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Ukrainian Oral History Project

Interview with: Anna Lewkowicz

Interviewed by: Jiajun Zou and Robert S Person

Transcriber: Jiajun Zou and Robert S Person

Date of interview: 6 April 2016 at 9:54 AM

Interview Setting: John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Johnson City, NY


(Start of Interview)

Jiajun Zou: So, this is an interview with Mrs. Anna Lewkowicz, and today is April 6, and now is 9 o'clock and 54 minute. And, so to begin, we want to know, can you introduce yourself to us? What is your name, when were you born?

Anna Lewkowicz: My name is Anna Lewkowicz. And eh--

Mary Ann Klish (Daughter): Where were you born?

AL: I was born in Ukraine.

JZ: In Ukraine?

AL: Yabluchnyk.

MK: It was called "Yabluchnyk."

AL:Yabluchnyk, Ukraine.

JZ: Yabluchnyk? In Ukraine, um-hum. What year were you born?

AL: April 9, 1923.

JZ: 1923. um-hum-- And, what we want to know is, so you were born in Ukraine, when did you immigrate to the United States?

AL: Um-um-- I first -- I first came to Germany. I worked up there for five years; then my sister, she was here in United States, and she sent me paper-- to come here.

JZ: How old were you at the time?

AL: I was--

MK: When she came in nine--, she came August of 19?

AL: I was nine-- eight--

MK: 1947.

AL: Yes.

JZ: 1947? So after World War II?

AL: Um-hum--

MK: Right, so she is part of-- Do you know that history? So she was in forced labor camp in Germany--

JZ: That must be a very difficult history for her.

MK: Yeah, yeah, she left home in 42' and-- at the time they were, the Germans were snatching people right from their homes to help because all the German men were fighting the war, and they wanted workers to manage the farms, etc. So, they decided instead of being snatched, because they eventually go anyway, they volunteer-- So my mother and her girlfriend and my mother's cousin who is in this history book. And I have to show you the story about it, because it is the same story. Yeah, but they, they volunteer and end it up in different villages not far from each other in Germany.

JZ: Right. So why did you choose America to be the place to immigrate? Is this-- So, why is it this country?

AL: Yeah, because my sister has immigrated here and brother. Then she asked me if I can come here--

JZ: Right.

AL: Then I come here--

MK: Another interesting aside, my grandparents, my mother's' parents came here to this country and were working in the coal mines in the Pennsylvania area. But the time that they came was during the Depression, so they work there for a couple of years and thought that this is worse than where we came from (Daughter laughed).

RP: Yeah.

MK: And they end up going back, but in the meantime, my aunt was born here and my uncle. So when they all went back, her brother and sister were citizens. So then they ultimately got here and that's how they were able to bring my mother. Because they were citizens.

JZ: Did you, so when you first come here, did you feel comfortable. Is there something you remember at the time, was it a good experience, was it a difficult experience?

AL: It was hard because I didn't speak English but the-- I-- It was okay. I lived with my sister. Moved about here, a couple years, then I find a job.

JZ: You find your job in?


JZ: In Endicott-Johnson--

RP: Shoe making, shoe making industry? (Everyone: right)

AL: I was working upstairs for three years, then I get married--

MK: Then she had me.

AL: Yeah-- I had her, and then I-- didn't work in EJ--and then I, another one--boy. So, I stayed here because my husband--husband said you take care--our children, because we have to pay somebody, we didn't have much money to--you know-- pay them for that, you know, they watch children.

JZ: Right, so, you-- Did you met your husband in here or--? And how did you meet your husband, he is also working here?

AL: Ukrainian picnic? Ukrainian picnic.

JZ: Ukrainian picnic?

MK: My dad arrived here under the same circumstances.

JZ: Same circumstances.

MK: He was in a camp and he came from Germany also. He came a year after my mother, he came at 48'. And-- In fact, Migolochok, the guy that went downstairs, his grandmother was my dad's aunt. And she is the one that brought him here.

JZ: Right.

MK: So, that is how the two of them met at the Ukrainian picnic.

JZ: Were you afraid when you first were thinking about coming to America? Like-- so do you know if there is already a lot of Ukrainians in here?

AL: Wasn't that much Ukrainian.

MK: I will just ask her in Ukrainian because she knows it better.

JZ: That is great, that is great.

AL: немає, no.

MK: No, she wasn't afraid.

MK: Because her sister was here and brother. She was not afraid.

AL: I live with them.

JZ: Um-hum, right.

JZ: So when you moved here, is everything similar or entirely different from where you lived in Ukraine?

MK: Very different. There were houses everywhere

AL: Yeah.

MK: She wasn't used to that.

AL: All people are good people. They are all right. They-- and the church was full of people, because all the people, they come to church every day, every Sunday.

MK: No, no, no-- I mean-- Your life, not--not the church, you weren't so interested about the church.

JZ: I am! Actually.

MK: Oh, oh, you are.

JZ: Everything you want to share, we are absolutely want to hear it.

MK: Oh, okay.

JZ: Did you start coming to church?

AL: Yeah--

MK: No, no, no, when you start coming to church here, why did you come to this church?

AL: Because my sister and brother, they belong here. So I joined--

MK: Actually the church she was going to in Ukraine was a Catholic church

JZ: So she changed her religion? Is that correct?

MK: Well, she didn't look at it that way. This is how my mother put, she says one God is everywhere, so whether is it this church or that church, what is the difference? So she said if this church was good enough, and of course, it wasn't this church, it was the old church that's just around the corner.

JZ: What is that church? Is it Ukrainian Orthodox?

MK: It was orthodox.

JZ: So in your mind, no matter Catholic or Orthodox, you can go both as long as you believe in God?

AL: Yeah! Some of those-- something happen down there in Catholic Church, I go some there.

JZ: Right. Do most Ukrainians feel the same way like you did? Do they feel they can go anywhere?

AL: Lots of people came, they went to Catholic Church.

JZ: They went to Catholic Church.

MK: In fact, um----.not everybody felt that way, because I remember my mother telling me that, there were people in the Catholic church lobbying for my mother to go there. You know they will come, and say, gee, you know you were in a Catholic church over there, why are you going to an Orthodox one here? So my mother said, well because my sister brought me here, and if this church is good enough for her, it is good enough for me. And it wasn't so much about Catholic and Orthodox as it was about going to church, and you know, praying to God, didn't matter.

