Carpatho-rusyn her­itage cel­e­brated at con­fer­ence

The Citizens' Voice - - LOCAL - BY MICHAEL P. BUF­FER STAFF WRITER Con­tact the writer: mbuffer@cit­i­zensvoice.com 570-821-2073, @cvmike­buffer

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.”

DAVE SCHERBENCO / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Kerri Poloka holds up an ex­am­ple of Iconic art dur­ing the Rusyn Ge­neal­ogy and Her­itage Con­fer­ence at King’s Col­lege on Sat­ur­day.

DAVE SCHERBENCO / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Bethany Sro­movsky and Dean Poloka chat with at­ten­dees at the con­fer­ence as they show off their tra­di­tional Carpatho-rusyn at­tire.

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