Getting in touch with my Ruthenian/Ukrainian Roots

Yes, I have a great love of Poland. And yes, I consider myself Polish by nationality. But, I am also part Ruthenian/Ukrainian. And that is not so unusual. You see, Poland was a very welcoming and open country, and very heterogenic in years gone by. As a matter of fact, when my relatives came to the USA from the area that was at one time Poland, that area was only about 2/3 Polish, the rest was mostly Ruthenian/Ukrainian, Jewish, and Lithuanian. For many years, until the partitions of the late 18th century, it was the “Polish-Lithuanian Commonweath.”  Poland was very cosmopolitan and welcomed people of various races and creeds–there was no reformation in Poland, and in fact, it welcomed protestants and lived with them in harmony.

So, with Poles and others living side by side in harmony (most of the time), how did it inherit some Ruthenian/Ukrainian blood? It is through my great-grandmother, baptized in 1888 in the Greek-Catholic Church as Katarzyna Kucharska. Both she and her brother, Peter (born 1886) were baptized in the Greek-Catholic Church, a telling record that they were indeed Ruthenian (now usually identified as Ukrainian). Actually, in the Ellis Island record of Katarzyna’s immigration to the USA, her nationality is listed as “Ruthenian.” Yet, she considered herself “Polish” too. And by every family indication (language, culture, beliefs), she was considered Polish. It was not uncommon in those days to find Polonized people–people who, though were originally of a different nationality, became Polish by what they did, what they believed, and how they acted.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting an elderly lady, Catherine Peleschak, who knew my great-grandmother. In fact, she said she was named Catherine after her. And though younger, she was in the church choir with Katarzyna (my great-grandmother). And she told me, definitely, that Katarzyna was Ruthenian!  She even sang me a song they used to sing when young.

To further solidify this, I recently understood what my 3rd cousin, Alicja, told me. Her great-grandfather, Antoni (a brother to the spouse –Alex–of my great-grandmother, Katarzyna), apparently married a Ruthenian woman. How do I know that? Because, as Alicja explained it, the males in that family were baptized in the religion of their father, Roman-Catholic, and the females were baptized in the religion of their mother–Greek-Catholic. I have found those baptismal records to prove this. And i have also found the baptismal records of my great-grandmother and her brother–both baptized Greek-Catholic and thus presumably both of their parents were thus Ruthenian.

And, I have cousins to this day in Ukraine, they are the descendents of the daughter mentioned above, the daughter of Antoni, brother to Alex who was the spouse of Katarzyna.

So, Katarzyna Kucharska, my great-grandmother, was assuredly Ruthenian (now usually identified as Ukrainian) and thus I am 1/8th Ruthenian/Ukrainian. My mother is 1/4th Ruthenian, and her mother was 1/2 Ruthenian, the daugter of Katarzyna (Ruthenian and baptized in the Greek-Catholic Church) and Alex (Polish and baptized in the Roman-Catholic Church) And I’m also proud of that! And so thankful that some years back, my cousin from Poland, Alicja, was able to explain it all to me. Still who knows what I may uncover, further back in my ancestry, as i continue my research. But for now, let me proudly state that I am Polish, but I am also Ruthenian/Ukrainian–and danged proud of it!

This entry was posted in 2011 Poland Trip, culture, genealogy, My Polish Family, Ruthenian/Ukrainian. Bookmark the permalink.

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