Friday, February 4, 2011

Anna's Story - The first years

Delayed Birth Certificate
My grandmother Anna Pereksta was born 10 March 1895 in the remote Carpathian mountain village of Príslop, then located in Zemplén County, Hungary. Today Príslop is in the far northeastern corner of Slovakia about 8 kilometers as the crow flies from the Polish border. It was a very small, almost entirely Greek Catholic village with a population of only 159 people in 1914.

Anna was the sixth of eight children born to Ivan Pereksta and his wife, Olena Sidor (Hocko). When she was a young child her father, older brothers and sisters went to the United States to work. Her father would be gone several years at a time, returning home for a year or two and then returning to U.S. for work. Her mother worked their small plot of land. Food was sometimes scarce. Their home was shared with their farm animals. Little formal education was available.

Hungarian passport
Life could also be challenging in the U.S. for the emigres. Anna's eldest sister, married with a child and expecting a second, was unhappy in the U.S. and returned to Príslop. However, after several months of working in the fields, she opted to return to the U.S. When Anna turned 18 she emigrated to the United States arriving at Ellis Island aboard the Amerika with her father on 13 July 1913. They were held overnight until her sister Susanna arrived from Binghamton, NY. She never returned to Europe, never saw her mother, younger sister or two brothers again.

Anna lived with her sister Sue in Binghamton and then, following Sue's marriage in 1914, with her sister and brother-in-law. She went to work as a stitcher at an Endicott-Johnson (EJ) shoe factory and remained there until her marriage almost a decade later. In the early 1920s, as her sister's family grew, she moved to live with one of her Sedor cousins (her mother's nephews). She and her cousin George Sedor were both ill for a considerable time and recuperated at a sanitarium in Saranac Lake (which is where, I believe, the above picture was taken). By the end of 1922 she had moved to her friend Mrs. Dunda's boarding house. Mr. Dunda was a leather cutter at EJs. His wife took in boarders to bring in extra money.

Anna had been unwilling to marry, prizing her independence. But in the winter of 1923, when she was 27 years old, she met Stefan Papp (Stephen Popp), a 40 year old leather cutter working at EJs. They met on the street while she was walking with a friend who was from the same village Stefan had emigrated from two years earlier. He could not take his eyes off her and showed up at Mrs. Dunda's door the next evening. Anna, wet and bedraggled from trudging home in the snow, was sitting by the stove when he arrived. He asked her to a movie the following Saturday and, with her friend emphatically nodding yes, Anna agreed. He asked her to marry him that Saturday, explaining that he was ready to marry and raise a family. She was more than a little dumbstruck, but Mrs. Dunda and her sisters encouraged her to agree and she did. It may be the only impulsive move she ever made, but it was a good decision.

Church Marriage Record
His cousin was a priest in Indiana and Stefan suggested they go there to marry, but Anna wanted to be married in Binghamton where her family and friends were. After a whirlwind courtship they married on 17 Feb 1923 at St. Michael's Greek Catholic Church only a few weeks after they met.

Anna's story is continued here.


  1. I LOVE this post. You know I'm interested in Hungary because of my son-in-laws roots. Did your grandmother bring her birth records with her? I can't imagine trying to get them from here. I also love the picture. It is so clear and she looks beautiful. One of these days I'm going to learn how to pronounce the name of your blog and its significance.

  2. Why did Olena never emigrate to the USA? It is a good story about the courtship.

  3. I love that photo of Anna in the greenhouse. Interesting post with nice photos. I'm sorry the mother and younger children never came but maybe the mother wouldn't come? Any story about that? Lucky for you she was swept off her feet by Stefan!

  4. Great post, I loved it!! I love the first picture, too.. is that a hibiscus to her left (our right)? :)

    @Kathy: What do you know about your son-in-law's Hungarian family? I'd love to help you "jump the pond" and figure out where they came from. :)

  5. Great pictures and story! And I'm very interested in the certificates. The excerpt from the book of those baptized and chrismated is something I've never seen before. And the church marriage record resembles very closely the Hungarian/Jewish marriage record I translated for my husband's relatives - down to almost the exact same layout (except in Hungarian instead of Latin) - and even the folds and tape lines look the same!

  6. Great post, great photos! Story well told! Winner!! Clap, clap, clap.

  7. I love this post!

    What a surprise to learn that after all those years of being an independent woman, she became engaged in an afternoon.

  8. Anna looks well, despite being pictured in the sanatorium greenhouse, and I can appreciate her love of independence! Jo :-)

  9. Thank you all!

    Kathy - She did not bring the birth record, but I imagine her father brought it for her on a later voyage. He went back and forth regularly until the Depression hit. The Nolichucky (No - li - chucky) river runs through the counties of east TN where my mother's family settled. The Sawyers I blog about regularly lived on its banks.

    Claudia & Kristin - The only family members to come to America were those who could work in the mines or factories, sending money back to Europe. Not all who came here stayed. With young children and land to tend I doubt Olena ever even considered coming.

    Nick - Your guess is as good as mine, but it does look like an hibiscus.

  10. What a wonderful story and great pictures/documents!! She is beautiful by the way!

  11. I should have read this first (now I know why she waited 10 yrs. to marry). Enjoyed this very much. You are so lucky to know so much about her. Mine were born in this country, and I know very little.

  12. Oh, she's beautiful! And courageous. Imagine not wanting to give up her independence and within a very short time of meeting a man she became his wife! On to read the other posts about her.

  13. The Carpathian Mountains is where my grandparents hailed from as well. They also held Hungarian passports, though they were ethnic
    Germans -- and their area on the Carpathian plains became Romania. Anna, like my grandparents, didn't have an opportunity for education, but they had the boldness of spirit and intelligence to carve a new life in a strange land! I applaud Anna and your tribute to her. Her photo shows a lively, bright-eyed woman with the gumption to be independent when it was hard for women to be so. Her spontaneity in accepting marriage on the spur of the moment shows a woman who trusts her instincts!

  14. I love the wedding photo of your grandparents- great story about how they met and married!


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