Rusnjaks, Ruthenians, or Carpatho-Russians are different names for a people that is said to have come up out of the Ukraine to the Carpathian Mountains between Poland and Czechoslovakia. There are many theories about the reasons for this migration, but archeological evidence seems to indicate that it took place sometime around the year 1250. It was around this time that the Mongols invaded from Asia, through the Ukraine, and on through into middle and southeastern Europe. Just shortly afterwards the plague known as the "Black Death" devastated Europe. The Black Death started on the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine and with people leaving stricken towns in fear and the depopulation of many areas it led to major population shifts all over Europe. Perhaps this may also have had something to do with the migrations of Ukrainians into the Carpathian Mountains. In the Ukraine these people had called themselves, "Rus'." Some scholars believe that this name was taken from the name of a valley in the Ukraine. During prehistory, settlers moved north from the Ukraine, taking the name with them, calling themselves "Russians" and the land in which they lived, "Russia." The people that moved into the Carpathians also brought this same name with them. So the "Russians" in Russian and the "Russians" in the Carpathians have both taken their names from the Rus' people of the Ukraine. In order to more clearly distinguish between them both, the spelling "Rusyn" is often used for the descendants of the Rus' people living in the Carpathians - Carpathian-Rusyns or Carpatho-Rusyns.
This term "Rusyn" has not won universal acceptance. The word seems to have most firmly caught the liking of politically active Carpatho-Rusyns in Europe and their supporters in the United States. More dispassionate, less involved, researchers in Europe seem to favor the older term, "Ruthenian." One thing that can be said in support of the name, "Ruthenian" is that some Carpatho-Rusyns, to this writer's ear at least, seem to pronounce the letter "s" very far forward in their mouths, close to their front teeth, giving it the character of a "non-plosive 't'", or even the English "th" so that "rusyn" or "russin" becomes much like "ruten" or "ruthen." Seen is this light, "Ruthenian," too, seems an acceptable choice.
The Carpatho-Rusyns settled on both sides of the Carpathians from about Krynica in present-day Poland down to the Ukraine-Romanian border. Historical events influenced the geographic shape of Carpatho-Rusyn settlement during their long presence in the Carpathians. Historical events also left their traces in Rusyn language and custom. The belief held by some Rusyns that the "yellow race" would someday rule the world can possibly be traced all the way back to the Mongolian invasions of 13th century. The oaths "Te fransuse" (You Frenchman!) and "Nae tebe fransus scare" (May the Frenchmen punish you!) surely originated when Nopleon's french army passed through the Carpathians on its way into Russia where it invaded Moacow in 1812. These oaths were still in use among Rusyns in the 1920's.
As one might expect, the Carpatho-Rusyn language is very similar to Ukrainian. It is also quite similar to Polish. Until rather recently, there was no standardized way of writing Carpatho-Rusyn. Instead, the alphabet and spelling rules of Polish or mainstream Moscovian Russian were used. One of the consequences of this was that it was possible for Carpatho-Rusyns to read mainstream Russian although spoken Russian was more or less incomprehensible without practice. Both spoken Ukrainian, however, are readily understandable to Carpatho-Rusyn speakers.
Beginning in the 1500's the Carpathians also became the home of a large Jewish population - fifteen to twenty-five percent according to various estimates. Jews in the Carpathians were little exposed to the secular influences which had strong effects on Jewish cuture in other parts of Europe and they remained firmly attached to their early religious roots. In the 1800's, most Jews of the Carpathians had adopted Chassidism, a rather conservative variant of the Jewish faith. The proportion of Carpatho-Rusyns and Jews in individual villages varied widely. Some villages in the Carpathian area had quite large Jewish populations. Some villages, particularly those located close to mountain passes, or along trade routes, often had a pronounced cosmopolitan population. Typically, however, Carpatho-Rusyn villages included about 5-10% Jews. Relations between the Rusyns and the Jews appear to have been amiable. Living in close proximity, the Rusyns and Jews influenced each other's culture, belief structures and folklore. Recent genetic studies are said to indicate that the rate of intermarriage between Carpatho-Rusyns and Jews was about 5% per generation.
