DIMITRI PAVLOVICH PROCYK
THE STORY OF MYSELF, BY MYSELF.
I was born on November 2nd, 1880 in Stare Selo, county Ciezanow, Galicia [ which from 1772 until 1918 constituted part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire ].
The names of my parents: my father's name was Paul and my mother's name was Maria. Their occupation was farming. They had enough of everything for their subsistence, and some of their wheat, cattle and fowl was marketed.
[ At the end of my sixth year], I started attending school near my home, which to me became
about a four or five minute walk. My parents were delighted that I started to go to school but their happiness was short-lived, for after
five months my dear father died. He was 32 years of age. His death
was due to inflammation of the lungs, and all because of a thief.
One day my parents rode to the market with their merchandise. After they sold it, my mother bought two fur coats--one for herself and one for her servant. As they were leaving the market place in the evening, at the turn of the road, a thief pulled the bundle off the wagon and started to run away. My father jumped off the wagon and ran after him. Realizing that he would be overtaken, the thief dropped the bundle and ran away. My father picked up the bundle and returned to the wagon, extremely overheated. It was winter at the time, and it was
very cold and windy. My father caught a heavy cold and after nine days returned his spirit to God. And all on account of a thief.
My mother became a widow, and I and my brother, orphans. I was then a little over six years of age, and my brother four.
Our immediate neighbor was my uncle--my father's brother. He was the Mayor of the village. He and his grown children assisted my mother in whatever way they could. Being head of the village, my uncle was visited daily by the police. That's why everything by us was in good order. Two months after the death of my father, my uncle moved to another place further away from us and not long after that we began to lose objects such as plows, harrows and other items that were not under lock and key.
My mother was a widow less than a year. Then she met a man and married him.
My step-father was a good, considerate and literate man. When I started to read texts, he insisted that I read aloud. He corrected me whenever I mispronounced a word and made me repeat the correct pronunciation over and over again.
During the winter, when the women came to our house to spin, my step-father asked me to read to them. We had lots of books, old and new. Thanks to my step-father, I fell in love with books. He endowed me with everything he knew and with whatever he was able to impart to me.
My mother had three boys and two girls by my step-father, so that altogether there were five brothers and two sisters. I was the oldest and helped my parents with the farming.
When I was twenty-two years old I was taken into the army and served two years. After the two years I returned home. My parents wanted me to get married and remain at home. But I thought otherwise; I wanted to travel for a year or two to see the world, and perhaps to visit America.
I told my parents that they had a very good helper--my brother-- and that as long as he wasn't called to serve in the army, I could travel. I told them that as soon as I learned that he was called, I would return home. My parents agreed with me and gave me money for travelling. (I eventually returned the money to them, in more than double the amount borrowed.)
On October 28th, 1904 I left home, bound for America, with two of my village friends. One of them was going there for the second time, with his wife; the first time he went alone. The other friend was younger than me and single.
We boarded the train at Oleshichah, arrived at Jaroslaw, and spent two hours there waiting to transfer to another train. At this station I met some army comrades and went out to talk with them.
Meanwhile, my train pulled in but I failed to get on it; I was late by about a minute. My village friends rode on and I remained to await another train, hoping to catch up with them. However, I did not catch up with them.
From Jaroslaw to Riashiv/[Rzeszow] I travelled alone. At Riashiv a man sat down next to me. He was going to America for the second time. We talked, and arrived at Hamburg. My village friends had got on a train headed for Bremen. On November 2nd, at Hamburg, my new friend and I boarded a ship named "Hamburg" and arrived in New York on November 12th.
MY ARRIVAL IN THE UNITED STATES
I had the address of a cousin who worked in Castle Garden *. When I passed inspection I was detained and sent to the "excluded". My cousin was called to talk with me. He told me that he could not take me out of there because he lived in Castle Garden, but that on the next day he would turn me over to the Immigration agent; meanwhile I would have to spend the night in Castle Garden with the "excluded". There was no other way out.
The next day I was taken out from Castle Garden by the agent of the Polish Immigration Home. In the evening, after work, my cousin and my two village friends came to visit me at the Polish Immigration home and to ask me about our home town, etc. Calmly they told me that in New York there was difficulty in getting a job.
I told them of my travelling companion, who was going to the mines; he had said that it was always possible to obtain work in the mines. Then they advised me to go there too. I took their advice. They in turn informed the Immigration agent of my wish to go to the mines and the agent escorted me to Jersey City to the Railroad Station. I got on the train at night and at about seven o'clock in the morning I arrived at Mahanoy City, Pa.