JZ: Right. So--but--

AL: I remember how Czebiniak and the others wanted you to go there-- came to our house, and the--

MK: See there was an actual gentleman from Sacred Heart that came to my mothers'--

AL: And ask me when I am going to come--going to go to the church.

JZ: The Catholic Church?

AL: Catholic Church-- No, I am going to--

MK: Go where my sister goes--

AL: Yeah my sister goes, I told him.

MK: But yeah, back in the day, they did lobby; to them it was a big difference, but never really to my mother.

JZ: So when you go to the church, what is it like? Are there just Ukrainians? Were there different kinds of people in the church that you went to?

AL: All kind of people. It is Ukrainian and English service.

MK: Oh, are you talking about when she first came?

JZ: Like the church she went to, is it primarily Ukrainian immigrants?

MK: The church she went to here? Or the church she went to in Ukraine?

JZ: Um-- Both.

AL: And what was it in Ukraine? -- was an orthodox church, was a Ukrainian--maybe some place was was--

MK: It was a Greek Catholic one, it was a Greek Catholic one in Ukraine that was the one that was in the village.

RP: Um-- Did you have any family left in Ukraine when you came to the U.S?

AL: oh yes, I have. Sister and brother, but they all die.

MK: They all die, they've all died since then.

JZ: Due to the--. German atrocities?

Everyone: No, no, no.

MK: No, they never were--um, they didn't go to Germany, they were ah--they were older than my mother, I guess they didn't want them (daughter laughed) tell me, I don't know. I know they all die, they all in fact, during the war, my mother's village got burned. And the Polish came during the war time and just burn everything down, so where my mother's family live now was not where she grew up.

JZ: Right, it seems that-- So when you moved here right, you--what kind of people do you see in this community? Was it mostly Ukrainian? Were they--.

AL: All kinds--.Slavic--

MK: A lot of Slavic people

JZ: A lot of Slavic people-- un-hum

AL: Polish, Russian--yeah.

JZ: un-hum-- Did you feel--? How did you feel about them, and how did they feel about you? Like did they see you--?

AL: They don't care.

JZ: They don't care.

MK: They were your friends?

JZ: That's right--

AL: I have, you know, couple friends, they choose here. And some, lots of, you know, people went to Catholic Church.

JZ: Right, right--

AL: Polish church, and to me, all friends.

JZ: So people were very friendly because you all immigrants here?

AL: Yes!

JZ: What about people in the town, in Binghamton, were they treating you all welcoming or--.

MK: американська (American)--

AL: yeah, they was nice to me, I was working in a factory, as well you know, I didn't speak English. They was very nice to me. They helped me.

JZ: That sounds very good. And, so, after you work at EJ--You worked for EJ, Right?

AL: Yes.

JZ: Where else did you work? So you stay at home, take care of children?

AL: Yes.

JZ: And your husband was working?

AL: Yes, he was working in EJ.

MK: And he had two jobs, he was also working. His aunt, they had a restaurant, a bar and a restaurant and he was a bartender on weekends.

JZ: Right, so he continued this job--

AL: Hmm--

JZ: For? How--

AL: Two jobs, because I didn't work and he had two children, so--

JZ: Is this something common in Ukraine families? That a woman stay at home, take care of children, husband's working?

AL: She said everybody works--

MK: Everybody worked in the farms.

JZ: In Ukraine, everyone worked on the farms?

MK: Even when my mother was little, she worked.

JZ: Right. So, Ukraine community is very different than other communities because both people work.

AL: Yeah.

MK: Yes, even back then.

JZ: So, men and women were treated equally? I assume.

MK: Do they men have the same rights as women?

AL: I think-- men in Ukraine--

MK: He was the head.

AL: -- has more power than women.

JZ: Is still the head even though you do the same work?

AL: Yes.

JZ: -- working in a farm--

AL: un-hum

JZ: So when you were in Ukraine, what do you remember now, long time ago when you were a child, what do you remember? Like anything, childhood activities?

RP: Memories?

AL: I--I went to school, I was 12 or 8. Then--I finished, I have two 4 grades in the school. Because my parents they want me to work in the farms.

JZ: They want you to work in the farm.

AL: In the farm--un-hum.

MK: She doesn't have other than 3rd or 4th grade education that is it for my mother. They want, they pull her out and say that needed her help on the farms, so they--.

AL: Yes--

JZ: Right, so is because they need her to work?

AL: Oh, yes.

JZ: And they cannot afford to have you go to school.

MK: No.

JZ: Are you the only child in the family?

AL: No, my mother had 9-- children.

JZ: 9 children-- All of them work in the farm?

AL: Three died--no, no, three died. And-- I went here, and all--. I have sister, I, and I have two brother, they stay over there. And they have three, nine Ukraine. They still work in the farm.

JZ: So you remember, you were working in the farm--

AL: Oh, yes.

JZ: Anything else you think you remember, childhood friends? Anything about--

MK: Did you have stories?

AL: No stories.

RP: Did you bring anything with you from Ukraine, like objects-- that, brought for memory?

AL: No, I don't think so.

MK: No, because she was coming from Germany and not from home.

AL: Yeah, and--

MK: And at one point they thought when the war ended, they they came and told them you know you don't have to work here in these German farms anymore. So they heard there was a bus that was taking people back to Ukraine, so their intent was to go back to Ukraine. So her and her girlfriend waited because they said this truck or whatever, really wasn't a bus, was a truck, was going to come and take them. So they waiting, and then my mother said a German, I mean..ah, Ukrainian soldier walked by and said girls what you doing here. They said well, they are waiting for this bus that was going to take them back. And they said no, he said, no, don't, don't get on that bus, it's not going take you home, it's Russians that are going to take you to Siberia, so they flooded to the woods, and figured out what were they going to do.

AL: Even then, this was-- hard.

MK: So she said well, she didn't really want to go back to her German farms because she thought they were kind of mean. So, she went back to her girlfriend's farm and asked could they work, could they continue to work there. And ah--

AL: They say yes!

MK: So they continued to work there.

AL: We-- We told them what happened, and he said stay here so long you can, and after, you know, soldiers came and says you can work on our farms.

