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  1998 Trip     2001 Trip   2004 Trip   The Importance of Giving Back  
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1998 Trip to Olsov

In August 1998, my wife Grace, gave me her blessings for a trip to Europe, so that I could visit the land of my ancestors.  Armed with the 1930 passports and death certificates of Baltasar and Anna, off I went.  I was able to spend a week in Slovakia riding buses and trains throughout the eastern portion of the Republic.

Bratislava Train Station
 

I was very fortunate in making contact with Helene Cincebeaux, who made arrangements for hotel reservations for me in Levoca. Once there, I made several trips throughout the local area and made contact with Vladimir Flak, a local genealogy guide.

He took me to two archives and I was able to acquire copies of my great grandparent’s death certificates and the marriage certificate for the youngest brother and his wife, great-uncle Baltasasr, and great-aunt Anna, the last of the family to leave Slovakia in 1930. I was also able to find information on my great-grandfather and great-grandmother. All of the their children had been born and raised in Olsov.

The guide and I visited Olsov (population 400) and met with the mayor. I had several documents with me which were in the English and Slovak languages. He immediately looked at one of the documents (passport of my great-aunt) and stated that his grandfather was the brother of my great aunt. What a find! The thrill of visiting in the village and finding a relative was over-whelming. I was able to visit with several other relatives. I walked through the cemetery and was fortunate to go inside the Roman Catholic Church where my ancestors worshipped.
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Copy of the original village seal of Olsov

Mayor Albin Bucko, 87 year old farmer Anton Visocky, genealogist Vladimir (Valdo) Flak.


Mayor's office, village hall and grocery store in Olsov.

 


At house of Albin's brother.

 

 
 

I took pictures of the tombstones in the cemetery, which showed several of the inter-marriage relatives I had been told about by the newly found cousins in the states.

I met with eighty-seven year old Anton Visocky and showed him five passport pictures from the 1930 era. He pointed to the picture of the youngest boy and called him by name, Cyril. He remembered the day the family left for America. It seems that he and Cyril were playmates and each were sad that day knowing that they would never meet again. Click on images to enlarge.

         
A "timeless" scene of Slovak ladies chatting.
Helen Baine (Helene's mother) in middle and Helene Baine Cincebeaux in dark dress to right of Helen. This was when I took a ride on their tour bus (1998) to the village of Torysky from Levoca.
Roma women gathereed near the park in Lovaca.

Pavel Hric at train station in Spisska Nova Ves. The beautiful lady was 87 years old and spoke 7 languages. I rode on the train with her for some time and we had a long conversation.


Outdoor market in Poprad.
Open market in Spisska Nova ves.
   

When I returned to the states I landed at Newark International Airport. Not having any schedules or deadlines to meet, I had plenty of time, so I telephoned another one of my “newly-found” cousins, Edward (Ed) Kirby in Hackettstown, NJ. I merely wanted to say hello and tell him of my trip and experiences. He would have none of that and said that he would be at Newark in about an hour to pick me up. Sure enough, in a very short time he arrived, and we were on our way to his home in Hackettstown. I spent five wonderful days with Ed, Bernice, his wife, and son, Eddie. They accepted me as if they had known me all our lives.

During the week, Ed took me to Pennsylvania, where I met his mother Catherine, his brother Tom, cousin Agnes and cousin, Mary. That evening we all had dinner at a local restaurant where I met Agnes’s son, Paul, from Erie. I was given the royal treatment by all the folks there and visited in each of their homes. After returning to Hackettstown, Ed took his mother, brother, and myself to visit Ellis Island. Here, we saw the wall with the many, many names of the immigrants who had come through that port. Ellis Island has been made into a historical site, and the self-guided tour is great. It was both a sad and happy occasion to visit Ellis Island.

Ed and Bernice were so gracious in accepting me into their home. I was able to get to know them, their son Eddie, daughter Darcy, and her husband Dan. Ed loves to fish, so we had a lot in common in that respect. I used a tape recorder throughout my trip in Europe, and Ed made copies of all three tapes, so that he could share my experiences. What a wonderful family.

