Friday, March 28, 2014

Education in Eastern Europe--PreWorld War 1

Ukrainian school in 1938.  Photo by Margaret Bourke White, collection of MOMA.

Many people assume that the great wave of immigrants arrived in the United States from Eastern Europe were uneducated, illiterate people, suited only for manual labor.  However, I have found that my extended family, although they were very poor, coming from eastern Galicia, the poorest part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire, or from northern Poland, ruled by Russia, or from Russia itself, were surprisingly well educated.

Galicia in 1914.  My ancestors came from the area around Eastern Galicia, near the city of Tarnopol.

There was a school in the little village of Bila, which just outside the walls of the city of Ternopil’ home of my grandmother’s family.   My great Aunt, Katherine Rychly described the school where she developed her life-long love of reading in her in her autobiography.  The school wasn’t far from the family home, and was attended by boys and girls, the children were taught by both men and women. She didn’t mention if the boys and girls attended classes together.  The first and second grade children attended for a half-day, and from third grade on, the children attended a full day of school. There was a separate class for each grade. 

From the education levels stated in the 1940 US census, the highest grade completed by a Rychly family member was 7th grade, so I am assuming that the school went through the 8th grade. Instruction was in both the Polish and Ukrainian languages.  Katherine mentions that the textbooks were in both languages. In 1890, an agreement was made between the Poles and Ruthenians (an old name for Ukrainians in Austria), in Galicia that allowed partial Ukrainianization of the school system and the inclusion of Ukrainian culture in the school curriculum. 
Every two weeks, the children had religious education, provided by the church.  The Polish children received their education from the Roman Catholic priest, the Ukrainian children were taught by a Greek Catholic priest.  In addition to the regular subjects, the girls were taught needlework and crocheting. 
My Aunt’s formal education ended after the third grade, in 1914, when World War began on August, 1914. There was no more school in the village of Bila, since Ternopil’ was invaded by various armies for the next four years. After the war, Eastern Galicia became part of Poland, and Katherine was too old for school, and was working to help support the family.

In the village, there was a building that served as a community center, which was also used for evening discussion groups, called “readings,” which were closed to women. There the more educated men shared their knowledge with the less educated men of the village.

I made an informal survey of my extended family’s education, using data from the 1940 US Census, which noted the highest grade of education completed by each person listed.  I also checked the 1930 US Census, which recorded whether the person could read and write.

The Rychly, Koshuba and Nyznyk families immigrated from Galicia, part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire. In the Rychly family, the highest grade completed was 7th grade, the lowest was 3rd grade. All the Rychly family members who immigrated to the United States could read and write when they came here.   It is interesting to note that most children in the United States completed only four to five years of school during the early years of the 20th century.  In the Koshuba family, the highest grade  level completed was 8th grade, the lowest was 6th grade.  My paternal grandfather John Nyznyk completed 5th grade, but my grandmother, his wife, was illiterate.

Map of Szczuczyn, showing the location of the Synagogues and Public School.  Source: Jose Gutstein

On my husband’s side of the family, the Krause (Karbovsky)  and Markin (Monkovski) families lived in Northern Poland, which was part of the Russian Empire at the time of their immigration.  In Sczcuczyn, ancestral home of the Krause (Karbovsky) family, Jews attended the public schools as well as religious schools. 
The Gerstein family lived in Russia.  I do not have any information about the kind of public education they received in their villages, although all Jewish men received a basic education in religious schools. Berdichev, original home of the Gerstein family was known as a center of Jewish learning and had a famous Yeshiva located here. My husband's paternal grandfather, Morris Gerstein, was listed in the 1940 US census as having no education, yet he did know how to read and write.

There appears to be a big difference between the amount of education that the men and women received in the Russian ruled areas, although religious education was available to women. In the Krause family, all the men who came to the United States had an 8th grade education.   I have no information about the education of the men who immigrated in the Monkovski family, since I have not found them in the 1940 US census. The Monkovski women’s education varied, the lowest was 2nd grade, the highest was 6th grade.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Big Breakthrough in the Koshuba Family Tree

One of the reasons I started to blog about genealogy was to find missing pieces on my family trees.  For most of the year, this wish was not fulfilled.  My biggest break was to find Jose Gutstein and he helped my to find a lot information about the Monkovski family.  I found his site on the internet when I was searching for information about the village where my husband’s maternal grandparents once lived.  I contacted him and this led to finding several generations of Monkovskis. This was very satisfying, and I felt that it made blogging worthwhile. 

