1. Have you visited my ancestral villages, who, when, where, how and why? I would like to include your paragraph here?

2002: Gloria’s 1st visit 2002: Mike’s visit 2003: Charlotte’s visit 2003: Vera’s visit 2010: Gloria’s 2nd visit

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Gloria Carpatho_mts@hotmail.comIn May 2002 my husband and I visited my three ancestral villages of Swiatkowa Wielka and Dudynce that are now in southern Poland and also the village of Hrabovcik, which is located in eastern Slovakia. We flew to Vienna and toured that city for a few days, then met some friends who once lived near us in the states. With them we took day trips in the Czech Republic, where they now live. They put us on a train to Krakow, which was a lovely experience that allowed us to talk to four historical conservators who were on their way to a conference in Krakow. We met our guides, Halina and Andre Malaccy, who are Lemko guides. They are schoolteachers by profession. They provided us with a memorable experience as we traveled to each village, talking to the people and visiting the churches. I had done a lot of family research before the trip and I thought I was prepared, but when I got back home I realized there were many other questions that I should have asked. However, I was smart enough to take along a tape recorder and used it to record my verbal travel diary. It allowed me to record the sound of the cuckoo bird in the Carpathian forest as well the Muppets speaking Polish on TV. There was plenty of fun stuff and some typical tourist stuff. We ended up back in Krakow, toured that wonderful old city with castles and churches. Took day trips to the Salt Mines and Auschwitz and flew from Krakow to the USA via London, my most favorite city in the whole world. Everyone should have the opportunity to walk on the soil of his or her ancestors.

J Michael Kolody who recently traveled to DUDYNCE has some current film on the village and is willing to share it with serious researchers who may have family originating in Dudynce. He also has a Web Page at Kolody

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Charlotte Hawks writes:

I was born in Buckley, Washington, a small logging and mining community.  Both sides of my family worked in the coal mines.  My maternal grandparents came from Scotland and England, and their ancestors were accounted for.  But my paternal grandparents, Stephan and Lena Kates, were secretive about their past.  They would only say they came from Austria.  No further discussion.  One time my sister attempted to question Grandma Kates about whether she had any brothers or sisters, and she began crying.  Never again would anyone ask a question to make Grandma cry.

 My inquisitive mind could not let it go, but I did not know how to begin finding out the secrets from the past.  It was only in mid-life, after I had begun working in a civil servant position, did I realize that there were many public records available to people willing to ask.  Most of my queries were futile.  But on one visit to my Aunt Mary, she told me that she was born in Mayfield, Pennsylvania.  I contacted a genealogical society in Pennsylvania and found a man who agreed to visit the Orthodox Church in Mayfield and request baptismal records.  With that first record, our ancestors began to reveal themselves.  I now had my great grandparents' names and their place of origin.

 Throughout the next ten years, I stumbled through numerous websites and public records to no avail, satisfying myself with finding all my cousins, aunts and uncles from our fractured family who are still living.

 One day in June 2002, I punched the word "Swiatkowa" into the internet yet one more time, and the first hit was a posting by Gloria Elston announcing she had just returned from Swiatkowa and had photos.  I nearly fainted.  I wasn't even sure Swiatkowa still existed as anything more than a name on a map.  I immediately contacted her, and throughout the next few months figured out a course of action.  After 58 years, I was ready to go to Poland and see for myself!

 My husband and I spent a year planning.  We decided to use the Maleccys from Bobowa, guides recommended by the Elstons  We spent two weeks in Poland, centering our tour around southeastern Poland, the Lemko villages.  We were not interested in making a tour of large cities, although we did spend two days in and around Krakow.

 The Maleccys were wonderful guides who helped us find records that otherwise would not have been made available to American tourists.  We spent two days in Prszemysl at the record center, and the Mallecys pitched in and helped my husband and I search records.  Halina and Andrzej are both well educated and were extremely helpful in our research.  In addition to pouring over records with us, they were skilled and tactful ambassadors.

