Category Archives: Slovak Research

Udol and Hajtovka, Slovakia Then and Now, Part 2

Yesterday, we strolled through Ujak, now called Udol, Slovakia. Today, we will visit the neighboring, much smaller, village of Hajtovka, Slovakia. First, Udol is pretty easy to pronounce, just be looking at it. It is called: oo-doll, with the “oo” said like it is in “groove.”

Hajtovka is not quite so easy. The closest English pronunciation is about the equivalent of “high-toe-key.’

Here is the statistics clipping from the same unknown book where I found those of Udol:

Hajtovka, Slovakia

Hajtovka was also mentioned in ancient times, but it was known at Ayathuagasa in 1427, which doesn’t look anything like its modern name. By 1773, it was referred to as Hajtuska and Hajtuvka. Also, unlike Udol, the name was not changed after World War II.

The 1869 population of the village was all of 313, and that is actually the highest total of any of the census years in this list. As of 1970, it had only half the 1869 population with only 160 souls living there. I don’t think this has changed much in the last 40+ years.

I have no personal photos of Hajtovka, so this visit is completely via Google Earth street view.

Hajtovka didn’t have its own church – everyone walked the mile or so over to Udol and attended Mass at St. Dimitry’s. However, at some point in the 20th century, the villagers must have built what looks like a very small church or chapel, as I saw this at the end of the road heading west out of Hajtovka:


Hajtovka also only has one main road, with a bit of side sprawl. However, its road is much shorter than Udol’s.

Hajtovka Vintage Home

Not unexpectedly, there is a mix of later 20th century homes with a few of the older wooden structures that are still inhabited.

It is evident that this village is less than half the size of Udol. However, many of the homes are even closer together than those in Udol and there are stretches along both sides of the road where there are no homes.

I wonder if the empty land is where old homes now torn torn were situated and, with no population growth, new homes have not yet gone up there?


The road also doesn’t seem to be in as good repair as the road through Udol.  Overall, Hajtovka doesn’t have the look of a town that is thriving.

How much interaction was there between Udol and Hajtovka? A lot! Because those in Hajtovka had to go to Udol to attend church, there was likely more traffic, so to speak, headed east than west. Yet the two villages are only separated by about one mile, easily walkable.

My Slovak ancestors in these villages had the surnames Scerbak, Murcko, Patorai, Szurgent, Lisinski, Szova, Fengya  and Gmitrisin. The parish priest kept a list every few years of which families lived in which house, numbered from #1 to the end. The 1858 list shows no family by the name of Gmitrisin, but that male line might have died out there by that time. My Anna Gmitrisinova was born probably no later than 1790. Of the other names, Lisinski, Szova and Murcko are living in Hajtovka, while the Fengya, Szurgent, Patorai and Scerbak families are in Udol.

Visiting Hajtovka and Udol are definitely on my bucket list. One of my American cousins took his family back to the old country a couple of years ago where they met up with the Slovak branch of the family and had a wonderful time. I am hoping that in the new few years, I can make the same trip. I think Nana would have been very pleased.

Udol and Hajtovka, Slovakia, Then and Now: A Virtual Visit

The villages of Udol and Hajtovka, Slovakia are ancient settlements, but they are now and always have been small villages. The parents of Helena (Julia) Scerbak Sabo, my paternal grandmother, were born in these villages.Udol and Hajtovka are in the foothills of the Tatras Mountains, which lie between southern Poland and Slovakia.

Udol is the larger of the two. Although I have searched for documented histories of this area, I have found very little. Many years ago, I photocopied this information from a reference book I found somewhere, probably either in Los Angeles or Salt Lake City:

Udol Statistics

With the help of Google Translate, I have figured out the general idea of what this says.

First, in Section I, the village was first mentioned in the year 1427 and called Wyak. By 1786, it was called Ujak and, in 1948, at the end of World War II and the creation of the country of Czechoslovakia, it was renamed Udol, the name it retains today.

My ancestors were most definitely hardy people, as can be seen by the few population censuses and church records that survive today. Section 5 of the statistics, above, give the village population as 718 in 1869. By 1910, there were only 490 inhabitants, probably because the other half of the village had emigrated to Passaic, New Jersey to work in the factories and mills! The latest population count for 1970 showed 574 souls living there.

Over all, the population has remained fairly steady over 150 years, considering the fact that not only did many leave for America, but the mortality rate was extremely high. Along with every day deaths in the village, every few years, epidemics of measles, cholera and diphtheria and other pestilences swept through the villages. It’s amazing that there was anyone left living there.

Section II talks about the condition of the land. The village is on the left bank of the Poprad River; the land has been deforested and has limestone rock. (Note: which has made for poor farming soil.)

Section III mentions the number of homes at various time periods – after the village burned down in 1755! There were 61 homes and 416 inhabitants in 1787 and 88 homes with 663 inhabitants by 1828. Throughout time, the villagers were peasant farmers.

