IconDSC_4716.jpg
St.John's Facebook Site
Facebook Image
Archangel Trivia II
The Archangel you pray to for healing? (do you know the others?)
 
St. John's Calendar
August 2017
S M T W T F S
30 31 1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31 1 2
Our Latest Event
No events
New User Registration
In order to register on this site, you must first submit the passphrase below.

Create PDF Recommend Print

Early History of ST. JOHN the Baptist UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

  • Created
    Tuesday, 29 December 2009
  • Created by
    Administrator
  • Last modified
    Tuesday, 29 December 2009
  • Revised by
    Administrator
  • Voting
    (0 votes)
  • Favourites
    Add to favourites
Mnohay Lita, Tato - Frank Kovatz 1893 - 1972
Early History of ST. JOHN the Baptist UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
told by the Daughter, Mildred, of one of the founders - Fedio (Frank) Kovatz
Mildred is now a "Bogdan" under her married name.

Vichnya Pamnya, Tato!
Memory Eternal, Dad! 

Fedio, Frank Theodore Kovatz 1893 – 1972

Today, I am honoring my father, Frank Theodore Kovatz, by telling you some of the things that he did for the love of his religion and his church. He wanted a Ukrainian Church for the Ukrainians, so they (Ukrainians) would not loose their identity. Other Ukrainians agreed and a handful of people united to form the Ukrainian Church.

 

Fedio Kowacz was born on April 13, 1893 in the village of Tarszow, Stary Sambor, Galizem. At this time, the country was Austria and was under Franz Joseph’s rule.

 

Fedio didn’t have much of a childhood which was very difficult, but he had dreams. Sometimes a neighbor girl would be the babysitter for Fedio and his siblings while the parents would be out working in the fields. When he was a toddler, an incident happened that Fedio would never forget. One day while being held in the arms of the babysitter, he fell over backwards as the babysitter was scuffling with his older brother.

 

She was using the other hand/arm to push/ward off the attack. Fedio spine/back was seriously injured and he couldn’t move his legs and lower part of his body. His aunt, who was a midwife, took Fedio to live with her. He spent his childhood lying on a hard flat surface and being given body massages by his aunt. After several years of this treatment, he was able to walk; but his growth was stunted, and he was short in stature. His father died and never saw Fedio’s recovery in walking. Another incident that Fedio remembered was a shortage of food. His father, with a few coins in his pocket, was gone for about a week, going from village to village trying to buy food/flour. Father came home empty handed and threw the coins on the table saying, “children, eat the coins”. Times were very hard for his mother. Fedio helped anyway he could by gathering mushrooms and berries and selling them. He also worked on a wealthy landlord’s estate by attending the grounds, gardens, green house and forest, besides working and helping his mother farm, etc.

 

His schooling consisted of the 3Rs besides learning of husbandry of farming. The girls learned the 3Rs plus homemaking and sewing. My dad learned to embroider the hard way. When his sister left her embroidery, Fedio would try to sew the designs which he made and contained mistakes and waste of thread. To calm the noise that insured over these incidents, mother persuaded the sister to teach Fedio the correct way to embroider. When Fedio learned to sew, then he wasn’t interested in finishing his sister’s embroideries.

 

Fedio immigrated to the United States in August 20, 1912 on a small ship named George Washington, and landed at Ellis Island, New York. His name was Americanized from Fedio to Frank Theodore Kovatz. Frank thought that he would work a few years, make and save his money and go back home to Galacia. From Ellis Island, Frank went to Scranton, PA where he found work in the coal mines sorting and picking out the slate and stones from the large pieces on the rolling conveyer belt. One of his fingers on the left hand was smashed and the hand injured. Later, he was able to find work at the Ukrainian paper, the Narodyna Wolya (The People’s Will). After a few years in Scranton, PA, he came to Binghamton and found work in EJ shoe factory in Johnson City.

 

Frank’s best friend and next door neighbor in Europe, Mike Ivanycky (Iwanicky), immigrated to the United States too. Michael arrived one month later and on the same ship, the George Washington. Michael went to Scranton and found work in the coal mines. Michael married Helen Sokira. Michael was killed in a coal mine accident, leaving a widow with two daughters, Mary age 6 and Olga age 3. Frank married Helen Sokira Iwanicky and they became a family and made their home in Johnson City. In 1924 a daughter, Mildred, was born. Frank was instrumental in organizing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and this was accomplished in 1926. In 1920, Frank and other Ukrainian men and women organized a Drama Club and put on plays in the Ukrainian National Home on Downs Avenue in Binghamton, NY. Later on it became evident that a Ukrainian church was needed. The first church service was held in the Ukrainian National Home. Frank was instrumental in organizing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and this was accomplished in 1926.

 

A meeting was called and there was a problem. One of the men among the group wanted the church to be Roman Catholic and invited a Roman Catholic priest to the meeting. When the priest came, he also brought along a keg of beer announcing in Ukrainian “payte hlopchi”—(“drink up fellows”). My father protested and stated that drinking will be done after the vote. I don’t remember the name of the Roman Catholic priest, but I do know the man’s name as my father told me about this incident on several occasions. Who knows how the vote would have turned out if the men drank first. I don’t think that too many of our parishioners are aware of this important incident. At that time prohibition was in effect. The prohibition era was from 1920 to 1933.

 

I would like to give you a description and the location of the church. This north side of Johnson City was known as Park View and it was very countryish. Many of the people of Park View raised chickens; a few had pigs, also a few tethered cows grazed on the undeveloped land. The majority of the roads were dirt, oiled in the spring or early summer to keep the dust down.

 

On a tree lined country road stood a cinder block building that once was a black smith shop. The building didn’t have any front stairs or steps but a slanted grooved cement ramp leading up to a gray wooden front vestibule that had a door with an old fashion lock. When the level was raised, the door opened.

 

I inquired and wanted to know why there was a grooved slanted cement ramp in the front of the building. My father told me that this building was once a black smith shop and the horses and wagons were brought into the shop by this ramp and not stairs/steps. The road in front of the building, the main road, was called Maple Avenue because many tall maple trees lined both sides of the hard packed oiled road. I remember one interesting incident. It was a warm Sunday afternoon when church was over and the parishioners stood on the cement ramp greeting and talking with each other. Mr. John Maliwacki, uncle of John Maliwacki and the brother of John’s father, Nicholas, crossed the street and climbed up one of the trees. When Mr. John Maliwacki, came down, he held in his hand his black hat filled with mushrooms. Well, the

parishioners didn’t think that tree mushrooms were safe to eat, but Mr. Maliwacki disagreed with them. Ukrainians really enjoy picking and eating wild mushrooms. On another Sunday, on the same ramp, Sophia Kasprowiz (Casper) after church handed me a package. Inside was a beautiful dress just for me! I’ll never forget that gift of a pale green skirt that buttoned onto a white blouse. The occasion must have been my birthday as the day was warm and it was summertime. I do have a birthday in August.

