Friday, August 21, 2009

Pirohy and learning my Slovak side

My trip to PA was fantastic. I learned more about my grandmother and my heritage than I ever knew. I love tracing my roots and learning about my family. A lot of people don't seem to understand why I enjoy countless hours of research, visiting cemeteries and libraries and places where my ancestors once stood. I guess I do it for a sense of belonging. To understand the influences that have shaped my life.

My grandparents on my mom's dad's side of the family were Slovak immigrants. I was always told that I was Russian and Polish. But, the more I learn about the family, the area and the history, I'm am finding out that is not exactly right.

My great grandmother came from Mergeska (Nova Polianka). It is a small village in the Eastern Carpathian Mountain region in Slovakia. In 1896 when she left to come to America it was part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. Anna or Bubba as she was known (I'm sure the spelling is Americanized, but, that is how it was pronounced. I was told it meant mother in her native tongue) was a kindhearted but stern woman. Although, she spent over 60 years in America, she never learned the English language. My mother interjected, "except for when you were talking about something you shouldn't have done. Then she understood English perfectly and would knock you upside your head." So, as I am learning about her I am being introduced to her language and her cooking. She loved to feed people. There was always something cooking on the stove. I have been told she would feed everyone especially the other immigrants that were passing through. Her home was open and she made everyone feel welcome.

The day after I arrived in PA, there was the huge annual picnic at the church. Unfortunately, I didn't find out about it until too late to attend but I did get to benefit from it. The next day, my grandmother and I ran into some of my mom's cousins and they gave us some Pirohy (there a numerous spellings, In English, the word pierogi and its variants (perogi, perogy, pirohi, piroghi, pirogi, pirogen, pierogy, pirohy, pyrohy) are pronounced with a stress on the letter "o") . They are basically potato ravioli smothered in butter and onions. Everyone had been raving about Pirohy. Which by the way I had a very difficult time pronouncing until I saw it spelled out on the Church website. This church was established in 1904. My great grandfather was one of the original members.

This is the stained glass window with his name on it.

In my search for a recipe, I found a slovac cookbook that I will be ordering. I want to learn and pass this heritage on.