|Príkra, Slovakia (Прикра -- Prykra) in the Svidník district|
Large-scale emigration of Rusyns from villages in the Carpathians to the United States began in the 1870s and reached its peak in the years immediately preceding World War I. In 1884 Rusyns established their first Greek Catholic church in the town of Shenandoah in the hard-coal mining region of northeastern Pennsylvania, which served other communities until they established their own Greek Catholic, and later Orthodox, churches. It was also in the 1880s and 1890s that Rusyns established their own fraternal organizations and newspapers.
|Immigrants sailing to the United States on an Atlantic Ocean passenger steamship, around 1906. (Photo: Edwin Levick, courtesy of the Library of Congress)|
|Our immigrants first lived in Pennsylvania towns where coal mining was the main occupation and life was difficult. These are immigrant homes along the “street of rocks” in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, in 1891.|
Rusyns in the United States became divided according to religious affiliation and national orientation, and their fraternal organizations and newspapers followed a similar path. Thus in different American towns we find that Prykrans might have been members of the Greek Catholic Union – Sojedinenije Greko-Katoličeskich Russkich Bratstv (a Greek Catholic organization, of Rusyn or Russophile national orientation), the Russian Brotherhood Organization – Obščestvo Russkich Bratstv (a secular organization of Russophile orientation), and the Russian Orthodox Catholic Mutual Aid Society – Russkoe Pravoslavnoe Katoličeskoe Obščestvo Vzaimopomošči (an Orthodox and Russophile organization). Each of these organizations published a newspaper reflecting its own cultural orientation, and so in the American home of a Prykran one might find the Amerikansky Russky Viestnik, Pravda, Svit, or all of the above.
|Front page of the first Carpatho-Rusyn newspaper in America from 1894, the Amerikansky Russky Viestnik, published by the fraternal benefit society Greek Catholic Union of the U.S.A. (Sojedinenije) in Scranton, Pa.|
Most of those who emigrated from Prykra to the United States did so via the port of Bremen, Germany, and arrived in the United States at the Port of New York. In New York they were processed first at Ellis Island, where they had to meet medical, administrative, and economic criteria, and pass a medical and intelligence test before being allowed to go to the mainland to proceed to their final destination. If for whatever reason they did not have correct documentation, enough money on their person, or had a serious illness, they could be sent back across the ocean. While New York and Ellis Island was the point of entry for most Prykrans, the ports of Baltimore and Philadelphia also were used.
Passaic, Clifton, Garfield, New Jersey
|Passaic, New Jersey, circa 1910. The city sits along the Passaic River; the neighboring city of Garfield, visible in the rear, also adjoins the river.|
Passaic and its neighboring cities of Clifton and Garfield are located 24 km from New York City and sit aside the Passaic River. The industrial plants and the textile industry’s wool mills such as Botany Mills, Robertsford Worsted Mills, Forstmann & Huffmann Woolen Mills, and New Jersey Worsted Spinning Company, attracted thousands of Rusyns, Poles, Slovaks, Magyars, Ukrainians, and other central and eastern Europeans during the late 1880s through the outbreak of World War II.
|The first Greek Catholic church, St. Michael the Archangel, founded by Rusyns in Passaic, in 1890 (pictured in 1905). The first immigrants from Prykra were members of this parish.|
|The type of homes in which our immigrants|
lived in Passaic, Clifton, and Garfield
where they were employed in the wool mills and factories.
|The original parish of St. Michael the Archangel continued to grow and a new larger church was built. Here is a 1909 view of the larger church and the neighborhood where many Rusyns lived, near the Dundee Canal on the Passaic River.|
The parish grew quickly as Greek Catholics (primarily Rusyns and a few Ukrainians) from Austria-Hungary settled the area in large numbers. A group of parishioners bought land for a cemetery in the nearby town of Garfield and named it St. Peter’s Greek Catholic Cemetery. A few years later, conflicts arose in the parish between the priest and a segment of the congregation, and a large group established a new parish in 1902. The new church, built on 3rd Street, was also Greek Catholic and was named for the Holy Prime Apostles Peter and Paul.
|In 1897 local Rusyn immigrants bought land and established their own cemetery of St. Peter just outside Passaic in Garfield. In this cemetery were buried many people from Prykra and their families.|
|Cemetery cross at St. Peter’s in Garfield in the traditional Rusyn village style.|
With continued immigration of Rusyns to the Passaic area, Saints Peter and Paul Church became the largest center of Rusyn religion and culture in northeastern New Jersey, and Prykrans were at the heart of this parish from the beginning. But it was not immune to factors affecting the Rusyns elsewhere in the U.S.; after much consideration, the parish decided to join the Russian Orthodox Church in 1910. A much-needed larger church, magnificent and imposing, was built in 1911. The parish continued to grow in strength and influence and became the religious and cultural center for Orthodox Rusyns throughout the United States.