 

A short distance from the church going east, past Albany, Zoa, and Virginia Avenue, was a farmer’s feed store owned by the family named Usukus. Across the street, on the east side of the creek was a small red building. Inside was a small one room grocery store that sold penny candy, plus a few groceries. This store was run by an elderly person, Mrs. Sharp, who lived in the back with her family. A little past the feed store off Maple Avenue running north was a street called Pleasant Avenue. Here on this street was a big, old fashion yellow farm house which later became the parish home for Fr. Zaparyniuk and his family. What amazed me was that this house had two stairways leading to the upstairs. One stairway was from the kitchen, and the other stairway was from the front room or called the parlor.

 

Maple Avenue went a little further East and joined into Stella Road. I don’t know whether it was called Stella New Ireland Road, but we called the road Stella. Stella Road curved a little and Prospect Street, Downs Avenue and C.F.J. Blvd. are about in the same location now as they were then. On Stella and Prospect Avenue, there was a shoe store owned by Michael and Anna Proc, parents of Rose Klodowski. After prohibition, the parents had a restaurant/tavern called Proc’s Inn. When the new highway route 17 was being constructed, this section of Prospect Street was changed and the building and others were demolished for the highway. On the corner of Downs Avenue and C.F.J. Blvd. was an ice cream parlor called “The Sugar Bowl”. This was the only neighborhood store that sold different ice cream dishes ie, splits, shakes, soda, and a choice of different ice cream flavors. The other store that sold ice cream only in two flavors was Courlas Brothers located on the corner of Maple and Pearl Avenue. The Sugar Bowl was the stop for the trolley (street car) that provided transportation to Binghamton.

 

Inside the wooden vestibule was another door with a lock. I remember a man having a key and opening the door so that we children could enter. Inside the church were wooden benches, called lavke. I believe that these benches were home made as they didn’t look store bought. The front was like a desk that had a shelf underneath to hold articles, and the seat was a bench with a V wedge cut out to leave standing legs or feet for balance. There were two boards about 6 or 8 inches wide and 5 or 6 feet long nailed to form a back rest for the seat which enclosed the front end of the shelf. The bench and the desk were joined together by using a hook and eye fastener. These lavke were later brought into the basement of the new church and used for the Ukrainian classes and seats for many plays and concerts that were held in the new church.

 

Our alter was raised, like a stage, hidden by a heavy, dark maroon curtain. Behind the wall, on the left side, running the length of the middle area (nave) was a narrow room that held a bar. I was in this room only once, and remember seeing a long dark tall wooden bar, which I was not able to see over the counter top of the bar. There was a door from the front, but I don’t remember if there was a door that opened into the church from this room. I do remember seeing a man behind the bar and my father was talking to him. There weren’t any other people present at this time. Prohibition was in effect between 1920-1933.

 

The church was the social life of the people. Social events were held here too. I recall we either had a dance or a party here. My parents dressed me in a costume as an Indian girl, and I won a prize, a box of candy, which I still remember. Maybe it was a Halloween party.

 

I also remember that a dinner was held here. My mother, Helen Kovatz, and father, carried clean dishes and silverware in market baskets to the church. They carried the dirty dishes in the market basket back home to be washed. There weren’t any facilities in this church for washing dishes. Also I think that there wasn’t any hot water available. I also remember my parents carrying down to the church our 3 burner kerosene stove. I don’t know whether the stove was used for this occasion.

 

At one time in our home on Albany Avenue, we had a couple of priests living with us for a short while. I also remember we had a cantor staying with us at one time. This cantor, I don’t recall his name, had a car and took my father and me for a ride up Stella Ireland Road. I was glad for the ride that I don’t remember if any one else was in the car. Also I remember the cantor, while my parents were at work, and we children were at home, bought a big whole stem of bananas from the peddler. The peddler was called a huckster who came around once a week, selling produce from their trucks.

 

The house on the north east corner of Hillside Street and Albany Avenue was the first parish home. A dinner was held in a tent on the empty lot next to the parish home. I remember my father stringing an extension cord from the house back porch ceiling light into the tent. I think that Father Kocan and his family lived here first, then Father Revera and his family. When Father Zaparyniuk came, the big yellow farm house became the parish home on Pleasant Avenue while the new church and rectory was being built on Virginia Avenue.

 

The Christmas and Easter church diners were the suggestions of Father Kocan. He stated that by having these dinners and suppers will unite the parish members and help stabilize the church. These dinners became one of our traditions. The Easter Dinner (St. Thomas Sunday) was discontinued after Father and Pani Lawryk were here for some time. The reason was that the parishioners were getting tired of eating ham and kobaci for one week and then have the same menu on the following Sunday, St. Thomas. The attendance at St. Thomas’ dinners were diminishing, and it was thought best to discontinue them.

 

The church was always short of money and could never pay all of their expenses. These were extremely hard times as the stock market fell and people were laid off from work and unemployment was everywhere in the nation. Fear and worry were a constant companion to the parishioners. George F. Johnson, a founder of the Endicott Johnson Shoe factories, did many things for the community. Some of these are: He kept his workers employed for a few hours and or a few days a week. He also provided free hot meals in the EJ dinner for adults and children alike so no one would go hungry. He also had a bakery in his diner and one was able to buy bake goods such as bread for 5 cents a loaf and cookies. I have yet to taste a hermit bar cookie as delicious as the ones that were made by E.J. Bakery. Mr. Johnson also had a railroad box car sent from Florida filled with bagged oranges. This box car would be on the railroad siding on Avenue C for a few days or until all the fruit was sold. The car was opened at certain hours, and the price of the bagged oranges was reasonable. Also the workers were able to buy shoes from E.J. Shoe store at a discount every Thursday, that’s when most of the shoes were bought by families. If there were several children in the family, each child would have to wait his turn for a Thursday to get a pair of shoes, if needed. Mr. Johnson also provided free medical/hospitalization for his workers and families. At Christmas time, every child of a certain age received a gift. A doll for a girl and a sled for a boy, plus a small box of hard Christmas candy for each. I do recall being in a large room with seats and Santa Claus was there as I was sitting in the front row seat for a while. This must have been the high school with a Christmas play. I do remember walking and it was cold, but the thought of getting a doll kept me going, and I remember carrying the doll home. I cannot recall what the doll looked like or how it was dressed. At the time when I was born, Mr. Johnson gave a gift of money to the parents for the baby. A girl received $10.00 and a boy $20.00, and this was before and after the depression according to what was told to me by my parents. I don’t know how long these birthday gifts from Mr. Johnson continued. Also he gave parks and carousels. In the beginning, a small fee was charged to ride the carousel; and then later, the rides were free. Mr. Johnson also was present at the cutting, blessing, and opening of our new church. He also presented a sum of money for the new church.

