Beyond 'The great mud puddle'


   Today one can only picture the first Lemko emigrant as one who had not the slightest notion about the "New World", nor the fate that awaited him out there beyond the ocean, later on wittily referred to by someone as the "great mud puddle". It is very likely that the first emigrant was a Lemko (Yurko Kashyts'kyj from Nova Ves', who emigrated to the US in 1871 - editor's note), who did not leave just out of curiosity so he could see the unknown with his "own eyes", but because, as a human being, he felt out of place in the densely populated Carpathian Mountains.

   Faced with no other choice, he took a big gamble and left when the opportunity presented itself, in order to survive. Having parted with family and the native mountain village, with a knapsack on his back and some change in his pocket, he turned himself over into the hands of an unknown agent, who then became his temporary guardian. European ports, such as Triest, Hamburg, and Bremen served as departure points for New York's "Castle Garden", and from there to different cities in eastern North America. One can just imagine a Carpatho-Rusyn of those days, one who has never seen even a small lake, standing on an old run-down ship and staring at the endless waters of the stormy ocean. What was going through his superstitious soul?

   What was that Lemko thinking about, when for the first time he caught sight of an enormous hot blast-furnace, or when he found himself deep under ground in a Pennsylvania coal mine? It is here amidst the rumble of steel monsters and the rhythmic noise of the industrial period, that Lemko emigrant songs originated, such as "'Bud' zdrava, zemlitseh" (Farewell, my homeland), "Ponad moreh" (Above the sea), "Moyee mamtsya doma" (My mom's at home), "Dobree v Hameritsee" (America is good for those....), "Yak yem ishol z Ameryky" (As I was returning from America), and others. There are, basically, no world renown Lemko composers (D. Bortnyans'kyj, also an ethnic Lemko, composed his works in a distant and strange land. His works, therefore, do not have anything in common with the song culture of Lemkos), nor such famous writers and poets as Taras Shevchenko or Ivan Franko. But they all made a great contribution to the overall Ukrainian culture, which let us hope, independent Ukraine will not forget. Lemko emigrant songs, poetry and prose came into being during the Depression, as a further reflection of the Lemkos helplessness when faced by powerful foreign elements, which exploited Lemkos by all possible means in order to grow rich at their expense.

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Copyright © 1997 Jon W. Madzelan
This Home Page was created on Tuesday, June 3, 1997
Most recent revision Wednesday, January 14, 1998