Tuesday, December 8, 2009

An Arranged Marriage

One of the five boarders living with Baba's brother was a man named John Bubnash, who would become my Grandpap. He was born on September 11, 1891 in the Carpatho-Rusyn village of Valaskovce on the north slope of Vihorlat, the highest peak in the Carpathian Mountains of the old Hungarian Empire in what is now Slovakia. His people were shepherds and his father Paul died before his son's birth.  Grandpap's mother, Mary Szorokacs, then moved her young family six miles south to Poruba, a larger village at the foot of the Carpathians.  Thus my Grandparents both grew up in Poruba but because they were 5 years apart in age, were not particular friends.

At some point Grandpap quit school and returned to his home village of Valaskovce to work for his Uncle George and other farmers. The only future for himself in the old country was working for landowners as a low-paid  farm laborer. Thousands of Zemplen County natives, the majority being younger single men, were heading for new opportunity in the United States, so Grandpap immigrated to America on the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria, passing through Ellis Island on October 29, 1910.   Though most of Grandpap's Bubnash relatives eventually settled in Stockett, Montana, Grandpap headed for Snowden, perhaps because some Poruba aquaintances lived in the area.

Michael Maczko was not pleased to have continued responsibility for his youngest sister Suzanna. He was already supporting his wife, Mary Gnorik and three young daughters, Anna, Mary and Veronica.  So when John Bubnash expressed an interest in Baba, Michael not only encouraged him, but eventually arranged that she marry him despite her objections, namely her youth and the fact that they were not well acquainted.  In Poruba marriages were commonly arranged by the family of the bride and groom and though it was natural to continue to exercise the custom upon immigration to America, even in the old country brides were usually around 18 at the time of marriage and the grooms around 21.  At their marriage Baba was a month past 16; Grandpap was 20.

On July 20, 1912, at Ascension Byzantine Catholic Church in Clairton, Suzanna Maczko was married to John Bubnash. The ceremony was conducted by Father Irenaeus Matyaczko and witnessed by George Gibka and George Molcsan. She wore a trainless white dress and homemade veil, while John wore an ordinary Sunday suit. The couple traveled to the church in a horse-drawn buggy. There was no money for a wedding photograph, but there was a celebration after the ceremony that included plenty of dancing and drinking. About $50 cash was donated as wedding gifts and that is all this couple had to begin their new life in Clairton. With the money they purchased a few essentials such as a stove, bed, table, chairs and dishes. For a short period of time they lived in Clairton while Grandpap worked in the steel mill. Their first home was on the hill near where the Jewish couple lived (Baba’s previous employer), but the house was full of rats and roaches so they soon found better living quarters. However, their time in Clairton was short-lived as Grandpap discovered mine work was more palatable. He almost enjoyed loading coal into carts where he could work without anyone telling him what to do whereas in the mill, the boss was always too close behind him. So they moved back to Snowden.

As mentioned, they did not have a wedding photograph taken.  Below is a wedding-day photo of Grandpap's cousin, Mary Ella Szorokacs and her husband Michael Zetts.  They married in 1920 in Bradford, Pennsylvania and their ages at marriage were the same as my Grandparents.  I think my Grandparents looked about like this on their wedding day.


photo courtesy of Judy Whisler Zetts

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