Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Slavs of Yonkers!

Starting 1 May, New York Water Taxi is offering commuter service to Yonkers, with boats making the trip between Yonkers, the World Financial Center and Wall Street Pier 11. All through May, email your name, phone number and mailing address to mailto:info@nywatertaxi.com, and New York Water Taxi will send you a free pass (normal one-way $12.00).

You can use the free pass to explore the Slavs of Yonkers!

Czech connections date from colonial times, when Frederick Phillipse arrived from Bohemia. His homestead today is the Philipse Manor State Historical Site (corner of Warburton and Dock Streets).

The city’s Slovak pedigree is equally as impressive. There is the Catholic Slovak Club (49 Lockwood Avenue) as well as a number of Slovak churches, including St. Paul’s Slovak Evangelical (15 Old Jerome Avenue),
Holy Trinity Slovak Lutheran Church (60 Mulberry Street) and Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church (18 Trinity Plaza). The history of that last church has been documented in Thomas J. Shelley’s 2002 book Slovaks on the Hudson.

Poles in Yonkers congregate at
St. Casimir’s Catholic Church (239 Nepperhan Avenue), in the Hollow/Nodine Hill neighborhood. The parish celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2000. The building itself dates from 1927. The church has maintained a Polish identity even as Polish immigrants and their descendants have largely moved out of town.

There is no significant Slovene community to speak of, but at least one Slovene artist is active in town –
Marko Gosar. Gosar is a decorative artist trained in Slovenia but based in Yonkers.

Judging from internet presence, however, the largest three groups are also the most complicated: the Russians, Ukrainians and Carpatho-Rusyns.
Michel Fokine, the Russian ballet dancer, lived at Chateau Fleur de Lys (170 Shonnard Terrace), but the vast majority of the city’s Russian community was not really Russian at all.

Holy Trinity (Trinity Plaza, 46 Seymour Street) is a Russian Orthodox Church but it was founded in large part by Lemkos. Today, Lemkos usually identify themselves as either Carpatho-Rusyns or Ukrainians but at the turn of the 20th century many also identified as Russians. The building dates from 1905 and the parish celebrated its centennial in 1999-2000.

The centerpiece of Lemko life in Yonkers traditionally was Lemko Hall (556 Yonkers Ave - history in .pdf and one more), but it was sold several years ago and is no longer used by the local Lemko community.

Yonkers also used to be home to the Lemko Association of the US and Canada, publisher of the newspaper Karpatska Rus’/Carpatho-Rus’, but it has moved it New Jersey. The paper started out as Lemko in 1927 and today is the only Rusyn-language newspaper regularly published in North America.

Rusyn-oriented Lemkos congregate at St. Mary's American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church (485 North Broadway).

Ukrainian-oriented Lemkos set up the
Organization for the Defense of Lemkivshchyna (Lemko Western Ukraine) in 1936, and a Yonkers branch was established in 1957 at St. Michael's Ukrainian Catholic Church (corner of 510 North Broadway & 21 Shonnard Place). While the organization may be having trouble attracting young people, it nevertheless is active. The key annual event is the Lemko Vatra held upstate in Ellenville, NY.

St. Michael’s church building dates to 1978 but the parish was founded in 1899. It is home to the annual
Yonkers Ukrainian Heritage Festival. This year, it takes place on 15-17 June (Slavs of New York).
Other Ukrainian groups in Yonkers include the
Ukrainian Ski Association, Na Zdorovya band, a branch of the youth organization CYM and a branch of the Ukrainian American Veterans.


Rich C said...

You (understandably, since they're not on the web) omitted the mother church of Carpatho-Rusyns (and Lemkos / "Ukrainians") -- St. Nicholas Byzantine/Greek Catholic at 96 Ash Street, founded in 1892. Technically this was also the mother church of the Slovak Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity, and was actually the first Slav church in Yonkers.

Corinna Caudill said...

I'm not trying to be argumentative here, but this "Ukrainians" in quotes thing is misleading. Among the Lemko lot, Ukrainian is an ethnonational identity that differs from Rusyn by political differentiation. It's not an artificial thing as suggested by the quotations around "Ukrainian", or any more real or artificial than anything else in my opinion and based on my research with "The Lemko Project" (which involved fieldwork interviews with dozens of Lemkos in N. America and Europe). Identity among today's Lemkos is based on primordial factors (linguistics, religious confession, culture, etc.) and external phenomena (historical/political) PLUS self-determination as a response to those factors. Lemkos in the late 19th/early 20th century fractured (politically) into 3 typologies: Ukrainian, Rusyn and Russian oriented- and their descendants today tend to reflect those same political distinctions. Lemkos who adopted a Ukrainian or Russian national identity adopted those identity markers as the result of secular and church politics, in Europe and in the U.S. Many Rusyny/Ruthenians who came to the U.S. during the Austrian period never adopted a Ukrainian national identity, but there are plenty of instances where people in their native villages (who stayed in Europe) in fact did. The quotations suggest that Ukrainian identity is somehow illegitimate, despite the fact that so many Lemkos adopted it. Rusyns and Carpatho-Rusyns have struggled for acceptance as a "unique" culture of stateless people, yet in my observations, it seems like part of that identity construct involves devaluing the other two typologies (or maybe just Ukrainian) and thus kind of implying that anyone who doesn't share their world view is wrong, or really "Rusyns", a term that has taken on a political connotation different from what it was in A-H empire. We know, from history, that it was actually complex political factors that caused identity splits among these people, and in understanding those factors, it seems like self-determination is a very powerful force since it caused the fractures in the first place, and the legacies of those fractures endure. On our FB page, we have a mix of Lemko descendants (all 3 groups) who demonstrate the power of self-determination in their opinions about their own identity and shows that (at least online) the three groups can co-exist and learn from one another's experiences. Way more interesting than being labeled with an "-ophile" suffix or quotations, IMHO. www.facebook.com/lemkoproject

Corinna Caudill said...

p.s. It's not to say that all Rusyns devalue the Ukrainian identity, but I've noticed that some do so rather vehemently (not Richko, the commenter, but others) and I'm just curious about what exactly is gained from doing that? Is it not enough to be separate and understand that historical/political phenomena separated people in a highly chaotic period of history, where the age of empire broke down and e/central Europe's boundaries were redrawn (several times) into modern nation states?