Thursday, June 24, 2010

Commuting to America

Anna Pereksta's Hungarian
My grandmother or Baba traveled to the United States from Prislop, her small village in today's eastern Slovakia, in 1913. She was 18 years old and traveling with her father, Ivan (or Janos) Pereksta. She left, as so many thousands of others did, hoping there would be greater opportunities for her in America. It was her first and only voyage across the ocean. Her father, however, all but commuted between Prislop and the U.S.

Ivan Pereksta was born 25 Jan 1857 in Prislop. He was the youngest of three children. His father died shortly before his birth and his mother remarried when he was a boy. In 1879 Ivan married Olena Sidor. They lived in Prislop and over the next twenty years had a large family, eight of whom survived to adulthood. Four of their children would eventually settle in the United States. Prislop was a very small, very poor village in the foothills of the Tatra mountains. The population in 1914 was 159. Their home was primitive, at best.

Ivan Pereksta
I don't know when Ivan first came to the United States or how many trips he made, but I have documented 4 entries from 1901 to 1925 when I believe he made his final trip. Ivan would come, work here for a few years while his wife and children worked their small farm. Some of his earnings were used to buy passage for his children. A few dollars went to buying dapper clothes. He was a sharp looking man and quite proud of his good looks. The rest he took home to Prislop. But he wouldn't stay. After a couple years he would start the cycle again.  I will be forever grateful that he made those journeys, but I am equally grateful for, and more than a little awed by Olena's maintaining the farm and family all those years.

The name Pereksta is quite rare and the all the Perekstas in the United States appear to be from the same area, if not the same village, that Ivan Pereksta came from. There was another Ivan Pereksta from a neighboring village and slightly younger than my great-grandfather, traveling back and forth at the same time. Sorting out the records has been confusing. These four records are clearly for my great-grandfather.

  • Arrived 6 April 1901 in New York aboard the Pretoria (Hamburg) - Janos Pereksta (indexed as Jonos Pareksta), farmer, age 43, married, Hungarian from “Prisslop” going to brother-in-law Wasily Tipely (sp?) in Binghamton, NY. Also traveling from “Prisslop” and going to Binghamton was Peter Klescz (indexed as Klcecz), farmer, age 34, married, Hungarian traveling to his brother-in-law Metro Prizas.
  • Arrived 3 Sept. 1909 in New York aboard the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria (Hamburg) - Janos Pereksta, farm laborer, aged 47, married, unable to read or write, Hungarian, ethnic Slovak from Kis Pereszlo (the Hungarian name for Prislop). He stated he was in Pittsburg, PA for 3 years in 1900 and was traveling to son Jan Perckesta in Berwick, PA. He was described as 5’6” tall with black hair and brown eyes. Also traveling and listed immediately before Ivan was Vaszily Maszur (indexed Vaszily MacZur), aged 29 from Dara (a nearby village). He was listed as going to his sister Kath. Maszur at 723 Clinton St., Binghamton, NY. 
  • Arrived 16 June 1913 in New York aboard the Amerika (Hamburg) with his daughter Anna (my grandmother), aged 18 - Janos Pereksta (indexed Janos Percksta), farm laborer, 44 years old, married and able to read and write, Hungarian, ethnic Slovak from Prislup. He named his wife Ilona Pereksta of Prislup. He stated he had previously been in the United States between 1910/1912 in Pittsburgh, PA. He and Anna were going to his daughter, Zuza Pereksta in Binghamton, NY. He was described as 5’5” tall, fair skinned with black hair and grey eyes. Anna was described as 5’4” tall, fair skinned with black hair and brown eyes. They were detained until 17 June 1913, awaiting Susan (Zuza) who lived at 3 Hudson St., Binghamton, NY. 
  • Arrived 22 Dec 1925 in New York aboard the Westphalia (Hamburg) - Jan Pereksta (indexed as Jam Percksta), farm laborer, age 68, married, ethnic Slovak, Czech. nationality, from Pristop. Names wife Olena Pereksta of Pristop and states he is traveling to Passaic, NJ. His visa (#367) was issued in Prague on 12/7/1925. Also traveling and listed near to Ivan was Juraj Hulinke, farm laborer, age 33, married, ethnic Slovak, Czech nationality, from Durcina, Czechoslovakia. His visa (#372) was also issued in Prague on 12/7/1925. He was going to Murray Hill, NJ. It is unknown what, if any relationship existed between the two. 
There may have been other trips. Ivan was living with his son John in Passaic, NJ when the 1920 census was taken. (He was indexed as John Perexto or Redondo, 60 years old and an alien having arrived in 1903, unable to read or write.) Family discussions indicated he did not stay more than five years at a time and he may have returned home sometime after the 1913 voyage. However WWI may have interrupted or altered this pattern. I believe the 1925 trip was his final voyage to the U.S. At 68, he was an old man for his time and unlikely to have returned - especially since jobs became far more difficult to find during the Depression.  Ivan died in Prislop in 1933.

Reunion, Binghamton, NY.  1977.
Though it took more than a generation the American and European Perekstas would meet again. After WWII and the Soviet control of eastern Europe it was not possible to travel freely between Prislop and the U.S. In 1977 one of Baba's nephews was able to get a visa to travel to the United States with his wife. Their two young daughters stayed behind to assure my cousin did not defect. Her sisters and brother had died, but Baba was still living and able to meet her youngest sister's son.  It was, as you can imagine, enormously exciting for all of us.  Baba is pictured standing on the left, her nephew on the right. Fifteen years later, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, we were able to visit him and most of the surviving family in Czechoslovakia.  

Submitted to the 30th Edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy.

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