In addition to Carpatho-Rusyns and Jews, the Carpathians also contained a small number of gypsies. Originally from India there were small populations in almost every European country. They tended to adopt the religion of the country in which they resided.
The Carpatho-Rusyns, Jews and gypsies were minorities and there is much evidence to suggest that they all kept wary eyes on the powerful majorities that surrounded them - the Poles, the Slovaks and the Hungarians.
During the late 19th century people in the Carpathians were very poor, perhaps the poorest people in Europe. Despite this there was economic activity. Much of it was performed in the form of barter or trade. There were differences in the commercial traditions of the Carpatho-Rusyns, Jews and gypsies.
Carpatho-Rusyn commercial tradition was often closely connected to local raw materials - raw materials or technically simple products made from those raw materials. If broomcorn grew well near a village, for example, many villagers may have been involved in the part time production of brooms. Because of this close connection to local raw materials to which many had access, Carpatho-Rusyn commercial tradition tended to be a communal effort - a cooperative, materials-based, single-product activity for a number of villagers performed as a sideline to their main activity - farming.
There are reports of villages specializing in the following products: firewood, wire and nail making, horses, boxes, wooden spoons, and brooms. Not too much appears to be know about this "single-product" aspect of Carpatho-Rusyn village life. In the case of the "broom-village", however - a village somewhere near Vola Ceklynska in southern Poland - it is reported that the villagers were so united around the production of brooms (mitvi) that they were given the nickname "mitvare" or "mitlare" (broomers).
Because of such concentrated production it was sometimes necessary to export excess production to more distant places. It would be difficult, for example, to find a market for very many brooms in a single village or even several nearby villages, particularly if others in the area were also turning out brooms because of the availability of broomcorn. Such excess production was often taken care of by travelling peddlers or occasional excursions by a village representative to some distant trade center.
Another reason for this cooperative or communal approach to commercial activities among Carpatho-Rusyns, in addition to the shared availability of raw materials, was that church activities such as church construction and renovation, and aid to the destitute and elderly were often organized along similar lines.
Sometimes individuals would become so skilled or artistic in the execution of their craft that it became a fulltime activity at a superior level of quality. And occasionally people leave farming and take up a specialized trade such as bootmaking or tailoring. But the communal, part-time, approach to commercial activity appears to have been a prominent trend or tendency among Carpatho-Rusyns.
Jewish commercial tradition in the Carpathians, on the other hand, tended primarily to be the individualistic, skill-based, full-time and small-scale trades that were the exception among Carpatho-Rusyns - bootmaking, blacksmithing, shopkeeping and tailoring. For such activities, excess production was seldom a problem. As long as local consumers had a production surplus that enabled them to purchase or barter such products, full-time production by a single individual could most likely be sold locally.
Gypsies in the Carpathians were wanderers. They traveled between the villages and set up their tents and wagons in areas that had been designated as campgrounds by the villagers. Gypsies were known for their colorful clothes. They survived by doing odd jobs for the villagers, trading animals, and performing specialized but infrequently required tasks such as the repair and re-tinning of copper pots and kettles.
With time, the Carpatho-Rusyns became influenced by surrounding large ethnic groups, Poles, Slovaks, Hungarians and Ukrainians. Because of these influences several sub-groups developed among the Carpatho-Rusyns, each with small linguistic and cultural differences - the Hutsuls, the Bojkos and the Lemkos. The Lemkos were strongly influenced by the surrounding Polish language and culture and to a lesser degree by that of the Slovaks. It has been said that they got the name, "Lemkos" because of their frequent use of the otherwise archaic word, "lem," meaning "only." Used in isolation the word can mean "Quite!" "Well!" or "You know!"
Unlike other groups of Carpatho-Rusyns the Lemkos had adopted the Polish pronunciation of the letter L, pronouncing it like English W. During the later part of the 19th century there were just a few words remaining in the entire Lemko dialect that retained the old Carpatho-Rusyn pronunciation of the letter L, like a thick English L. The word "lem" was one of these. It is believed that it was this odd retention of this medieval word with its unique pronunciation that became a symbol in the eyes of other Carpatho-Rusyns and gave the Lemkos their name.
