Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Genealogy of Marya Bryniak Rychlyj


Marya and Sylvester Rychly in May 1924

Marya Bryniak, one of my great grandmothers was born about 1872 in Bila, Ternopil'.  She was a courageous woman who worked her entire life to provide for her family.  She raised eight children on her own, protected them during World War I, all the time suffering from asthma.

Bila is a village just outside the city wall of Ternopil', at that time a part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Ternopil', located west of the Russian border, was a old city in Galicia,  a part of The Kingdom of Poland until the first partition of Poland in 1772, when it became Austrian Crown-land.

Marya was the eldest child and only daughter of  Fedko (Theodore) Bryniak and Varvara (Barbara) Steciuk, also spelled Stechiw. She had three brothers, Kasian, Panko and Timko.  Marya, Kasian  and Panko immigrated to the United States, I don't know about Timko.

At the age of 22, in 1894, Marya married Sylvester Rychlyj.  There were questions raised about this match, since the The Rychly family was very poor, and Marya's family was wealthy and educated by village standards.  But Marya was already 22, and considered old,  so she accepted Sylvester's proposal, believing that he would be a good husband and father.  She was right about that, Sylvester was a hard worker, and brought his family to the United States, helped them to get established here, and was a leader in the Ukrainian community in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

After their marriage, Marya and Sylvester moved into a one room windowless house in Bila with his family, which was customary at that time.  The house was crowded with Sylvester's parents, brothers and sisters and small children. After 10 years and the birth of four children, Sylvester bought a house for his family. It had one room house with a thatched roof and the family lived there for about 10 years.  Four more children were born to Marya and Sylvester in this house.

This house in Ukraine about 1910, is similar to the house that Sylvester and Marya lived in, except that their house was much smaller.

Sylvester and Maria were the parents of eight children; Anna (1897-2001), Paranka (Pauline) (1898-1997), John (1902-1982), Stephan (1903-date unknown), Katherine (1904-1995), Helen (1906-1996), Ksenia (1908-1991) and Onofrey (1911-1975), five daughters and three sons.  John and Stephan stayed in Europe, but all the other children immigrated to the United States. John immigrated to the US in the 1920's.

When Sylvester immigrated to the United States in 1908, Marya became a single mother, raising  eight children on her own.  She was fortunate that she had family nearby to help her out, but she was ultimately responsible. Although Sylvester sent money to Marya in Bila,  she had to work.  Her daughters helped with childcare and housework, but when they were old enough, they started to work outside the home to supplement the family income. Stephan was a shoemaker in addition to farming.  All the children worked on the family's farm lots, where they raised wheat, rye and hemp. They also maintained a vegetable garden.  They had a cow, chickens and ducks.   They rarely bought any food, because they raised almost everything they needed themselves.  All of this work took a toll on Marya's health.  She suffered from asthma, and other respiratory problems.

Marya cut the hemp with a wooden knife, after it had soaked in a lake for seven weeks.

Harvesting grain in Ukraine. 
In 1908, she had a slow recovery after the birth of her seventh child, Ksenia.  She contracted pneumonia which was aggravated by her asthma.  Things were so bad that Sylvester returned to
Bila from the United States.  By the time he arrived, she was feeling better, and he returned to Pennsylvania in 1910. She did not see him again until 1923.

When World War I broke out in 1914, Marya's life changed.  Her two oldest daughters were in the United States, but she still had young children to care for.  The city of Ternopil' changed hands 7 times during the war, and various armies came through, taking food and animals from families and living in their homes.  There were as many as five soldiers living in the house with Marya and the children.  There was no news from the United States, or money, until they war ended in 1918.

After the war, communications opened up and the Rychlyj family finally heard from their family in the United States.  It took several years to bring the remaining family over; Katherine and Helen came in 1922, and Marya, Ksenia and Onufrey came in 1923.  By this time, Marya's health was poor and she lived for only 18 months after she arrived.  She died on April 12, 1925 and is buried in St Mary's Cemetery, Minneapolis, MN.
I am very lucky to have a wonderful oral history from my great Katherine Pylatuik Lymar, which was written by my cousin Julia Lawryk.  There is so much information packed into this memoir, that it will take me several blog posts  to tell the story of my family in Bila, Ternopil', Ukraine.

Marya and Slyvester's children and spouses and a grand-daughter, Anoka Minnesota 1960's.

 The information for this post came from Kateryna (Kashka), an Autobiography by Katherine Pylatuik Lymar as told to her Daughter, Julie in 1988, by Julia Pylatuik Lawryk. Minneapolis, Minnesota, Copyright 1988.