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Hunky: The Immigrant Experience
Hunky: The Immigrant Experience
by Nicholas Stevensson Karas
Edition: Paperback
Price: $23.85
29 used & new from $19.46

49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hunky - A Badge of Honor, May 16, 2004
The title of this book is quite provocative! "Hunky" is a term of derision and disparagement that was given to the Rusyn people at the time that they first came to the United States from villages north and south of the Carpathian Mountain range in Eastern Europe. The word "Hunky" is derived from the name of the country from which many of them came, i.e.-Hungary. They were also referred to as "Huns" as seen in the headlines of newspapers of the 1880's in America in describing the behavior of the striking miners in Latimer, Pa. The headlines trumpeted: "HUNS BURN AND RUN WILD IN THE STREETS". The author of "HUNKY" may have purposefully used the word to stimulate and provoke potential readers. The term has usually represented the low esteem in which our people were held when they first came to America starting in the last decades of the 19th century. However, we are no longer called "Hunkys"! It is now a term that is seldom heard. Indeed, we are quite proud of our parents and grandparents who were once called "Hunkys, no matter what they were called. We take pride in their accomplishments and are thankful for what they have passed on to us in our own accomplishments. I believe that the word "Hunky" is now a badge of honor for what our Rusyn ancestors and we have accomplished. It has taken an author with the stature and reputation of Nick Karas to boldly use the term as the title of his book which describes the struggles of these people to overcome the poverty and servitude that they had faced for centuries in the villages of northeastern Austria Hungary. Karas is a noted scientist, journalist and author who has written dozens of books and hundreds of magazine articles and newspaper columns. He has been on the Staff and written for TRUE, ARGOSY, and other magazines. "HUNKY" is his first published novel which he wrote as a result of a suggestion by James Michener that he write about "something that he knew". Indeed, he certainly knows our people! "HUNKY" is a story of the lives and struggles of Karas' ancestors from two villages in the Carpathian Mountains - Prostisne north of the Carpathians in present day Poland and Vilag to the south in Slovakia. He relies on the stories that he heard from his grandparents and on his own recollections of their lives in America which were first in the coal mines of southwestern Pa. and then to the shoe factories of Binghamton, New York and the mills of Johnstown and Ambridge, Pa. as the mines no longer required their cheap labor. It is a story that is similar to those of thousands of our people who had the courage and fortitude to immigrate to America and eventually to realize their and their children's economic, social and educational ambitions. Karas describes in graphic detail how our people were solicited by agents of U.S. companies to work in the mines in America and how they were escorted to the docks of transatlantic steamship companies in Germany. They were fed and housed and examined and approved for their dangerous and painful voyage across the ocean to New York's harbor and the long train ride to their eventual destination near Johnstown, Pa. The dialogue created by the author gave me a vivid picture of a similar voyage of my own paternal grandparents to the United States in 1895. I now have more than the ship manifests of Ellis Island on the internet to rely upon. "HUNKY" permits me to re-live more vividly their journey from Bremen. The author grew up the Rusyn communities when there was great religious strife among our people over the celibacy issue. Families and friendships were split and broken. There was bitterness in Binghamton and Johnstown and Ambridge amongst the "Hunkys". It was his generation and mine that lived through that era. Karas describes other poignant and bitter times: the funeral of his great grand father; his own father's death at the age of three; the struggles of his widowed mother; the plight of alcoholism upon the "Hunkies"; his life on his grandfather's farm; the impact of the two world wars and the death and destruction during the Nazi and communist regimes and occupation. The book ends with a description of his visit to his two ancestral villages and the chance and tearful meeting with his 103 year old uncle who had returned to his village from America when his wife refused to travel across the ocean. He ended his life as a virtual hermit. The 501 pages of "HUNKY" are filled with such history and pathos. Some critics may have questions about the author's viewpoint on the Rusyn v. Ukrainian debate. The book is multifaceted; but whether it is a novel, or a history or a biography or a memoir is not important. There is no doubt, however, that anyone who is interested in the lives and history of our Rusyn people during the past one hundred and twenty five years would have much to remember, to learn and to understand by reading this book. Hopefully, a century from now, others will still remember this as well as other accounts of the lives of the "Hunkys". The book is available through Amazon.com.
BY Orestes J. Mihaly
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 20, 2013 1:18 PM PST


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