Friday, December 4, 2009


At age 11 Baba had completed fifth grade and decided to quit school to help full time on the farms for the next several years. She had obtained a good foundation in reading and writing but has always struggled in math. At age 13 she went out on her own by becoming a full-time housekeeper and boarder in the village cantor's home, for which she was paid $1 per week, or $50 per year, plus room and board. A cantor is the leader of congregational singing in a Byzantine Catholic church who doubled as the school master in Carpatho-Rusyn villages, and this cantor happened to be a native of Michalovce. She felt more wanted and needed here as she took care of the house and became close friends with the cantor's wife, who became like a mother to Baba. When the family went away, she was trusted enough to remain behind to milk the cow and feed the animals.

By age 15 Baba was concerned about her future, particularly her ability to eventually independently support herself. Villagers, usually men, occasionally returned to Poruba after earning enough cash in America to buy land in their native village. They encouraged immigration by telling tales about the easier living and good money to be made there. The idea of immigration was attractive to young, unattached men and women who had nothing to lose by making a new life in America. The story-tellers left out the parts about the extreme prejudice Eastern Europeans faced in American cities. They were called names such as “greenhorn” or were victims of stone-throwing and even pummeling fists. Naturally, the most menial jobs were offered to these newcomers: coal mining, steel mill work, and slaughter-house work for men, and housekeeping for women.

Baba had an obvious destination in America. Her brother Michael had lived most of his adult life in America, and in 1911 resided in Snowden, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Mary Gnorik. He had originally immigrated to America around 1893 at age 18. He returned to Poruba in 1902 to marry. He remained briefly, then leaving his wife in Poruba, went back to America to work. In 1906 Michael again returned to Poruba to bring his wife and three-year-old daughter, Anna, who had been born in his absence, to live in Snowden.

1 comment:

George said...

I find your story very interesting since I grew up in your area of the Mon Valley and can relate to what you have written about. Even more so since my great-great-grandfather lived in Poruba p/V in the early 1800s.Unfortunately, I could find no parish records prior to 1849 for Poruba p/V.

I also find it interesting that in 1820, a Maztsko/Maczko married into my paternal grandmother's family in Kobyly, Slovakia.