Our People – Carpatho-Rusyns & Their Descendants in North America by Paul Robert Magocsi: Book Review

Our People, Second Edition, 2023

I am always on the lookout for books to add to my knowledge of my Rusyn heritage. The earlier editions of this particular book have been out of stock for quite a while, aside from exorbitant secondhand prices online. However, I was aware that the 5th revised edition was due out in 2023 and decided to purchase a copy.

Paul Robert Magocsi is very well-known in the Rusyn world. is an He is American, but is a professor of history, political science, and Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada. He is more or less a Rusyn rock star, having published more than 30 books in English with more translated into other Slavic languages.

The cover photo tells the story of the beginnings of almost all Rusyn-Americans, when our ancestors walked out of Ellis Island into a new life.

Contents

Preface to the First Edition
Preface to the Second Edition
Introduction
Note on Names

Chapter
1. Origins
2. Migration
3. Settlement Patterns and Economic Life
4. Religious Life
5. Organizational Life
6. Culture
7. Politics
8. Carpatho-Rusyns in Canada
9. Group Maintenance

Appendix: Root Seeker’s Guide to the Homeland
Bibliography
Index
Acknowledgements
Photograph Credits

Chapter 1 begins with the current thinking on the origins of the Carpatho-Rusyn people in Europe and their history up to the latter part of the 19th century.

Chapter 2 immediately places the focus on Rusyn emigration to America, which began in the 1880s and wound down with more restrictive U.S. immigration laws in the early 1920s.

Professor Magocsi describes in detail what the emigrants had to endure just to leave Europe – for most, it meant walking to Hamburg or another departure point. Just as a point of reference, my grandmother made this journey. It’s 675 miles from Udol, Slovakia to Hamburg, Germany!

About 250,000 Rusyns, or Ruthenians as they were also called, arrived in America between 1900 and 1914, the start of World War I. Most men were poor peasants with about 40% farmers, 20% daily laborers and another 20% working as servants. The remainder of these immigrants were women and children, most of whom sought jobs in the factories and mills.

The remaining chapters in the book discuss the assimilation of Rusyns into American life or, for a number of them, the pattern of short term working in the United States, followed by the return to the “old country.”

Regardless of a temporary or permanent move to America, Rusyns lived and worked near other Rusyns. They belonged to Greek Catholic or Orthodox Churches and established social organizations. Cultural traditions crossed the pond with the immigrant population. Professor Magocsi provides a detailed history of areas where most Rusyns settled and how they lived their new lives, eventually venturing into politics, both American and speaking out on behalf of political changes happening in Europe.

It’s sad to note that Rusyns have never had a unified homeland within the borders of a single country to call their own. In spite of the lack of a homeland, Carpatho-Rusyns have a rich history and heritage.

The book closes with what is called “Group Maintenance,” which discusses the factors impacting the Rusyn identity and culture.

The Root Seeker’s guide at the back of the book will help beginning researchers to identify their places of origin in the 21st century. That can be a daunting task, given the name changes placed on villages throughout time. Some name changes are easy to figure out, such as Hajtovka, one of my grandmother’s villages, to an alternate spelling of Haitivka. Others are not so easy. Who would believe that Hajasd an Volosianka were the same place? Or Sirma and Drotyntsi? This guide also gives the name of the former Hungarian county or Galician district where the town is, the present administrative subdivision and the present country where the town is located. All very important pieces of information to know if one doesn’t know much about the family origins.

Fun Fact: There are a handful of Rusyn-Americans whose names most people would recognize, like Andrew Warhola, Alexandra Zuk, Margaret Maria Hyra and Robert Michael Urich. However, they are better known as artist Andy Warhol, actor Robert Urich and actresses Sandra Dee and Meg Ryan!

This is an excellent book on immigrant Rusyn life in America and worth every penny of the $39.00 price.

Our People – Carpatho-Rusyns and Their Descendants in North America by Paul Robert Magocsi is published by the Carpatho-Rusyn Research Centre, P.O. Box 163, Goldens Bridge, New York 10526-0163.

Here’s a tip if you are thinking of buying this book. That mega-company that sells items online has the book listed for $48.00 plus a $4.49 shipping charge.

Instead, write a check and mail it to the Centre at the address above. The price will be $39.00 with no extra shipping charge if mailed inside the United States. That’s a huge savings!

With the book will come a list of the extensive offerings of Rusyn publications available, both in English and other Slavic languages.

Professor Magocsi’s book now has pride of place on my Carpatho-Rusyn book shelf. 🙂

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