Ethnic Women of Cleveland
Olga Gaydos Recording & Transcript
Listen to the interview as you read along.
- INTERVIEWEE: Olga Gaydos
- INTERVIEWER: Jeanette Tuve
- DATE: September 18, 1986
- PROGRAM LENGTH: 67:11 min.
JT: Mrs. Gaydos, what was your maiden name?
OG: Olga Sashko.
JT: And your nationality?
JT: Is that Great Russian?
OG: Well, I don't know what kind of Russian to say. My parents came from Novograd, Volynska, Gubernya Mokre Celo. That would be near the western northern part of a peninsula of Ukraine. The county seat was Zhitomir, which belonged to Poland at one time, and as mother explained it to us there were Greek people living there, there were Jewish people living there, there were Ukrainians living there, and my mother's kind of people. They were peasants, they were landowners, but what kind of Russian? At the turn of the century, I don't think they were identified like they are now. The passports stated Russian.
JT: I think you are right. Ethnicity has become more important as time passes. Where were you born?
OG: In Cleveland. My entire family-- my parents, my two brothers, my sister, came from Russia.
OG: My dad came over in 1911, alone, and my mother came over in 1913 with three children.
JT: Did they come immediately to Cleveland?
OG: My dad came immediately to Cleveland, through Ellis Island. But when my mother came it is my understanding there was an epidemic in 1913 on Ellis Island, and they shipped them up to Halifax, Canada. And they were communicating by mail from Canada to Cleveland trying to find [each other]. When my dad came, he signed his name as Saschuk, and he settled in Cleveland and became affiliated with St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Church which was at that time on Literary Avenue. When my mother came with the children she had a visa. Dad came without a visa. Mother came with a visa, and the man [who was] preparing it went up into this big loft, came down and he was very upset with her. "Why do you call yourself Saschuk when the family name is Sashko?" She said, "Well, all I've ever known is the name Saschuk." He said, "No. The name is Sashko," and he made the visa out in that name. So when they are writing from Canada to the church in Cleveland, they're looking for a man by the name of Sashko and there is no such person. And it took many, many weeks of correspondence before they located dad with the different name. Mother said she thought she'd never live through it. They lived in a compound, and there were lice-- Just like a bunch of cattle herded into a place. The facilities were not there; it was terrible. But she lived through it.
JT: How did they happen to come to Cleveland, specifically?
OG: My dad came to Cleveland. How he happened to come to Cleveland, I have no idea at all. When they got off the boat at Ellis Island to New York others were coming. Things were very bad in Cleveland, there wasn't much work, so this group of people went up to Detroit to work in the sugar beet fields to make a living because there was nothing here. This is where the family was before I was born, and then they came back to Cleveland. There were a lot of people settled here already.
JT: What was your father's occupation?
OG: He worked with the Erie Railroad. I think he was a brakeman or something. Dad went through the fifth grade in Russia; he was also in the service, the military service. My mother never went to school in all her life. She never knew how to read or write. She said she was raising a family, and then she said I'm too old to learn. I tried to teach her, but she said, "It's torturing me trying to have me learn things now," because she was way
OG: into her sixties. But Dad, in Russia he was a farmer, they had land that they worked and everybody worked on the land, all of the grandparents. The property they had was always divided when another child got married; you got this section, and so on. But as far as a profession, I would say Dad had none.
JT: But he probably did come to this country for the economic opportunities it offered.
OG: Well, when they first came, I think they came to make money from the streets that were paved with gold, you know, pick up some of this gold and go back and have a better life. This is what I think they thought because mother left, I would say, seventy-five percent of her possessions behind. All of her coral beads, her embroidery, mother made her own linen cloth, they raised their own flax, and she left all of her major things behind. When she came, she came with bare necessities, and I think with the thought of maybe going back. And then they got a letter that the house had burned down, and everything in it.
JT: That must have been a very difficult experience. So probably they didn't plan to stay here. Do you think they were happy after they'd been here for a while?
OG: I think they were. My mother was a very fantastic person. She was very adaptable. And if you live in Rome, you do as the Romans do, you just don't try to push yourself on others, you do what they do. She drank black coffee, and all her neighbors were drinking coffee with condensed milk in it, and she thought if that's what they're doing, I'd better be like they are, and she would put some milk in it and she thought she could never handle it. But this is the kind of person she was; she would always try to blend.
JT: She was a strong person, then. How many children did she have?
OG: She had eight children and lost four. She lost every other child. My brother Harry who is in that picture was the eldest, I believe, and then she lost another boy, and then my sister Martha was born, and she lost another boy, and then Paul was born. When they came to this country, there was a brother, Adam, who died and is buried at St. Theodosius cemetery, and then I was born in 1919.
JT: Did your mother work outside the home?
