Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Former C-RS National President presenting a host of topics at 2013 Czechoslovak Genealogical Society Conference in Chicago

You were one of the top people listed on our 2011 St. Louis Conference evaluation as a Chicago speaker,” Czechoslovak Genealogical Society Chair Paul Makousky wrote to former C-RS National President John Righetti. “So even though you were not in St. Louis, you were on the minds of the attendees.”
A noted speaker on a wide variety of Rusyn and East European topics, John will deliver three presentations when CGSI holds its national conference in Chicago in October 2013.
John’s knowledge is a combination of   “book learning” and life experience.
At the University of Pittsburgh, he earned a certificate in Russian and East European Studies, with an emphasis in Austro-Hungarian history. He also studied Slovak and Ukrainian languages there. Later, he was one of two adult students chosen to study Rusyn folk choreography and culture in Uzhorod, Transcarpathia  in 1983. Living among the Rusyns in Ukraine , he gained a keen sense of culture in everyday life.
That sense only supplemented what he already knew, growing up in a largely Slavic neighborhood in the mid Mon Valley town of Monessen just south of Pittsburgh. Rusyn culture was an everyday part of his existence. His great grandfather had been a church cantor and Rusyn political activist; his great grandmother a folk healer/midwife for Monessen’s Slavic community.
“People have often said to me ‘How did you preserve all this culture?’ My answer ? We didn’t preserve anything. We just lived it,” he said.
John’s presentations at the CGSI conference will present different aspects of Rusyn history and culture. One is titled “Rusyns as the Third Founding People of Czechoslovakia “and enlightens how Rusyns played a key role in Czechoslovakia’s development and the effects being one of its founding peoples had on the Rusyn community there and in the United States.
Another is “Rusyns and Slovaks: Similarities and Differences”. He has delivered this presentation in a number of  major American cities, and to mixed audiences of Rusyns, Slovaks---and even Czechs.
“There is so much confusion among recent generations of Rusyns and Slovaks about their distinctiveness that didn’t exist 100 years ago,” he said. “This presentation helps contemporary Rusyns and Slovaks learn one another’s similarities and differences –and gain an appreciation for each other’s distinctive cultural qualities.
When he delivered this lecture at the National Bohemian Hall in New York City, a retired university professor stood up and exclaimed it was the most thorough and understandable presentation on this topic she ever heard.
The third presentation that will be delivered in Chicago is titled “Carpatho-Rusyn Culture –it’s not just blessed baskets and stuffed cabbages”. Its focus is the fullness and distinctiveness of Rusyn  folk culture , outlining the pagan practices Rusyns adapted to Christianity and continue to this day as well as evolving culture attributes developed as a result of their challenging history.
“Culture is not just the warm things we remember baba (grandma) doing. Carpatho-Rusyn culture is as rich, ancient and meaningful as any other. We need to learn to take our culture seriously as a part of who we are as a community—and who we are as individuals, “John explains. “Whether you realize it or not, your culture, rooted centuries ago, influences every decision you make today . In this session, we’ll explore that.”
So mark your calendars for Sat. Oct. 26, 2013 for Chicago—and explore Rusyn history and culture with John.

 Written by John Righetti.  E-mail jr@c-rs.org

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