 

Father Zaparyniuk came here about one month before the stock market fell. He made changes in the plans for the construction of the church and rectory. Money was needed desperately for the continuation of construction. Father Zaparyniuk, my father and perhaps other members of the church committee went to the Marine Midland Workers Trust Bank to secure a loan. Mr. Winfield, President of the bank, refused the loan and instead gave advice. He told Father Zaparyniuk that as long as he (Fr. Zaparyniuk) has a pair of shoes on his feet with soles that he should go back. Mr. Winfield mentioned that there are churches on Main Street that the people could attend and that another church is not needed.

 

When the bank refused the loan, then the church had to look elsewhere for the money. The church appealed to the parishioners for money. One of our parishioners, Andrew Malowicky, had a brother Cyril who lived near Syracuse, New York. Cyril Malowicky and his wife Antoinette gave a sum of money for the continuation construction of the church. I do not know whether the money was as loan, a gift or a donation. As far as I know, I don’t think that Cyril and Antoinette were members of our church.

 

Andrew Malowicky was a devout Orthodox Christian who helped the priest by the altar. Andrew helped train the altar boys. Also he served as an altar boy himself when none were present. Andrew also helped robed the priest for the forthcoming service. Andrew served by the altar for many years. He was a faithful servant.

 

According to what my father told me, my dad mortgaged his house for the church. I don’t know if the mortgage was given at this time or earlier. Also Michael Kost gave and eventually lost his money. I think that Mr. Kost mortgaged his hall, where our church was started. This building changed hands and was renovated several times. Mr. Harry Karaim and his wife, Mary, parish members, had a grocery store on Maple Avenue (now Harry L. Drive) where Charley’s Tavern is now located. The church building was renovated for living quarters, and a grocery store. Mr. Karaim moved his business and family here and operated his store for many years. Later, the grocery store was continued by Mr. Joe Hunkovich and then Mrs. Bishop. Mrs. Bishop later made the store into apartments as it is today. 

 

Harry Kariam saw several acres of land for sale on Fairview Avenue. He told the church to buy this property for our cemetery which they did. This property has a beautiful view over looking the valley. The decedents that are now present as parish members of Harry and Mary Karaim including grandson John Karaim, wife Arlene; granddaughter Linda Zapach, husband Joseph; granddaughter Marianne Tulley and great-grandchildren Joseph, Timmy Zapach and Katie Tulley.

My father before the church was organized belonged to the Drama Club at the Ukrainian National Home on Downs Avenue in Binghamton. He enjoyed singing and acting in plays and concerts with the other members. For a while, he substituted as a diak (cantor) in both churches.

 

Dad was always in the prestovnias (plays). There was always a new play every few weeks that the people put on to raise money for the church. Our house was filled with my father singing or memorizing his part in the new play.

 

Some of the things that I remember that my father did for the love of his church.

1. Dad would be up late until all hours of the night, cutting and sewing the blue velvet jackets for the ladies in the choir. He also made the blue velvet jackets with the yellow accent trimmings and the Cossacks hats for the male dancers. The sewing machine seemed to be singing right along with my father. Our choir and dancers performed for the public. Some of the places were The Monday Afternoon Club, Binghamton Central High School, Union-Endicott High School, Johnson City Library, Labor Day at En-Joie Park and other places. Mary Evanow Rozinski played the piano for the dancers.

 

2. Dad cut out the pattern for the church banners, which the ladies embroidered. I also remember embroidering some of the outline borders. These brown banners are now on display in our third church at St. John’s Parkway.

 

3. He cut out and made the black vestments for the priest. There wasn’t any money to buy ready made vestments. I remember a very neighborly incident. The Polish National Church on Harry L. Drive built their church after ours. They asked us if we would let them borrow our plastinitsya (winding sheet) for their Good Friday. Our priest, I think, was Fr. Zaparyniuk, asked in church of our parishioners to grant this request. When our Good Friday came, we had a few worshipers from the All Saints Polish National Church attending our Good Friday service.

 

4. He taught some of the ladies in our parish how to embroider. He would not allow any mistakes. If a mistake was made in the embroidery, it had to be ripped out, even if it required a lot of ripping out of the thread to fix the error. Otherwise the design would not come out right and that would be the end of the embroidery lesson. I went through that with my father and my lessons were canceled for a long time. I finally had to rip the mistake out.

 

5. He gave ideas, supervised, and helped make the decorations for the floats that were in several parades.

 

6. Drew up the plan for the cemetery on the division of the lots. I still have the drawing of the plan.

 

7. Help cleared the land for the cemetery. The stump puller was kept in our shanty. This shanty was our play house. My sisters, Mary Iwanicki Kovatz Kostyun, Olga Iwanicki Kovatz Mazilewski, and I were very glad when this big monstrosity was removed as it took up to one-half of the room in the little play house.

 

8. Mr. Farley, who owned most of the vacant land on this north side, gave the church permission for use of a parcel of land on Zoa Avenue for a picnic grounds. The land had trees and underbrush, which had to be cleared off. This was done by the men in the parish, doing some of the work in the evenings, but mostly all day on Saturdays. I know that the stump puller was used, and I know that some of the trees were cut down. Some of the trees were cut about one and one-half feet from the ground and a long plank was nailed between two standing stumps providing a place to sit. Not all of the trees were cut, only those where the dance platform and the refreshment stand were built. The dance platform was built on the remaining height of the stumps (around 4-5 ft.) to be the pillars for posts. A second platform was built several years later to replace the first due to weathering and deterioration. There were about 3 steps leading to the platform. A small raised area was at one end of the platform where the musicians would stand and play. It was large enough to hold 3 or 4 musicians and their instruments comfortably. Along the edges/sides of the platform including the musicians’ stand, except where the steps were located, seats were made out of long boards. The seating bench was along the same order as one would today put on a porch deck.

 

A little corn meal was sprinkled onto the dance area making the floor easier to dance on; a little slippery. In order to dance, one would have to purchase a little colored ribbon (blue or yellow) and pin it onto the garment (shoulder) of each dancer. By buying this ribbon, the dancer would be entitled to dance till dusk. My mother, Helen Kovatz, stood at the foot of the steps and sold the ribbons for either 10 or 25 cents. One could sit on the bench seat, but as soon as one got up to dance if they didn’t have a ribbon on, then they were asked to sit down and not dance.