Originally kind of a nickname or slightly depreciative slang term, the word "Lemko" didn't come into more general use until the 20th century when political and scientific considerations required terminology for distinguishing between various sub-populations of Carpatho-Rusyns.
Lemkovina is now a commonly used term for referring to the area in which the Lemkos lived. Lemkovina is located mainly on the northern slopes of the Carpathians, south and southwest of the presently Polish city of Jaslo. The entire Carpatho-Rusyn region, including Lemkovina, was within the province of Galicia of the Austria-Hungarian Empire until World War I.
In most places during the 19th century, with low levels of education and poor communications, ethnic and cultural awareness was not high. An early Irishtown resident, Ephrosinia Glowatch, who grew up in Lemkovina during the late 1800's is reported to have said that during her youth she had been aware of only two kinds of people, Carpatho-Rusyns and Poles. The Carpatho-Rusyns referred to themselves as "Rus'" while individuals were either "Russka" (female) or "Russkie" (male). The Poles were "Polyaki." The Poles called the Carpatho-Rusyns "Russhini." "Rus'," "Russka" and "Russkie" were all translated by Carpatho-Rusyns as "Russian" from the very beginning of immigration to America.
This adoption of the word "Russian" as a term of self-description tended to lead to confusions and misconceptions among following generations who did not have a clear realization of the cultural and linguistic differences between Carpatho-Rusyns and ethnic Russians. Generally, Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants to the United States also referred to their language as "Russian" despite the fact that their language was closer to Ukrainian. Immigration records, too, gave little consideration to ethnic details and almost always refer to Carpatho-Rusyns by the political term "Austrians," referring to the Austria-Hungarian Empire.
Shortly after the end of the Second World War most Polish and Slovakian Lemkos were forcibly relocated to the Soviet Union. This relocation was carried out in two stages. Russian forces with the support of local military carried out the first relocation immediately after the war in 1945. The driving force behind this first wave of resettlement was the belief that it was an adjustment to post-war realities. During the war the Soviet Union had lost a large segment of its population. After the war national borders had been redrawn. Relocation of Lemkos, who were considered to be a Ukrainian minority, would repopulate sparely populated areas in Ukraine and make ethnic borders match the new national borders more closely.
The second wave of "ethnic cleansing" took place in 1947. Known as "Operation Wisla" this second round of relocation was carried out mainly by the Poles with Russian support. Apparently, the reason was to totally clean southern Poland from any possible local support for Ukrainian nationalists. In connection with the conclusion of Operation Wisla the borders were sealed, preventing any informal migration back to the old homesteads.
All in all something between 100 and 200 thousand people were forcibly relocated and this event extracted a heavy toll in grief and suffering.
Mill Creek, now known as Hudson, is a town near Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. English settlers originally started it. The town lies within a roughly U-shaped bend of a creek named Mill Creek that, in turn, obtained its name from a flour mill further downstream started by the very earliest settlers in 1776. The southern section of the town of Mill Creek, nestled right inside the bend in the stream, had been populated by Irish emigrants in about 1860-1870. They were employed in the local coal mines. During its earliest period this southern section of Mill Creek contained not streets, just dirt paths. As the area increased in population, some of these paths grew, became wagon paths, and took on the status of streets. The main road of the area, Cleveland Street, is said to have been given the name after President Grover Cleveland who was elected in 1885. Other paths also became streets while some other paths wilted away leaving some of the earliest buildings in somewhat unorganized locations around the area. Because of its mostly Irish population, this southern portion of the town of Mill Creek was given the nickname, "Irishtown."
The Irish inhabitants of Irishtown were well established in their homes and jobs by the time that the first East Europeans began to arrive in the area in the late 1880's. The majority of east European immigrants to Irishtown appear to have been Lemkos. A somewhat smaller proportion were Bojkos. The number of Carpatho-Rusyns grew slowly until about 1905 at which time their numbers began to grow very quickly. The first to arrive were pumping all their earnings into bringing over relatives.
