The Story of Paranka (Pauline) Oszczypko

A gift across time from Frances (Dombrosky) Holowecky...three sisters from the Ukraine. I believe my grandmother Anna is on the left, Pauline is in the middle, and Julia is on the left. The inscription on the bottom is in Cyrillic, the word PARANI...the familiar version of her name.

Paranka (Pauline) Oszczypko (O-sh-chip-uk) was the youngest of four sisters to emigrate to the United States. My grandmother, Anna Oszczypko Wozny, was the first to make the journey, followed by her two sisters who settled in Houtzdale, Pa. Tales of their success reached the relatives abroad, and the youngest daughter of Nicolaus and Catherine Oszczypko was the next, and last, to make the trip to the US.

In 1983/4, Pauline's grandson stealthily interviewed her by placing a tape recorder under the dining room table at a family dinner. As he steered the conversation toward her earlier years, he clicked on the tape recorder and captured the better part of an hour's account, in her own heavily accented English, of her leaving the Ukraine and becoming a citizen of the US.

Had I not posted these pictures to the Web, I would have never located Pauline's descendants, nor would I have ever gained knowledge of this audio recording, which certainly is the prayer answered by those of us seeking our roots. Fortunately, several of Pauline's sisters' descendants living in Houtzdale, Whiteside, and Morann remembered a name or two, a thing or two, about Pauline and the names of her now married granddaughters. Her family was careful enough to preserve several important documents concerning Pauline Rogoza and her husband Gregoriu (a Roumanian), including her baptismal certificate, which led to one of the greatest finds of all, the exact town where she and my grandmother went to church (the town where they presumably lived):
Chyszewice (click on the name for a rundown!).

To my great surprise, I discovered that her descendants considered Pauline to be Ukrainian. This is peculiar, because I had been raised to believe I was strictly Polish. Pauline lived a full life in the Hicksville, Long Island area, and to the best of my knowledge, did not regularly contact my grandmother, except perhaps through letters. Yes, one sister brought up her kids to believe they were Polish, while another brought them up believing they were Ukrainian. However, this new fact explains several inconsistencies in family customs, language, traditional ethnic dishes, and so on. The real answer is much more complicated.

A portion of Poland and the Ukraine, as well as parts of Czechoslovakia, Roumania, and Hungary, were part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire at the turn of the century. Specifically, the region was known as the province of Galicia. Immigrants from that region often identified themselves as being Austrian, or said merely that they were "Slavish", which is kind of a buzzword they used to obscure the real truth. Later, Poland and the Ukraine would claim the territory from Austria.

The people did not change as quickly as the owners of the land under their feet. Indeed, they adapted to the local government (whatever that was) and spoke the required language, but really belonged to the Carpatho-Rusyn ethnic group. Sometimes these were referred to as the Ruthenians, or Austrio-Ruthenians, or the Rus, or the Rusyns. Though the land under their feet temporarily belonged to differing particular countries, they had their own culture and language, which for centuries they maintained up in the Carpathian mountains, where they usually were left alone.

The answer was, yes, they were Polish, yes, they were Ukrainian, and yes, they were Austrian. Most likely, both my grandfather and grandmother were Rus, speaking Polish merely as a common second language, as most Slavic languages are "close" like Italian and French, only more so. My grandfather was born in Hoczew, Poland, which in these times has been definitely identified as a Rus village, and my grandmother was born in Chiszewice, which is currently in the Ukraine, and is just a few miles outside of Rus territory. I do know they met and married here in the United States, (but not when or where), and though they were born less than 100 miles apart, this proximity didn't seem to have anything to do with them getting together!

More information on the Carpatho-Rusyns can be found at:

But DO continue on to hear Great Aunt Pauline's the next page button below!

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