OG: No. I didn't have a dad at home since I was eight years old. My brother Paul when he was fourteen tried to provide for mother and myself, but things were bad here at that particular time.
JT: Your father died when you were very young, then?
OG: My father was in the state hospital. They bought this property when I was a year and a half old, in 1921, and we moved to this piece of land, which is a fifty foot by a hundred and forty foot lot.
JT: In Old Brooklyn...
OG: This is it. And our house was exactly like that one over there, set back off the street, that's an original house. We went to church on Russian Easter; I was about five years old. And this street was all farmland, and the street was not paved, there was no sidewalk up to 45th. It was paved from there to Pearl Road. All the rest of this was just farmland. We went to church with a basket of food to be blessed, and I was a five-year-old child. My brother Paul was nine years older, that would make him fourteen, and Mother and Dad. We went to St. Theodosius Church. Services started at 11 p.m. and at midnight was the resurrection. People go out and they walk around the church with lit candles. And after the service they went back into the church for the resurrection. And after church, they would got out with their baskets, completely surround the church with the lit candles in them, and Father would go around and bless all this food and then they'd go home. Then the transportation was public. So they had to walk all the way to West 14th, which is probably three-quarters of a mile, then take the streetcar down West 14th and get off at Clark, waited and waited and waited for another and they took that streetcar down Clark to West 25th, got off, waited, and took the streetcar up West 25th and got off on State Road, which was called a car barn. That's where the cars stopped. And they had to walk from there all they way home. When they got home, it was probably about four o'clock in the morning and there's no home. It had burned to the ground. So that was the second fire. They lost their home in Russia, and then this one burned down, so what are you going to do? My sister was married, she got married when she was sixteen and a half years old, and had a youngster. They were living in Lindale, Ohio, on Longmead Avenue. So they walked through all these farms and creeks, they got there probably about seven o'clock in the morning and we stayed with my sister until we had a contractor build the shell of this house. And after the shell was built and it couldn't rain on us, we moved in, and little by little the walls were built and we had a house around us.
JT: That's quite a story. Could you tell us more about your family home? What was the language in your family home when you were a child?
OG: Russian, all the time. Up until 1936 my mother spoke practically no English. I think she understood, but she could not express herself. In 1936 my brother Paul got married, and they were living at home. And Rita, my sister-in-law, is German-American. She knew no foreign language at all, and Mother had to learn to communicate. So she learned. But when I came home our conversation was always in Russian. It was so hard to break away. We tried, especially when you have someone else in the house, it's impolite to speak another language, they think you're talking about them. And however hard we tried, all of a sudden we'd revert back to it. Mother and I maintained our language up until the very end.
JT: And your brothers and sisters, did you speak Russian among yourselves?
OG: No. My brother Harry was probably about 12, 13 years old when they came over. Martha, my sister, was about nine, and Paul was a child, about two
OG: and a half. My sister and brother Harry probably felt the transition the most, because the kids used to tease them and call them foreigners. You can look at these pictures and see that my sister is walking kind of pigeon-toed. They made quite an issue of that wen she wen to school. My mother said when she'd leave for school she'd walk and stare at her feet and try to correct herself. 'Til the day she died she always walked... toes out rather than pigeon-toed. But I think that because they were foreigners they didn't want to speak their native language. They became very American. I was the one who was always asking questions about what did they do in Russia, what did they do for this and that and the other thing. We had a lot of people around here who were of different nationalities. Next door was Slovak, across the street was Bohemian, Croatian down the street, Polish people down the street. When I came home from work, I'd say, "Ma, how's Mrs. ____?" She'd say, "How did you know she was over?" I'd say, "Ma, you're talking half Polish." And I could tell who was over because in the course of an afternoon she would pick up words other than Russian. When you talk Slavonic languages it's very easy to mix them up. At work I also did a lot of interpreting because I was able to communicate with some of these people.
JT: So your brothers rather quickly learned English. One of your brothers married a German, and the other one?
OG: Her parents spoke Hungarian and Slovak. They spoke Hungarian mostly, but they could speak Slovak. So my brother Harry's wife could communicate with my mom in Slovak.
JT: And your sister. Whom did she marry?
OG: She married a Russian. He was born in Vilna, which was north of Poland in Lithuania. He spoke again a different dialect. I think his Russian was probably a harder Russian than what my parents spoke, but it was similar, it was comparable. And my mother spoke not a book-learned type of Russian. She spoke what she learned by ear and when you do that you sometimes are missing the letters in between. We as Americans say a word and we slur it. And this is the thing that the Russians or anyone who knows the language well does, so if you're learning it just by ear, I think you are learning the slur and not pronouncing it.
JT: Did your sister and her husband continue the Russian customs?
