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

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Ode to Summer Memories: Russkij Den' - A Day for Rusins, Russians, Carpatho-Russians, and Ukrainians

Irina Kopko of Braddock won 2nd prize for modeling traditional
Rusyn folk dress at Russkij Den' at Kennywood Park, 1933
Summertime for Carpatho-Rusyn Americans, immigrants and their descendants, if they were fortunate to live in an area of heavy Rusyn concentration, meant a favorite tradition originally known as Русскій День (Russkij Den').

As Paul R. Magocsi, prolific historian of Carpatho-Rusyns, has written,
[A tradition] that was begun and is still maintained among Carpatho-Rusyns in the United States is a celebration known as Rusyn Day (Rus’kyj Den’), held during the summer months and often at amusement parks. Rusyn Days have been geared to both people of Carpatho-Rusyn background as well as to the larger American public. Traditionally, the annual event includes speeches by Carpatho-Rusyn religious and secular leaders (joined sometimes by local politicians) as well as performances by folk choirs and dance groups.

The oldest Rusyn Day celebration has been held since 1921 at Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh. From the 1920s until the 1950s, several towns in the northeast had annual Rusyn days, among the largest being those at Luna Park in Cleveland and at Idora Park in Youngstown, Ohio.
(Our People: Carpatho-Rusyns and Their Descendants in North America)
As the religious/national factions within the Rusyn community developed stronger national identities, Russkij Den' took on new names and new emphases. In English they may have been called Rusin Day, Russian Day, Carpatho-Russian Day, Ukrainian Day, or even Greek Catholic Day.

The first Rusin Day, in a sense, was actually held in 1915, not at Kennywood but at Idlewild Park in Ligonier, about 50 miles east of Pittsburgh. "Little Russian Day" drew Rusyns from the Pittsburgh area and the program was similar to that of Kennywood's Rusin Day that began several years later.

Little Russian Day honored Saints Cyril and Methodius, Equal-to-the-Apostles and Enlighteners of the Slavs. It was preceded the week before by another cultural observance honoring Father Aleksander Duchnovič, the most noted of the Carpatho-Rusyn writers, poets, and "national awakeners."

As the Carpatho-Rusyn community had already splintered into various ethnonational and religious factions, similar events were organized by other parishes and people, sometimes at the very same venues.

“Ukrainian Day” began in 1933 in Lakewood Park, Barnesville, and continued through the 50th anniversary held in July, 1983. Seminary Day was a “Coming-Home Event” for many of descendants of Ukrainian immigrants who the coal region to work in the larger cities. The Seminary Day tradition at Lakewood Park ended in 1983, the year the park was permanently closed. In 1985 “Ukrainian Seminary Day” was revived and moved to St. Nicholas Picnic Grove in Primrose, just outside the Borough of Minersville. See more Ukrainian Day info in the Lakewood Park section.

Rusin Day, or a variation of it, was also held in other states.

In Ohio, the Rusin Educational Society and Rusin Day Association of Greater Cleveland held events in Luna Park and the Rusin Cultural Garden in Rockefeller Park.

Cleveland's Russian Day in 1933 was a joint endeavor of various Rusyn Greek Catholic and Orthodox organizations.

Greater Youngstown had its own Rusin Day, and later Carpatho-Russian Day, at Idora Park.

"Greek Catholic Rusin Day" was held at Wicker Park in Whiting, Indiana in the 1930s. Another Rusin Day was held in the Chicago area; a Russian Day was held in Lorain, Ohio with the participation of Greek Catholic and Orthodox Rusyns.

The Connecticut Ukrainian Day Festival began in the largely Carpatho-Rusyn/Lemko community of Ansonia in 1966. Since 1968 the event is held in Stamford in September as a benefit for St. Basil's Ukrainian Catholic Seminary there.

In recent years, the long-running Carpatho-Russian Day at Kennywood Park came to an end.

A few of these summer outings survive:
  • Rusin Day / Rus'kyj Den held by the Rusin Association, Minnesota;
  • Byzantine Catholic Churches Day / Byzantine Catholic Family Day (etc.), co-sponsored by the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh and the Greek Catholic Union of the U.S.A., at Kennywood Park;
  • Byzantine Catholic Family Day, co-sponsored by the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic and the Greek Catholic Union, at Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, Pa.;
  • Ukrainian Catholic Seminary Day at St. Nicholas Grove, Primrose, Pa., and the Connecticut Ukrainian Day in Stamford, Ct.
Clearly the religious aspects dominate, except in the case of the Rusin Association's event. Yet the other events typically also include some cultural elements: the Carpatho-Rusyn Slavjane Folk Ensemble performs at Kennywood's Byzantine Catholic Churches Day, and Ukrainian dance groups at the Primrose and Stamford events.

Let's take a closer look at these events using photos, the local American press, the Rusyn American press, and ephemera. I'll generally let these items tell the story.
Do you have memories, photos, or program booklets from these events? If you'd like to share, please leave comments or get in touch.

Original material is © by the author, Richard D. Custer; all rights reserved.

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