Carpatho-Rusyn immigration into Irishtown was initially heavily skewed towards mobile young men without financial responsibilities - that is unmarried young men who had come to work in the mines. When individuals among the primarily male population decided to build families they were forced to seek eligible women outside the Irishtown area. One alternative were to have family or friends select a suitable partner and then to finance her trip over to America. A second alternative seems to have been to utilize personal contacts to find suitable women among other Carpatho-Rusyn settlements along the East Coast where the female population seems to have been higher. The Carpatho-Rusyn settlement in Singac, New Jersey appears to have played a significant roll in this respect. Identification of a suitable marriage partner was often followed by a short trip to provide a personal introduction. In any case, marriages often followed a very short period of acquaintance, most often just a few weeks or at most a few months.
The relationship between the Irish and Carpatho-Rusyn populations was initially not good. This antipathy had several explanations. The Irish, despite their own immigrant backgrounds, had been English-speaking and culturally similar to the Americans from the very beginning - the Slavs spoke no English and were culturally radically different. Secondly, because of their longer period of residence, the Irish was better off economically than the new-comers. Additionally, there were religious conceptions that greatly irritated the situation. In Europe the majority of the Carpatho-Rusyns had belonged to the branch of the Orthodox church called the Ukrainian Unitate church. The Unitates had signed the Treaty of Brest in 1596 and one of the conditions of this treaty was the recognition of the Pope in Rome. During the 1890's a movement started by the Rusyn priest Alexis Toth converted large numbers of Ukrainian Unitates to Orthodoxy. This was viewed by the Irish as an unnecessary and, perhaps, even malicious rejection of the Pope. This further antagonized the Irish population who often used the defamatory epithet, "Hunkies" in reference to the Carpatho-Rusyns.
It wasn't only the catholic Irish that took strong exception to the activities of Alexis Toth's attempts to bring people into the fold of orthodoxy. Catholics as well as diehard Unitates, even in distant areas, resisted his efforts bitterly.
Fearful of the new-comers and their hard-to-understand religious activities, the Irish began leaving Irishtown to settle in other Irish strongholds - Upper Hudson, Miner's Mills and the East End section of Wilkes-Barre. This Irish exodus was almost complete by 1912. At this time there was only three Irish families left in the area - the Byer, Stucker and Kinney families. There were also a few Poles, Slovaks, Italians, and a number of Jewish families. Many of the Jewish families appear to have come from the same part of Galica and thus had no language problem in Irishtown. Additionally, the Jewish families were untouched by the religious controversy surrounding Alexis Toth. For a long period the percentage of Jewish inhabitants in Irishtown remained similar to that of the immigrants' homeland. A synagogue was erected in nearby Miner's Mills in 1915.
Little appears to be known about the immigration of gypsies from the Carpathians to the United States. The gypsies lived close to the Rusyns in Europe and they traveled with them to America and they seemed to settle down together with the Rusyns in the new homeland although there is only one genuine trace of them in Irishtown. The only known report of them in the area is the recollection of one Irishtown resident that on one summer Sunday during the 1920's a caravan of gypsies came to the Holy Resurrection Church for the purpose of baptizing their young as well as receiving the sacraments of Confession and Communion. Many people were fascinated at the time by their colorful clothing and surprised by their affiliation with the Orthodox religion.
Irishtown became heavily Rusyn and almost completely Rusyn-speaking. Rusyn residents of the Irishtown area felt isolated and considered it very risky to venture outside the area. At one time, the only barbershop was in Miner's Mills and it is said that some people would go there only in a group. Irishtown became a Carpatho-Rusyn enclave. This ethnic concentration was so predominant that clear signs of it would remain a century later. The religious conflict of the late 19th century was one of the things that led to an ethnic concentration that enabled Carpatho-Rusyn culture to endure in Irishtown for a very long time.
The rapid growth of the Carpatho-Rusyns in both Irishtown and other places in the United States continued until the outbreak of the First World War when transportation difficulties and then legal restrictions brought this rapid inflow to an end.