OG: They became very American. Her children, my niece, who was here from Oregon, is trying now to get some information on our background. That's why I got the pictures out, because she had none of that background. We Russians do a lot of kissing, and it's not passionate kissing, it's a greeting. We kiss on the cheek or whatever. Men kiss men, women women, and down the line. And I was always taught to do that by my mom. My sister never taught her children to do that. They were very cold, even with their grandmother. So our training is different.
JT: Where did you go to school?
OG: William Rainey Harper School right down the street. First of all I went to Dawning between Pearl and State Roads. I went there to kindergarten, first and second grades, and then William Rainey Harper School, which was built, I think, in 1926. I went there from the third grade all the way through the 8th grade. Then I went to James Ford Rhodes, the 9th through the 12th. We didn't have a junior high in this area at that time. I graduated from James Ford Rhodes High School in 1937.
JT: Did you go on for any training beyond that?
OG: I had to be a provider. I took night school classes. It wasn't right after high school because I couldn't afford to go then. My brother was married; it was just my mother and myself then. So there were a lot of obligations at home here. It was 1946, I think, when I took Russian at Fenn College, when it was still on the Square. It was on the northeastern quadrant of the Square. And through work I had different courses.
JT: Were your parents active in church affairs?
OG: Not at that time, because how do you get to church. How can you be active when you live in some other area and it took three hours on public transportation?
JT: Well, you told me about the Easter ceremony.
OG: Every Easter and every Christmas, they were great, great holidays and this is the basis of every Russian village or Russian person. I mean Easter is the greatest holiday. Yes, we went during holidays, but to go every Sunday was impossible.
JT: Any other traditional holidays that you observed in your family?
OG: Not when I was younger. We had no means of transportation.
JT: How about music in your home when you were a child?
OG: We had a lot of singing. My dad danced. The St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox cemetery is not far from here, on Ridge and Biddulph, which is within walking distance. They had purchased the property and they had a barn; it had no glass windows in it, it was just a wooden barn. And my brother Paul and I were sent there to Russian classes, and a monk came and taught us. I still have my beginning books that I have saved since then. They did that because we people, a number of us around here, couldn't get to church or to Russian classes. The others, who lived around the church, their children would go to Russian classes there. But they sent the monk out here and we were able to go to school to learn Russian.
JT: On Saturdays was that?
OG: Yes, it was on Saturdays.
JT: What type of music did you have?
OG: Russian vocal music. We went to the cemetery grounds, which was also a picnic grove. We had a picnic once a year at St. Theodosius cemetery. The picnic ground was in the front and the cemetery was in the back; and the old folks would get together there and sing Russian songs, and I used to sit and become completely enthralled. I loved it, and my brother and sister weren't interested. It's just like they wanted to get away from it. They probably had memories of hard times being a foreign child.
JT: You said your father liked dancing, what kind of dancing?
OG: Russian dancing.
JT: Folk dancing?
OG: Yes. He could do the prisiadke. And that means squatting steps.
JT: Were there any dramatics in connection with the church or anything else you did?
OG: With the church, definitely yes. We've been noted for our great a cappella choir. At that time I was too young, I didn't belong to the choir. My husband belongs to our choir now. I did not belong to the choir but I had two cousins who did, and they had a choir director by the name of Gnatosky, and he was, I think, a Cossack. He just did a fantastic job with the choir and there's a picture at church with them in costume. The girls all had on a sarafan costume, fancy like in the boyar area, and the men had on Cossack costumes with the holster and the belt and the great big eagle. There's a picture of us there. Nicholas Gnatosky had a fantastic choir.
JT: Did the girls have costumes?
OG: Yes, the girls had a costume that would be considered a jumper, and it was banded about the chest with straps over the shoulder. It had a blouse underneath, and flowed out to the floor. It was called a sarafan.
JT: Did you have one?
OG: I had one that I made for myself. I didn't belong to the choir. I belonged to the folk arts society and we used to have our nationality festival with Theodore Andrica as our Master of Ceremonies, and we danced once a year. I have a dancing group, youngsters, dancing. At this particular time they wanted the adults to do an American line dance-- not a quadrille, but something American...
JT: Square dance?
OG: No. I can't think of it right now.
JT: The reel?
OG: The reel. And we had to get in there and do it, so I made a costume for myself.
JT: Did most of the women make their own costumes?
OG: In Europe? Certainly. They did their own embroidery. My mother made her own material out of the linen. They had the flax, they used to spin it on a spinning wheel, she did her own weaving. And these are things she left behind that were burned.
JT: You worked, then, after you finished high school?
