nikifor (1895- 1968) (also known as Nikifor Krynicki and Epifan Drovniak) was a naïve painter of Lemko descent. Nikifor painted over 40,000 pictures - on sheets of paper, pages of notebooks, cigarette cartons, and even on scraps of paper glued together. The topics of his art include self-portraits and panoramas of Krynica, with its spas and Orthodox and Catholic churches. Underestimated for most of his life, in his later life, he became famous as a primitivist painter. Somehow, Nikifor's works seem more intrinsically Rusyn than those of the Great Warhol. Krynica has numerous wooden Lemko churches nearby; sadly, because of Akcja Wisła, most are either used by Roman Catholic Poles or have become museums.  During our last night in Krynica, we enjoyed the Vatra at Nikifor Hotel. Some serious singing and moderate consumption of Piwo Okocim (or was it the other way around?) ensued.

On to Užhorod...but first a 2.5 hour stop at the Slovak-Ukrainian frontier and the Ukrainian border police inspected every (repeat every) bag--big or small.  Ukrainian harassment of C-RS?  No, simply breathtakingly bad timing on our part: we arrived while a high level ministry inspection was underway and we gave the border patrol staff  an opportunity to overachieve--at our expense-- in their inspection duties.  I thought the Užhorod Hotel was elegant when I last stayed there in 2008.  It is even more so, now with some added outdoor dining and lounge capacity.  The city itself had also changed: it is cleaner, measurably more prosperous, with more upscale shops and the well-dressed patrons to go with it.  It was also more Ukrainian: Ukrainian flags were everywhere, a message perhaps to those who have  separatist visions for Transcarpathia.  I was struck by the lack of Rusyn-language publications.  Newspapers  and periodicals such as Blahovisnyk, the organ of the Greek Catholic diocese of Mukačevo, were in either Ukrainian or Russian.  John Righetti says that that is because there is not yet an agreed upon literary standard for Transcarpathian Rusyns.  By contrast, the organ of the Orthodox Church of Poland,Orthodoxia, is published in Belarusian, Polish, Russians and Lemko dialect. The church's annual Kalendar is published entirely in dialect.  We were able to  visit St. Ann's Church ("The Rotunda"), Užhorod, the oldest church in Transcarpathia, parts of which date from the 13th Century. The church appears to be used by both Greek Catholic Rusyns and Slovak RCs .

We spent a morning at , St. Nicholas Monastery, Cheneča Hora ("Monk's Mountain"), Mukachevo. Before the cathedral church and other eparchial institutions were established in Užorod, it was at the St. Nicholas Monastery, that the bishop of Mukačevo resided and from where he guided the Ruyn Greek Catholic Church. The monastery and the See of Mukačevo are very ancient. Some say that it dates back to the times of St. Methodius. Even after the center of ecclesiastical life was transferred to the larger and more cosmopolitan city of Uzhorod, the monastery continued to play an integral role in religious life. There were "odpusty" or pilgrimages held at the monastery on every major feast of the Mother of God, the largest and most heavily attended one being that for the occasion of the feast of the Dormition, on August 28. The monastery was turned over to the Orthodox in the 1940s and now used by Orthodox nuns.

Our last day was spent at the gem known as Košice, Slovakia's second largest city. Under its mayor Rudolf Schuster (1983–1986 and 1994–1999) the city underwent a major transformation.  It is the site of a major joint venture with US Steel and has some of the loveliest  Art Deco architecture in Slovakia.

(Written by:  John Schweich, C-RS Trustee)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

C-RS's Multilingual Wizard

John Timo, C-RS multilingual wizard has kindly translated the following Slovak-language article in the 1912 Kalendar Jednota:

"The Greek Catholic Parish in Freeland PA"

Someday, someone may want to write a comprehensive historical account of our Rusyn Greek Catholic parish and its various societies.  He will have to use golden letters when writing the names of the founders, parishioners and fraternalists.  The golden hearts and willing arms deserve this a thousand times over.

