Tag Archives: Carpatho-Rusyn

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. 🙂

Simeon Pyzh’s 1938 Short History of Carpathian Rus’: Book Review

There isn’t much published on the history of the Carpatho-Rusyn residents who dwell along the Carpathian Mountains in today’s Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine and Romania.

There is even less available when the histories published in the Rusyn language are eliminated.

In 2016, the Lemko Association/Carpathian Institute reprinted the 1938 work of Simeon Pyzh, Short History of Carpathian Rus’, which contains both the original Rusyn text and one translated into English.

Remember that this book was written over 80 years ago – pre-World War II – which provides perspective for his thoughts. Political boundaries have changed and it’s necessary for the reader to have a grasp of the Austro-Hungarian empire, its makeup and its boundaries and to understand the influence on the Rusyns from people to the east – Ukrainians and Russians.

Contents

Foreword
Simeon Pyzh: A Lemko Patriot
Notes to the History

A Short History of Carpathian Ru’

The Carpathians: The Ancient Nest of the Slavic Peoples
Slavic States Before the Arrival of the Magyars in Europe
The Carpathian Slavs Are Annexed to Rus’
The Russian Population Beyond the Carpathians
Village Uprisings
The Position and Role of the Clergy
The Russian Population West of the San River
Popular Revolts Against the Polish Nobles
Carpathian Rus’ After the Imperialistic War: Our “Self-Determination”
The Unifying Work of the Lemkos
Subcarpathian Rus’
Why the Czechoslovak Government Did Not Grant Autonomy to Subcarpatian Rus’
Presov Rus’ (Hungarian Lemkovyna)
Galician Lemkovyna in Bondage to the Polish Pans
The Lemko Association

Bibliography
The Carpathian Institute

Korotka Istoriya Karpatsoi Rusi (Original 1938 Text)

This history was a very interesting read to me for several reasons.

I have read several histories of the Carpatho-Rusyn people. Their origins are not fully known, except that they were Slavic people. Many claim that Rusyns were from Ukraine.

Pyzh makes the case that Rusyns were always in the area and it was their ancestral homeland, not Ukraine or anywhere else. I found that one statement to be fascinating.

The reasons he stated for the Rusyn people struggling through history were also right on the mark. Due to centuries of serfdom and poverty, coupled with no opportunity for education or economic improvement, there were no leaders to unite the people. The geographical restrictions caused by the mountainous region added to difficulties in bringing about any life changes.

The powers-that-be, regardless of who ruled at the moment, had no interest in helping Rusyns, because the serfs provided labor, food and taxes.

Pyzh pointed out that even the lowly clergy had some social standing, which provided benefits for their own families. Thus, those closest to the common people – the priests – did nothing to elevate anyone else’s social, economic or educational statuses either.

His final point is that the official language of the Rusyns shouldn’t be Ukrainian or Russian or even Church Slavonic (a variation of the Rusyn language with Latin and other slavic influences), but that it should be the daily spoken language of the Rusyn people.

I learned a lot from Simeon Puzh’s book. The Carpathian Rus’ people have pretty much been ignored by history and Mr. Puzh has done an excellent job setting future goals, some of which are only now being adopted by the people.

Simeon Puzh’s 1938 sort History of Carpathian Rus’, reprinted in 2016 in both English and Rusyn, can be ordered online for $20.00 from the Lemko Association/Carpathian Institute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Color Coding by Religion: Figuring Out My Rusyn Heritage

Sometimes a picture is worth 1,000 words. In this case, the picture is a pedigree chart.

My paternal family tree is Carpatho-Ruysn in terms of ethnicity. The Rusyn people have never had a country of their own. Instead, for centuries, they’ve lived along the north and south sides of the Carpathian Mountains in areas that today are part of Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine and Romania.

Rusyns are easily identified in church records because they historically have been members of the Greek Catholic (today’s Byzantine Catholic) Church, as opposed to Roman Catholics, who are more often ethnic Slovak or Polish in the area of eastern Slovakia where my ancestors lived.

Ancestry gives me an DNA estimate of  44% Eastern Europe & Russia, while MyHeritage’s estimate is 23% Balkan and Baltic heritage and places me in this genetic group:

Absolutely correct, because this is the area – Presov region – where my Rusyn ancestors all lived.

How much Rusyn ancestry do I really have? Well, it’s definitely close to half because most of my paternal ancestors were all Greek Catholics.

However, mixed Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic marriages were frequent and socially acceptable. They were certainly acceptable to priests of both faiths.

One of my great grandmothers, Maria Kacsenyak, was Roman Catholic. Does that mean that 1/4 of my paternal family tree is ethnic Slovak? Not exactly.

Take a look at my color coded (Green = Greek Catholic, Red = Roman Catholic) pedigree chart:

Maria Kacsenyak (pronounced like Kachenyak), my great grandmother was not the first in her Roman Catholic father’s family to marry a Greek Catholic.

In fact, she was just the most recent ancestor to intermarry. Her father was Roman Catholic, but her mother Anna Haluska, Greek Catholic AND both of her grandparents had mixed Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic marriages. That dilutes down the possible ethnic Slovak percentage quite a bit.

I’ll never be able to fine tune the Rusyn estimate any further because the church records begin in the early 1800s. My knowledge of the ancestors in this branch of the family tree is complete because of that limitation.

Only 4 of my 31 Rusyn ancestors were Roman Catholic, which is roughly 1/8 or 12%. Looking at it from the other direction, 88% of my paternal ancestors were Rusyn.

I’d say Ancestry’s estimate of 44% is a bit low, but way closer to accurate than 23%.

FamilyTree DNA is the most accurate. It estimates 44% West Slavic plus 4% Magyar (Hungarian) for a total of 48%.

I’ve previously color-coded ancestors by place of birth, but this is my first attempt at color coding by religion. I won’t even attempt to do the same to my maternal tree. None of those ancestors was as religious as my paternal side.

Church attendance in the 19th and 20th century was more by social custom. Which churches did they attend? Well, Congregational, Lutheran and Anglican. While all are Protestant, that is still quite a mix when I’ve only covered back to my 2X great grandparents!

In reality, though, the religions do align closely with the ethnic and historical backgrounds of my ancestors. Congregational Church members descended from my New England colonial lines, the Lutheran Church is represented by my Danish and Swedish ancestors while the Anglican Church is tied into my Loyalist ancestors who fled to Canada in 1783.

Have you tried sorting your ancestors by religion?