OG: I started working immediately, yes. I got a job, my first job, at Broadview and Pearl Road as a waitress; and then I got a job downtown at Stouffer's as a waitress, which was fantastic training at that particular time because the boss we had-- her name was Miss Cora-- was one hundred percent for propriety and posture. You don't socialize with people, and when you serve them you're polite, you're pleasant, and her training was fantastic. Even the personal regimen that she trained the girls was great. I had an older sister so there was a lot I knew about personal regimen that I may not have been told in school. But other girls didn't. We serve the public, you know. She would correct them [about] body odor; she'd say, "How would you like to be sitting at a table and have someone serve you and have underarm odor pass in front of you?" And she got after a lot of girls. These are things I didn't have to be trained for because Martha, my sister, made sure that I knew. But she, our boss, was terrific. At that time, we didn't have pantyhose with no seams, we had a seam. The seam had to be straight and everything, everything had to be just so. But it was good training.
JT: Wonderful training. I understand Stouffer's was very particular about who they hired, too.
OG: Yes. But when I look around now, and see someone scooping out ice cream with their hair streaming down-- we had to have a hair net on-- I think where are our laws? We had to fix our hair so it did not hang on our shoulders. We always had a hairnet on that matched the hair so you couldn't see it, but it was there. Someone always checked your shoulders to make sure you had no hair on it; and the bow had to be straight at the back of your apron.
JT: Did you plan to work all you life, or did you think you were going to do this until you married?
OG: At that time I had dedicated myself to taking care of my mother, no matter how long it took. There were just the two of us. My brother got married in 1936; I graduated in '37. I was going to quit school when Paul got married, because Paul had taken care of both of us. I thought it's my job to take care of mother now; and Paul said, "Sis, I quit, and I'm sorry. Don't quit, we'll manage." They got married in November-- all I had to do was go 'til June. But he made sure that I completed it and I got my diploma.
JT: When did you marry?
OG: I was thirty years old, in 1949.
JT: So you worked at Stouffer's, and then?
OG: I worked at Stouffer's and then from Stouffer's... the war broke out in '41, and I was employed from Stouffer's by Bill Jack, who was owner of Jack and Heintz Company, who had a government contract to make airplane starters and servo units. So when I went out there they interviewed me for work in the cafeteria, since I worked in the restaurant. And I said I wasn't interested in doing that for the rest of my life. In school I did study shorthand and typing and so forth, so I got a job as secretary to the supervisor of the Starter Division.
JT: Good. And during these years while you were taking care of your mother and working were you active in the dancing and the music?
JT: And so you married Mr. Gaydos in 1949?
OG: In 1949, and he is of Slovak background. His parents were born in Austria-Hungary, but they embraced the Orthodox religion. They lived across the street from St. Peter and Paul on Madison in Lakewood. The apartment building across the street was their family apartment building, his dad owned that. They lived right across the street from the church, so they were at church all the time as compared to ourselves here. And I think he was very much more into religion than I was at that time.
JT: How did you meet him?
OG: [laughter] My niece, my sister's daughter, went out with Mike's younger brother, and they got married. I was in the bridal party. Mike and I were godparents to all their children from the first to the third. So my niece was married before I was, and was married to his brother. When we got married, I became a sister-in-law to my own niece through marriage. Mike became an uncle to his own brother, because I'm her blood aunt. It's a long story.
JT: Had your mother died in the meantime?
OG: My mother died in 1952 and my first child was born in '54, so my mother never saw any of my children. They never had any grandparents at all. His parents were dead, and mine by that time.
JT: Did you and Mike have a church wedding?
OG: Oh, yes, at our church.
JT: St. Theodosius?
JT: Could you tell us about it?
OG: I can tell you about it, but what I'm going to have to do is probably invite you back, because we had our son's wedding August 30th  videotaped from the church to the reception, and it's something spectacular and something you would want to see. So what do you want me to say?
JT: Was your wedding a big wedding?
OG: Oh, yes [to Mr. G.] How many people would you say we had then? Approximately 200.
JT: Was it a typical Russian ceremony?
OG: Yes. At St. Theodosius, with the crowns.
JT: And then you had a reception afterwards?
OG: In Lakewood Community Center.
JT: And that was a lunch, a dinner?
OG: It was 1949 and meat was still being rationed, but we had some contacts. We had a farmer who sold us a barrel of chickens, which came to us packed in ice, all in a great big barrel. We went out in the country and bought a pig. My sister and I went out to Richfield, Ohio, and they slaughtered the pig. The entire pig, pork chops, everything went into homemade sausage, which was made by friends of ours from Lindale, Ohio, who prepared all of the sausage for us and made the stuffed cabbage. It was a big wedding. It was a generous wedding because at that time you couldn't get some of the things, so people were astounded that we had the variety that we did.
JT: And then you came back to this house?
OG: We lived with Mother from 1949 'til she passed away in '52.
JT: Did you ever think about moving away from this area?
JT: It's a very nice neighborhood. I've never been in Old Brooklyn before, but it's very nice. And then you continued to work after you were married?