 

In the beginning, there were not any lights so the picnic usually ended when it got dark. There were several men that had cars. They would bring their cars close to the dance platform and shine their car lights on the dance floor for one or two more dances. Eventually, an electric wire was strung over the platform area, snack stand and the liquid refreshment bar. The bar was about 6 to 8 feet long located adjacent to the food stand. The height of the bar was about 3 to 4 feet and two tree stumps provided the base for a wider board that was nailed to the stumps making a table top to hold beer glasses. I don’t think that paper cups were available, even if they were, the church couldn’t afford them. Off a little way behind the snack shack (stand) in the woods was a special place. I’ve noticed that quite a few men kept coming and going there. I thought that they were relieving themselves. There weren’t any restrooms that I knew of, and I asked Dad about the coming and going. Dad told me that is the kutcha (corner) where a bottle of liquor was kept and shots were sold, as this was another way of making money. The food sold were hot dogs with mustard, candy bars, soft drinks in small bottles, beer, and ice cream cones. The ice cream was purchased from Hall’s Ice Cream Company. The ice cream was made and came in a tall metal cylinder. This cylinder was placed in a wooden bucket/barrel with big chunks of ice to help keep it cold and hard. The flavor sold was always vanilla, but one time, grape nut ice cream was sold. The ice cream was scooped out of the can with a dipper, just as it is done today. The candy bars sold were Hershey’s plain chocolate and also with almonds. There was probably another variety of candy as I remember buying Butterfinger and Babe Ruth candy bars at our prestovnias (plays) down the basement of the church. The Butterfinger candy was very long. To me, they were at least 12 inches in length, and I got my money’s worth. Babe Ruth candy was also big and fat in diameter and these bars were delicious. Bar checks were sold in order to buy anything. This is how they kept track of things sold and would have an idea of buying the projected quantities for the next picnic. If there were any unsold hot dogs and buns, this food would then be sold to the parishioners at cost as the church did not have a refrigerator. I don’t know whether refrigerators or freezers were available at that time, for we only had ice boxes. 

 

Chances were sold on a punch card having different common names of boys or girls listed. On the top, right-hand corner of the card under a seal would be a name of a boy or a girl. A person would pick out and sign his name next to his choice. When all of the names were sold, then the seal would be removed, and the name under the seal was the winner of that chance board. The person who bought that name won the prize. The articles that were put up for chance varied. Most of the time it was for a box of candy, and at one time a live chicken. Once my parents won a live rabbit, but turned the rabbit in for the next week’s prize. Also a ball of Italian provolone cheese was donated by Mr. Yannuzzi, who at that time was our church supplier for beer.

 

9. My father made a wooden dummy with a hinged head. This was a game of skill, just as we have today at fairs, etc. By buying 3 baseballs and knocking the head over with a thrown ball (3 chances) one could either win a choice of a cigar or a bar of candy. The wooden dummy’s body was a painted silhouette about 3 to 4 feet in height plus the head. This was nailed onto the inside of a wooden box which contained some weights, i.e. stones for balance. This was not a good money maker, and the game was omitted after several picnics.

 

An empty milk wagon was the temporary refreshment stand for a very short time while until the wooden snack shack could be built. This milk wagon, painted yellow, must have been pulled by several men and left in our back yard, after the shack was built. The wagon didn’t stay long, and I enjoyed playing in it while it was parked in our yard. I don’t remember how or when or where it was taken. But some time later, I saw a yellow milk wagon in Mr. Michael and Mary Kaspryk’s back yard. I was glad to see that wagon again for it brought back pleasant memories to me in my playing in it.

 

I now live across the street on Zoa Avenue from where the church picnic grounds were many years ago.

 

10. Several bazaars were held in the new church basement. My father made a spin the wheel with numbers and nails similar in today’s wheel at a casino. He also painted the corresponding numbers on an oil cloth where one would place their bets on a number. I remember at one of the bazaars, my Dad spent his whole pay check and won a leather belt. Mother was very upset because we didn’t have any money to live on until the next pay day.

 

I also remember one time in an early spring, our coal bin was empty, and our house was cold. My father’s friend, who lived in Binghamton, told Dad to see Mr. Korbol as he was a relief or a social worker who helped the needy people. Dad went and asked Mr. Korbol for a half ton of coal or a loan to buy some. Father was told to sell his house, and Dad said that he would never again ask for charity. I do know that Mother and Dad would go to the bank to borrow money. By the time they finished paying off the loan, they would have to sign up and borrow again. It was a vicious cycle with never an end in sight for my parents.

 

I remember we used kerosene lamps for lighting. The electric wires and poles were not extended to our house, but they stopped at the east south side corner of Hillside Street and Albany Avenue. Dad requested electricity from the electric company. The official stated that the price of the pole was $20.00, and Dad would have to pay the sum. Father agreed but requested a receipt for the pole. The official was surprised and wanted to know why Dad wanted a receipt. Dad simply stated if he should need some wood, i.e. for the furnace, then Dad could go across the street and chop the pole down because he paid for it. Well, the official didn’t go for that. We did get the pole and the wire, and Dad didn’t have to pay for them. The kerosene lamps were stored away.

 

The parishioners always wished for a nice sunny Sunday afternoon during the summer months when a picnic was being held. The afternoon was a day filled with music, dancing, comradeship and refreshments. We children had a great time running around or picking wild strawberries in season. We also would walk to one of the two well water hand pumps that were located on Wren Street near Albany Avenue and a little lower on Pearl Avenue. Mrs. Julia Hryck lived on Pearl Avenue, and the water pump was located between her front yard and the vacant lot next door. There would always be a cup placed on the pump, and we enjoyed priming the pump to get the water flowing so that we could get a drink. Also we would take walks into the woods looking for and picking hazel nuts or wild flowers. There were a few apple trees growing above the picnic area, but these apples were small, hard and buggy.

 

Quite a few years later, one of our priests, I don’t remember who, taught us church children songs to sing in Ukrainian along with a routine movements, (pravid) waving small American flags (i.e., 1 ft. x 1 ft.). This is similar in today’s cheer leaders, only we were more gentle and not jumping around as much. We did this singing and moving on the dance platform a couple of times for one season during a Sunday afternoon picnic. After the performance, we were treated to ice cream cones, by the generosity of Mr. Andrew Potochniak. The stress of keeping the Church solvent was very difficult for the parish priest and we had quite a turn over of priests. We had a priest that stayed here only one month, usually the priest stayed a little longer.

 

The parish priest would hold Ukrainian school lessons on a Monday and Wednesday and religion on Friday. The hours were from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM. To keep order and quietness in class as each student read his assigned lesson, the priest required obedience from each student. Sometimes one or two of the boys were a little rambunctious and were told to quiet down. If this continued after 3 reprimands, then the unruly boy had to leave his seat and kneel down on the floor until the class was dismissed.