 Besides finding pertinent genealogical data of my family, I also found two maps from 1851 of the two villages from which my grandparents came--Swiatkowa (both Mala and Weilka) and Zydowskie.  With those in hand, we returned to the villages a second time and were able to find the exact site where my grandfather's home once stood.  The disturbed ground surface where the foundation lay was apparent, and there were still a few ancient apple trees standing in their orchard.

 In Swiatkowa we found the general area where my grandmother's house once stood, but could not figure out with precision the exact site.  But we were able to attend a vesper service in St. Michael the Archangel's Church one evening. The service was Roman Catholic and in Polish, but the familiar cadence, verse after verse, with each petition of the prayers transcended language.

 From this once-in-a-lifetime journey, I was able to make a firm connection with my past.  The family traditions and customs I experienced as a child in my grandparents' home now make sense.  It is with thanksgiving and a sense of deep pride that I am now able to say, "I am Lemko."

Vera N. Croitoru writes: Visiting My Lemko Homeland in Poland, August, 2003, A Personal Experience

Two very important events occurred for me during this most exciting and memorable trip: visiting the villages of my grandparents and researching the Przemysl Archives.

 Having previously visited Lemkovyna in 1997, when the opportunity to find the villages of Swierzowa and Swiatkowa was not available, and nor were we able to enter the archives, I just knew this tour was going to be successful for me. And indeed it was! More so than I could ever imagine!

 Our Lemko hosts, Halina and Andrej Malecki, were not only gracious, but went out of their way to see that everyone on the tour would find their family village, if possible.

During a conversation with Halina about my two villages, she informed me that her best friend from high school’s mother lived in the last remaining house in Swierzowa, a small village which was totally destroyed during Akcja Visla in 1947 and when the Lemkos were sent to northern cities in Poland. Several of my cousins were victims of this movement. Halina said that we would be served freshly caught trout for lunch at a tavern owned by this woman’s son, Jan Gracon. This was a name I knew!

Our visit was a treasure of coincidences. Anna Gracon’s deceased husband is related to a woman who has lived across the street from my mother in Monessen, PA for over 55 years. Anna remembered some of my family names and said they had all moved in 1947. She was charming and sweet and our interview was delightful. Later, Marilyn Barbetta and I talked with her daughter-in-law, Gracyna, and Marilyn discovered that Gracyna is related to her by marriage. Gracyna was filled with tears when she learned this. What a joy for us to have met these simple people living a rather remote area of Poland! After lunch, Halina and Andrej drove a mile away to the village cemetery. Alas, I was able to find only one gravesite with the Dziadyk name. Nevertheless, this day will be forever etched in my memory.

 Twenty-one of our group spent one full day archiving in Przemysl, affording us the pleasure of actually touching the records of our forefather’s births, deaths and marriages. The staff was extremely helpful in interpreting the Poland letters and language. Tables with lamps were set up for us and the hours flew by quickly as we researched and recorded our findings. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to share my precious box with anyone. Unfortunately, I could not find my mother’s paternal grandparent’s records. Iwona Dakieniewicz, our genealogist, suggested the records might be in Skolysyn and offered to research that archive. Two days later, I received a 9-page fax from Iwona with my great grandparent’s marriage records and information about other family members. My visit to Poland was now complete! I couldn’t ask for anything more!

2010: Gloria’s 2nd Visit to Her Ancestral Villages

It started with and invitation from my 2nd cousin, Volodymyr, who lives in Ukraine. He invited me to meet him at the Lemko Vatra in Zdynia, Poland. Considering that we are both are up there in age and that I do not at this time feel comfortable traveling to Ukraine, and that he had no chance to travel to the US, I decided that it was something I should do. Fortunately my daughter agreed to go with me so I began planning the trip. The Vatra (festival) was held on July 23,24 and 25th in Zdynia, Poland, in the heart of the former Lemko area. Not the most comfortable season to be in Poland, but in traveling one must be flexible. Since my last visit in 2002, I have discovered cousins in Slovakia and we had met during this interim, so it was the ideal time to make this a “people trip”, Cousins in Slovakia, Cousin at the Vatra and a visit with our former guides on the 2002 trip, Halina and Andreij of Lemko Tours. I would throw in a stop in Sanok so I could look at records in two repositories and also visit Dudynce again. With my daughter as a travel companion, it would be a chance for me to pass on my ancestral heritage to the next generation.