The Delaware Colliery in Hudson and the Pine Ridge Colliery in nearby Miner's Mills were the primary places of employment for the residents of Irishtown. The Delaware Colliery owned several land areas surrounding Irishtown. The main mining areas were situated north and east of the Irishtown. On North Street there were homes only on the south side of the street facing a large open field to the north. In this field the company had a colliery along with other smaller buildings such as a pay office and another building referred to as the "shifting shanty" where miners who lived farther off could shower off some of the coal dust before going home. The so-called "slope" and "coal breaker" were located northwest of Irishtown. It was here that there was an entrance into the mines through which small locomotive engines pulled coupled coal cars in and out of the mines. When the engines would make a sudden stop coal would spill onto the ground.
Local residents came with buckets to pick up chunks of coal laying along the slope. Most often it was children home from school that had the job of cracking this coal for use in the kitchen stove, that it, breaking it into pieces small enough to burn easily to burn. Coal was the most efficient way of staying warm in the winter.
Generally, coal waste from the mine was deposited in a field just south of Irishtown, across Mill Creek. During the 1920's and 30's this grew to a huge, black, mountain called a "culm bank." This mountain remained until 1939 when it was sold to be used as landfill and road material on the grounds of the 1939 World's Fair in New York. "We, who have lived so close to this, are ever grateful!" stated one who lived nearby.
Mine accidents were very much a part of life in Irishtown. One resident recalled that after her husband's fatal accident in the mine, the company men who accompanied his body home simply laid him on the porch and walked away. On payday, a collection was taken among the workers to help with the funeral costs.
While the state and local employers did virtually nothing to protect the inhabitants of Irishtown from adversity, immigrants were not unprotected. Shortly after the Holy Resurrection Church was built in 1892, Father Alexis Toth founded the Russian Orthodox Mutual Aid Society of America. It's headquarters was located on the corner of East Market Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilkes-Barre, but was active in other American towns having a heavy concentration of Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants. The Russian Orthodox Mutual Aid Society was a very positive force within the Rusyn-speaking community. It provided life insurance, made loans and provided mortgage assistance. It also published a Rusyn language newspaper, Gazeta Svit, and well as some yearly publications. Svit was probably the most popular of several Rusyn language newspapers available in Irishtown. These publications enabled Rusyn immigrants to maintain contact with the world outside. Svit became particularly appreciated during the Second World War when its European contacts provided detailed and accurate information about the course of the war. Other publishers, such as the Pravda Press, broadened the range of available Rusyn language materials.
As it had been in Europe, the church played an important roll in everyday life in Irishtown. Advent, beginning on November 28th, was the start of a long series of celebrations for the inhabitants of Irishtown. The church sponsored Rusyn school arranged carol singing, poem recitations and Christmas Nativity plays. Christmas at this time was primarily a religious holiday, without social elements, celebrated on January 7th according to the Julian calendar.
"Yolka" meaning "fir tree" was celebrated on New Year's Night according to the Julian calendar, January 14th. A "New Year's tree" on this date in a custom similar to modern American Christmas. During Yolka there was a large communal gathering at the church school building. Families and visitors were treated to various recitations presented by church youth and "gift bags" were given to children. These gift bags usually contained an apple, an orange, some candy and nuts, a paper tablet, a pencil, and a ruler. Influenced by American Christmas celebration, Yolka began to loose its independent identity during the 1920's - the Yolka tree became just another name for Christmas tree and the Yolka celebration began to be held near Christmas.
Culturally, life in Irishtown remained close to what it had been in Europe. Most people kept cows and chickens. Keeping cows behind the homes in Irishtown was a practice that came to an end during the 1920's, but the more easily kept chickens persisted until about 1935. Being in close proximity to farm animals, it was a common sight in Irishtown to see fly paper hanging in strips from the ceiling, hundreds of them, in homes and places of business. All the roads in the area were simple dirt roads and it wasn't until about 1924 that Cleveland Street was paved.
During their first years in Irishtown, Carpatho-Rusyns, engaged in commercial activities in accordance with the traditions that they were accustomed to from Europe. Although they were not forced to do so because of general or communal access to local sources of raw materials, they tried to establish various productive activities along communal or cooperative lines. As in Europe some of these efforts were organized with the assistance of the church. In addition to mutual aid societies, they started a community center, a cooperative insurance company and co-op grocery store. These communal efforts did not, however, flourish in the new American environment - none of these endeavors grew beyond their own ethnic group and many were short lived. This cooperative cultural tradition was not as suitable to life in America as it had been in Europe and was soon limited to church-sponsored activities.
