Rusyns are Ukrainians. That's my new bumpersticker, or at least Rusyn is a term/idea invented by second generation children of immigrant Ukrainian parents from Galicia.
And here we go again...
The Lemko-Rusyn Republic, founded at the end of WWI.
Kind of ruins your argmument that Rusyn is an immigrant idea, doesn't it?
Here is my story and I am sticking to it. First of all I feel the closest affinity to my Ukrainian brothers and sisters. They share many of the same folk customs and religious pieties that my ancestors brought with them to the United States. In many ways, the language spoken by the western Ukrainians, the Galicians, the Lemkos, the Rusyns, the peoples of Maramarosh (now in Romania and Ukraine) and Voivodina ( in Northern Serbia) are dialectical variations of what is now known as Ukrainian. However....Rusyns are distinct from Ukrainians. An American analogy is that all of the native American tribes of the Iroquois were 'similar' and probably came from the same root, but a Seneca still knows to this day that he or she is not a Cayuga or Onondaga.
Sigh: It depends upon when you or your ancestors immigrated to the new world as borders changed radically during the lifetime of persons born between say, 1870 and 1944 and again following 1991.
If you can follow this, you are a better person than me, but here it goes:
My grandparents, as well as my wife's maternal grandmother and paternal granparents, were born in the former Austria-Hungary, all in areas which became part of the cobbled together land formerly known as Czechoslovakia following WW I. Her maternal grandfather came from a village on the north ridge of the Dukla Pass in what is now Poland and was 'Galician' and came here prior to WW I.
He settled in NE PA and was a founder of the Metropolia church in Frackville, PA which came into existence because>>>>>the people there didn't feel at home in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic parishes which pre-existed them in Shenandoah and Frackville. (the parish in Frackville was Metropolia because no Greek Catholic priest was available and the priests who served were affiliated with the Russian mission church and were followers of St. Alexis. No Ukrainian minded folks there.)
Ironically, all of her paternal grandfather's family, but for him, settled near Hamilton, Ontario and guess what? They are insistent Ukrainians two generations later! Most of his American family still thinks they are Russian?
His wife, my wife's grandmother, came from a cluster of villages just south of the Polish/Slovak border and she self-identified as a 'Rusnak' as opposed to a Ukrainian. She was a ward of the Greek Catholic priest in Chem'lova which served the villages of Becherov and Stebnik (the ancestral home of my maternal grandparents.) (The same parish to which my second cousin, a Greek Catholic priest ordained in the early 1990's was assigned as his first parish. Small world...) The Greek Catholic priest arranged for her marriage to my wife's grandfather who was a widower with children following the influenza epidemic of 1918 - even though the priest knew that they were nominally Orthodox at that time. Even though she dutifully attended the church up the street, until the end of her life, 'her church' was the Metropolia parish of St. Michael's in neighboring St. Clair, PA which retained its Rusyn customs rather than shedding them as did the parish in Frackville. (Today that parish is in ACROD.) (Her cousin was the late Bishop Stephen Koscisko of the Byzantine Catholic Diocese of Passaic, NJ who was also related to the Hanas family of cantors, choir directors and priests in the Metropolia and ACROD.)
Many of the people from those parishes were in the vanguard of those who became Orthodox, in Minneapolis and Buffalo both Metropolia parishes were primarily founded by Rusyns from Stebnik and Becherov in Saris County, Slovakia who by the middle of the 20th century were convinced they were 'real' Russians. (all relatives, on both my wife's and my families!)
My wife's paternal family came from what is now Transcarpathia, Ukraine from the village of Suchij, outside of Uzhorod and are now Orthodox and friends of Fr. Dymitry Sydor, the dean of the Uzhorod Orthodox (UOC-MP) cathedral and a Rusyn activist.
My family came from Stebnik, Slovakia on mother's side and Cigelka, Slovakia on father's side, both being near Bardejev and Dukla and all were Greek Catholics. (Cigelka is the home town of Blessed Pavel Goidich, another relative, although distant.) My mother's aunts,uncles and cousins who settled in Minneapolis and Buffalo were Orthodox by 1920 while her family settled in Bayonne, NJ where they were remained Greek Catholic until the schisms of the 1930's. There were pre-existing Russian Orthodox (Patriarchal and Metropolia) and Ukrainian Orthodox parishes in both Bayonne and Jersey City, NJ but like many of the Rusnaks, my grandfather went his own way and with a handful of others founded their own Orthodox Church to 'ensure the preservation of their rites and customs' which they knew had been abrogated in most of the Metropolia parishes and were somewhat different than those of the Ukrainians.
Same as to my dad's family in Elizabeth, NJ where his father left the Greek Catholic parish of which he was a founder and the parish president (before Bishop Takach abolished lay control in the 1920's) and founded a Rusyn church, adjacent to an existing Serbian Orthodox church and a few blocks removed from a Metropolia parish (where some of his more distant relatives attended) and the two Ukrainian churches.
Now, I recognize that all of this is anecdotal but I ask the question, if these people felt an affinity to Ukrainian nationalism and Ukrainian tradition, why did they bother to set out and establish their own parishes and hierarchy?
First and foremost was the fact that the Rusyns had established their own, unique liturgical chant tradition which is distinct from the Ukrainian tradition. Secondly, they had their own fraternal organizations (Liberty) which was distinct from the UROBA and others. Thirdly, they were well aware of the reality that many of their brothers and sisters had lost their identity within the Metropolia parishes and were identifying themselves as Russian.
Many a small town soldier returned after the war to complain to their babas in Pennsylvania and New Jersey about how stupid the Russian soldiers were as they didn't understand a word they were saying or sing or dance to any of the folk tunes they learned growing up.
Anyway, today we realize that the differences that seemed so monumental to our grandparents are not so great. I tell the story of how the UOC, my parish and the UGCC parishes in town all set up ethnic Christmas traditions at the local museum a few years ago and the curator located us in a row. As we were setting up we couldn't stop laughing as to how we had virtually the same stuff on display and how our grandfathers would have been rolling on the floor beating the daylights out of each other!
For a more detailed and factually sourced article see: CARPATHO-RUSYN AMERICANS http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Bu-Dr/Carpatho-Rusyn-Americans.html