Eastern Slovakia
Slovak and Carpatho-Rusyn Genealogical Research

Traditions and Memories
A Slovak-American Remembers

Greetings to all my friends.

Wish I new more about my family and language. Like many of you, the grandparents were forbidden to teach the children the native language as I grew up. I remember my grandmother being able to speak about 7 different languages including Slovak, Bohemian, Polish, etc, and a language she referred to as Slavish. Ever hear of Slavish? Her maiden name was Jacob (Jacub) diacritical marks missing.

She and my grandfather emigrated to the United States around 1909-1913. Grandpa came on the Graf Waldensee, at least his second trip. Unsure, as he was said to have made several. They met in Pennsylvania, McKeesport I believe. Seems like there is a U.S. steel plant where they lived, as their street dead ends into the plant now and the house is gone.

He worked in the coal mines of Pennsylvania and also Kipling / Byesville Ohio where they lived for awhile. I still have one of his picks. My younger son "borrowed" one once and lost it in the woods near our house. Of course he never owned up to that one. Dad was born in the "old country", somewhere near Bratislava or Kocise I think.

I grew up on the near West side of Cleveland and went to St. Procop until we moved to the "burbs". I remember all the old folk speaking languages I did not understand. We had a couple of cats and a coal fired furnace. Remember all the little kittens and playing in the coal bin. Not mom's favorite place to find me, but I loved it. It was my way of "working" in the mines. Remember Grandma going to the West side market to get her Christmas goose. Usually got 2, the beautiful white ones. I had a lot of fun playing with them and our cats in the basement. Got kinda sentimental when it was time to get off with their heads.

I got to feed and water them. We never did anything cruel like force feeding them. They fattened up well enough, and I had gotten quite attached to them although they tried to peck at me. Grandma did the dirty work. She hung them by their feet from the low cellar rafters and cut their necks, then plunged them into boiling water to loosen the feathers. These she plucked ever so carefully saving the finest for her feather pillows and covers. They were so thick and warm...and I was so allergic to them!!!

The blood she collected and made into blood soup, "chanina" or something like that??? Yuk. The left overs were fed to the dog. She then singed all the feather stubble over an open gas flame. Boy does that ever smell bad. We all enjoyed the end product, it smelled so wonderful cooking in the oven. Nothing was wasted. The old folks ate all the parts. I was afraid to touch the gravy after seeing what went into it. Don't know what happened to the feet???

Got to drink the sweet fruit wines at all the holiday dinners. Nas Drovia!!!

The old folk had a lot of sayings about ladders, mirrors, umbrellas open in the house, walking on graves, etc. Did not remember my grandfather but remember our frequent visits to the cemetery where he was buried - St Marys off of Clark Ave. Always took flowers to put on all our deceased relatives graves. It was an all day task.

Also had other relatives buried at Holy Name??? on Brookpark Rd. Thanks to Joe C. on SW I found by aunts death certificate. She was only a year old, another cousin died at 11. His mother was lost a few years later at the birth of his brother. We share the same birthdate, different year. I have lost track of him somehow, after his second marriage.

Grandma was very devout, prayed the rosery every day and read her slovak prayer book. I could never read it. She always braided the palms into intricate designes that were draped over her crucifix. When a bad storm was near she burned some of the palms in the coal furnace, later in an ash tray, for protection. She did not smoke, but everyoe else did back then.

One of her favorite recipes was fried cabbage. Easy... Fry some country bacon sliced into small cubes. Slice up the cabbage and fry in the bacon grease. Cook up some egg noodles (hers were homemade) and mix into the fried cabbage. Salt and pepper to taste. Violla!!! (OK so my French is also bad).

I made it first time many years after she died, just from having watched so many times. Still make it every so often. Could not get the pirogi right though, did not have her recipe. Of course nothing was written down. She took all that with her. I loved her pirogi, especially the ones filled with cream cheese. I think the prune filled ones were for the old folk. They always made by bowles hyperactive.

Also remember the poppyseed bobaki and rolls and the nut rolls, yum. Wish I had some of her baked goods right now. I can still smell them after all those years. Always wanted to go to the old country. Never been to Europe. Had a calling to visit Medjugorje. and went last May. It was quite an experience. Visited Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Switizerland, and Germany.

Planning on a return visit soon. Made many friends there. The Europeans are great people, very friendly. Interesting, here in the US most everyone guesses my nationality to be Italian. In Europe, everyone guessed Slovak!!! I was quite surprised. I guess they know there own, at least I have a stronger sense of belonging there.

Still hope to get to Slovakia. Sure wish I new how to get in touch with my relatives there, but all the ties are broken.


Jeff L. Vin - E-mail:

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