|The parish of Sts. Peter and Paul entered the Orthodox Church in 1910 and built a huge new church in 1911 which today serves as a cathedral.|
|The interior of Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral on 3rd Street in Passaic.|
|Marriage certificate of Terča Breniš from Prykra and Mychal Chromoho from Krajnja Poljana (the author's maternal grandparents) in 1907, from Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Passaic. Within a year or two they had a son, John, and moved to Pennsylvania to find new work.|
|A dramatic play given by members of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in the 1930s. The women and men are wearing the traditional dress of the under-Dukla region.|
|A “village wedding” play performed by parishioners of Sts. Peter and Paul Church, circa 1935. Here also they are wearing the costumes are of the under-Dukla region.|
Something rather unique about the Passaic area compared to other Rusyn-inhabited places in the U.S. is the large number of women who were also employed by the primary industry of the area, namely wool mills. Word quickly spread through the Rusyn community that if a young man were seeking a wife and the prospects where he lived (such as a small coal-mining village in Pennsylvania) were few, his best chance to find a spouse was to head to Passaic. Many of the marriages celebrated in Passaic’s Rusyn churches involved a bride from Passaic (or Clifton, or Garfield) and a groom from somewhere else (especially Pennsylvania).
|A stained glass window in the cathedral is given in memory of Teodor Chromoho|
and his wife Hanja (Andrijko) by their children.
Although there were large numbers of Rusyns from other villages of northeastern Slovakia living in Passaic, especially Ujak/Udol, Starina, Čirč, Virliv, and Hajtivkŷ, and who were members of the Saints Peter and Paul parish, as well as from Galician Lemkovyna, those from Svidnyk and the villages to its north, especially Nyžnja Jadlova, Nyžnij and Vŷšnij Verlych, Kapišova, Ladomyrova, Hinkivci, Bodrudžal, Krajnja Poljana, Krajna Bŷstra, and Vŷšnij and Nyžnij Komarnyk were the large majority of the parishioners.
Today inner-city Passaic’s eastern European population has been largely replaced by Hispanic immigrants from Puerto Rico and Latin America, but the churches remain. Thousands of descendants of the original Rusyn immigrants still live in the Passaic-Clifton-Garfield area. Rusyn immigrants from the Svidnyk region have continued to settle in the area, although not in the great numbers as in the past. Saints Peter & Paul Russian Orthodox Cathedral is still one of the largest Russian Orthodox parishes by membership in the United States, and Americans with roots in Prykra are still among its members.
Prykrans who lived in Passaic and vicinity:
Barna, Marja (Derco)* died and is buried in Passaic/Clifton/Garfield
Brenišŷn, Helena (Bila) *
Brenišŷn (Petriv), Mychal *
Brenišŷn (Vaskiv), Mychal *
Brenišŷn (Jankiv), Vasyl’
Capko, Dymytrij *
Capko, Marja (Volčko)
Hromoho, Jan *
Chromoho, Teodor *
Chromoho, Terča (Breniš)
Cuper, Terča (Volčko)
Derco, Jan *
Derco, Jurko *
Jurkovič, Aftan *
Koval’, Marja (Volčko)
Krivka, Terča (Hrinko)
Lazorčak, Marja (Hrinko)
Leferovič, Helena (Volčko)
Leferovič, Hanja (Bila) *
Leferovič, Štefan *
Marcynyšyn, Helena (Hrinko)
Muli, Terča (Volčko)
Povch, Eva (Hrinko)
Ščambora, Hanja (Capko)
Sipajda, Ulja (Hrinko)
Passaic’s proximity to the port of New York and Ellis Island helped it to become the destination for dozens of Prykrans, many of whom lived the rest of their lives there. However, other colonies of Prykrans, who settled together with their neighbors especially from Bodrudžal, Krajnja Poljana, Hinkivci, Ladomyrova, Krajnja Bŷstra, and Vŷšnij and Nyžnij Komarnyk, began to develop especially in the state of Pennsylvania. Nevertheless, Passaic (“Pasejk”) became the most popular destination in the new world for those who left Prykra in search of prosperity in the new world.