I made all of the reservations on the internet. We flew in and out of Krakow, Poland because there was a direct flight from Chicago and it was less expensive than flying to Kosice, Slovakia. I rented a car online, made hotel reservations in Kosice, Sanok, Gorlice and Krakow. I emailed my Kosice cousins and wrote to Volodymyr to say we were coming. Our trip covered 12 days, mainly since we wanted to begin the trip on a weekend (for convenience of the Kosice cousins) and return home so my daughter could have time to get ready for her beach trip with her family.

Air trip was uneventful and smooth, the overseas flight (LOT Air). Our rental car was waiting for us at the airport (VW Jetta). We rented a GPS which worked perfectly and got us to every hotel, town or address that we wanted. I had backup maps on hand just in case, but we never needed them. Roads were very good in both Slovakia and Poland.

We spent our first night and last night in Krakow. It is a wonderful city with a well preserved Old Town, a castle, great eating, concerts and lots of things to see and do. Our first concern after checking into our hotel was to purchase a cell phone for use in Europe. I had borrowed a Verizon International phone, but with rates at $2.89/ minute, I really didn’t want to use it, unless it was an emergency.

On the way to Kosice we stopped for a raft trip on the Dunejec River that divides Poland and Slovakia. We spent three days with our cousins in Kosice, including one night in the 1947 homestead of the family in Hrabovcik. Met the extended family there, all excited to meet us and very gracious hosts. We were serenaded by centuries old folk songs, all we could think of to sing were “Clementine” and “You are My Are My Sunshine” . How embarrassing! Attended the village church where my great grandmother was married and my grandfather christened, walked the cemetery and fought off horrible biting flies that seems to think that our rental car was their hive and constantly buzzed around it, while parked.

Drove to Sanok, stopping at the Dukla Pass Memorial on the way. Spent three nights in this town during which we visited the Civil Archive in Bukowsko and the Sanok branch of the State Archive . We hired a translator through the hotel and traveled to Dudynce where we did a survey of the Greek Catholic Cemetery (data on this website). Toured some wooden churches and other sights along the way.

On to Gorlice where we stayed in the only truly air-conditioned room in the town (Room #6 in the Dark Pub B&B) That was our home base from which we traveled south to Zdynia for three days to the Lemko festival. Lemko folk groups from many countries performed, in remembrance of the homeland denied them since 1947, in remembrance of their culture which the Polish National Army at that time tried to erase, in remembrance of their religion that Poland tried to eradicate. There was a lot of meaning being there at that festival other than watching and listening to performances.

I did meet my 2nd cousin who had traveled to Zdynia from Kalush Ukraine. He knew no English, I knew no Ukrainian so we spoke some German with a lot of hand waving and acting. He traveled to his birthplace, Swiatkowa Wielka, with us and showed us his family’s former homestead. It was then that I realized how difficult this was for him to return to the place where he was born remembering that his family was forcibly driven out and relocated in the USSR in 1945. It was hard for him to see the cemetery where the Lemko gravestones had been razed by the Polish Army, leaving only a few large stone markers as a reminder. We stood in the vacant field and prayed for family souls buried beneath our feet but unmarked. It was hard for him to enter the village church which was formerly Greek Catholic and now given over to the Roman Catholic Rite. We parted back in Zdynia, with good memories of each other, exchanging old family photos and ancestral information. We will keep up our correspondence but 2010 will probably be our last face to face meeting. We are both limited by our accumulation of years.

The last day of our trip was spent in Krakow and we enjoyed the culture of that city. It had been a busy 12 days filled with fun, new experiences, interaction with family, the locals and lots of great hospitality of the Polish and Slovak people.

2. In 1947 Greek Catholic villagers from Dudynce were deported to the USSR. Is there any record of where these people were moved?

From Philip Semanchuk

If your ancestors are from THESE villages and if you would like to add their surnames or to comment about them on my Web Page, please contact me at

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