A little about myself. First of all, I’m not a writer — my brother got those genes. I don’t enjoy writing so if you read through any of the posts or pages on this site you’ll soon discover that I’m terse and to the point. Hopefully you’re not looking for eloquence, just the facts.
I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and grew up in a Czech, Slovak and Polish neighborhood on the city’s southeast side. The area is now referred to as Slavic Village because of the mix of nationalities that make up those few square miles. My parents were William Kay and Mary Marsinick. My dad was born William Kichka but changed his name to Kay after getting out of the army. Growing up we observed a lot of the traditions that are associated with Eastern Europeans but we didn’t talk a lot about our Slovak roots. As a matter of fact, I always thought I was Czech. When I asked my paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Bodnar, where she was from she told me Czechoslovakia. So, I must be Czech! Once I started my research I quickly found out that my lines run through what is currently far eastern Slovakia. But she was right, when she left Europe the country was called Czechoslovakia.
My father’s parents were Joseph Kichka (Kíčka) and Elizabeth Bodnar. They were very much Slovak immigrants even though my grandfather was born here in the U.S. (you’ll have to read his story to understand why I say that). They both spoke Slovak, or some dialect of it, and dressed and lived like many Slovak immigrants. When I was young we used to go to their house on Sundays. Grandpa liked to garden and grandma liked to cook. We used to play in their back yard and pick grapes and vegetables. We’d have dinner there and I can still remember the chicken soup and chicken paprikash that grandma would make.
As a matter of fact, on one of my visits to Slovakia my 2nd cousin (Elizabeth’s great niece) made soup and paprikash for us using grandma’s recipe. It was just like I remembered.
My mother’s parents were Peter Marsinick and Anna Ballock. Both Peter and Anna were 1st generation Americans; both born in Illinois. Soon after my mother was born they moved from Indiana to Cleveland, I’m not sure why. Unfortunately Peter died when my mother was very young so I never got to meet him. We always left our Christmas tree up until January to celebrate Russian Orthodox Christmas. I now know that this was because the Marsinicks were Rusyn, not Russian as I remember hearing when I was a kid. I guess I knew my grandma the best out of all of my grandparents. She would let us stay at her house for a week during summer vacation. We’d walk to the store (as a matter of fact, I don’t remember any of my grandparents driving) and play in her yard. Her house was next to a lawn and garden business so there was a lot of room to ride our bikes when it was closed. Grandma loved to bake. She was always making some delicious dessert whether kolachy, or cookies or a cake. She also made pierogi every year for Christmas Eve dinner.
So I’m the product of 4 Eastern European lines, all from what is Slovakia today. I did the ancestry DNA test and it came back that I’m 91% Eastern European – more Eastern European than some “typical natives”!
Over the past 8 years I’ve started to know more about my family than I ever knew growing up. I’ve learned about how my grandparents and great-grandparents came to the U.S. and the customs and traditions that they brought with them that I still carry on today. My wife and I have made 2 trips to Slovakia and I’ve met close to 100 relatives, including my father’s 1st cousin. I’ve found out some surprising things and I still have some brick walls to get through but it’s all been amazing.