Photographic Family History – Scerbaks of Udol, Slovakia and Passaic, NJ

Michael Scerbak and Anna Murcko were born in the small village of Ujak, Slovakia, which today is called Udol. It sits along the mountain ridge dividing southern Poland from Slovakia and, as the crow flies, is southeast  of Krakow. The Scerbak and Murcko families were peasant farmers and I doubt they had any photos taken of themselves in the 1800’s.

The 1890 census would be very useful in helping to tell the story of this family, as Michael, born 17 February 1868, and Anna, born 23 May 1872, arrived in the United States sometime before 22 October 1892, when they married at St. Michael’s Greek Catholic Church in Passaic, New Jersey.

Michael Scerbak Wedding
Newlyweds Michael and Anna Scerbak

Their “wedding photo” is interesting as it is a tintype that has been colorized and their heads have been superimposed on the bodies.

I believe they probably arrived sometime between 1890, as Anna would have been 18 years old. She had no apparent relatives already in Passaic and it isn’t likely that she would have emigrated alone when she was under eighteen.

After their wedding, Michael and Anna settled into a tenement apartment in Passaic and started their family. However, about 1897 or 1898, the family left Passaic and moved back home to the village. I asked my grandmother why they left and she said her mother said the air was bad and she wanted to go home. Michael complied and back to Europe they went.

Michael died on 16 March 1932 in Udol. Anna survived him by many years, dying on 28 June 1967, also in Udol.

Michael and Anna had six known children and my grandmother said her mother lost a baby that wasn’t named. She didn’t know if it was a boy or girl; it sounded like a miscarriage rather than an infant who died soon.

1. Helena Anna (aka Julia), born 17 August 1893 in Passaic, NJ. She died 29 May 1985 in South Hackensack, Bergen Co., NJ. Julia married George Kucharik, whose family named was changed to Sabo in the 1920’s. George was born 24 May 1893 in Delano, Schuylkill Co., PA. He died 27 November 1936 in Passaic. They had one son, George.

Although her family never returned as a unit to live in the United States, Julia and two of her siblings – brother Peter and sister Mary –  did migrate back to the Passaic area. Here is a photo of her for some special occasion sometime before she married. John Biss is to the left of Julia in the back row and her cousin, Susannah Szurgent, is two people to the right of her in the back row.

Julia Scerbak, X to the left of center, 1910-1915

Here is George and Julia Sabo’s wedding party:

George & Julia Wedding Party
6 September 1915, Passaic, NJ

2. Michael, born 30 January 1895, Passaic; died 13 October 1895, Passaic, NJ. There are no known photos of baby Michael.

3. Peter, born 25 December 1896, Passaic. He died 9 April 1971 in Clifton, NJ. As you can see, Pete was born on Christmas Day, but what isn’t as obvious is that the day he died – 9 April 1971, was Good Friday. Pete married Mary Sedlak on 10 June 1918 in Passaic, which was her 18th birthday. Mary was born on 10 June 1900 in Slovakia and died 8 December 1982 in Clifton, NJ. They had five children: George, who died at the age of 2 1/2 in 1926, Emily Mary, Peter Edward, Julia Olga and George Jack Scerbak.

George & Pete at Butcher Shop
Peter Scerbak, 2nd from right, in the early 1930’s

4. Maria, born 5 June 1899, Udol, Slovakia. Mary died of tuberculosis on 8 May 1926, a month short of her 26th birthday. She married Stephen Tidik on 2 September 1917 in Udol, Slovakia. Stephen was born 18 August 1896 in Udol and died 11 July 1938 in New Jersey. Stephen and Mary had two sons, Stephen and Nicholas.

Mary Tidik
Maria Scerbak, left, with future husband, Stephen Tidik

5. Michael, born on 7 June 1906 in Udol, Slovakia. Michael died on 6 March 1957 somewhere in the USSR. He married Maria Hrinya about 1930. She was born 19 September 1909 in Udol and died after 14 February 2002. Michael and Maria had three children: Maria, Helena and Anna. Michael never came to the United States and Julia never returned to Slovakia after her 1910 return here so Michael was just four years old the last time she saw him. Here is a photo of Michael with wife, Maria, and his little brother, Stefan, taken in Udol about 1923:

Michael & Stefan Scerbak with Maria Hrinya Scerbak

6. Stefan, born 28 October 1917 in Udol. He died on 28 April 1996, also in Udol. He married Helena Murcko about 1948 in Udol. She was born 22 July 1929 and died 7 May 2010, both in Udol. Stefan and Helena had six children: Maria, Helena, Anna, Luba, Stefan and Darina.

Julia returned to the United States in November 1910 – seven years before her youngest brother was born. They corresponded via letters and very occasionally spoke on the phone, but Julia and Stefan never met. I can’t imagine my life overlapping with a sibling’s – by 68 years – and never meeting in person. Such were the days for families separated by the Iron Curtain.

3 thoughts on “Photographic Family History – Scerbaks of Udol, Slovakia and Passaic, NJ”

  1. I’m trying to locate Bob Rosenthal who wrote ‘Wonderful Passaic’ back in 2000. If he is still with us he should be about my age, 85. Do you have an address or phone for him?

    1. I have his book. The book is in Florida and I’m going there in two weeks if you want give me a call or email me Poste POSTEY116 and I with your email and when I get to Florida I will definitely give you his address PS he might have passed away since then

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