OG: Oh, yes. I worked all my life from the time I started in 1937 until 1953. My mother died in '52, and at that time you could only buy Blue Cross for thirty days. Mother was in the hospital for three months. So we had two months of expenditures and private nurses. I worked for another year to resolve those bills before I quit. I had a miscarriage after mother died, probably because of the stresses, and I lost twins. My sister lost twin boys her first pregnancy. They were about seven months old, and mother swaddled them in a shoebox, but they died.
JT: Have you been active in ethnic women's organizations?
OG: No. Raising a family of three children and working and taking care of a home, I had all I could do. I work with the dance group, the St. Theodosius Folk Dance group, I'm director of that, and I've been with that since the sixties.
JT: That's your major project, then, outside the home. I would think that would be something to be very interested in and proud of. How did you get involved in the folk dancing?
OG: Well, every year they would gather the children together after school closed, during summer vacation, and teach them the dances again. We always had a picnic at St. Theodosius picnic ground. The first teacher was Pat Zane, and she did it for two years. Then her cousin, Alice Reta, took over and she did it for one or two years. Then Ann Brigham took over and she did it for one year, and then didn't want to take it again. At that time my oldest daughter was dancing with them. I watched them struggle and I watched them gather together every spring and what they learned last year they had forgotten. I was approached. So I said if I'm going to do it I would like to have it a perpetual learning, because it's something that you can forget. It comes back to you, but still you're not that good at it. So I started working with them every Monday, and I've been with them ever since then, approximately twenty-five years.
JT: Where do you get the dancing styles, or patterns?
OG: Oh, there's a lot of choreography I had written for, there are traditional dances that we do that you just do over and over again. They play a song and you say, hey, that' the korobushka and you do it. The history on the korobushka is actually that some immigrants in 1942 started that in California, and it's part of the history of the California federation of folk dancing. So they write these things down, and there's another one where some Lithuanian dancer and a Russian dancer said, hey, wouldn't this be neat with this song and they started something. The word korobushka means peddler's pack. The peddler had a big wicker basket strapped on his back. He went from village to village and he sang this song. And with him he had silks, and cottons, which weren't grown in their area (they grew linen). And they had to buy other items, salt, that he would be selling from the salt mines, and needles and things like that. He was a travelling salesman, and as he walked his basket was heavy, and he would kind of weave, and the step in the dance is indicative of a heavy load when you start out, and then there are words to it.
JT: So most of the choreography was done in this country?
OG: Those two dances, yes. You go anywhere in Europe, they specialize and try to get this in writing, but at one time, no matter what village you went to everyone did their own thing. I think Moiseyev was the first one who really got together and he learned the traditional steps, but he has choreographed a program for an audience viewing it. Because when you do folk dancing, it's like square dancing, it's the same thing over and over again and it's in the round. You love doing it, but to sit and watch it for entertainment, it can become boring. The records that I have purchased from New York and I have a couple of them that came from Russia. But an average 78 record is two and three quarters minutes long. If you watch for two and three quarter minutes, and it's the same thing over and over again it can become boring. So when I do my planning I plan to take about one minute or less on each dance that we do and build a program around it, which I think becomes more attractive and less boring to watch.
JT: The Soviet Union has spent enormous sums on developing and promoting folk dancing. What kind of costumes does your group have?
OG: We make our own. I have the boys wearing navy pants and a white shirt with the neck embroidered and down the side, and the girls have on a blouse, a red skirt and then trim on the bottom of the skirt. Because they are young and they outgrow everything, we could never afford to have embroidered pieces put on their costumes or buy the braid that is very, very expensive. You take an average three yards for a skirt and you put a double band on it, that's six yards and then the blouse, and the child is going to outgrow it in a year. I can't ask the parents to do that. So what we've done is every time I go shopping I'm looking for material that's patterned. And we would buy this material and we would cut this and then we would use that as the trim for our costumes, because one year from now, two years from now that child needs another one.
JT: How old are the participants?
OG: Well, we danced on September 7th for the ninetieth anniversary of our church, and we had a dinner at the all. There were about 300 people there. I have two groups, I have a young group and then I have an adult group too. And they just wanted to see the youngsters, so the youngest one is three years old, and the oldest one is probably eleven in that group.
JT: Are their parents all members of the church?
OG: Either they or their grandparents are.
JT: If I wanted to bring my children to your group you wouldn't take us?
OG: No, I would teach them the dances, for their own pleasure, but to be in the group you must be Orthodox. At one time we extended the courtesy to other Orthodox churches besides our own, but it became too much for one person. I don't get paid and I have done what I did out of pure love for our dancing. So we decided at that time it would be only for our church. Now, again we've had some people say, well can't I, even if they belong to the other church, and we've said okay. It's hard to draw a line.
JT: How large is your group?
OG: We danced at Geauga Lake Park last Sunday for the Oktoberfest, and I had thirty of them there. We danced at Russian Day on July 20th and I had forty-one there. Of course we run into vacations and different obligations so I don't always have them all. But I would say up to forty.
