Maria Patorai Scerbak

Choosing an ancestor who is the “same” as me is tough. Suggestions of how an ancestor is the same included having the same name, same home town or with which ancestor do I have the most in common. Hmmm.  Only my father and grandmother were born in the same city as me. I don’t have any other ancestors named Linda and there are only a handful sharing my birthday and I’ve already written about the one that I know the most about. I’m left handed and believe that trait comes through my grandfather’s Stuart family, but I don’t know much about their personalities.

I do know that I have strength and determination to forge on so I am going to write about my great great grandmother, Maria Patorai Scerbak because one look at statistics tells me that she must have been a strong, determined woman.

I have no photos of her – I doubt that she ever had her picture taken. My grandmother Julia never told me too much about her either, although in the 1980’s, she did remember that Maria died not long after Julia returned to live in the United States in 1910. As far as I know, Maria never left her village life.

Maria Patorai was born 5 March (almost on my 7 March birth date) 1839 in the small village of Ujak (now Udol), in today’s Slovakia.

Records begin in 1828 so Maria’s birth is one of the earlier records that exist there. Her parents were John Patorai and Anna Szurgent and she was the second born of six known children.

Udol is not far from the town of Stara Lubovna on the south side of the Tatras Mountains near the Polish border.  The equally tiny village of Hajtovka next to it shared a common church, St. Dmitry Greek Catholic Church.

Not much has been written about Udol and Hajtovka, as they are and always have been very small villages populated with peasant farmers. At one time, I had seen a book that outlined its growth and decline – neither village ever had more than about 1000 people and 600-700 was more common.

Daily life was hard for the villagers. They worked long hours for the wealthy landowners and barely made enough money to live on. Education wasn’t an option and “medical care” mostly consisted of home remedies. Their lives centered around the church – baptisms, marriages and burials – and Sunday Mass. It was the anchor in their lives.

For women, child bearing was a danger. The mortality rate for mothers and babies was quite high. However, pestilence was also a danger for everyone. About every 20 years or so, the church records denote a very high number of burials for the year. Cause of death at those times is usually diphtheria, cholera or typhoid. The summer of 1873 was a hard one, with 15 of 21 deaths due to cholera:

CholeraDeathsSummer1873
St. Dmitry’s Burials, Summer 1873

Maria married John Scerbak on 11 February 1861 in the little church in Udol.

Maria had the strength to give birth to eight children:

1. John, born 18 July 1862; died 28 February 1938, Garfield, NJ
2. Maria, born 17 April 1865; died 1 April 1872, Udol
3. Michael, born 17 February 1868; died 16 March 1932, Udol
4. Anna, born 11 June 1870; died 22 December 1955, Slovakia
5. Stephen, born 3 January 1875; died May 1876, Udol
6. Suzanna, born 28 June 1878; died 11 January 1879, Udol
7. Maria, born 19 September 1881; died 28 Dec 1882, Udol
8. Stephen, born 10 December 1883; died 1 April 1884, Udol

She also had the strength to bury five of them as very young children.

Maria, herself, survived the hardships of life and passed away at the age of 72 years old.

She was buried in the cemetery of the little church of St. Dmitry. She had to have a lot of strength and determination to make it to the age of 72.

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