Philipsburg, Hawk Run, and Morrisdale, Pennsylvania
The town of Philipsburg and the villages of Hawk Run and Morrisdale just 4-7 km to the east lie near the geographic center of the state of Pennsylvania. Coal companies started mining bituminous (“soft”) coal in the area in the mid-1800s, and Rusyn immigrants first came to the area some 20-30 years afterwards. A Greek Catholic church was built in 1890 in the nearby town of Osceola Mills. Under the influence of Fr. Aleksij Toth (“apostle of Orthodoxy to the Carpatho-Rusyns”), the church came under the Russian Orthodox bishop’s jurisdiction in 1893. A year later, the Rusyns in Philipsburg and Hawk Run, most of whom were from Nyžnij Komarnyk, Vŷšnij Komarnyk, Krajnja Bŷstra, and Prykra, built their own church in Philipsburg dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The Orthodox priest in Osceola Mills served both churches. In 1904, a new Greek Catholic church was built in Hawk Run; this church soon had several members who were born in Prykra. This church was also dedicated to St. John the Baptist, and some families switched their membership from one St. John the Baptist Church to the other several times. Among the community leaders was Štefan Leferovič, who was a president of the Morrisdale-based Brotherhood of St. John the Baptist of Morrisdale, of the Greek Catholic Union.
|Greek Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist in Hawk Run, Pennsylvania, founded in 1904 by Rusyns from Šaryš County and attended by several from Prykra.|
|Icon screen of the first Hawk Run St. John the Baptist Church|
In a turbulent decade in which the American Rusyn community was torn apart by conflicts over the Vatican imposition of celibacy for clergy and over parishioner vs. eparchial ownership of church properties, the Hawk Run church (along with dozens of others) entered the Orthodox church – specifically, the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Eparchy under the Ecumenical Patriarchate – in 1938. The pastor of this parish in 1953 elected to return to the Greek Catholic Church, as did a minority of parishioners. The majority refused to go along with this and the matter ended up in a court process that was decided in favor of the minority who wished for the church to return to Greek Catholic jurisdiction. The losing faction built a new church, in an adjacent field in Hawk Run, again dedicating it to St. John the Baptist. The Jan Brenišŷn (John Brenish) family was part of the group that built this new church.
|Grave of Prykra natives Jan Brenišŷn and Hanja (Leferovič) in the new Orthodox cemetery in Hawk Run.|
Brenišŷn (Jankiv), AndrijBarnesboro / Patton and Clymer / Heilwood, Pennsylvania
Brenišŷn (Nykolajiv), Jan *
Brenišŷn, Hanja (Leferovič) *
Brenišyn (Nykolajiv), Michal
Hrinko, Teodor *
Leferovič, Hanja (Bila)
About 72 km to the southwest of Philipsburg/Hawk Run, along a railroad line that served the local coal companies, sits the town of Barnesboro. Rusyns came to work in the local coal mines around 1895 and established a Greek Catholic church named St. John the Baptist in 1897, and the first Prykrans came there around 1905.
|The Rusin Greek Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist in Barnesboro, Pennsylvania, founded in 1897 (the current church built in 1926).|
|Gravestone of Marja (Brenišŷn) Pysančik in St. John the Baptist Greek Catholic Cemetery in Barnesboro, noting her Prykra birthplace.|
Barnesboro and its St. John the Baptist Church served as a spiritual and community center for the Rusyns of that town, but also for those of numerous surrounding towns – Clymer, Heilwood, Alverda, Clymer, and others – where in most of which eventually other Greek Catholic and Orthodox churches were founded and of which other Prykrans were members. In 2000, Barnesboro merged with a neighboring town and is now called Northern Cambria.
|Gravestone of Terča (Breniš) Chromoho in St. John the Baptist Greek Catholic Cemetery in Barnesboro. The Prykra native and her husband Mychal Chromoho from Krajnja Poljana raised 14 children.|
Prykrans who lived in Barnesboro and vicinity:
Chromoho, Terča (Breniš) *Prykrans who lived in Patton:
Jaciško, Paraska (Volčko)
Pysančik, Marja (Brenišŷn) *
Fedorovyč, Marja (Leferovič)Prykrans who lived in Clymer:
Leferovič, Hanja (Bila)
Pysančik, Marja (Brenišŷn)
|The photo of Teodor Brenišŷn (“Frank Brenish”)|
he submitted with his citizenship application.