JT: That's a large group. It takes a lot of your time. I was very impressed by the dancing scenes in the movie, The Deerhunter. What was your part in that?
OG: I had a call one night from Mr. Chimino, the director, and he said, "I want you to teach my actors and actresses how to do the Russian dances for the film." And I said, "Well, why are you calling me?" Because Ken Kovach, our choir director, also is really talented and could teach any of those things. But he was tied up in organizing the film and recommended me. They flew the dancers in, the girls two times, and then the boys and the girls two times, so four times I worked with them altogether. That would be Johnny Savage and Chris Walken, and Tanya, the bride, and Meryl Streep, she was a bridesmaid. We practiced at the school building next to the church a few times and also down here at the hall.
JT: That's very interesting. And so you perform frequently?
OG: Oh, yes. This coming Sunday we are performing at St. Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church at Lake and 95th Street. They asked us last year, we couldn't handle it, so they asked us last year for this year. You can only take on so much at a time. This is the affair they have. I don't even know how to pronounce the name, like an Oktoberfest.
JT: No, I don't know how to pronounce it either. That's a very Germanic looking name.
JT: Has your husband been more or less active with you?
OG: Supportive, very supportive. Carries my equipment for me, and gets me there. Yes, all through the years.
JT: I didn't ask what your husband's occupation is?
OG: He's retired. He worked at Republic Steel for 38 years.
JT: Have you been active in other women's groups or organizations?
OG: I'm retired now, but I did work up until two years ago. This Christmas it will be two years for me. Like I said, I worked at Stouffer's, I worked at Jack and Heintz, I worked at Scoville Manufacturing Company in the Terminal Tower.
JT: Again as a secretary?
OG: Yes, and I worked at Frigidaire at 21st and Payne as a secretary in the Sales Promotion Department. When my mother passed away in 1952, I worked another year and quit. Then I raised a family. I was out of work for thirteen years and then in 1966 I started working at Kirkwood Industries as a secretary in the personnel department. And there is where I used languages a lot. WE had people working there who were Slovak and Polish and Ukrainian and Russian, Bohemian, all kinds, and Serbians. Some of them couldn't understand English and had problems. I was responsible for the pension, for the health insurance and that sort of thing, so I would translate for them and try to help them get their papers in order, so they could get their money or whatever it is. So you speak by trial and error. Today, if anyone asked my what language I speak, I'd probably tell them "goulash" because this is about what it amounts to. You search for what to say properly. I haven't spoken my own language since my mother passed away in 1952. When you don't have anyone to talk to, you start mixing your Slavonic languages. Even people who are here a short time, they can be here six months or a year, and you'll already hear them inflicting an American word in between a Russian one. They're talking Russian and all of a sudden out pops this American word. And not necessarily does it have to be American except that it was either easier or more frequently spoken.
JT: Have you ever been interested in politics?
JT: Maybe we could talk a little bit about your home when your children were young. What language did you speak at home?
OG: American. The only things they knew were hands or maybe a couple of love things, but it was just a habit with me to talk to Mike in English, as with my mother we spoke Russian. My brother said, "Sis, we're going to have to get Ma to speak English and talk to her in English, and if she answers in Russian, say 'huh?' until she comes up with it in English." Well, he got home from work before I did, and when I got home from school I popped in and I started talking in Russian, and I turned around and said, "Hey, I'm sorry, Paul." He said, "I did the same thing. You know, first we're saying we're not going to do this, but it's a habit, you can't get away from it." By that time we were all talking American. I think we'd say something in a foreign language when we didn't want the children to know what we've said.
JT: How many children do you have?
OG: We have three.
JT: Their sex?
OG: Two girls and a boy.
JT: How old are they now?
OG: My Nina was born in 1954, Sonya was born in 1957, and Tim in 1959. He was the last one. He just got married on August 30th.
JT: In your home, when the children were little, did you continue any features of your Russian culture?
OG: We tried to. Records, we always had music around, and I would sing songs to them. My oldest daughter, she's very, very dear to me, she danced with the group back when other people were in charge. Her girl friend was Hungarian and she danced with a Hungarian group. And then she started growing up, and she became a teenager, junior high school. And she became self-conscious. This is not every child, but I would say a majority of them-- "I'm embarrassed, what if my friends should see me?" I said, "Well, didn't it occur to you that they might be a little envious, that they don't have something to hang on to?" So during the course of training, and being her mother, I think I impressed on her how much I loved it, and one day she brought up the reins and said, "Mom, I'd like to ask you a question." I said, "yes." She said, "Don't get mad at me," and I said, "I'll try not to." She said, "Just because you love it, do I have to?" I said, "Honey, I don't even what you in the group. I didn't know that it was that difficult for you. No, you don't have to love it." People are different and we look at things differently. There's no way that I'd ever make her do something she didn't want to do if it was extra curricular. The other kids love it, and here's my own oldest daughter who thought, "Hey, I don't want this."
