Monday, October 17, 2005

Slovenes in the East Village

According to Edward Kasinec in the Encyclopedia of New York, Slovenes began coming to New York City from the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the 19th century and initially found work in the straw-hat industry. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the community built on early success and fostered a number of entrepreneurs in various businesses, from groceries to shipping companies.

The centerpiece of the Slovene community throughout its history in the city has been St. Cyril Catholic Church, the city's only Slovene parish, founded in July 1916. A 3 September 2002 article from the Slovene daily Večer, Košček Slovenije sredi New Yorka (A Bit of Slovenia in the Middle of New York), said that the community and the parish have been changing for quite some time. "Decades ago, hundreds of people gathered for Mass, but in the past 30 years, Slovene families - like many others - began moving out of Manhattan. Some because of the high cost of housing, some because of the crime which had been a huge problem, according to [parish priest] Fr. Cimerman, even just a few years ago. Lately, conditions have improved, but people have already left and do not return to the center of New York just for Sunday Mass."

All is not lost, however. The article continues: "Those who remained come every Sunday. Not just because of the word of God, but also for socializing, because here they can speak in their native language, because after the Mass - which is conducted entirely in Slovene - everyone has a cup of coffee together. Most have been in the United States for decades and their Slovene is intermixed with English. The youngest and 'newest' among them is Karmen Katz, from Bohinjska Bela in the Gorenjska region, who married an American two years ago and moved to Manhattan. 'I came the first week I was here, and now I can hardly wait for Sunday, so I can speak Slovene,' she says. St. Cyril is the only contact many other Slovenes living in New York have with their homeland. '"

A number of community organizations, such as the mutual-assistance organization the League of Slovenian Americans and numerous singing and dancing groups have come and gone. Similarly, the Society for Slovene Studies was founded at Columbia University in 1973, though is no longer based in the area. The American Slovene Congress was founded in 1994, but does not seem to be currrently active. In the past few years, the Slovene Consulate in New York and the Slovenian Women's Union of America have been actively organizing events, frequently at the basement of St. Cyril Church which as been rechristened the Slovenian Cultural Center.

Much more information on Slovenes in the area can be found in John Arnez's Slovenci v New Yorku, published by Studia Slovenica in 1966.


Anonymous said...

We will be in town next Sat-Wed. We will go to mass on Sunday at St. Cyril. Would you recommend anything else of interest to a Slovenian woman, her husband, and teenage sons?

Anonymous said...

If you go to mass on Sunday people can give you great ideas afterwards!

Anonymous said...

Hi there!!
Is anyone interested in hoasting an Slovenian skater and his russian coach for three weeks close to the Hackensack Ice Skating Rink?? They need accommodation end of May 2013. Skating is a very expansive sport, so we need somewhere cheaper to stay. A small opportunity to cook would be appreciated!!

Anonymous said...

are there any Slovenian restaurants or clubs in NYC that one could visit Nov 26 - 29?