Section IV covers religion. The residents of this area were mostly Greek Catholic. The original Church of St. Dimitry, built in 1866, is gone, but The Carpathian Connection has a photo of the inside of the old building. It was quite beautiful, but by the end of the 20th century, it could no longer be repaired. This old church is the one that my grandmother Julia, her parents and grandparents would all have attended.

Source: Google Earth

The new church was built in the latter part of the 20th century. It sits up on the hill, overlooking the village.

I have a photo of the house where my grandmother’s brother, Stephen lived until he passed away in the 1990s. This was the brother that my grandmother never met because he wasn’t born until seven years after returned for good to the United States.

The house sits up on a hill and it looks like there was an old garage or storage area next to it. Since the village only has one main road and only a section of it is up the hill, a street visit using Google Earth didn’t provide many possibilities for what the house looks like today. Notice the orange triangles on the siding of the house? I think this is how it looks today from the street:

Same House?

This is the only home on the hill that has the same type of triangles on the sides. If it is the same house, then it appears that the old garage/storage area has been replaced with the white one to the left of the house.

Many of the homes in the village look to have been built perhaps from the 1950s to the 1970s. What did the homes look like when my grandmother and her family lived there at the turn of the 20th century?

Well, there are still several of what I would call vintage homes in Udol:


I’d say the entire village probably looked much like this house!

Tomorrow, we will take a quick look at Hajtovka.




During the past few days, I have written several posts about my family from Szengeto, Slovakia. Today, it is a village called Severna and is part of Vysna Sebastova, which sits slightly east of the city of Presov.

The area is still quite rural, with farming fields to the north, likely the same fields that my peasant tenant farmers worked back in the 1800’s and for centuries before that.

Road to the east of red pin, above

Thanks to Google Earth and its street view, I can see what the village looks like today.

The saying goes, “A picture is worth a 1000 words.” Yes, in two ways. These images give us a view that wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago unless an in-person visit was made.

There is another picture of life in the village, though, and that picture comes from the burial records for the people of Szengeto. Keep in mind that the parish priest often recorded house numbers in the baptismal, marriage and burial records he kept AND – this is important – I have not seen a house number in Szengeto higher than #12.  That’s it – 12 homes!

As you read this list, keep in mind your own neighborhood today and think of your neighbors six houses to either side of you. How many of them have passed away in the past ten years? In 26 years in our home in California, not a single person on our street died. Also, keep in mind that some of these villagers were Greek Catholic, while others were Roman Catholic. The burial records for the Roman Catholic Church are missing from 1864 through 1866. There likely were a few more deaths. Some of the ages are not readable because they are hidden in the center fold of the books. Some causes of death I either couldn’t read well enough to translate or else no English equivalent appeared when I tried. At times, the priest didn’t record the house number. My family lived in Szengeto #2, but was related by marriage to the Fucsiks, Koszelnicks, Boszaks and Kravjars.

Szengeto Burials, 1863-1873

1863 – None
1864 – Onufrej, Michael, Szengeto #?, 2 years old, fever
1865 – Fucsik, Michael, Szengeto #3, _ years, weak
Fucsik, John, Szengeto #3, _ years, weak
1866 – None
1867 – None
1868 – Tomko, Maria, Szengeto #2, _ years, cough
Nemcsik, Michael, Szengeto #6, 1 week, “incapax”1869 – Mikita, Peter, Szengeto #?, 22 years, dropsy
Koszelnik, John, Szengeto #1, 27 years, ?
1869 – Karahuta, John, Szengeto #?, _ hours, weak
Fedorisko, Maria, Szengeto, ______, weak
1870 – Boszak, Barbara, Szengeto #?, 50 years, ?
Nemcsik, John, Szengeto #5, 10 months, ?
1871 – Kravjar, Michael, Szengeto #11, 45 years, atrophy
Kravjar, John, Szengeto #11, 67 years, atrophy
1872 – Vavrek, Anna, Szengeto #9, 48 years, dropsy

Then, as it did every decade or so, an epidemic hit. Sometimes, it was diphtheria, sometimes influenza or another pestilence. This time, it was cholera.

1873 – Karahuta, John, Szengeto #?, 21 years, cholera
Tomko, George, Szengeto #2, 34 years, cholera
Kravjar, Maria, Szengeto #?, 68 years, cholera
Kucharik, John, Szengeto #2, 13 years, cholera
Platko, Katallina, Szengeto #8, 4 3/4 years, dropsy
Vavrek, Andreas, Szengeto #?, 55 years, cholera
Karsik, Stephen, Szengeto #8, 7 months, cholera
Vavrek, Michael, Szengeto #1, 60 years, cholera
Kravjar, John, Szengeto #?, 12 years, cholera
Vavrek, Stephen, Szengeto #1, 4 years, cholera
Fucsik, John, Szengeto #3, 55 years, cholera
Nemcsik, Michael, Szengeto #6, 56 years, cholera
Karahuta, ______, Szengeto #?, 42 years, cholera
Blasko, Anna, Szengeto #11, 2 1/2 years, cholera
Kravjar, Michael, Szengeto #12, 50 years, cholera

The only word I can think of to describe this is heartbreaking.