MK: It was American soldiers this time

AL: American.

MK: And they you, you know, you're done, and that is how she ended it up in the camp.

AL: Yeah.

MK: And it wasn't a matter of going back, and that is why she didn't have anything (AL: yeah) because she just left with um--

AL: Nothing.

MK: Some clothes-- to to work in Germany, it is not like-- she didn't have anything from home.

JZ: Right. So, during your early life, you seem not to hate the Russians or Germans, right? Do-- do you think--look at them as if they are a group of people or you just think that people suffer. Did you ever categorize them as, you know, Russians or Poles, or Americans?

AL: No-- No--

JZ: You never hate them--as a group.

MK: She just thought that it was wartime and

AL: Yeah.

MK: That was just result of war, of the war.

AL: Yeah.

JZ: That's amazing, because I think a lot people will begin to hate the whole group of people.

MK: Oh right, just like the Vietnam War, everybody hated the Vietnamese-- yeah.

JZ: So when you were working in the farms, so--um, is that all you remember, like every day you work on the farm--Anything that makes you, um-- What else do you do besides working on the farm?

MK: You talking about home or you talking about Germany.

AL: Germany?

JZ: Um, the time when you were in Ukraine.

AL: I--.just work.

JZ: Just work? Right?

RP: Was this work difficult for you?

AL: No.

RP: No, it's easy, you were laid back?

AL: My father and I worked together.

RP: Work together.

JZ: Did you go to church regularly?

AL: Yeah, sometime I don't feel good so I can't go. But most of the time I went.

JZ: So, so, did you have any sense of being a Ukrainian or more like being a peasant, someone who work on the farm, did you ever feel a strong sense, I am a Ukrainian! I am--

AL: Yes.

JZ: Nationalism--

AL: yeah, because today, it was not Ukraine, it was Polish. So I went to school, and I learn Polish, read and write, and uh--it was together nice, the Polish and ah, yeah.

MK: back then--ah-- No, it was a Polish school.

AL: --not Ukraine.

MK: Oh, they were in charge.

AL: Yes.

AL: Polish writing, reading, teacher was, you know teacher was, Po--Polish.

JZ: And that is completely okay to you?

AL: Yeah.

JZ: What about students, they are mostly Ukrainians?

AL: No, all was, you know, Po--Polish and Ukraine.

MK: Ah, it was mixed?

JZ: so people-- it really didn't matter your nationality?

AL: No, people just live together--. we were young, doesn't matter.

JZ: You also are a senior parish member here in the church, am I correct?

MK: Yeah, she is one of the oldest one. Her--all have immigrated, she and her cousin which end it up marrying her girlfriend, the three of them that were in Germany. He is the oldest one. He's, ah, he was 95 in January, but, he started getting dementia, he doesn't leave the house.

JZ: How did you become the senior parish member in this church?

MK: (laughed) Everybody else die off, everybody else die off (everyone laughed).

JZ: Hehe, everyone respected you right?

MK: No, no-- how did you become the oldest parishioner to--

AL: Oh, I was younger, was here all the time, I went to church, same church.

RP: So, I am assuming a lot about the church has changed since you first got here?

AL: Um.

MK: Yes.

AL: They changed.

JZ: How has it changed?

AL: Before was more Ukrainian in the church, now is all English.

JZ: Oh, it was more speaking Ukrainian at the time?

AL: Yeah.

MK: Oh, definitely, it was all Ukrainian.

AL: Yeah.

JZ: Because they were immigrants or?

AL: All people-- came from Europe.

MK: The Church was started by, the Church was started by, I mean when I was little, everything the service was entirely in Ukrainian. It was entirely in Ukrainian, and ah, and our priest at the time, when I was little, had to say, he was ah, he was ah-- he came from Ukraine just like my mother, so he had similar history, you know, so-- yeah it is a good fit.

JZ: But you said things have changed over the years?

AL: Oh yeah--in the church.

JZ: Everyone now speak English?

MK: Intermarries-- oh, I can, I tell you this. There, my mother launched a protest here in the church, she and ah--her cousin and her girlfriend, they all end, the three that were in Ukraine, I mean went to Germany, they all end it up here. My mother got here first, and got married, and then the other two couldn't get here until a couple years later. They didn't get here till-- 1950? 1951?

AL: 1951.

MK: 1951, but they ultimately--ah, all belong to the same church, and they all sing in the choir, which was all entirely Ukrainian, and the church was entirely Ukrainian. Well speaking, you know there was intermarriages,

AL: Yeah. That's--

MK: And there were a lot people didn't understand entirely Ukrainian, so our priest we had at the time, the one we had for 40 plus years, wanted to introduce English into the service. And I can remember, like I said, my mother was, my mother sing in the choir with a whole bunch of them and they protested and left the choir because they started introducing English. And they were really upset about it.

JZ: When you said intermarriage, you mean between the Eastern European groups or, like Poles, Germans, or who--

MK: Oh intermarrying here? No, just with English-speaking people.

RP: In general.

MK: Right. They didn't know Ukrainian language.

JZ: They didn't know Ukrainian language. And they were the ones who are asking for English.

MK: Right.

JZ: So how did you feel at the time, you were angry at the time right?

AL: Yeah--I was mad because more people, they want English.

MK: There was a meeting.

AL: Yeah. They were outnumbered.

JZ: Oh no--

MK: Yeah, the Ukrainian-speaking were outnumbered. So, I mean, you know, it was ah-- It was fair and square vote, they just didn't like the outcome. So I think with the choir-- (MK laughed)

RP: Now, now, how frequently is Ukrainian spoken in the church?

AL: Not much now.

MK: No.

RP: Not much? So, it's been a drastic change since you first got here?

MK: It is been gradual, now what happened was it was supposed to be probably the last ten, fifteen years. It was, there was, another vote at an annual meeting and we were supposed to have um-- three weeks of all English and one week of half Ukrainian, half English.

JZ: Right. I read this in the St. John's Baptist Orthodox Ukrainian Church website, they say mostly English, but they also want to respect the old Ukrainians.