I walked out of the station on to the street and saw a restaurant. I went in and ordered coffee and something else with it. I showed the proprietor the address of the person I wanted to see. I spoke in my language, and he in his, and we did not understand one another. Then he drew a sketch of "Vulcan Place" on a piece of paper and with his hand directed me the way I should go. So I followed his instructions.
On the road a deliverer of provisions caught up with me and began speaking to me in Slovak. I showed him the address I was headed for. He took me and my luggage on his wagon, drove me part of the way and showed me how to continue further. He then rode on in another direction.
After several minutes I was at Vulcan Place. There I saw mining works, a few homes and a small school. Near the school were some children and their teacher. I showed her the slip of paper with the address on it and she pointed out the house to me.
There were two people in that house. I told them of my acquaintance with the man on the train, and I also talked about myself. The man with whom I had travelled, and to whom I came, was not home. They were surprised that he had not yet arrived from Europe.
The brother of my travelling companion worked on the outside of the mine at the breakers **. He came home for dinner, and on learning that my travelling acquaintance had not yet arrived, became uneasy. That same evening he received a telegram from Castle Garden stating that his brother had trachoma and was being sent back to Europe. The next morning he and I went to the agent who had sent his brother the steamship ticket for his trip to America. The agent enquired by telegram about the detention and after three hours received an answer stating that the ill man would be sent back the next day on the same ship that he had arrived on.
MY FIRST JOB IN THE UNITED STATES
On the fourth day of my arrival at Vulcan I received work as a slate ** picker. I was picking slates for three whole months.
I wrote a letter to the village friends with whom I left my home town. Both of them were in Pennsylvania in the city of Plymouth.
In Vulcan I had no friends from my village, and I was lonesome, even though I was busy working. My village friends sent me a letter informing me that where they were it was possible to obtain work in the mines. So I moved from Vulcan to be closer to my countrymen. I came to the friend who was single. The other friend was married and lived quite a distance away.
My place of residence included room and board. There were three of us: I, my friend and an older man, who was Polish. He worked in the mines at night. He left for work at about 2:00 P.M. and returned home after midnight. He slept to about eight or nine o'clock in the morning and then went out for fresh air; he did not like to stay in the house. On the second or third day he suggested that I take a walk with him. He said that by so doing he wouldn't be lonesome and at the same time would be able to show me the city; we might also buy something that was needed.
So I listened to him and went with him.
We entered a shoe store and he purchased two pairs of shoes.
The proprietor of the shoe store also ran an agency for the sale of steamship tickets and for the sending of money to different places. My companion often sent money to Europe through his agency. The proprietor asked my friend if he knew of anybody who could work in his office as the man who used to work for him resigned. My Polish friend pointed to me and told him that I wrote well and that I spoke pretty good Russian, Polish and Czech, and that I was able to work in his office. The proprietor invited us into his office and asked me to write several words. When he saw my handwriting he said I should come to his office after lunch. The conversation continued till almost lunch time. After lunch that day I started to work as an office clerk. I worked there for over four years. The salary was not big, but it was more than I was getting as a slate picker; besides, the work was clean and regular. There I felt like a gentleman, with lily-white hands.
In 1907 I married one of my village girl friends. We lived over a year in Plymouth and then left for New York. There I got a house-construction job and my wife found herself a job in a theatre as a cleaning woman, for two or three hours daily. In the evenings she worked as a hat checker.
On the construction job my hand began to pain, and I lost my job. For about a month I was without work, nursing my hand. Later I had jobs such as night watchman and subscription agent for the newspaper "Postup".
Even in Galicia I was acquainted with type setting. I began type setting for "Postup" and continued until it closed down. After that I obtained work at typographing at "Svet" and worked there almost four years until they moved to Wilkes Barre, Pa. After that I worked in various printing places, but they were not Russian.
In 1918, at the convention of the Russian Brotherhood Organization, I was elected Manager of typographing for the newspaper "Pravda", an organ of the Organization. On January 1st, 1919 I assumed the managerial duties and was with them until July 30th, 1930 (eleven years and seven months) until the 50th year of my life. After I left the managership at "Pravda" I took a month's vacation. After my vacation, I obtained work as a housekeeper. I took this job because of my children who wanted to complete their schooling in Philadelphia. My older daughter was finishing a school for nursing, and the younger daughter a school for costume designing. She received a scholarship for four years and completed it.