I do keep track of the statistics from Blogger about my blog, and I saw that the posts about the Koshuba-Kleviak family were popular.  Someone was looking at them, and hopefully they would contact me with questions some day.

Pauline Rychly-John Koshuba Wedding, November 1916.  This picture helped solve the mystery of the Joseph Koshuba Family.

Last week I wrote an update of my first blog post, which was about my great-uncle, Joseph Koshuba.  On Monday, I got a phone call from a woman who left a message saying that she might have some information about the Koshuba family.  I called her back, and one of the first things she told me was that she was Joseph Koshuba’s granddaughter!  What an unexpected surprise!  She and I are second cousins and I had no idea she even existed. She told me that she had a copy of my grandparents wedding picture—although she had no idea who they were.   We talked for a while and she filled in several gaps in the Koshuba family tree for me.  Now I know what happened to Katherine Koshuba, the child of Joseph Koshuba and Florence Holmberg, that I had almost no information about.  I also know for sure that the man with the baby on his lap is Peter Wons, not Dymtro Popko.

My cousin sent me this picture of her grandparents, Joseph and Florence Kkoshuba, and children Katherine Florence and Frederick, and brother-in-law, Peter Wons, qt the wedding of my grandparents, November 1916.

So now, my genealogy energy is revived.  Searching for family members can be very tedious, and there are a lot of blind alleys and information that might be helpful, but you are not really sure about it.  There is a lot of scrolling through lists of names, which is a little bit like counting grains of sand on the beach.  I think that I am very fortunate to have two big breakthroughs in the first year of writing this blog.  Now, I am ready to tackle the second year.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Joseph Koshuba--one Year Later

Joseph Koshuba in 1916

One year ago, I published the first entry of this blog.  Since I began to research about my extended family, I discovered several things—first of just writing about my family history isn’t very interesting to most readers, unless you are closely related to my extended family. However, one of the most viewed posts on this blog is the "Genealogy of the Kleviak-Koshuba Family."    As I continued to research, I found that the history and culture surrounding my ancestors was far more interesting than just listing who was descended from whom.  And, I did find through research a lot more about my extended family, but that information didn’t fall into my lap, I had to find the sources that connected my to these ancestors.

The first  blog entry was about my great uncle, Joseph Koshuba.  Almost everything I knew about him then was incorrect, so I though that I will update his story. 

Jopseph Koshuba was born in Ouzernaya, Galicia, Ukraine, November 18, 1885, the son of Theodore Kociuba and Maria Kleviak.  He had three brothers, John, born in 1891, Stephen, born in 1899 and Myhaljo (Mike), died 1928.   His two sisters, Teckla Wons, was born in 1883 and Anna Grashkiw, born in 1897. 

Joseph came to the United States in 1904 at the age of 18.  In the 1910 census, he was living in a rooming house in St Paul, Minnesota, working as a laborer. By 1912, he was the owner of National Window Cleaning Company in St Paul. 

Advertisement for Joesph Koshuba's Window Washing Company, 1912

He married Florence Elizabeth Holmberg in February 1913, and they had three children. Frederick, born 1914, Catherine Florence born January 1915, and Marie Olga born in June 1917. 

By 1915, he owned his own home at 886 Central in St Paul.  He applied for US citizenship.  He registered for the World War I draft in 1918.  He was living the American dream.   He died suddenly, at home on January 17, 1919 of chronic myocarditis. 

Joseph’s family continued to live in the home at 886 Central, for about 10 years.  His daughters attended Central High School, his son, Fred went to work. Florence never remarried.  Marie Olga married John Poppler in St Paul in 1937.  Florence and Catherine moved to California around this time.  Florence died in Los Angeles in 1938, at the age of 1944. I can find no other records for Catherine. Marie Olga and her family moved to California in the 1940’s, she divorced and remarried. She died in San Diego in 1993.
The Koshuba Home at 886 Central, St Paul.  It recently sold for $75,000.