MK: Right, but now there's less Ukrainian. That rule is no longer in play because--and we uh-- In fact my husband just had to do about it a couple years ago because he was the president when that rule was put in place and uh, our new priest here um-- see, my husband's got an opposite vision for my mother. My husband feels that in order for this church to survive, it's got to be English because there's no immigrants that are coming are coming here and it's very unlikely. So he says, you know, in order to keep those happy, and then there's a lot of people that left. They grew up in the church that didn't know any Ukrainian ah-- you know, to try to get them back, you have to keep the English. But um, our priest has a different mindset and I think there's two reasons here. Um, the reason, um, he thinks if we have some Ukrainian in the church, that maybe somebody that comes to visit might you know, it might keep them here. So he's been throwing in things, um, like intermittently during the services-- put in more Ukrainian.

JZ: Right. So, what you were angry about is that you don't understand English and you cannot pray because everyone else is speaking English.

AL: Yeah, I understand, but not much.

JZ: Right, and is the community also, many people speak English? And is the community also becoming more and more English than--

MK: The Church community?

JZ: The community where you lived in here, like the Ukrainian community in general. Was it becoming more assimilated?

MK: Oh, it's died off. It's died off. Sacred Heart is more Ukrainian speaking that particular church is. And um, you know, this one not as much. I think, if you look at this church and that church I think there's more, I think they may have, they have two services there if I'm not mistaken and they have a Ukrainian one--

AL: All English--

MK: All Ukrainian, and then they have one that's all English.

AL: Yes, it's more Ukraine--you know, the service is Ukrainian.

MK: But my mother's never been compelled to go there though (MK laughed).

RP: Well, why would you not want to go do the one in Ukrainian if you believe that God is everywhere?

AL: Well, I didn't have car, I have to walk. (Everyone laughed).

MK: But if you did would you have gone anyway?

AL: No.

RP: No?

MK: No, you would've stayed here.

RP: You're loyal, you consider yourself loyal to this church?

AL: Yeah.

MK: Yeah, she is.

JZ: Even though many things have changed in this church?

AL: Yes.

MK: Yeah, and she wasn't happy about it, but she still continued to come.

JZ: Did you try? Is that the time when you tried to learn English very hard?

AL: Well, I went to night school. American civic association. They uh--

MK: They had classes.

AL: ESL, ESL. Yeah American Civic, yeah ESL. They teach people in English. They came to Ukrainian community or--

MK: And that was my downfall. When my parents were going to classes and they had to become citizens, so they had to take a test. So, um, my brother and I, in fact, when I started school I didn't learn any, I didn't know any English. I just knew all Ukrainian when I started Kindergarten. I mean I, you know, you quickly learn. So I learned and um, so when my brother and I were in grade school we were helping my parents to pass the test. So we spoke all in English and as a result of that we liked the fact that we were speaking English to our parents because previously we didn't. And, um, we felt more like the other kids in school. The fact that we were speaking-- So that was sort of our downfall, so then my parents would continue to speak to us in Ukrainian and we would sometimes answer in English and as we got older it was more and more, so now my brother speaks poorly in Ukrainian, but understands everything. And uh, I'm a little better at it than my brother.

AL: Yeah, she--

AL: Yes, she go to Ukraine.

MK: Yes, I ended up going to Ukraine.

JZ: So, how did you feel about all these changes? So, your children begin to speak more English, um, were you ok with these changes?

AL: Yeah.

JZ: So, you never pressed them to, you know, keep Ukrainian language.

AL: No--

MK: I wish she had. (Laughs). I wish she had and I would've been, um--

AL: Well you still----Ukrainian.

MK: Well I still, yeah, it was ok because she came in with me--

AL: Because the house I talk Ukrainian, not English.

JZ: In the house you speak Ukrainian?

AL: So, they learn.

JZ: So, you mentioned the citizenship test and oftentimes I think nowadays they say you have to give up the loyalty to your home country, right?

MK: Mhm.

JZ: Did you have to do the same saying that I am no longer Ukrainian, I'm American. Did you have to do that?

AL: No, no. Uh uh.

RP: No?

MK: I'm sure she did but she probably doesn't remember, but to her she's always gonna, her Ukra-- I mean when Ukraine has got all those problems now, it really affected, it really affects her.

JZ: It affects her?

MK: Yeah! I mean she's really troubled by it, so she's always going to be Ukrainian at heart.

JZ: Even though on the paper it must say you're American now!

MK: Right, even though--

AL: I read English newspaper, you know.

RP: Have you been back to the Ukraine since you first came here?

AL: Yes, just once.

RP: Just once? When was that?

AL: There was not too good because it still was--

MK: Communist, communist and they--When was that?

AL: 1980

MK: In the 80s?

JZ: So, you went back to Ukraine in the 80's?

AL: Yes, I went up there to see my sister.

JZ: Family visit. So you, I think that's a good transition. When you went back how has it different? How has Ukraine itself changed?

AL: No--

JZ: You were a child when you were in Ukraine, but when you go back you are much older.

AL: Well, we can stay in the house at that time. We can raise a family.

MK: You couldn't see the family other than in the Russian hotel. It was all Russified. Everything.

JZ: Russified?

MK: Mhm. It was all, uh, it was basically Russia. That's what I remember her telling me. She wanted to go, the whole purpose of the visit was to see her family. And the family had to come to the hotel. Family couldn't go, but what they did was, they snuck there.

AL: Yes, they took taxi.

MK: They found somebody and of course the taxi was somebody that they paid off. Someone had a car and they took them to the village. But I mean, it was always like looking over your shoulder nervous.

AL: we said maybe, four five hours, we have to go in the hotel.

JZ: Were you scared? Were there people there scared of this communism and anything?

AL: No, no. Well, there was scared to, you know, be protest.

JZ: There were protests?

AL: Yes.

MK: What?

AL: Speaking Ukrainian.

MK: They were afraid of the Russians, but they didn't protest. (Speaking Ukrainian). They were, you know, they were weak. My mother used the wrong word there.

JZ: So, you see them as Russians more than--?

AL: Yeah.

JZ: So they're not like soviets, communists, but more as a different people. The Russians trying to change--

MK: Well, she calls them communists, the communists (All laughs).

JZ: But you use the word "Russified."

MK: Right, they're still communists now.

JZ: How has--. How has Ukraine been Russified?