JT: How about your younger children?
OG: They're gung-ho for it. My daughter Sonya was in Tim's bridal party--he's the one who got married August 30th-- and she was pregnant, she was expecting a child in August and she was going to be a bridesmaid. We had a Russian Day picnic on July 20th and she was at that picnic. And she went down in the middle of the floor doing the men's prisiadke in a pregnant state. Everybody said "Oh, she'll have the baby in the middle of the floor." Okay that was July 20th. She had her baby on August 13th, and on August 30th she was a bridesmaid in her brother's wedding and was down on the floor with him doing the prisiadke again.
JT: She must love it!
OG: You asked, do they like it-- yes.
JT: How about instrumental music or singing? Do they like that too?
OG: You know, I don't have much of a voice. Their Daddy does, he belongs to the choir. I'm not a singer. I love to sing but I sound like I'm down in the basement. I know the words, and I know a lot of songs because I heard these over the years as I was growing. In fact, I think I know and remember a lot more words than a lot of people who are older than myself because, to myself, I sing them a lot.
JT: I know that you have a piano and an organ here, and I thought maybe some of your children...
OG: My son plays. He also plays the balalaika, and in school he played a sliding trombone in the marching band, and he had a clarinet and he has a trumpet.
JT: And your children all went to public schools?
OG: Yes, yes. All the same schools I went to. They went to Harper, I went to Harper. Then they built Charles Mooney junior high school, between State and Broadview which we didn't have when I was a youngster. So they took seventh and eighth out of Harper and ninth out of Rhodes to make a three year junior high school. They went to Mooney, but the graduated from Rhodes, which is the same school that I graduated from.
JT: Did they go to college?
OG: Tim is a graduate engineer. Sonya went to Tri-C; she works at the physical therapy department at Deaconess Hospital. And my oldest daughter went to Akron U. but she never graduated. She got married and her husband is an electrical engineer. They live up in Milwaukee, and she works with engineers. She is sandwiched between the engineers and equipment in the field. If anything goes down, it's like a service station. When she was employed there they were just setting that department up, so she got in on the ground floor and likes it real well.
JT: Did your children marry either Russians or Slovaks?
OG: My oldest daughter married a young man whose dad was baptized Russian Orthodox. His dad died when he was eight years old, and he converted to Roman Catholic with his mother. So when Nina married him she was marrying a Roman Catholic and he still is. My second daughter married an Italian who is Roman Catholic. My young son Time married an Italian girl who was Roman Catholic and converted to Russian Orthodox just before the wedding. She said she wanted to have a close-knit family and she thought that was the way to do it, so she converted.
JT: It's interesting that in all three cases the women followed the religion of their husbands.
OG: No, because my daughter Sonya married an Italian Catholic in our Orthodox Church, but he said, "I'm not interested in going to church, you raise your children as you want." They got married in our church and her child will be baptized in our church.
JT: Do your children continue any of the traditions in their homes? I didn't ask you about the cooking. Did you do any ethnic cooking when your children were young?
OG: Yes. They had stuffed cabbage. I still do some canning. This year I canned twenty-six quarts of tomato juice from my own garden in back. I had my own tomatoes, my own green peppers, and my own onions. The only thing that I bought was the celery. And I mix all this together and I puree it and I have a real thick tomato juice that I use for my cooking all the time, because I have a blend of everything all ready. On Easter, our biggest tradition is an Easter basket. I bake my own bread, Mike and I both make our own homemade pork sausage, which we still make to this day, we make it twice a year, and we make enough so we can put some in the freezer. But we always make it for the basket, and the way my mother made it they put caraway seed in the sausage and everybody looks for it. Every Easter I have open house on Sunday. We bake a ham, we bake a veal roast, we have homemade sausage, we have Hillshire red sausage. I make a cheese paska, which is the pyramid, you've probably seen that. And Mike being Slovak, his mother always made a hrudka, which is a mock cheese. It's one hundred percent eggs and milk, and you boil it and you put it in a bag, it drips, and then you tie it twice around to make a cross, you turn it over, and we put that in our basket. So on Russian Easter Sunday I always have open house, and his brothers and sisters-in-law and friends come.
JT: Do any of your children follow these customs?
OG: No, they come over here and follow mine.
JT: Can anyone else make the cheese cross?
OG: I make it for everyone. They know how. I have finally come up with a comparable recipe because I can remember my mother when I'd ask her how to do this, she'd say, "Well, I took two handfuls of sugar and a handful of salt." I said, "Ma, a handful of salt?" She says, "You take the sugar and you go like this and then you take the salt and you go like this. You rub it out." You'd probably end up with a tablespoonful, but she called it a handful.