 

Our religion (catechism) was taught in the Ukrainian language. This consisted mostly of the prayers and the 10 commandments. I was able to repeat this in Ukrainian but didn’t know what it meant or explain it in English until some time later. All of our priests, at that time, spoke fluently in Ukrainian but not in English. I am glad that Father and Pani Lawryk instituted the church services in both Ukrainian and English languages as this procedure gives meaning and understanding. We also now have and had for some time, excellent teachers and bible study materials to guide our youngsters. We have come a long way these past 70 years.

 

It was summer time and Anthony Kulyk (diak, cantor) and his wife Oksanna, had a farm on East Main Road. They invited Father Revera and family, Nick Ther and family, my father and family to an afternoon on the farm. What an enjoyable time we all had. The ladies picked strawberries from Kulyk’s strawberry patch, while the men were making homemade ice cream. This was done by cranking the handle of the old fashion ice cream churn. Rock salt and broken pieces of ice were placed in the wooden container around the metal cylinder which contained the custard and needed to be firmed up. We children enjoyed watching all of this and finally did get to eat the ice cream with strawberries. What a wonderful afternoon we had playing with Olga Kulyk Tarcha Drost, Nellie Kulyk Lesko Boser, and Joe Kulyk. I remember riding in Mr. Ther’s car on this Sunday afternoon, and I was about 4 years old. At one time when my father was single, he used to live with the Kulyks on Broad Street in Johnson City, and they were life time good friends.

 

11. Dad electrified the candles on the altar to save money as bees’ wax candles were expensive, and this also eliminated the melting wax dripping down onto the altar cloth.

 

12. Dad also took turns in firing the coal burning steam boiler which heated the rectory and the church building. The furnace was located in the rectory’s basement. The heat was transported via an underground pipe to the church and radiators. Our supper hour was at 7:30 PM when Dad came home from his chore, and we children came home from church school. In the winter time, he would clean off the church’s sidewalks and stairs of the snow. There were several other men that helped out and took turns including Nick Ther, Dmytro Ceklynski and others.

 

When the church was being built, I would run to the church site after school to see what was accomplished. I would then report the progress at the supper table. One time, I thought that I had exceptionally good news to tell. The foundation was up, and I got up and onto the top of the foundation and walked all around it. The workers/men never said anything to me. They went on handling the boards etc., and I went on walking. My father was concerned when I told what I did. Dad did not scold or spank me for doing this. He said that I must not ever do anything like that again as I could fall and really injure myself. Then every one in the family would be sorrowful. I obeyed and never did anything like that again. I still reported the progress on the construction of the church and rectory.

 

The church and rectory were done. I came for another progress report. In the parking lot was a car, my father, Nick Ther and another man. I saw something that I never noticed before. They were removing a beautiful white 2 colonnade doll house from the car. Why? I wanted to play with this house. I wanted to open up the front door and look inside. I was so close that I could have reached out and touched this house with my hand. I went home disappointed. When Dad came home later, I asked him what is a doll house doing in church. That is when Dad told me that God lives in this house, and it is God’s temple and He is present in this church for all of us. I never saw this beautiful temple so close. I know that I have never noticed it on Maple Avenue as the dark maroon curtain, to me, always seemed to be drawn. Also I didn’t know what to look for in the church service. This scene will always remain with me. A “house” being put into another house. Today I have a better understanding of the passages in the Bible. “The kingdom of God is within me. I am the temple of God. In God, I live, move and have my being. I am a child of God”. The thought that God is present in the church for all of us is comforting, knowing that He cares, and we are His children. Also god loves us regardless of our faults.

 

I remember some fragments of the blessings of our church. Finally the big day arrived when the church and rectory was completed. The American and Ukrainian flags were carried by two men who led the procession. I don’t know if we had any church banners at this time. The clergy and the rest of the parishioners followed walking on the street from Maple Avenue to Virginia Avenue. I remember being on Virginia Avenue and walking up the driveway/parking lot of the new church. When the procession stopped, I was standing on the sidewalk between the church and the rectory looking up at the group of people in front of the closed doors of the church. I recognized Archbishop John, Father Zaparyniuk, and George F. Johnson at the top of the stairs. To me, it seemed that I was standing in this same place for a long time. Finally the doors to the church were opened. Dad came to where I was standing and took me into the rectory’s office. He thought that I might be cold as it was October, and the day wasn’t too warm. I don’t remember attending a church service. The adults had a dinner in the church basement. We children were told to go upstairs and sit in the pews, and we would get something to eat. Sophia Kasprowitz (Casper) passed out sandwiches to us, with a choice of either ham or bologna. I don’t remember if we were given anything to drink.

 

13. Dad enjoyed gardening and grew many flowers besides his vegetables. During the blooming season and an hour before church service, he would pick flowers and make 6 to 8 bouquets to be placed into the church. I would run with these bouquets to the church and give them to either Mr. Frank Zavada or Mr. Walter Puchir (cantor) who would place them into vases and put them around accordingly. There would always be two for the altar, two for the icon of Mary and Jesus, two for the icon of Jesus and two for the tripod. Some of the variety of flowers was roses, phlox, gladiolus, foxgloves, canter berry bells, sweet williams, lilies, chrysanthemums, dahlias, asters, and zinnias.

 

The church became our social life. There was always some activity going on. Some of these were Ukrainian school, Ukrainian dancing practice, bazaars, choir practice, rehearsals for the coming plays, concerts, dances, dinners, suppers, parties for wedding anniversaries, movies and bingo.

 

We usually would have a Sunday dinner after church for all the parishioners. The ladies (mothers) would do most of the cooking at home and then bring the prepared food to the church basement. The church kitchen was very small. The dimensions didn’t seem much larger than 12 ft. long and 8 to 10 foot wide. It contained a large sink, 2 stoves, a pass through with 2 double closed storage cabinets above and below a full-length counter. When 3 ladies were in the kitchen at one time, they were crowded and in each other’s way.

 

Our ladies were very adaptable and inventive. The church did not have a coffee urn. In a big pot, water was put on to boil. Then the ladies would empty a bag of ground coffee into a white cloth bag and tie the opening closed. The tied bag then would be suspended from a large wooden spoon laid across the top of the pot into the boiling water. When the coffee reached the desired strength, the bag of coffee grounds were removed and the coffee was ladled out into cups and served.

 

These dinners were held frequently about one Sunday each month except during the summer months when we had our picnics. The parishioners were asked to contribute towards them. A good will offering was taken after each dinner to help defray expenses, and also to help pay for the food for the next dinner. Many times the contributions weren’t enough. My sister Mary Iwanicki Kovatz Kostyun and Mary Dobransky Mihalko together would go collecting from the parishioners homes asking for contributions. They felt very lucky if they received 25 cents at a home. Usually the parishioners didn’t give that much and made the young girls feel unwelcome. They also sold dance, raffle, and other tickets. I know that other young ladies went to the parishioner’s homes at one time or another to sell tickets.