MK: Well--for me when I went back, and that was in the 90's, I went to the capital of Ukraine and my brother and I--my brother was, went to be a godfather to one of my cousin's kids and his wife didn't want to go because she was born here and doesn't know a word of English -- Ukrainian I mean (laughs)-- So I went with my brother and the biggest thing that I noticed, I was in the capital of Ukraine and I went into a store and I didn't understand what the heck the lady was saying (all laughed) because she was talking all in Russian. I thought well how could this be? This is the capital of Ukraine. How could people be talking in Russian? But that's what it is.

JZ: Right.

RP: That's interesting.

JZ: So, everything, most people in Ukraine, were speaking Russian?

MK: Other than the family, yeah and most everybody else was like, well yeah.

JZ: Right.

MK: You had to really listen, I mean Ukrainian and Russian are similar, but I mean I had difficulties. You know, navigating the city just because of, you know the language. I'm thinking, well, hey, it's Ukraine, I know Ukrainian, no problem.

JZ: Right. So, you mention language, so, what else can tell somebody is Ukrainian. So, when you go back you see people speak Russian, but can you find other traits that might show, oh I know, this is a Ukrainian! Is there some other ways you can identify somebody as Ukrainian? The way they food, for example, or culture, customs--

RP: Mannerisms?

MK: How did you know that they were Ukrainian and not Russian?

AL: They talk Ukrainian.

JZ: They talk Ukrainian--

AL: More, they talk more Russian than Ukrainian, but they was Ukrainian people. Girls in a store--

JZ: So they, so, besides language do they dress a certain way? Like, do they, um, greet people a certain way? Like, is Ukrainian culture something different from Russians?

MK: They look the same (laughs) Now that, uhh, everybody's trying to, they're all trying to get Americanized, you know, they're um--the interesting thing is style is a big deal for people in Ukraine because I know we send packages there and my mother would send packages of things that she thought--you know, she thought--. You know, my mother had a different--before she went there she had a different conception of, you know, she left when the place, when everything was really poor and people had no clothes. Like, she said she had very little clothing, and she shared shoes with her sister and all that. So then she was sending packages, she was sending clothes and she was thinking well, you know, anything they get is going to be wonderful. So my mother would spend all this money on sending all these packages and wasn't until we went there, my brother and I, and we said, "Well, hey look, these people are more stylish than, you know like, my cousins were more stylish than I was-- they wouldn't just wear any jeans, it had to see Lee or it had to say this that or the other." They were like label conscious which just blew me away because I thought, you know, here, different? So in other words--they-- even though my family came from a village, and they worked from Lviv which is the biggest city near there, they didn't want to look like a villager--You know, they want to to, so like some of the clothes, probably most of which my mother was sending, I don't even think they wore, like my cousin and that.

JZ: What year was that?

MK: Um-- my mother was sending--Uh, you know, late 90's she was sending packages, you know, but I'm saying the last--Um, oh probably five or six years ago she was sending packages, but it was mostly to her brother and sister, of course they're gone, and her sister-in-law they've all passed away since then. So, my mother doesn't send anything anymore.

JZ: What were you sending?

AL: They want money.

JZ: They wanted money? I think that happens to every immigrant community.

AL: If you send money, hundred dollars, you have to pay another two hundred. Through postage.

MK: Well, it wasn't postage, it was through an agency where they actually delivered the money to the person and make sure that--because there's so much corruption in Ukraine that there were some packages um-- I don't know, did we lose one package? We might've lost one because of the corruption, just the post office, and some of the letters my mother would send money in envelopes, letters, and the letters never got there because I think the people in the post office or whatever were corrupt. And so my mother just send money through an agency where you had to pay up front for them to-- I forget what it was.

AL: They deliver to the house.

MK: They delivered right to the house.

JZ: You always remember people in like your family in Ukraine and always send them money and packages?

MK: Always.

AL: I don't send now. I don't send now.

MK: Well, right, because they're all gone. When they were alive my mother did. Interestingly enough, she did, but her two brothers that were here, did not.

JZ: Because they were not able to or--?

MK: No, they were better off than my mother. I think she was more connected to the situation because she was here after them. Although, no, my um, younger brother did come after her, but he just was not tied to the family he's just sort of the black sheep. But my mother still had because she remembered and she knew how she left them, they were poor and whatever, and now she's got this great life here and she knows that they don't. So yeah, it affected my mother more than it affected them.

JZ: Right, so one thing we talk about how you have immigrated here and you seem to like the experience, right? Everything is getting better?

AL: Mhm.

JZ: Uh, anything you encounter that you may not like? Like, is there anything difficult that you remember? Were you ever discriminated against?

MK: Was there any bad times?

AL: I do think so.

JZ: You don't think so? I'm very glad to hear (All laugh).

AL: Much better than up there.

MK: I'm trying to think if there was anything bad--

JZ: It's ok if there isn't because it's very important--

MK: No, there really isn't.

RP: How has like the--community outside of the church changed or gotten better?

JZ: You mean like--

RP: Yeah, the community outside of the church. Binghamton in general.

MK: Johnson City in general--What's changed? Like in Johnson City or in Binghamton.

JZ: Jobs moved out?

Robert: Yeah different jobs that people have had, stuff like that.

AL: I think uh, some people get, hard to get jobs.

JZ: Hard to get jobs? Oh.

MK: Yeah, that's why her grandchildren all left.

AL: Yeah.

MK: All my kids.

AL: Yeah.

JZ: So-- What kind of jobs were the Ukrainian communities doing? So, you mentioned Endicott-Johnson shoe making. What else is there for Ukrainian--?



AL: Yeah, they make like--

JZ: Computer software.

MK: But what my mother--The other component of my mother's life, she was with us up until the time we went to school and when my brother and I went to school my mother became a cleaning lady.

JZ: Cleaning lady?

MK: So she went to various homes. How did you find these jobs?

JZ: That's a great question.

MK: You knew somebody that was, right?

AL: Some my friends work and they knew those people wanted--

MK and AL: Cleaning lady.

JZ: Who were you working for? Was it American family?

AL: American family. The family was Jewish. They was nice to me. Um--

MK: The rest were uh-- American born.

AL: Yeah, lawyer, doctor--

JZ: Right, so--I know you mentioned this, you mentioned you don't really force your children, you don't force your daughter for example, to learn Ukrainian or be Ukrainian in certain ways. So, how do you raise your children? In general, do you just let them do whatever they want? Or do you have certain rules for your children?