Jewish individualist, skill-based commercialism did flourish in Irishtown as it did it the rest of America. Their individualistic, skill-based, business style was much more in tune with American business tradition. The first Irishtown businesses appear to have been started by Jewish immigrants.
Beginning about 1910-1920 or so Carpatho-Rusyns began to copy the Jewish or American business tradition and many people took up shop-keeping or some other kind of small business activity requiring a particular individual skill or organizational ability.
The stores in Irishtown were most generally of the type now known as "general stores." Later on, however, there appears to have been one specialty store, a "dry goods" store selling textiles and related products. During the period 1890 to 1940 it was very common to buy farm products such as eggs, chickens, feathers, garden produce and occasionally meat directly from some individual who obtained his goods from a farm or backyard garden. It was manufactured goods that were primarily bought in stores. General stores sold most everything - groceries, hardware, harness, clothing and "notions" or "sundries" such as pins, needles, pen nibs and buttons. Meat - requiring greater care in handling, was sold only in the larger stores. It appears that it was only Moritz' store that had this capacity. In Irishtown, as everywhere else at the time, goods were delivered to a store in bulk -- barrels, cloth sacks, and crates. It was also common at that time that consumers bought in bulk, too. For example, a man with a large family might go in on payday and buy a 50 or 100 pound sack of flour. But doling out small quantities to customers was a problem. Store clerks aided customers by packaging small quantities of very small items in small paper bags or paper cones made of wrapping paper or newspaper as was traditional from Europe. It was also necessary for a shopper to be prepared to get the merchandise home. Large paper "shopping bags," although invented in 1916, didn't come into general use in America until after World War II. Thus, going to the store required that customers bring with them shopping bags or baskets, most often homemade.
Back in the Carpatho-Rusyn villages of Europe, it had been village elders (staretzsi) that were the mainstay of local government. In the major cities there were sheriffs and courts that could be turned to in the case of major crimes, but in the villages everything that is now considered to be within the jurisdiction of the social services, often including even minor crimes, fell under the domain of the local village staretz. In Irishtown, as the inhabitants made the transition from European to American life, local politicians were very powerful, having the powers of a staretz in addition to the powers that accrued to political functionaries. It appears that the brothers John and Peter Goobic were the first Rusyns to become elected officials in Irishtown. Although there is some indication that John first entered local politics in 1929, the brothers' election victory in 1933 is confirmed by a Rusyn language newpaper article. was John Goobic and then Archie Rock served as a township commissioners from Irishtown for many years during the 1930's. Joining them were increasing numbers of other people with Slavic backgrounds. Irishtown inhabitants would turn to local leaders even for such things as marital problems or problems with their children. Unemployment was also a special problem during the depression years. Through their formal political connections politicians were sometimes able to provide people with jobs at the road department, assisting with garbage removal or some other local project. Some people in the greater Hudson area seemed to believe at the time that such jobs were being unfairly given to friends and close relatives of the local politicans rather than being filled on the basis of qualification and need. This is a recurrent theme in political flyers from the time.
The Miners Mills line of the Wilkes-Barre & Suburban Street Railway, provided public transportation to the inhabitants of Irishtown. The line began at Public Square at the center of Wilkes-Barre. Because the line had been built in a number of stages, the line was called the Miners Mills line even though it extended all the way through Miners Mills and on into Irishtown. Construction of this trolley line begin in central Wilkes-Barre about 1890, but it was not extended fully to Millers Mills and beyond until 1910. At one point in time it was intended that the Miners Mills line would be extended all the way through Miners Mills and Irishtown to finally connect with the Plains Line. The building of this extension reached a point about 300 feet north of Cleveland Street in Irishtown before construction was stopped. Through Irishtown the trolley line was situated on private property, the yards of private dwellings. Eventually the end point of the Miners Mills line was cut back to the north curb of Cleveland Street and the final passenger stop was located on the yard of a home on the south side of the street. The Wilkes-Barre & Suburban Street Railway used a color coding system to make the cars trafficking each line easily identifiable - the cars of the Miners Mills line were green. The Miners Mills line was in operation until about 1940.
