Carpatho-Rusyns are one of the major ethnic groups of Pennsylvania. From the time they settled the state’s small towns and cities in the late 1870s until the present time, Carpatho-Rusyns have left an indelible mark on the state, and their story should be told. This blog is about a project that will do just that. Read more

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Heart and Soul of the History: Memoirs and Oral Histories

One of the few accounts of the departure of a young Carpatho-Rusyn about to embark for America is this short, but emotionally-wrought story:
I was still a young lad – not even ten years of age – when in 1878, word got out in my part of Lemkovyna that Pavel Fyljak* of the town of Luh, of the parish Ždŷnja in the county of Gorlyci had returned from the army and was preparing to leave for a distant land beyond the sea, America ... When the priest announced in church that Pavel Fyljak, the son of Seman Fyljak, is preparing for America and that a Divine Liturgy will be celebrated on his behalf, a large group of people came to the church. On that day I didn't go to school because I wanted to see how a man prepared for America. A large group of people had gathered at the home of Seman Fyljak. A buffet was served at the home. The father rose to speak. He recited the Our Father and then blessed his son ... The people spoke about how Pavel Fyljak had learned about America from his Czech friends in the army.

[Denys Holod, “Spomyny staroho imigranta” as recorded by Omelian Reviuk, Jubilee Book of the Ukrainian National Association, ed. Luka Myshuha (Jersey City: Svoboda Press, 1936), p. 255.]
*Given in the above source as “Chyljak” but the proper surname of this family in Luh is Fyljak.

Similar sentiments are found in this account of another early immigrant’s departure:
It will be over 50 years now since our Lemkos began to leave Lemkovyna for America. It was a great occasion when they were escorting the first Lemko, Mychal Durkot of the village of Hančova, on his first steps into the distant world. He was accompanied by a huge procession. The entire community came to say farewell, not only his mother and father, but his wife and children too. And everyone wept such tears that a stranger who didn't know what was taking place might have thought that someone was being led to the gallows or some equally horrible fate. But he was respected by the community and that is why he received such a grand farewell.

[Damian Merena, “Pro Pershykh Lemkiv v Amerytsi,” Golden Jubilee Almanac of the Ukrainian National Association, ed. Luka Myshuha (Jersey City: Ukrainian National Association, 1944), p. 250.]

In the course of my research, I have met so many wonderful individuals – storytellers, collectors, those with photographic memories, and pillars of the community – and beyond all the facts, names, dates, and narrative, it is their emotions and memories that provide the real human story of Carpatho-Rusyn immigration and Americanization. I’m blessed that some of these individuals have lent their voices and memories through oral history interviews to provide a direct experience of this history.  In addition, I have collected what I believe is virtually every memoir written and published by Rusyn immigrants and their descendants about the earliest days of Rusyns in America.  I want to make this aspect a central feature of as many community history entries in the book as possible, to be titled “Through their Eyes.”

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Author to Speak at Rusyn Genealogy Conference, Nov. 1, 2014


Saturday, November 1, 2014
King's College Campus Center
Wilkes-Barre, PA
9am-4pm. Cost $35.00 breakfast buffet & lunch

Speakers include:
  • Jim Kaminski (President of C-RS),
  • Tom Peters (genealogist),
  • Rich Custer (historian),
  • Dr. Peter Yasenchak (Director of research at the Historical Society of Schuylkill County), and
  • Jerry Jumba (Carpatho-Rusyn music, dance and culture specialist).

Bring documents for interpretation.
Merchandise available for sale and a basket raffle.

RSVP by Oct. 26 to Sharon Jarrow ( or call 610-759-2628)
Sponsored by the Eastern PA Chapter of the Carpatho- Rusyn Society.
My presentation at this conference:

Uncovering and Publishing the History of Pennsylvania’s Carpatho-Rusyns

This presentation will discuss the preparation of a history, in words and in pictures, of the Carpatho-Rusyn immigrant communities in the state of Pennsylvania. Through the collection and research of chain migration data, parish histories, church and civil records, immigrant newspapers, photographs, oral histories, and memoirs, the author has amassed a collection of source material that he is assembling into the most comprehensive look at the history of Carpatho-Rusyn communities anywhere in the world.

Special focus will be given to the influence the pioneer Rusyn immigrant settlements in the anthracite region had on the development of Carpatho-Rusyn religious and cultural institutions statewide and nationwide, and the audience will hear powerful first-person accounts of the earliest days of Rusyn community life in the coal mining towns of the region.

Additional details and some of the presentation slides are now available.