For the limited amount of space in the current Kalendar, I offer some highlights:
The parish was organized by: George Malenky, Michael, Jan and Alex Potočny, George Goč, Michael Dutko, Peter Lechman, Michael Medved,Michael Kvarta, Stephan Hrin, Paul Dančo, Jan Gaja, John Staurovsky and many others in 1886. 

At that time the only only other Greek Catholic Church in America was in Shenandoah PA.  Father Jan Volansky of Shenandoah, therefore, served our parish also. 

In he beginning, their services were held in a hall owned by Mr. Michael Zemany, later in a hall owned by a certain Englishman.

The people were intent on having their own church.  They entreated Mr. Eckley B. Cox for lots for a parish home, church and cemetery and he graciously granted them their requests.

The parishioners immediately began the building of the sacred church, even though there was no money, only $1138.49.  Construction began on June 5, 1887.  Thee work progressed nicely and that same year, on August 27, blessing of the corner stone took place.

Bur the parishioners had no pastor.  A request was sent to his eminence, the bishop of Prešov, who sent them Fr . Cyrill Gulovich.

The first church was a wooden building with one tower.  There was joy and celebration August 28, 1888 at the consecration.  Within a few years, the church became completely inadequate.  It was enlarged at had two towers.

With Father Gulovich;s departure, the parish was taken over by Fr. G. Martyak who was very concerned about the needs and requirements of building of an imposing church, as the parishioners desired and one that was large enough for all to enter.

with the departure of Fr. Martjak for the old country, Fr. Iren Janocsky was elected unanimously by the people and he increase the church's assets.  After a short stay, he was transferred to Passaic. 

Following him was Father N. Molchany under whose energetic enthusiasm the construction was completed on the current impressive church.

The church was build according to the plans of architect McGlen from Wilkes_barre.  The construction by W. Baillargeon.

The blessing of the cornerstone was held on May 30, 1907, witnessed by many societies and large crows. Because Fr. Molchany had acquired the parish in Kingston, the blessing of the church was conducted by our present pastor, Father B. Tutkovich on May 30 1908.

I cannot forget the sacrifices of our people, who like the early Christians of good heart, placed their generous offerings on the altar of the heavenly father.  For example, at the blessing of the cornerstone, the collection was over $1,300.00; at the dedication of the church, over 1600,00 and the blessing of the cemetery cross, over $600.00.

We had no schedule for making payments or finishing the building of the church because the parishioners voluntarily made regular payments from $25.00 to $100.00 .  The poorest ones gave at least $5.00.

That year the church interior was painted for $3,000.00.  It is obvious that with pride we can claim that there is none like it in America.  The iconographer was a Slovak, Mr. George Seifert.

The parish owns also a parish house, two cemeteries , a school and a home for rent for two families.

We can boast that our parish is prudently managed by our tireless and energetic curators and collectors, who daily perform their Noble duties with our beloved pastor.

I cannot identify here all of the names , but there is no doubt that are recorded in the Book of Life with the heavenly  Father.  God bless them all!

In our parish are many societies.  The oldest is St. Michael the Archangel, founded by the same men who founded the church. Its founding was September 23, 1888.  The first officers were:

Karol Dushek,President
Alex Potocny Vice President
George Hudak, Accountant
Michael Potocny, Treasurer
Originally the lode was independent.  On September 4, 1892, it joined the national Slovak Society and n 1894 it united with Jednota Lode 15, with 217 members , assets over $2,000.

Other societies include :

St Mary #273, IKSJ
St. George #222 Sojedinenije
Holy Spirit #146- Sojedinenije- (ladies)

Holy Cross Church Lodge Independent.

In Eckley:
St. Nicholas #22- Sojedinenije
A Knights Society
Our own band; well trained.

Theses lodge support the sick, crippled, orphans, and widows and the church.  For example, they purchased
 six windows at $160.00 each.

It was pleasure to write this article, for the world to be aware of our progress and development.  Lord,continue to help in the future.

Jozef Stulakovich

Submitted by:  John Schweich, C-RS trustee.  Email:  jtschweich@gmail.com