As the inhabitants' mobility increased through automobile ownership, employment, retail trade and political activities became increasingly directed towards the city of Wilkes-Barre. Most commercial activity in Hudson had come to an end with the advent of the Second World War. Coal mining as a source of employment remained viable longer, but ceased entirely about 1970. Hudson became solely a residential area, a suburb of Wilkes-Barre.
Fedor Szczur was one of the Lemko Rusyns that came to settle in Hudson (Mill Creek). He was born on July 21, 1875 in Vola Ceklynska - a village which at that time had a population of about 600 people. Fedor was the son of Michael Szczurek. That their last names differ slightly was probably the result of increasing Polish cultrual pressure in the Vola Ceklynska area. In 1787 there was a census taken and at that time "Szczurek" was the sole variant of the name. By the late 19th century, however, birth records show that "Szczur" was the predominant form. The name "Szczurek" means something like "of the rat clan" in Rusyn. The simplified form "Szczur" means "rat" in both Rusyn and Polish.
Names derived from natural objects - animals, plants, herbs - are very common among the Carpatho-Rusyns. Such names may originally have had clan or tribal origins. Another large category of names seem to have originated from the names of common household objects. Still other Rusyn names appear to have originated as nicknames derived from distinctive or prominent personal characteristics - nicknames made permanent and applied to the descendants of the original bearer.
It has not been possible to determine when and where Fedor Szczur entered the United States. On his naturalization papers it is stated that he entered the U.S. on August 28, 1892 through the Port of Philadelphia. However, there is no record at the National Archives of any passenger ship arriving at Philadelphia on that date. Indeed, it has not been possible to locate him among the passengers of any ship arriving at Philadelphia in 1892. In census data collected in 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 he indicated that he entered the U.S. in 1896. Searches of the passenger lists for all ships arriving both at the Port of Philadelphia and the Port of New York during 1896 have been unsuccessful.
Fedor had a brother Johannes and a sister Eva that also came to America. Fedor was known as a hard worker but he was also a man known as being difficult to get along with. In Hudson he obtained work as a miner. He seems to have generally used the nickname Fetsko (alternatively spelled "Fesko" but most probably "Федько" in Rusyn) when referring to himself in Rusyn even though this form of his name is most often reserved for small children, at least in standard Ukrainian. Fetsko may have had help filling in his naturalization papers from a Rusyn-speaking individual who mistakenly used the Cyrillic "s" which looks like a "c" instead of an English "s". This is a possible explanation as to why Fetsko became "Fecko" in his naturalization documents. Fetsko tried several ways of Americanizing his first name, trying Frank, Fredrick and Fred. He maintained the pronunciation of his last name, but Americanized the spelling. In the end, he settled upon Theodore Stchur as his new American name.
Fetsko applied for American citizenship on 21 April 1906. He was granted citizenship one month later on May 21st. Fetsko was assisted in gaining citizenship by John Repa, a Carpatho-Rusyn who helped many of his landsmen to become American citizens. During a period when applications for citizenship could only be filed at the federal offices in Scranton, Repa arranged bus trips.
On October 26, 1897 the steamship Trave of the Norddeutscher Lloyd steamship company left the German port of Bremen carrying about 950 passengers. Among them were four people from the village of Wisloczek (in Polish) or Vislochok (in Ukrainian). Vislochok is a small village in southern Poland, containing at the time, about 70 households. One of these four travelers, Danko Chan, had been in America before, from 1893 to 1895. Now, at age 33 and married, the more experienced Danko was undoubtedly acting as guide and chaperone for the three other travelers, all unmarried young women - Anastazya Hosko, 29, Anna Chomka, 19, and Anna Kuczwara, 20. After their arrival in New York on November 4, 1897, the four traveling companions from Vislochok were to split up and seek their fortunes on their own. Danko Chan was going on to stay with an old friend in Oliphant, Pennsylvania. Anastazya Hosko and Anna Chomka intended to stay with an acquaintance in Plainfield, New Jersey. This stay in Plainfield was intended to be only temporary for Anna Chomka who planned to move on later to New York City. The fourth traveler, Anna Kuczwara, had plans to settle in Jersey City, New Jersey, and, at least initially, would be staying there with a friend.