 

The menu usually consisted of meat, mashed potatoes, perhaps a vegetable in season, coffee, and Mrs. Anastasia Kasprowitz’s 1 or 2 large pans of honey cake with pink icing. Sometimes we would have a meat loaf, a few chickens, or holupki. Our farmers were very generous as they would sometimes contribute the chickens or a butchered calf, the vegetables and the cream/milk for the coffee, etc. After the meal was eaten, if someone had an interesting story (byka) or a funny joke to tell, this would be the time to tell it. Then the ladies would clean up and the men would fold the tables and store them away under the stage.

 

My father always credited our generous farmers whom he stated was the back bone of our parish, and we could not survive without their help. I would like to give recognition to them, and also to their decedents whom are still members of our parish today.

 

Charles and Anna Okrepkie; Dymtro and Eva Okrepkie, son Charles, wife Anna, and daughter Sophia Cox; Wasyl and Anna Okrepkie, son Joseph and daughter Mary Buckingham, husband Gerald; Charles and Anna Okrepkie, son Myron, son Walter, wife Doris; Michael and Francis Okrepki, son Dr. Jim, wife Dr. Christina; Peter and Julia Foyt; Michael and Katherine Byce, daughter Kay Dobransky, grandsons Peter, Michael, Gary Dobransky and great grandchildren Kevin, Christie, Peter John Dobransky; Joseph and Anastasia Kasprowitz, granddaughters Johanna Towers, Juanita Glass Atwood and great grandchildren Emily, Andrew, Amanda Towers and James, Kathleen and Jason Atwood; Anthony and Oksanna Kulyk, daughters Olga Tarcha Drost, Nellie Leska Boser, grandson Nick Tarcha Sr., wife Nancy, great grandson Nick Tarcha Jr., wife Patricia; great grandson Adrenin Mihalko; William and Pauline Sanyshyn.

 

Ukrainian Day was also held on the various farms. Some of the parish members, men and women, would go a few days earlier to help set up and prepare for the big day, including the cooking. I recall that there was an accident on Charles and Anna Okrepki’s farm the day before Ukrainian Day. At that time there wasn’t any electricity on the farm and Charles Okrepki was preparing the carbide system for lights. He was in the process of lighting the carbide gas when it exploded. Fortunately Mr. Okrepki wasn’t too seriously hurt or burned, and Ukrainian Day was thankfully held.

 

Ukrainian Day on the farm was fun. Mr. Michael Stasko, father of Stefina Staskso, who owned a big truck would transport most of the parishioners to and from the farm. We would file in the back of the truck standing up and adding more people until there wasn’t any more room for more. A few times the truck would sway and bend a little on one side then to the other side while we tried to keep a balance and not move around much. We on the back of the truck would scream thinking perhaps we would fall out of the truck or that the back of the truck might roll over on the narrow country road. Others who had their own cars came in them.

 

Divine Liturgy was a beautiful service held outside in an open field with birds singing, the sun shining and feeling God’s peaceful goodness. After Divine Liturgy, the prepared dinner was served by the ladies, on the previous setup tables and chairs brought from the church and placed outside on the lawn. The afternoon was spent as a family playing games such as baseball, sack racing, potato relay racing, running, broad and high jumping. When milking time came, we children would run with the dog into the pasture and herd the cows back home and into the barn for milking. This was a contest between fathers to see who could milk the fastest and get the most amount of milk in the shortest time possible. Also we had a few men who played violins providing the music for an afternoon of a dance or two along with some singing. Everyone pitched in, adults and children alike, to make the day enjoyable for all including clean up time. The day came to an end and we all went home exhausted and happily looking forward again to next year’s Ukrainian Day on the farm. World War II came and Ukrainian Day was discontinued on the farm but was held on the church grounds or Kokalas’ picnic area.

 

Divine Liturgy started at 10:00 AM and lasted anywhere from 2 to 2 ½ hours or longer depending on the length of the sermon, announcements, or special services and holidays. We had a few priests who would criticize other ethnic groups from the pulpit. This always touched a sore spot as we had several members who were not Ukrainians but were married to Ukrainians. They threatened to leave the church, and my father would go to their homes to be a reconciliatory as they were good friends. Also our parish was small, and we could not afford to lose any members. An agreement was usually reached and there wasn’t any more derogatory remarks said from the pulpit. Over the years, we had quite a number of new members and some left for various reasons. Credit is given to the U.O.L in promoting harmony and fellowship between other Orthodox and Christian churches in the community. Also education, tolerance, and applying the Golden Rule contributes to understanding. Orthodox Sunday is one example of this fellowship.

 

The priest would always end his sermon in asking the parishioners to give money as the church needed it to meet expenses. The priest would also read the names of donors, amount given and the reason. I still have 3 small notebooks dated from 1927 to 1933 with the names of donors written in Ukrainian by my father.

 

When the church service was about ½ through, usually after the kazena (sermon), some of the men would go downstairs to the basement. Here the men would go for a smoke or a shot of liquor. Yes, it was available and was sold unlawfully on Sunday mornings before the designated time. One Sunday, while the church service was going on, the Johnson City Police came and an arrest downstairs was made. The charges were later dropped, but there wasn’t any noticeable behavioral changes. Some changes take time and patience.

 

One could always count on the Kovatz’s family to be in church. This was especially true during the Easter Lent. I remember one time during the Lenten service, my sister Olga fell asleep in the pew. She rolled off the bench and fell to the floor with a bang.

 

My father was working very hard trying to keep the church afloat and to support his family. He had many countless sleepless nights of worrying and trying to find solutions. I will never forget the time when my mother cried out in anguish during an early morning hour. We girls awoke and ran frightened into my parents’ bedroom. We saw my mother standing by the side of the bed calling and crying out to my father. With one hand my mother was massaging Dad’s chest. With the other hand she placed her index finger between his teeth to keep them from shutting tight. I don’t know for how long Mother massaged Dad’s chest. Sometime later my Father opened his eyes and moaned. Mother stated that Dad shook, stiffened up, stopped breathing and wouldn’t respond to her call. Dad stayed home in bed and Mother went to work in the morning. On her way to work, Mom stopped into E.J.’s medical asking for a house visit from a doctor. I was at home and my sisters, Olga and Mary, went to school. Dr. Wilely came and gave Dad some medication. Dad was told to stay in bed for a week and not to do anything for about another week. Archbishop John was in town and came with our priest to visit Dad. This was a pleasant surprise and honor. This unexpected visit made his day. Many years later after thinking about this, I wondered if Dad suffered a heart attack or a stroke and Mom applied some type of CPR. There was another time when Dad was ill and the choir came and sang lifting his spirits with their joyful songs. He enjoyed this unexpected visit as Dad belonged to the choir and felt their love and concern.