RP: Was it in a Ukrainian fashion? Like was it in the way that your parents raised you, or did you raise her differently since you--

MK: Did you raise us like you were raised?

JZ: Yeah that's what we're asking--

AL: Yeah--I don't think so.

MK: How was it different than when you were raised?

AL: We didn't have any money. We can't buy clothes, nice clothes, nothing like that. And um, so, was not too good.

JZ: Not too good--

AL: Mhm. But, my family, Mary Ann, she you know, she start working, school. She buy herself clothes, nice clothes, yeah.

RP: Was it satisfying to see that, uh, you know, the improved lifestyle that your daughter got to have compared to you?

AL: Uh huh, uh huh, yes. You know, better than me.

MK: I guess the goal was to give us a better life than they had but I will tell you one thing, I wanted to go to college and my father thought that paying for a female to go to college was a waste of money.

JZ: Yeah, I'm pretty sure this is--

MK: Common thing.

JZ: Common thing.

RP: Right.

MK: Yeah because he thought you're going to get married, you're going to have kids, and it's you know, money's going to go down the drain. It was a waste and um yeah, it was more important for my brother to get the education or whatever. Although I did do better than him in school. (All laugh)

JZ: I'm very glad to hear. What is your position on this? Did you think of your daughter like the way her father think of--?

AL: I wasn't against, I wanted Mary Ann to go to college.

JZ: Wow. Do you want to empower your daughter to--?

AL: Mhm. Uh huh. Same with my son.

JZ: Same thing with your son?

AL: Mhm.

JZ: Did you--

AL: Didn't have that much money, but they went you know, small college.

MK: Yeah, we went to Broome.

JZ: And you have to work to pay--

AL: I was work.

MK: Yup, she worked five days a week.

AL: Yeah.

MK: House cleaning.

AL: My husband work two jobs.

MK: And he worked two jobs and then he got a job from EJ's he got a job at GAF, and Ansco Film.

JZ: How did EJ treated you? I heard they built a lot of houses and hospitals.

AL: Oh yeah, they did.

JZ: They treated you very well? How was it, like, everything in your life taken care of?

MK: My mother always said very positive things about Endicott Johnson and about the Johnson family.

JZ: Mhm.

MK: That they were good people. Although we did not have an EJ home, um, all of the homes over here mostly on the north side were EJ homes.

AL: And they help lots.

MK: And there was an EJ medical. I mean our life really revolved around Endicott Johnson. Because I can remember walking to the EJ medical for -- um doctor visits with my mother and my brother and uh yeah it was EJ medical and--

JZ: That's amazing.

MK: Yeah.

JZ: Because oftentimes we hear workers don't like the employers, the employers treated workers badly, but EJ seems the exception.

AL: Well, yeah EJ they treat nice people, workers.

JZ: They treat workers nicely--

AL: They build houses, they didn't charge them which was uh--um not much.

JZ: Mhm. Um, you--

AL: Medical was free.

JZ: Right, and you, did you spend a lot of time saving money, to send your daughter to school?

AL: Well, yes. We didn't, we can, you know-- Pay for--after school they you know, they still have to pay, they pay themselves.

JZ: They pay for--

MK: Yeah, we had jobs.

JZ: Do you and your husband disagree on things. Like just the daughter going to college. Anything else?

AL: Uh-- We was--Advantage that they go to college.

JZ: Mhm.

MK: Although, like I say, you know, my father wasn't upset that I was going, but he did make that comment to me, little know, yeah you know I'm sending you but it's going to be a waste.

RP: Right (All laugh).

JZ: Is that something common in Ukrainian families?

MK: Um, I just think for the--

RP: First generation.

AL: First generation, immigrant families, yeah. You know, money was tight, you know, they're trying to figure out financially how this is all going to work out and he's saying, "you know, if you didn't go it wouldn't be such a bad thing. You're going to get married and have kids and the education is going to go down the drain." That was sort of his mental thought there.

JZ: Right, so do most Ukrainian children have the same experience like yours? Like is it very similar? Do you remember any-- do they not go to college or do they end up working for EJ as well?

MK: Well, like Mary Harder, she didn't go to school. Not everybody went to college. Um most of them did. Um, most of them did and just because I think, um, we had a community college here, Broome, and it was sort of affordable, so to speak. And really anybody could go if they went part time and had part time jobs like I did. You know I--

JZ: Right.

MK: So--

JZ: And did you ever feel more like American? So one thing people say is, people get assimilated and no one can feel the same way their parent immigrants feel. So, did you ever feel conflicted about it? So did you ever notice anything that your children was different about you? Like, do they say, do they say things that you consider--

AL: They, uh, more education.

JZ: More education--

AL: They, uh--

MK: I never felt um, I can remember--I mean back then there was no sideline activities, um-- When I was little most everything revolved around the church.

JZ: Everything revolved around church--

MK: Uh, one thing I remember when I was little, all my girlfriends had--they were Saturday bowling leagues and I wanted to be in that so bad just because my girlfriends did, but I didn't have the money, so I asked my parents and they said no this is when we clean. So uh, you know, stuff like that you notice it. Other people had more money than you and we had different opportunities, I mean we never had a TV until I don't know when and my father didn't get a car until--you know, we walked everywhere.

JZ: Right, did you marry someone who is also Ukrainian?

MK: Yes.

JZ: So is that something common Ukrainian children--

MK: Um-- Probably not, I want to say, I met him in the church here, but um, for instance my brother he met his wife in college and she wasn't Ukrainian.

JZ: So were you comfortable--sorry-- were you comfortable with your children marrying someone not Ukrainian or something most parents felt ok about--

AL: Most have to go, I not say nothing to my son. His wife is not Ukrainian. And she's nice--

JZ: And does not speak Ukrainian--

AL: She is not Ukrainian. She's very nice person.

JZ: Sorry?

AL: She's very nice person.

JZ: She's a nice person--

AL: I was not against.

MK: No, she was not against.

JZ: Right, I think in your--it seems like in your life it's very individual, everything's personal, like you don't really force your children to marry Ukrainian.

AL: No--

MK: Mhm--

JZ: No?

