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Khrystos Voskres! Voistynu Voskres!

By M Davies   /     Apr 24, 2011  /     Family, Rusyn  /     3 Comments

And now a bit about my heritage. . .


The title of the blog post literally translates to “He has risen.  Indeed he has risen.”  This is a traditional greeting during the Easter/Christmas season for Ukranian/Russian Orthodox Catholics like myself.  I am a non-practicing one of … those.  My paternal grandfather was big into attending church and being a normal practicing catholic.  After my parents made the move from Wilkes-Barre to the Poconos, we didn’t go to church as much (if ever).  The fact of the matter is, there aren’t many church’s that are Ukrainian.  I can think of two – the one to which I attended CCD – which after doing a Google search is “SS Peter and Paul” on North River Street in W-Barre.  The one that my family “practiced” in was SS Peter and Paul in Plymouth.


I have been desperately trying to seek out more information about my paternal grandfather’s family since the early 2000’s.  I’ve hit numerous road blocks.  The biggest one being that none of his family spell their last name the same way.  Imagine my surprise to find out each of his siblings have taken on a different variation of the spelling.  My grandfather spelled it “Hryvnak”, his two brothers spell it “Hrevnack”, his eldest brother spelled it “Revnack”, and obviously his sisters took the name of their respective husbands.  By the way, the “Revnack” variation of it, would be how you’d actually pronounce it in real life.  The H is silent.  The Y takes on an “eh” sound, and nak.  Rev-nack. 


Now all that having been said, here’s where it REALLY gets tricky.  The graves of my great-grandparents have a completely different spelling of the last name.  I was able to trace them back as coming through Ellis Island, but before that I have no information.  My great-grandmother’s name is Maria Yurchak Hrywniak.  She came from Certizne, Czechoslovakia.  My great-grandfather’s name was Alec Hrywniak and was from Sonak, Austria.  “Hrywniak”.  Where did the W disappear to?  When/where did the V and I appear?


So again, I started searching like madman and find this page:

Specifically this:

Rusyns have typical Slavic first names like Michael (Michal or Michajlo), John (Jan or Ivan, nicknames Vaňo or Janko), Marija (Marja, Marka, Marička), Helen (Olena or Helena) and Anna (Hanna, Hanka, Haňa) or Anastasia. But several first names are peculiar to Rusyns (and extremely rare among Slovaks): for males, Vasil (Vasko), Dimitrij (Mitro), and Demjan (i.e., Damian); for females, Paraskeva (Paraska, Pajza, usually anglicized to Pearl), Hafia, and Tekla.

Rusyn surnames vary widely, many ending in “skyj”, but some other common endings are “čak”, “čik”, “jak” “ňak” or “nyak”, “ko” or especially “nko” and “sko”, “iin” and “ovič”.


My Grandfather and his siblings have some of the names of the above:  Girls:  Anna, Helen, Mary, Julie.  Boys:  John, Alec, Peter, Russell (was my grandfather).  I think that is all of them, but I may be missing some.


So great, I know I’m a Rusyn with several different spellings of last names, the names of my great-grandparents, and my grandfather’s siblings.  That doesn’t explain much to me.  I need more info.  God, I am nosey!


I found a person on Facebook with my same last name, a “Roman Hryvnak”, and I decided to add him to my friend list and message him about what he knows.  This is what I got:  “I’m not sure how much you know about your heritage, but there are few things that I can tell you for sure. Hryvnak (or Hrywniak for that matter) is somewhat popular last name in western Ukraine where I was born and lived for most of my life. It originated as a cossack’s nickname. It is hard to say if we are related since many people in Ukraine have that last name. I do know that on my grandfather’s side of the family someone moved to the states a while ago.”


Roman further sent me this picture:


The last name that is on that sign the most is Hryvnak written in Ukrainian :) I took this picture in a village where my family came from. It’s called Danyl’che (Ukraine).  This is a memorial sign where the men fought for their independence against the Russian and German forces in WW2.


So there you have it.  That’s what I know.  Which isn’t too much.  I keep this website up with my maiden last name as a tribute to my grandfather and his family’s struggles to come to America.  My hopes is that someone will be searching Google, looking for the same information that I am and come across my site and we can do an information exchange.  Any information anyone can provide would be of great value.


Have a blessed Easter everyone!  I dedicate this one to my Pop.

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