After my children completed their schooling, my wife and I moved from Philadelphia to New York with our younger daughter. My older daughter remained in Philadelphia and worked in a hospital until she got married.
After moving to New York I obtained work in the printing plant of "Colonial" and worked there uninterruptedly for eight years. My daughter worked at her profession as designer in a large firm.
When the "Colonial" discontinued, I received work at the "Novoye Russkoye Slovo" in 1940 and worked there until September 1951. Because of my wife's poor health, I was obliged to leave "Novoye Russkoye Slovo" and go on pension. I was past seventy years of age then.
"Old age is no joy". In my old age I became a widower--in May 1962. I became jointly a widower and a king -- there is no one now to order me around and I order no one around either. I do what I like--and so my life goes on until the appointed time by God.
I emphasize that I labored my entire life by the will of God. I was a scholar, shepherd, stableman, reaper, mower, tiller, soldier and government worker. All this took place in the old country.
In the United States I worked as a slate picker, office clerk, office banker, builder, janitor, etc., and for the last 45 years as type setter (both by hand and on the linetyping machine) and printer.
I organized two brotherhoods for the Russian Brotherhood Organization -- Branch #113 in Plymouth, Pa in 1905 where I served as its Secretary and Delegate to the convention in 1906 in Olyphant, Pa.; and Branch #136 in New York in 1911 under the name of "Brotherhood of Russian Galicians" where I served as its Secretary and was twice a delegate. In 1916 at the convention in Philadelphia I was elected as a member of the Executive Board of the Organization, and in 1918 as Manager of "Pravda". I was re-elected at the convention in Pittsburg and Philadelphia. The fourth time I was elected by the Executive Board of the Organization because the paragraph that specified that Editors and Managers had to be elected at conventions, was deleted, and the Executive Board was empowered to elect Editors and Managers.
I must point out that my name appeared in "Pravda" under the press for 591 weeks, twice a week, turning out each time 11,500 copies--that is, 23,000 copies weekly. Those desiring to ascertain how many millions of copies were turned out, I suggest they start counting. Though the press printed my name, it did not affect me.
I always took an interest in the affairs of our Russian national organizations and attended their meetings and do so even now whenever possible.
I had many good friends, comrades and good wishers, as also many who were envious of me, enemies and ill-wishers.
To my friends I extend, from the bottom of my heart, my thanks for their many good wishes. I forgive the envious ones and the ill-wishers and am forgetting all evil. What was, has passed.
I know that I, too, have offended many in my lifetime and did not wish some well. I ask that they forgive me. I forgive everybody and wish good things to all those who knew me personally and also to those who did not know me personally.
With best wishes,
Dimitri Pavlovich Procyk
An old member of the Russian Brotherhood Organization, Branch #136
[Dimitri Procyk died on September 26th, 1964]
* Castle Garden was the former Immigration Center for Port of New York. It was located on
Manhattan Island. Then on January 1, 1892 The Ellis Island Immigration Center was officially dedicated. So when Dimitri entered in 1904 he would have been processed through Ellis Island. Castle Garden still stands at the southern tip of Manhattan. (per Laurence Krupnak)
** The breakers were the crushing machines used to break the coal
into smaller pieces. Anthracite or "hard coal" was/is sold in specific
sizes like "rice", "buckwheat", "pea", "nut". etc. usually, in smaller
sizes than bituminous coal. Anthracite coal is prepared in these sizes by
crushing and screening to obtain the best burning characteristics for its
specified use in home heating furnaces, industrial furnaces, commercial
heating plants, etc. These early coal preparation plants were very labor
intensive and employed many boys, probably as young as 12 years old (maybe
younger) at picking tables in the breakers to hand-pick the slate rock and
trash out of the coal. The slate got into the coal when it was mined.
The coal seams frequently had these layers of slate at top and bottom
and frequently there were layers of slate within the coal itself. Yes,
the breakers were usually large buildings located on the surface (outside
of the mine) and I believe these preparation plants also usually had a
"washer" section where water was used to remove the very fine coal
particles and dust -- most of which was discarded in the "culm banks"
seen in the eastern coalfields of Pennsylvania. [Technically, the breakers are the crushing machines but frequently the entire preparation plant is called "the breakers"] (per George Warholic).
Story submitted by Mr. Procyk's grandson, Al Hubickey
currently residing in North Myrtle Beach, SC
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Date Posted: Tuesday October 14th, 1997
Last Revision: Friday February 11th, 2000
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