Keeping Ukraine Alive Through Death: Ukrainian-American Gravestones as Cultural Markers


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Keeping Ukraine Alive Through Death:


Major migration starting in late 1800s

  • Major migration starting in late 1800s

  • Settled in Coal mining areas of Pennsylvania

  • Later in others parts of PA and New Jersey and New York

  • Long history of crafts well suited to transfer to grave markers



Easter egg decorating

  • Easter egg decorating

  • Embroidery

  • Wood working

  • Leatherwork

  • Beadwork

  • Many customs still exist in communities



Based on visits to primarily two cemeteries

  • Based on visits to primarily two cemeteries

    • Fox Chase Ukrainian in Jenkintown North of Philadelphia
    • St. Andrew’s in South Bound Brook in New Jersey
  • Rich motif that helps to separate it from usual Catholic cemeteries



Formulaic or standardized

  • Formulaic or standardized

  • Name

  • Born

  • Died

  • Place of birth

  • Occupation or profession



Star on the marker means - Born

  • Star on the marker means - Born

  • While a cross means - Died in

  • Often times the wife’s family name will be on the marker

  • Profession as a sign of status is indicated on the markers

  • Some will have a lot of biographical information



Names are often translated into English on the back side of the stone

  • Names are often translated into English on the back side of the stone

  • About 60% of the time

  • Symbols

    • Tryzub – (trident) Ukrainian national symbol
    • This is the most common design
    • Bandura – a musical instrument
  • Plants particularly Wheat

  • Stands for tall and proud; as a group



Kalyna (guelder-rose) droops

  • Kalyna (guelder-rose) droops

  • Symbolizes sad and mournful

  • This is the two sides of Ukraine’s history

  • Corn-flower; daisy; and poppy

  • At one time put poppy seeds on the coffin to keep the dead from walking and disturbing the living



The areas in the cemetery were laid out by occupation

  • The areas in the cemetery were laid out by occupation

  • Many folks are buying ahead of time

  • called pre-need

  • This in itself tells us about a sense of community

  • Epitaphs tell how a person lived;

  • “…it becomes apparent that the same kinds of behavior are praised over and over, reflecting how the community believes people should act while they are alive.” (69)



There is a great deal of cultural Identity

  • There is a great deal of cultural Identity

  • Importance of Ethnic and Nationalistic symbolism

  • Over the last 100 or so years they were beaten down as a country and ethnic group

  • The symbolism that is ethnic represents their culture or heritage

  • Nationalistic symbols represent their political activism



Nationalism

  • In 1863 the language was outlawed

  • Publications were suppressed by czarist government

  • Soviet union was little better tried to suppress the culture as well

  • Not until 1991 did things start to get better



Conclusions

  • Attributes of ethnicity

  • Look for these in your cemeteries

  • Common national and geographical origin

  • Similar culture and customs

  • Common religion

  • Common language

  • “we feeling” sense of group identity



Can produce a sense of loyalty; sacrifice

  • Can produce a sense of loyalty; sacrifice

  • Share a common ‘world view’ and values (gemeinschaft – concept formulated by the sociologist Ferdinand Toennies. Refers to “community” or relationships that are intimate, traditional, and informal)

  • Shared institutions, such as the military perhaps memberships in organizations such as WOW



Identify themselves as a minority group, subordinate and oppressed

  • Identify themselves as a minority group, subordinate and oppressed

  • These last two are questionable and often difficult to identify in a cemetery

  • Similar race (this is a problematic concept)

  • Physical characteristics

  • As Graves (the author) points out, getting a feeling for the group’s subordinate status might also be difficult but sometimes doable



Try to find these types of indicators in the Polish Catholic cemetery in Duluth – you will not find much to indicate ethnic group status except name on the stones and the cemetery name

  • Try to find these types of indicators in the Polish Catholic cemetery in Duluth – you will not find much to indicate ethnic group status except name on the stones and the cemetery name




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