JT: How many grandchildren do you have?
OG: Four. Three with my eldest daughter in Milwaukee, and the one that was born here on August 13th.
JT: Do any of your children or grandchildren speak Russian or Slovak?
OG: My son is very interested. He doesn't speak it but he's always looking at my schoolbooks and he's trying. He works for the federal government and is out of town a lot. When he goes he takes the books with him. When he has time in a motel, he is studying. As I say, he's very interested.
JT: Do you take any Russian language magazines?
JT: Do you correspond with anyone in your homeland? Either of you?
JT: Have you been to Russian or Eastern Europe?
JT: Would you like to go?
OG: Right now it's not safe to go anywhere.
JT: Assuming there's no terrorism, would you be interested?
OG: Yes. To go back and see the village in which my parents were born; I would be totally enthralled.
[THE RECORDING IS SHUT OFF BRIEFLY AT THIS POINT.]
OG: One thing I thought was interesting. We danced for the Northeast Ohio Savings and Loan Association Presidents and Vice Presidents. They had an annual affair towards the end of the year and this affair was taking place at the Mid Day Club. We were invited to dance. At that time-- may his soul rest in peace-- we had a very dear friend who played the bass violin and we had two balalaika players. We don't often have the privilege of dancing to live music. Usually my programs are on tapes. We had the live orchestra and our groups danced. When they come out during the troika, which is the dance of the three stallions, I always whistle, and I whistle quite loudly; it took me many years to learn how to do this. So I whistled, which kind of excites them, and they came out and danced, and we left. This was a Saturday night. I have class every Monday with the children, and I think it was a Monday night, it might have been Tuesday, the phone rang and I answered it and this male voice said, "Oh, say, I like the way you whistle." I said, "I beg your pardon!" I completely forgot about Saturday night, and I couldn't figure out who was talking to me. And he says, "This is Bob Seltzer from the Cleveland Press, and this was the last article he wrote. It was in December, and he retired at the end of that year. And he wrote this article about this excite the dancers. [Laughter] We were invited to dance at the Ohio State Fair, we were down there for three days in 1975, and they housed us Thursday night, and we danced Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and we came back Sunday. They housed us, gave us three meals a day, and we gave three or four performances for them down there, which was great fun for the children. It was a special weekend for adults. I had a few adults with me to help me take care of the children. We stayed in a dormitory, and that was a real nice time. We danced at the Cherry Festival in Belleview, Ohio, and at the Oktoberfest here in Cleveland, and at the Mardi Gras in Fairport Harbor. We've been around the state of Ohio and hopefully we have given a good impression of the Russian Orthodox Church, because my children must be well behaved. This is something I expect of them, and especially if they're in costume. Don't ever embarrass me because we carry the name of the church with us, and I want you to behave, and you don't get rowdy and you don't play in your costume. So they've abided by my wishes and I'm proud of them.
JT: Is it customary for Orthodox churches to have dance groups, or is St. Theodosius unusual?
OG: I don't know that it's unusual, but we've had this dance group and we were asked to kind of come out with a name. Originally they danced every year, they didn't call themselves anything, it was just that this was the picnic and the youngsters were going to dance. I felt that we should have a name. Number one, I wanted to apply for a tax-free [status], so we could buy material and things like that which I felt we were entitled to. So I was applying for that and we had to have a name. And what better name than St. Theodosius Folk Dancers, because we're using the facilities there, the hall, and the electricity, why not honor the church? And I think it was a good choice, because I think it helps keep us in line as far as conduct.
JT: That's very interesting. I don't have any more questions; do you have something you would like to add?
OG: No, I can't think of anything. I'm glad for what I've done, because it's something that I love, and as long as I can walk I'll continue to do it. I can no longer do the things I expect of my children, but I know how to correct them.
JT: Do you think your grandchildren will dance?
OG: Yes, they might. The ones up in Milwaukee... I made a tape of the Russian dances and I sent it up so that they would be able to have their own special audiocassette, and they have all of the stories and they use their equipment a lot. So I think it's such that in between, occasionally, they will be hearing the Russian music. They were up here about two years ago, and they had not left yet on a Monday. And I told them, "I'm sorry, but Grandma has to go and be with the children, and why don't you come and march with them." I have them go through certain exercises first to build up their ears to rhythm and marching and stepping and that sort of thing. So they came along and then went into the first dance, and that was two years ago. And when the children were here this May for Memorial Day, and my second granddaughter is four years old, and she's trying to impress me. I'm sitting on the davenport and she is going around the table and saying, "Bokazne, one, two, three, Bokazne, one, two, three," and she remembered words that I had said back a year and a half before, and she was doing this for Grandma. So chances are there is a bit of desire in the youngster to do it.
JT: I hope she will.
OG: I do too!
JT: Thank you very much for your interview.
OG: You're most welcome.