MK: No, my mother's probably the exception to the rule. I can think of other Ukrainians that we knew where that was not the case.

JZ: Do you recall any of them? Like any relatives who--

MK: Ah-- It's interesting, it's mostly, not in this church, but I want to say in Sacred Heart, they were more-- I want to say nationalistic, always more nationalistic, when was that -- Right, they were-- I know one person, and she is a Sacred Heart, her daughter married a non-Ukrainian about--

JZ: She was very upset?

MK: Very upset about it!

RP: It seems like the church community here in St. John is very close-knit, because you consider you met your husband here

MK: Uh-hum. So, so would you consider just the Ukrainian community in general to be close-knit; are you guys friendly with the other churches?

JZ: Oh yeah, is that your community outside the churches as well?

MK: Yes, yes.

JZ: So Catholic, and--

MK: Yeah. I mean, you know, we meet them, it is a media

RP: A clip?

MK: Yeah it is a media clip. Definitely. You know everybody in the community sort of speak--

JZ: Even though you go to different church?

MK: Right, even though we go to different churches, there are churches under the Pope, you know, doesn't really matter. You know, years ago, it did matter.

JZ: How is it--?

MK: Like when my mother first came here it did matter. And you know, like I said, they tried to steer people over there, because, but then the interesting thing happen when Orthodoxy celebrated the thousand year, and I think all the Ukrainian that were here that were Catholic realized that Orthodoxy was in Ukraine longer than Catholicism. It was like a light bulb went off, it was like, oh--you know, and when it was like, they didn't realize, you know we weren't like a second-hand religion, hahaha--. You know, it is almost that way you couldn't-- You know, but I can remember Catholics, it was a whole different mindset, I can remember my girlfriend telling me-- She was a Catholic, I met her in high school, she couldn't--If she went to another church, it was like a sin!

JZ: Like a sin to whom? Who's thinking it as another sin?

MK: Well, right, to a Catholic! It will be a sin to a Catholic! If they go to another church, it will be like sinful!

AL: She had to con-- confess

MK: You had to confess (everyone laughed).

RP: Really?

MK: You had to confess, this was sinful! Yeah.

JZ: It's Christian church.

MK: This was my girlfriend who was not Catholic, but she was brought up in Johnson City here and that was her thing; that is crazy!

JZ: I was thinking, so we were talking about intermarriage, and you said you are really open to your children-- as long as it is nice person, right, so does that mean that in Ukrainian community, eventually nobody speaks Ukrainian language if this keeps happening, is that something you ever thought about? Or is it something that you are just open-minded to?

AL: No, No.

JZ: You never thought about it.

MK: Right, she never really--

JZ: So, children of Ukrainian and somebody else is still an Ukrainian.

AL: Yeah.

JZ: Do you treat them just like an Ukranian--

AL: Yeah.

JZ: That's amazing.

AL: Yeah.

JZ: Do they have to speak Ukrainian to be an Ukrainian?

AL: I don't think so -- they have to.

JZ: You don't think so?

AL: No.

MK: No, I mean, my mother seen so much--so many changes, you know, it is even funny for her, well I mean, she is 93, so she is even mixing, when she speaks in Ukrainian, she throws in some English words, it is really comical, because she is sort of--haha.

AL: Yeah.

MK: She's been here so long that--It's ah --

JZ: Because culturally she is used to different cultures?

MK: Because she's been here so long, whereas like our priest, he is been here, you know, less, you know--he, he is newer from Ukraine than say my mother, and so he doesn't, when he speaks English, he speaks English, when he speaks Ukrainian, he speaks Ukrainian. But my mother mixes things up now because, wow, I think part of it is age too.

JZ: We going to finish this in about 7 more minutes, we finish in exactly 11 o'clock. I think we have made a lot of progress so far, is there anything else you want to share with us, do you feel something you want to tell us?

RP: Do you have any memories, anything about the church? Your childhood?

JZ: With these years you spent here in Binghamton--in this church, um-- anything significant you remember that might be important to your life?

MK: My mother tells a lot stories about Ukraine, and I was just trying to remind her about, you know, she forgets a lot of stuff. She has told me a lot, so you going to have to hear it through me, but--being, when she was little, everything revolved around the church, because there was nothing else other than working. You know on the farm. But--holidays, holy days were big deals there, you will go from one church, if one church celebrated um-- was named after like-- like renunciation, or whatever was named after, a holy day, when that holy day came, it was like they had a big celebration in that particular church. And everybody from the surrounding area churches will go there, and will be a big deal, it will be a big celebration, everybody will stop working and go there.

JZ: When you say everybody, you mean Ukrainians?

MK: Right, the Ukrainians in the community. And surrounding villages. My mother were tell me that a neighboring village will --

AL: Blessed water.

MK: Right, when they blessed water. That was the baptism of ah-- wow, it was the baptism, so what they did in the villages there was there was a river--and the river will, ah, will freeze every winter, and they will carve out a cross out of river. My mother said they were all, they weren't even have shoes, but they tide clothes on their feet, were all head to this big celebration, and they will all be by the river, and the priest will bless the water, and they will carve this cross out of the river, and they will go for, they walked miles to go to this thing, and--

AL: Nobody have cars! We all have to walk there ourselves (everyone laughed). It was cold, we don't-- you know.

JZ: Binghamton is cold.

RP: It's Ukraine.

MK: No, no, I am talking about Ukraine. This is Ukraine. This is Ukraine.

AL: Yeah.

JZ: Oh, Oh, okay.

MK: She was telling me stories, and most everything church-related. You know, other than you know, personal things about growing up, but everything, you know, going to another church, celebrating with the villagers, various things.

JZ: So, it seems like people were drawn together more because of religion than really ethnicity?

MK: Yes.

JZ: So, when you come here-- I saw some videos in St. John Baptist's website, I saw children dancing. I was wondering, did you participate in one of those? Like 1970s, 80s, like the church children dancing?

MK: No she didn't. Adults didn't, it was for children. I did!

JZ: You did!

MK: They sent me--um, it was-- there was Ukrainian classes, religious classes, and there were dancing classes.

JZ: What were you celebrating at the time? You celebrating some church holidays or Ukrainian traditions? Or--

RP: Or holidays?