Breniš, Teodor *
|Application for American citizenship for Teodor Brenišŷn (“Frank Brenish”, born 1878, son of Hanja Brenišŷn), came to America in 1896, applied for citizenship in 1930. He became a citizen in 1935.|
Brenišŷn, PetroPrykrans who lived in Colver:
Brenišŷn (Petriv), Mychal
Chromoho, Terča (Breniš)
Jaciško, Paraska (Volčko)
Chromoho, Terča (Breniš)
Nanticoke (Hanover), Pennsylvania
|St. John the Baptist Uhro-Rusyn Greek Catholic|
(later Orthodox) Church, Nanticoke
(Hanover Section), Pennsylvania, built 1911.
In the hard-coal region of northeastern Pennsylvania, the town of Nanticoke, particularly its Hanover section, attracted Rusyns from the entire under-Dukla region who built two churches, both Greek Catholic. The first, Transfiguration, built in 1909, was primarily Lemko, and the minority group from Šaryš County founded their own church in 1911, named St. John the Baptist. Prykrans were among the founders and officers of the church: one of the first curators was Mychal Brenišŷn (Nykolajiv, b. 1887). This parish joined the Orthodox Church in 1913, after which it received some financial support from Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Passaic. Although the parish was rather small, it was culturally active and maintained its distinct Rusyn culture, unlike many other Rusyn churches in the U.S. who after joining the Orthodox Church became mostly Russified in their religious and folk culture.
|Iconostasis of St. John the Baptist Church|
|Jan Breniš (John Brenish) and his wife Marja (Hrinko)|
Prykrans who lived in Nanticoke:
Brenišŷn (Nykolajiv), Mychal
Limnjanska, Paraska (Breniš) *
Vel’goš, Marja (Hrinko) *
Syracuse, New York
Immigrant coal miner and Prykran Petro Leferovič left Patton, Pennsylvania in the late 1910s and moved his family to Syracuse, a large industrial city in central New York. There he became part of a small Rusyn community composed mainly of people from Svidnyk and Jadlova. Leferovič served as recording secretary (zapysnyk) of the brotherhood of St. John the Baptist of the Greek Catholic Union.
|Grave of Prykra native Petro Leferovič and his wife Marja (Babej)|
from Vŷšnij Komarnyk, St. John the Baptist Greek Catholic Cemetery, Syracuse
|Grave of John Joseph Leferovich (b. 1916), son of Petro and Anna Leferovič,|
U.S. Naval Reserve WWII veteran, St. John the Baptist Cemetery, Syracuse
|Photograph of the young Prykran-American|
Julia Leferovich before her early death.
|Gravestone of Julia Leferovich (1914-1929), daughter of Petro and Marja Leferovič,|
in St. John the Baptist Cemetery in Syracuse.
Beaver Meadows, Pennsylvania
Chromoho, Terča (Breniš)Braddock, Pennsylvania
Limnjanska, Paraska (Breniš)
Ščambora, Hanja (Capko)
Capko, Jan *Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania
Leferovič, Jan *Mahanoy Plane, Pennsylvania
Bilŷj, Vasyl’Manville, New Jersey
Krivka, Terča (Hrinko) *Martindale (Portage), Pennsylvania
Chromoho, Terča (Breniš)New Haven, Connecticut
Derco, JurkoNew Salem, Pennsylvania
Skirkanyč, Hanja (Hrinko)Scranton, Pennsylvania
Leferovič, NykolajSharon, Pennsylvania
Gula, Hanja (Volčko)Shenandoah, Pennsylvania
Malynčak, Marja (Leferovič)Treveskyn, Pennsylvania
Chromoho, PetroWilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Brenišŷn (Nykolajiv), Mychal *
Brenišŷn (Vaskiv), Mychal
Whether they were coal miners, mill and factory workers, shopkeepers, or housewives, our immigrants in the United States worked hard, built beautiful churches, and raised their families with love and dedication. They instilled a love for their roots in their children and their children’s children. The immigrant life was not an easy one, but it is a life that their descendants think of today and give thanks for the sacrifices and achievements of Prykrans in the new world.
The first visit of the author (at right) to Prykra, in 1996.
Here he meets Ulja (Gulova) Brenišinova and her grandson.
In 2001-2002, a group of 8 Americans, led by Richard Custer of Washington, D.C. (grandson of Terča Breniš Chromoho born in Prykra), donated a total of $625 toward the restoration of the wooden church in the village. Custer is also setting up a website, Rusyn Villages Under Dukla – www.rusynsunderdukla.org – that will contain information on the history and culture of Prykra and other nearby villages. With the help of the people of Prykra and their descendants, the village will continue to be well-known not just in Slovakia, but around the world.
Richard D. Custer © 2006
Original material is © by the author, Richard D. Custer; all rights reserved.