Father Michael Oleksa | Pittsburgh City Paper

Father Michael Oleksa 
Member since Oct 2, 2008



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Re: “How the Rusyns Could Save Civilization

I was delighted to read Chris Potter's article and welcomed the attention that the "Rus" seldom get. Far from being the "backward hill billies of the Carparthians," I view this group as the Mother of all Slavic languages and cultures. Their dialect is closer to Old Slavonic than any other, so my own theory is that they are the refugees from the time of St. Prince , who in the 800's invited the Byzantine Emperor to send teachers to his people, and Cyril and Methodius invented the Cyrillic alphabet and opened schools and churches in what is today Moravia, in the Czech Republic. But so hostile were the neighboring German bishops and rulers to this use of "barbarian" Slavic that Louis the German, prince of Bavaria invaded and overthrew , expelling the Greeks and imposing Latin and Roman Catholicism. Other "Rus" may have fled westward three centuries later, fleeing the Mongol invasions that devasted Kievan Rus. Still others were expelled from Turkish-occupied Bukovina in the 1700's, as my own ancesters were. So the "Rusyn" or "Rus" are a very old and venerable group who have tenaciously held onto their linguistic, cultural and religious heritage against all odds, as refugees and exiles, for a thousand years. And they've done this alomst exclusively as an oral, tribal culture, with little reliance on written texts, except the Gospel and church hymns, which the illiterate majority memorized.

One omission, I believe, that should be acknowledged in the Potter account, is the former existence of hundreds of thousands of Rus north of the Slovak border, in southern and southeastern Poland. This large Rus population was expelled to the USSR by military force in 1945. Their villages were burned, their cemeteries bull dozed, their memory erased from the map. This was "ethnic cleansing" approved by the Allied victors of World War Two, to "tidy up" the border area, and once again, the Rus were forced to identify as "Slovak" on the south side of the Carpathian Mountains and "Ukrainian" on the north side. But my relatives, now living for a half century in the Ternopil oblast of Ukraine, continue to insist that they are not Ukrainian but "Rus," as my Baba, in Lehigh County, PA always maintained as well.

12 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Father Michael Oleksa on 10/02/2008 at 12:43 PM

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