CHAPTER 3 - BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE SYMOCZKO FAMILY
The name Symoczko was a common name in Hanczowa. The church records and the civil records for 1845 to 1910 contain many births, weddings and deaths. No doubt they are all related to us, but we just listed the direct relatives. Here is Frank and Frances Romanick's summary of their 15-day trip to Poland:
We returned in June 1990 from a 15-day genealogy visit to Krakow, Poland. We went to find Frank's roots, to walk where his ancestors walked and to worship where they had worshipped. It was a most dramatic experience to meet with his relatives and to record the oral history of his ancestors.
We decided to go to Poland in June because of the changes in the Polish government, which led to, a loosening of visa and customs procedures and significant alterations of its currency exchange policies.
We had an automobile with driver and an English speaking translator/interpreter. During the travel from town to town in search of Frank's heritage, we stayed four nights in hotels and the other I nights in private homes.
After visiting with Frank's three cousins, his first cousin Peter Symoczko took us to Hanczowa where Frank's mother was born. Only fragments of her home and stone cellar were remaining. In the nearby village of Snietnica, where Frank's father spent his early childhood, nothing was left of the house, and the last of the Romanicks left the area in 1936.
Frances wishes you could have stood next to her in the Orthodox Church in Hanchowa to see the emotion and the tears on Frank's face, when he was lighting the candles in memory of his parents. While the parishioners were singing church hymns, Frank thought, "I am in the same church where my mother came to worship every Sunday, where she was baptized, and no doubt, where she met my father." The sermon by the young parish priest was devoted to Frank's parents who were the originators of Frank's life, his home and his family.
After Sunday church services, we had a chance to visit with all the church members. They opened their hearts to us. They were pleased that we came to see the church, the village and the people and that we were a Polish Lemkos family that belongs to the Orthodox religion,
We want to express our appreciation for the encouragement and support of the following people who shepherded us through the entire project of locating Frank's ancestors in Poland. To Halina Dabrowski for her letters and overseas telephone calls in setting up our stay in Krakow; to Jan Dabrowski for arranging the transportation and the video taping; to Zdzislawa Zegadtowna for the audio taping and planning of the visits with the Lemkos families; to Jacek Krecina for his work as translator/interpreter. To Tadeusz Dabrowski and his wife Jadwiga, for our housing while in Nowy Targ; to Miki Krecina for the use of her apartment; and to Zdzislaw Lipowski for the use of his automobile.
While in Poland we visited the birthplace of Pope John Paul II in Wadowice and toured the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz where some four million people of 28 different nationalities were exterminated in five years. Auschwitz was a deeply felt experience for us. Just seven miles from Krakow, we visited the 700-year-old Wieliczka salt mines. These salt mines are a memorial to the ingenuity and religious devotion of the Poles. The salt miners have carved out some 90 miles of tunnels and chambers; and most amazing, a number of religious chapels with saints and other sculptures. In the salt mines was a large chamber where the Germans operated an airplane factory during World War 11. We ventured to Zakopane, a ski town, at the foot of the Tatra Mountains on the Polish and Czechoslovakian border.
Then in September, we went to the restored Ellis Island in New York City, to retrace the footsteps of Frank's parents when they came to Amerika in 1906 to start a new life.
It was an emotional experience to find out how they were processed, inspected and granted permission to enter the United States. Frank was pleased to see the names of his ancestors engraved on the Immigrant Wall of Honor, which is a tribute to the millions of immigrants who came to this country. They saw it as the land of opportunity with political and religious freedom.
While in New York City, we attended church services at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. We were pleasantly surprised to find the St. Vladimir Church altar, which had been used during Frank's parents'1910 wedding ceremony, now in the Russian Cathedral.
Further research turned up even more information. For instance, during the Nazi occupation of Poland (1939-1945), there was an agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union (which was in effect even after World War II, in an agreement between the governments of Poland and the USSR), whereby the Lemkos who lived within Polish territories were resettled - partly to the east in the Soviet Union and partly in Polish western provinces. The villages abandoned by the Lemkos were settled by Polish repatriates from the east and partly by peasants from the nearby region.
After about a dozen years of compulsory settlement in western Poland, the Lemkos began to return to their former settlements in the Carpathians. Those who were sent to the Soviet Union never did return to Poland.
During the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union, the Lemkos were suspected of being Russian sympathizers and were sent to concentration camps. Lemkos youths were sent to Germany to do forced labor.
Before going to Poland in June of 1990, Frank's first cousin, Mary Symoczko Freudig, who lives in Amenia, New York, passed along information about our relatives in Poland and the Ukraine. We knew very little about them, She told us about her brother, Peter Symoczko and his family. Peter and his wife, Rozalia, have a home in Losie, Poland. His oldest daughter, Stefania Kupiec, and her son Miroslaw, live in a house next door. Peter's youngest daughter, Irene Czupik, her husband, Wladyslaw, and three children, Jola, Peter and Ella live in the neighboring town of Gorlice.
Our second cousin, Melania Symoczko, and her three children, Miroslaw, Andrew and Anna live in the small village of Blachnarka, some 25 miles from Losie. Mary's older sister, Melka Symoczko Durniak, who was born in Hanczowa, Poland, lived in Ternopil, Ukraine until she passed away in 1991. Melka's three children, Mary, John and Sam are living in Ternopil. Due to an agreement between Poland the Soviet Union, Melka and her family resettled in the Ukraine after World War II.
While planning the trip to Poland, Frances and I offered to take Mary Freudig back to Hanczowa as our guest. We thought she would want to visit the village where she spent her childhood. Regretfully, she turned down the offer of all expenses paid trip. After the horrible experience that she encountered in Poland during 1912-1932, she vowed never to return to Poland even though her brother, Peter and 12 other close relatives were still living there.
My mother, Mary Symoczko Romanick, arrived at Ellis Island, New York in 1906 at age 17. She worked as a live-in housekeeper. Her brothers, Michael, Prokop and Konstantine came to America.
After reading a newspaper story in the weekly Florence Citizen, we met a couple named Halina and Jan Dabrowski, who had moved from Chicago to Florence, Colorado because they liked the mountains. Jan Dabrowski, a Polish Highlander, grew up in the area where my parents were born. After several conferences, we were able to talk Jan Dabrowski into accompanying us to Poland in June 1990.
After their marriage in Brooklyn, New York on November 7, 1910, my parents Maxim and Mary (Symoczko) Romanick moved to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
In the good old days, it was fashionable to have plenty of children. My parents raised four girls and five boys. The girls were Anastasia, Mary, Anne and Olga. The boys: John, Frank, Joseph, George, and Harold. All of the nine children were delivered by midwives and none by a doctor.