Rather than over stay my welcome, I decided it was time to go home to Albuquerque. Ed and Tom drove me to Baltimore, where I was able to take an airplane to Albuquerque. This visit and the visit to Olsov were highlights of my journey. What a great experience; one which I will always cherish.


2001 Trip to Olsov

In the summer of 2001, my daughter Brenda accompanied me on my second trip to Slovakia. My friend Sona Sabolova, and Peace Corps worker Susan Finkelpearl graciously acted as guides and interpreters. The mayor, his wife, two village council members and the school headmaster were anxiously awaiting our arrival as I had informed the mayor that I would be there at 1:00pm. After much hugging and laughter we were invited into the village town hall. The room was decorated with Slovak and American flags, tables were loaded with food and drinks of all kinds. Brenda was presented with a bouquet of flowers and I was invited to sit at the head of the table with the mayor. Once everyone was seated, the mayor made a speech and presented me with a beautiful scroll document giving me honorary citizenship in the village. He also told me that I should pass on to all my cousins who donated money for the purchase of the playground equipment, many, many, thanks from the people in the village, and special thanks from the children. I then presented the mayor with a nice camera, film and batteries and asked him to take a picture of each houses in the village and write the family name on the back of each picture to send to me. I also presented the mayor’s wife a special box of French soaps.

   

 
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When the talks were finished we had lunch with many toasts all around.  Afterwards we walked down the small village road to the school house where the headmaster and teacher were waiting with several boys and girls. The children greeted us with twenty minutes of beautiful traditional songs by the children. The teacher then released the children to play. The children send their love to all the descendants of those who left years ago. You cannot believe the happiness expressed by the children while playing at the village school playground. Their new swings, playhouse with slide and the teeter-totter lit up their faces with smiles and laughter everywhere.

While the children played I presented the mayor and his staff with $80 to purchase school supplies. I also gave the two teachers $10 each and explained that it was for the own personal use, and not for supplies. I told them that we appreciated them so much for teaching the wonderful children of Olsov. The teachers were tearfully surprised as the amount was equal to about what they earned in a month’s pay.

The mayor then informed me that the village priest and residents were waiting at the small church where a special mass was being held in my honor. We walked into the small cramped church and found our seats. The church was full, with many young people standing, and it was obvious by the singing and excitement that this was a special occasion. After the service, I met with the priest who told me that the village certainly appreciated the gesture of goodwill by the descendants in America.

We were then invited to accompany the village officials by car to the far end of the village where we loaded into two cars and drove about ten minutes until the road ended and only two ruts were visible. Another five minutes and we stopped at the edge of a meadow far above the village. We walked another five minutes where we were met by a shepherd and invited to visit with him in the camp. We peered inside a wooden shack where the sheep’s milk was transforming into cheese and sour milk.

It was a happy time of merrymaking, toasting and eating cheese. We soon heard the sounds of bells coming from the pasture far above from where we were sitting in the camp. It was the shepherds leading the flock to return to the base camp. We watched as the dogs from three different flocks chased the sheep into their corrals. The sheep were so trained that not a sound was heard from the shepherds or dogs. The shepherds brought the flocks in three times a day to milk them by hand. The shepherds stay in the fields from May through October and perform the same work that has been done in these hills for hundreds of years.

It was with regret we left the shepherds and returned to the village town hall for more food and drinks. I formally asked the mayor and council members for permission to furnish a computer, printer and educational programs for the village school. After a pause and looks of amazement, they nodded their heads and we shook hands. It was a day to treasure forever.

I am indebted to the generous services of two young ladies who acted as guides and provided translation for us. Sona Sabolova is the director Torysa Foundation, a tireless organization that assists villages in improving their economical situation. The foundation uses grant money from private organizations as well as donations from people like myself. The foundation is doing great work in this region around Olsov. The second young lady, Susan Finkelpearl was a Peace Corps volunteer from Pittsburg. She helped with the foundation, and taught at a high school in nearby Lipany. I had corresponded with both ladies for over a year and helped them financially with their work.