As you can see, tragedy affected  the Koshuba family, and it continued.  Brother Mike Koshuba died in a car accident in Hammond Indiana in 1928. In 1941, Fred died in a car accident in Dolton, Illinois at the age of 27.  He was married to Charlotte, living in Detroit, Michigan, and working at the Ford Motor Company.  Stephen Koshuba’s wife, Helen, left him in 1931 with a six year old daughter. In 1940, brother John died of suicide at the age of 49. John Koshuba’s son, named Joseph after his uncle, died of cancer in 1957 at the age of 37, leaving a wife and two young children.  
The other Koshuba children lived long and happy lives, Teckla Wons died in 1976, in St Paul, Anna Graskiw died in 1977 in Minneapolis and Stephen died in 1982 in Denver Colorado.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Everyday and Holiday: Food in Ukraine 100 Years Ago

Varenyky, Ukrainian perogies

Ukrainian Borscht
Holubtsi, Ukrainian cabbage rolls

Food was simple in the village of Bila 100 years ago. Bila was a small village in Ukraine, just outside the walls of the city of Ternopil’, Ukraine. The villagers ate what they grew, and depending on the season, meals could be bountiful or small.

My great aunt, Katherine Pylatiuk, described in her autobiography what her family ate on a typical day.  Breakfast was mashed potato with sauerkraut or sour milk.

Dinner, the main meal of the day, was kasha (buckwheat) or borscht, which was made from dried beans, sour beets, potatoes, cabbage and homemade noodles. The kasha could be prepared several ways, including pancakes. Supper was a baked potato and tea.

In the winter, the family supper would include a herring, one fish for the family of eight children.  It was cut up, with the head going to the oldest person at the table, and the tail going to the youngest.  The rest of the fish was divided up to serve the number of people at the table.  Everybody ate from the same bowl, using only their fingers.  The only utensils they used were spoons to eat the soup.

In the summer, fresh corn was in season, and since there was so much, a person could eat as much as he or she wanted.

My great aunt Katherine Pylatiuk stated that she was “always hungry, it seemed as if there was never enough to eat.”  She said that her mother wasn’t a fancy cook, and that she didn’t always enjoy her mother’s cooking. 

Although the family had ducks, chickens and a cow, they rarely ate any meat.  The cow’s milk was for drinking, cooking and cheese making.  The eggs were used for cooking and eating and to sell to a man who resold them in the city of Ternopil’.  They also had some cherry trees and raspberry bushes, and these fruits were a seasonal treat.  Bread was baked once a week, always rye.  The rye was raised and harvested by the family and ground into flour at a local mill.  White bread was served only on the major holidays. 

When the family worked in the fields harvesting their crops, they brought something to eat with them, usually bread and water.  If the bread was eaten early in the day, that was it,  there was nothing more to eat until the workday was over. 

There was a tavern in the village, which was open only to men,where beer and whiskey was sold.  The villagers often purchased liquor and drank it at home, accompanied by a piece of bread rubbed with a garlic clove and a chunk of salt pork.  Women drank whiskey too, but someone had to go to the tavern and bring it back, since they were not allowed inside.

Holiday meals were the opposite of the meager everyday meals.  The two major holidays, Christmas and Easter featured large meals with several courses.  Fish was served at the Christmas Eve meal, along with several other meatless dishes.  Meat was served on Easter, probably the only time during the year that the villagers ate it.  

Christmas Eve Dinner:  woodcut by Jacques Hnivsdovsky.

The Christmas dinner included varenyky, boiled dumplings stuffed with potato, sauerkraut or prunes. The prunes were a special treat, and had to be purchased in Ternopil’.  Holubtsi, cabbage stuffed with buckwheat, borscht, herring, pumpushki (filled donuts), pyrizhsky (baked turnovers, stuffed with prunes) and kolach (braided wheat bread).

Christmas Eve in Ukraine, a painting by Yaroslava Surmach Mills

Easter was celebrated for three days. The Easter dinner included Paska (decorated Easter bread made with wheat flour), kielbasa (smoked garlic pork sausage), studenetz, (pork feet in aspic) ham, hreem (beet horseradish), and cheese.  On Monday, the day after Easter, Katherine’s mother made varenyky (boiled stuffed dumplings) from the left over cheese.

These freshly baked babka breads look just like the ones my grandmother made.

Weddings were eagerly anticipated, since they were a break from the everyday routine.  It was a chance to celebrate a happy occasion as well as a chance to eat special foods like varenyky and white bread.

Recipe for Ukrainian Easter Paska

Ukrainian Paska, with some Ukrainian Pysanky (Easter Eggs)

Easter in Ukraine, woodcut by Jacques Hnivsdovsky