 

The bank on the south side below the church was eroding especially after winter and rainstorms. The men in the church tried to put the dirt back on the bank. Trees and shrubs also were planted there. The church was thinking about buying this vacant lot thus giving them more control in maintenance. They also saw a possibility of a club house being built there in the future. Before they had a chance to purchase this property, it was sold.

 

Father and Pani Nizenkivsky came and stayed a while. They were a middle aged couple. He was tall, slender, and rolled his own cigarettes which fascinated me. Pani Nizenkivesky had long medium brownish gray hair which she braided and wore it as a crown on her head. Pani had a beautiful voice and sang in the Kochits’ Choir and was not here often as the choir was on a tour. They also had a black and white collie dog called Kign (King) which was very obedient and understood Ukrainian. One time Father Nuizenkivesky had to be out of town for several days and asked Dad to take care of King. The dog refused to leave the church grounds and no amount of urging would persuade him to do otherwise. Only one thing to do, Dad picked King up and carried him to our house. We girls enjoyed the dog, fed him including our peanut butter sandwiches and plenty of water. Father Nizkivesky came back from his trip and King went home but would come with us to our house if we came for him. Sometime later while King was outside at night at the parish house, someone shot him in the hip in one of the hind legs. He was taken to the vet, slug removed and treated. The dog survived, and I don’t know if he sustained any permanent injury. While pasturing this parish, Father and Pani Nizenkivesky’s carpeting was removed by someone from the stairs in their New York City apartment. The time came for Father and Pani to lave this area.

 

Our church meetings were very volatile and drawn out. Order was not observed for long. It was not unusual for a few men to leave the meetings very angry and shouting as they left. The amazing part is that things were able to get done without the knowledge and application of Roberts Rules. Each one had their own rules which included out talking, out shouting, and interrupting one another.

 

The KKK (Ku Klux Klan) was active in the 1930s. They would come in cars up Albany Avenue and stop near the top of the street, alighting from their cars, firing their guns, and burning a flaming cross. The people near by in their homes would turn off their lights and the Klansmen would soon depart. Burning crosses were also visible on the hill above the Polish Church on Prospect Street.

 

My Dad always wanted our church to emulate the early church as in the Bible. Our parish was a family and as a family we are all bound together to help one another when needed. My Dad was able to help one of our widows. She had four children, half grown up and didn’t have the money to pay her taxes, and a good possibility of losing her house. Dad went around to our church members collecting money to help the widow out. She knew that a party was being held in the church basement, but didn’t know that it was for her. She was so surprised and cried when she came down into the church basement. The widow was told the party was for her and that she was the honored one. There was food, dancing to violin music and merriment for all. Plus, the parishioners gave a sum of money to help pay towards her taxes.

 

Dad wanted to help out another widow but circumstances beyond his control ruled out the possibility. The World War II started, and there was a problem of getting food as it was rationed and coupons were needed to obtain meat, butter, sugar, gasoline, etc. The church was our pillar of strength. We all prayed in earnest and faith. One hundred and three of our boys went into the service and 103 came back home. Mike Muslak one of our boys was a Japanese prisoner and some time passed before we were able to find out that he was alive. Few of our boys were wounded, and they recovered. God has been good to our St. John’s Ukrainian Orthodox boys. We didn’t lose anyone. How many parishes in the in the United States can claim this priceless gift from God? I don’t know of any other church that can claim this miracle.

 

There were happy gatherings in our church basement. We did have a few 25 year wedding anniversary parties, dances, dinners, plays, bazaars, concerts etc., get together doings which also were a way of raising money for the church’s expense.

 

1937 was a very sad year for us and things never were the same or good. It was an August Saturday morning near noon time, and Dad was home from work and Mother went to work. My sister Olga was down in the cellar washing clothes. I was walking on Hillside Street coming home from the store and was able to see my Dad on the roof. Mary was not home. Dad was preparing the house for outside painting. The weather was hot, dry, and windy. Dad was standing on the back porch roof scrapping off the paint from the window sash on the upper story with the use of a borrowed blow torch. A small piece of sheeting paper was protruding out from under the wooden shingles and caught fire. Dad, in his terror thinking that he could stop the flames from spreading, started to tear off some of the shingles only adding to the speed of the flames. I’ll never forget the sound of his voice as he was hurrying down the ladder calling for Olga to call the firemen as the house was on fire. Dad connected the hose and hurriedly climbed up the ladder spraying water with the hose in trying to put out the fire. We didn’t have a phone but a neighbor down the street did, Mrs. Winters. The firemen stationed at Willow Street were stopped at the North Broad Street crossing because a freight train was passing through. The fire truck needed to be turned around and rerouted through the Lester Avenue overpass resulting in about a 5 minute delay. My Mother and Mrs. Katherine Pufky were coming home from working a half day, and they saw the fire truck and remarked about it.

 

Mom and Dad did the best they could and had the house remodeled into a two-family house. The back yard was strewn with debris and construction material. Our garden was trampled on and ruined. The place was a mess, and our once neat yard was gone. In the meantime while our house was going through the rebuilding process, our family lived with Mrs. Pufky and her family. We moved back into our house around the end of November or the early part of December. Mother became ill and died December 20, 1937 at the age of 38 years. Dad’s zest and enthusiasm for life and interest in the church diminished. He stated that his work in the church was finished, and the younger adults should take the reign. Father Stangry and his family were here. 

 

There were other up and downs in Dad’s life. He died in December 14, 1972 at the age of 79 years old. 

 

St. Johns entered the catering business around the time of WWII. Some of the teachers in Harry L. Johnson School asked my sister Mary Iwanicki Kovatz Kostyun if the ladies in our parish could put on a meal for them. The sisterhood did and before long our ladies received other requests. We became known for our tasty holupki and dinners.

 

Mrs. Kaspryk made the holupki at home and many had to be made. She also bought the necessary cabbage, meat and other ingredients. Mary Dobransky Mihalko, who worked evenings in Ansco, helped her. Mrs. Kaspryk always asked Mary just to stay a little longer and make a few more before leaving. Mary barely got to work on time. Later these holupki were bought down to the small church’s kitchen, placed into the two ovens and baked. 

 

The ladies in the sisterhood also did the necessary work to make these dinners/banquets a success. Many hands were required in the cooking, serving and cleaning up. The ladies also took turns in washing the towels etc. If the lady whose turn it was to launder the towels wasn’t present at the banquet that night, the towels would then be bundled up and dropped off on her porch by someone else going by. Much later after the Memorial Center was built, a washer and dryer were added.