Upon her arrival in the U.S., Anna Kuczwara had only three dollars. Her occupation was listed in the Trave manifest as "servant," probably a pretty good description of what she had been doing in Wislochok since the age of 14 or so. Family legend has it that after coming to America she also worked as a maid for a time somewhere in the New York-New Jersey area. Although it seems that Anna initially had some thoughts about settling in Jersey City, she turned up in Irishtown as the fiancee of Fetsko Szczur about a year later in late 1898. This is quite possibly the result of the matchmaking activities of someone she knew. In America her last name was often spelled Kuchwara.
According to census data, neither Fetsko Szczur or Anna Kuczwara ever went to school nor did they ever learn to read or write or speak much English.
Fetsko and Anna were married in Mill Creek on January 22, 1899. Their daughter, Eva Stchur, was born there on 27 November 1899.
In the 1900 census, just a few months after Eva's birth, the census taker listed "Yuka" as the infant member of the Stchur household. The nickname or so-called "diminutive" form of the name Eva in Rusyn is Evka. In Rusyn, as in Ukrainian, v's before consonants are pronounced like "oo" or "w." Additionally, e's are "palatalized", that is they are pronounced with the middle of the tongue held close to the roof of the mouth producing a "j" or "y" sound. This is not uncommon in British English where, for example, "news" is pronounced "nyoowz." Thus transliterations of the pronunciation of the Rusyn name "Evka" would be "Yewka" or somewhat less accurately, "Yuka." No one in the family could read or write so the census taker's misunderstanding of the name Eva went uncorrected as Yuka.
Eva attended the public school in Irishtown and also the church-run Russian school. At about the age of twelve or thirteen Eva got a seasonal job on a farm located in an area known as the "Flats." The Flats is a level farming area on the fertile Susquehana floodplain, about a mile or so from Irishtown. Her wages are reported to have been five cents an hour. Thereafter Eva got a job at the Hudson Silk Mill, a red brick building at the corner of Stark Street and South Oak Street in Hudson just across the railroad tracks from Irishtown. The Hudson Silk Mill prepared and wound imported bulk silk onto spools for resale to manufacturers of silk goods.
Michael Pawlak was another Lemko Rusyn, born on January 18, 1893 in the village of Peregrimka (see map). Peregrimka is just a short distance from the village of Vola Ceklynska. There is a website especially devoted to these two villages as well as a few other nearby settlements ("A Village Cluster," www.avillagecluster.com). Peregrimka at the turn of the century had a population of about 1100. Peregrimka is now part of Poland and it now has the Polish name, Pielgrzymka. The census data from 1787 show two families named Pawlak living in the village at that time. The name Pawlak means "of Paul's clan."
Michael Pawlak left Europe together with his cousin Michael Shostak on the steamship Kroonland of the Red Star Line. They left Antwerp, Belgium on February 17, 1912 and came to Ellis Island in America on February 29, 1912, Leap Year Day. According to the ship's passenger list Michael Pawlak had had a couple years of schooling in Peregrimka and had learned to read, but not write. His brother, Andrej, had come to America a few years before him and was living in Miner's Mills near Irishtown. It was Andrej that had had paid for Michael's ticket and it was with Andrej that both the two newcomers were to live after their arrival in Miner's Mills. Michael Pawlak soon got a job as a coal miner at the Delaware & Hudson Coal Company's Pine Ridge Colliery.
Michael Pawlak met Eva Stchur in Mill Creek. It's said that Anna Kuczwara arranged the marriage between Michael and Eva. Arranged marriages were the rule in those days. Most often it was the mothers of the boy and girl that acted as matchmakers and arranged the marriage. Michael and Eva were married there in Irishtown on January 28, 1917. Eva terminated her job at the silk mill at the time of their marriage.
Michael Pawlak and Eva Stchur were the parents of Anna, Mary, Stephan, Helen, John, Paul, Peter, Olga, June and Michael. In the following chapters Mary continues this narration based on her own experiences.