Carpatho-rusyn heritage celebrated at conference
WILKES-BARRE — Bethany Sromovsky was wearing a traditional Carpatho-rusyn outfit from head to toe Saturday.
The 14-year-old girl from West Pittston made her outfit for the sixth annual Rusyn Genealogy & Heritage Conference on the King’s College campus.
“I made it in the style of a Rusyn village in Slovakia,” she said.
The ninth-grade student at the Wyoming Area Secondary Center said she began studying her family roots and history when she was 11.
“My dad always told us we were, he changed his story every time. I would ask him what we are, and he would say we’re a special kind of Russian,” she said. “The next day he would say we’re Austro-Hungarian.”
Due to her research, she determined her family was Carpatho-rusyn. It’s a distinct ethnic group of people that live or once lived in portions of the Carpathian Mountain range, a region now in parts Poland and Slovakia.
The region was ruled by the Austro-hungarian Empire from 1772 until 1918. Many Carpatho-rusyn immigrants starting coming to the United States in 1880s.
They were farmers and laborers, and many of them came to Northeast Pennsylvanian to work in coal mines, said Sharon Jarrow, president of Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the CarpathoRusyn Society.
Bethany’s father, Adam Sromovsky, said he grew up knowing his family was “some kind of Slavic” without knowing the exact Eastern European ethnicity.
“It was typical to not realize the ethnicity,” he said. “It got lost along the line between the Cold War and the need to become American.”
Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Carpatho-rusyn Society has 150 members, and about 100 attended Saturday’s event at Sheehy-farmer Campus Center, Jarrow said.
One of the specials guests there was Dean Poloka, who started a music and dance career with the Slavjane Folk Ensemble in 1976 and has researched traditional Carpatho-rusyn dance styling and choreography since 1993. He is from the Pittsburgh area.
“I was lucky enough in college in the early ’90s to study in Slovakia,” Poloka said. “After the (Berlin) Wall fell in 1989, opportunities opened up for to be able to go and study Carpatho-rusyn song and dance. We only had a certain number of resources open to us. Communism shut down the country. We couldn’t get in touch with relatives, friends. And when we did have the opportunity to meet with them, they said you are doing the exact same thing we are doing. The 40-50 years everything was shut down, we were propagating the traditions through music, song and dance just as they were.”
Kerri Poloka holds up an example of Iconic art during the Rusyn Genealogy and Heritage Conference at King’s College on Saturday.
Bethany Sromovsky and Dean Poloka chat with attendees at the conference as they show off their traditional Carpatho-rusyn attire.