MK: Ukrainian traditions. We would always had a picnic and we would highlight our culture, and um-- I can remember before my parents had a car, we lived a few blocks from here, so I can remember getting dressed up in my Ukrainian costume, and walking down here, drive here to come to this church to dance at that festival. And my girlfriend would said, were you embarrassed, looking like that? I never was. I dressed up, and my brother at I waked down--

RP: A pride?

MK: Yeah, we really did.

RP: You are proud of your heritage?

MK: I was very proud, and one of things, hey I can do something you guys can't do. You don't know anything about this, but I do, you know, I was proud of it.

RP: Was it nice for you to see that, your daughter took much pride in your heritage even though, you know, she was born in the US? Was that something you took pride as well? To see your daughter kind of want to follow the footsteps? Even though--

AL: Sure.

JZ: Your experience, is it something unique? Do most Ukrainian children here, do they have similar beliefs like yours, do they somehow just forget about it? Or people have different ideas-- What do you think?

MK: Well--.. Some of it have to do with the way they were brought up, I mean some parents really didn't care and didn't instill the culture, and those kids kind of went off and you don't hear from them, and they don't celebrate anymore, whereas me--ah --

JZ: What makes you think you want to keep this heritage?

MK: I instill it in my children. It is an example right there, I got three children. All over, one in Syracuse, one in Alexandria, Virginia, one in Chicago. And my daughter in Syracuse married a Polish guy, but her kids are in the Ukrainian dance group. She signed them up.

JZ: How did-- sorry-- how did you feel so much about being Ukrainian when your mother is not forcing you to be an Ukrainian? That is amazing.

MK: How am I? Ah-- It is part of who I am, yeah, it is part of who I am. Yeah, I celebrated. And I am proud of it, definitely proud of it. I instill in my kids even though my son is not a church goer.

JZ: Any final thoughts that you might want to share with us? Is there anything you feel important that we have not discussed? So anything else--.

AL: No--.

JZ: I think we have learned a lot interesting thing about you.

RP: Absolutely.

JZ: This is an amazing experience.

MK: Yeah, my mother is sort of--ah--because she has been here so long, she has assimilated.

JZ: Assimilated?

MK: Hehe, she is definitely assimilated. She still holds a lot of things, she ah--

AL: Keeps the traditions, um--.

MK: She definitely keeps the traditions.

JZ: Keeps the traditions?

MK: Right, holy days and all that--

JZ: Ukrainian food? Music?

MK: Definitely, Ukrainian food, Ukrainian music, definitely Ukrainian culture, my mother reads Ukrainian newspapers still and she keeps in touch with Ukrainian lives back.

JZ: So I think one more thing that is important to talk about, so when you went back to Ukraine right, so you went back to Ukraine in 1980s?

MK: Yes.

JZ: Have you visited Ukraine before?

MK: I was, I was there in the 90s.

JZ: Do they think of you as Ukraine or as American, do they think of you like that?

MK: My family?

JZ: Like people in Ukraine, do they-- community as a whole, do they ever think of you as one of their own, or like Americans--Do they --

MK: My family thought that--. definitely--

JZ: Americanized?

MK: Definitely Americanized. It was kind of like-- I will share this, probably shouldn't.

JZ: Oh please, go ahead, hehe?

MK: When I go back, I was so excited to see my family-- But I felt they were excited to see me not so much as to see me and how are you whatever, but what did you bring me-- I got that, I got that very distinct impression, so when I came back and I told my mother, and said, you know-- I would love to go back to Ukraine, but I wouldn't like to go see family. And she was horrifying by that.

RP: Yeah.

MK: And I said, I just got the feeling like, yeah it is nice to see you, but--

JZ: What did you bring --

MK: What did you bring me? Because there is just such a definitely difference between our lives and their lives--ah --

JZ: I think your mother mentions that too.

MK: Even though we are same bloodline, it is just mother always said that they think, you know, money grows on trees here.

RP: Right.

MK: You know--

JZ: Even though you are hardworking everyday--

MK: Right, we brought my cousin here a few years ago

AL: It was 10 years--.

MK: Oh, it was ten plus years ago. It was my mother's brother's son came here, and he lived with my brother, who didn't--my brother doesn't have any kids, whatever,, he couldn't believe that my brother will get up at 5 a.m. and get ready for work, and go to work and put it a full day, I mean he thought that he came here, and it was just going to be a party.

JZ: Money grows on trees.

MK: Right, money grows on trees, and it was like party times for my brother and him that they were going to have all these time together--My brother says, wow, I work, I only get two weeks' vacation a year, and this is my life, wow, I think he got a real education because he thought like hey, life was good. And what we realized there was, even though I was there in the 90s, my relatives were still living under Communism, they were--in fact, my one cousin drove us around, and he went, they still have a sort of like collective farm on the property there, even though like I said Ukraine was supposed to be "Free."

JZ: Under Soviet Union?

MK: You know, haha. He went to this collective farm and stole gas to put-- my brother and I were so nervous, like he is ripping off gas of from this place so he can drive us around, but, but, he thought nothing happen. It was like they owe me. They owe me.

JZ: They owe you--?

MK: That was his feeling, you know, these were just Communists anyway, they are ripping us off, and we going to rip them off.

MK: I mean a totally, totally, totally different life then like I said, I went there, wasn't like we are so glad to see you, oh my god, it is our flesh of blood, whatever, okay--. nice to see you, but what do you got in that suitcase?

RP: Yeah.

MK: It just shows-- the, sort of like time work, they still back in the Communist, even though--

JZ: Also, the image of America!

RP: Yeah, the American dream.

MK: It still lives today, it really does.

JZ: You feel the same way as your daughter feels about? People in Ukraine?

AL: Yeah--

MK: Yeah, she knows it. Just by virtue of--wow, I think the same thing happen to her over there, but it was really brought into focus when I was there.

JZ: Do you plan to go back to Ukraine anytime soon in the future?

MK: wow--. When it is safer (laughed).

JZ: Wow, thank you so much for this amazing interview, I am very glad to meet you.

RP: I appreciated.

JZ: I hope you have a very nice day.

MK: Wow. It was a pleasure!

JZ: Thank you, I wish you drive safely home and have a good day!

MK: We lived up the street, hehe.

JZ: Oh, you lived up the street!

(End of Interview)