 

The Memorial Center is a memorial to all of our boys who served in WWII. All of our boys, 103 who went into the service from St. John’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, came back alive. This was first a hall for the boys to play basketball as St. John’s had an excellent team. Later when the dinners/banquets became in great demand, then the hall became a place where delicious dinners could be had.

 

The dinner/banquet services paid for the Memorial Center, the 3rd new church of St. John’s The Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the rectory. 

 

There is still much work to be done and other goals to be reached.

Christmas caroling was another way of raising money for the fledgling church. In the early days, the carolers walked, and the caroling process took up to several weeks to complete all of the planned visitations. This was especially so when Christmas fell during the work week, and the carolers had to go out in the evening for several hours after working all day in the factory. It was difficult as the weather was cold, snowy and the carolers were tired.

 

The men took the business section called the First Ward along Clinton Street and the surrounding area in Binghamton. This was a good source for potential revenue as the population consisted mostly of the Slavonic people. A group of about 10 men in number did the caroling but dwindled to two or three men. They enjoyed the partying and dropped out along the way. Quite a few times the host/hostess asked my Dad where are the other carolers. Dad gave an excuse and apologize for the few in numbers.

 

The choir and the religion school children went caroling too. They did their singing locally in Johnson City, and they also walked. The children consisted mostly of girls as the boys had paper routes and had to deliver the evening papers. Mr. Walter Puchir, our cantor, diak, he came in the early 1930s, went caroling with the religion school children.

 

When transportation became available, i.e., cars, then the carolers expanded out to the vicinity of Endicott and Newark Valley.

 

We still continue this tradition today but with some modifications. Carolers are still welcome today but by invitation (RSVP) only. Also one can give a monetary donation without a visit from the carolers.

 

The school children were able to celebrate Christmas January 7. If Christmas fell on a school day, the children would have to give their name and their church of attendance on January 6 to the school principal. The children had to come to school in the morning on January 7 for ½ hour. In this way the school district was able to collect school state money for pupils attending school.

 

During these difficult times, many women played important roles in the survival of the church. One outstanding woman was our first President of the Sisterhood in 1926. Her name was Mrs. Mary Haluska, and she was honored by the church for her dedicated services of many years, May Her Memory Be Eternal. Mnohaya Lita!

 

In 1945, Rev. Frank T. Lawryk was the pastor of St. John’s. He was born in western Ukraine and was educated in Europe, and the United States. He arrived here in 1920, a student of Psychology, serving six years in the U.S. Marine Corps gathering data in the field. Father Lawryk’s first duty was the blessing of the military honor role listing the names of those who served in the service of our country in WWII. 103 were honored. 

 

On July 5, 1948, a joyful occasion occurred when the “Burning of the Mortgage” happened. Attending this event were the parishioners of the church and celebrated laymen: Rev. Stangry a former pastor, Frank Kovatz, Andrew Malowicki, Fr. Frank T. Lawryk and Rev. Michael Zaparyniuk, Sr.

 

The memorial center was built during Rev. Lawryk’s pastorship, including the rectory, Millennium Memorial edifice, and the Golden Anniversary Bell. It was during this time that a most cherished man gave his time and life to St. John’s. Michael Dobransky, Sr., a foreman of the Endicott Johnson Corp., President of the parish for five consecutive years, and secretary-treasurer of the Ukrainian Workingman’s Association. His religion was a way of life. He was happiest when he served God and his fellow man. He had purpose in living and peace in his heart.

 

 

The following is
Sophia Okrepkie Cox view point:

In conclusion, Mildred Kovatz Bogdan wishes to express her memories and family devotion by giving us this history of her church. 

 

Her father, Frank Kovatz, encouraged the Okrepkie family from Newark Valley to donate a bell that was cast in 1836, as a memorial to the founders of St. John’s Church.

 

It is her wish that those now living and the future generations would continue the faith and culture of this church and heritage.

 

The above information was compiled and written by Mrs. Mildred Kovatz Bogdan on November

1996.

 

The year of 1948 was a joyous year. The church mortgage was paid off and burned on July 5, 1948. We had as guests Metropolitian John and some of our former clergy who were still living. They included Fr. Zaparyniuk, Fr. Stangry, Fr. Lawryk, Fr. Berzk. We also had some local dignitaries and members of the early board/committees. These early members were Michael Kulik, Mr. Dubin, William Baranzk, Michael Dobransky, John Rucky, Michael Kost, Daniel Sass, Theodore Klish, Andrew Maliwacki, Katherine Pufky and Frank Kovatz. The sisterhood prepared a delicious dinner. It was a very happy celebration.

 

Later in that day, July 5, 1948, I told my Dad that I would write the memory of him and what he did so that the people would know the history or the problems in organizing and in building a church.

 

I started to write in 1976 and put the notes in a drawer and forgot about them. I would write some more and placed the papers in a drawer until the next time.

 

I finally finished the writing in 2002. I tried to put the information in chronological order. The memories brought back were bittersweet.

 

Sophie Okrepkie Cox wrote the following article and requested that it be added:

HISTORY OF ST. JOHN’S UKRAINING ORTHODOX CHURCH

“Golden Dome Churches” by Penny C. Mayo, Immigration Project, 1985.

The rich heritage of traditions, customs, and religious faith are an integral part of the life of Ukrainians.

Eastern European immigrants who arrived in Broome and Tioga County were not ethnically homogeneous. They came from the Carpathian Mountains, various sections of Ukraine, Byelorussia, Lithuania, Poland, and from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

These early Ukrainians had many things in common. Immigration to America meant hope, improving the standard of living, preserving ethnic identity, religious freedom and traditions. 

There were no established Ukrainian churches, therefore, they attended different churches in the area, notably: St. Mary’s Russian Orthodox Church, St. Michael’s Greek Catholic Church and nearby churches. 

In February 1926, Theodore Kovatz, Nick Ther and Michael Kost conducted a door-to-door campaign, and a list of 40 families was compiled.

The first Divine Liturgy of the newly organized parish was held in the Ukrainian national Home on Downs Avenue in Binghamton. Afterwards, services were held in Michael Kost’s Hall on Harry L. Drive in Johnson City. 

In July 1926, a charter for the new church was recorded and the name chosen was St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The lay members were: Michael Melnyk, Michael Kost, Nicholas Ther, Michael Pickney, Frank Kovatz and Theodore Klysh. These first members were authorized to execute this document.

Certain members of this early church that have contributed and changed the course of church history were: Frank (Theodore) Kovatz and Nick Ther. It was to their effort and dedication that the church survived the depression and overcame many devastating events.

Vichnya Pamnya, Tato. Memory eternal, Dad.

By daughter, Mildred Kovatz Bogdan

Fedio Kowacz Frank Theordore Kovatz 1893-1972

Helen Kovatz died in 1937. Frank married Eva Hawryluk in 1961.