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  • Wasyl Pelak

  • It is unlikely that the young Wasyl was daunted by the described conditions. Coming from a people known for their endurance, the six day trip was a means to an end-a new land and a new life. Once in the New York harbor, more than 900 Kaiser Wilhelm II steerage passengers were ferried to shore and lined up for required immigration procedures. The ship manifest presented to Ellis Island immigration officials records Wasyl's place of residence a Wolacieklinska. He was described as Ruthenian from Galicy. The young peasant was described as a [farm] laborer who could neither read nor write. His destination was Miners Mills, Pennsylvania, to his uncle Peter Glowacz.

    In the same year of Wasyl's immigration, two decades after they were written, the famous lines of Emma Lazarus' poem, The New Colossus, were included on a plaque at the main entrance of the Statue of Liberty pedestal: "Give me your tired, your poor, /Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,/ I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" Wasyl entered American's "golden door" with $14.

    Numerous American industries -mines, mills, factories, and refineries-had a great need for cheap labor. The meager salaries offered by the industrialists were more money than immigrants could begin to make in the old county. In a pattern now called "chain migration," Wasyl came to the anthracite region of Pennsylvania to join other Rusyns from his Lemko village area who had preceded him. Rusyns and other Slavic immigrants had not received a warm welcome in America. Viewed by the Irish and other groups who had come earlier as strike breakers who would work for low wages, these unknown people with their strange customs, dress and language had to create their own places in the new world.

    Continued...



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