View of Mahanoy City from the Elmwood Colliery
shortly after Kubek arrived in town in 1904.
From 1904 to 1940, Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, was the home of one of the most prolific Carpatho-Rusyn writers – Father Emil Kubek. The residents of Mahanoy City who knew Father Kubek remember him as the devoted priest of St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church, but few are acquainted with his humorous lyrical poetry, touching short stories, or masterful novel Marko Šoltys, largely because the vast majority of Kubek’s work, written in Carpatho-Rusyn, has yet to be translated into English.
In Europe, however, Kubek’s literary reputation has been growing over the course of the last 40 years. His poetry and prose play a central role in the literary course offerings in The Institute of Rusyn Language and Culture at the University of Prešov in Slovakia. Numerous monographs and articles have appeared on Kubek’s life and work. A documentary film has been made about his life. And an elementary school in Snakov, Slovakia — the village where Kubek served before emigrating to the United States — was named in his honor in 2008.
The Kubek Project aims to reestablish his role both as a significant Carpatho-Rusyn writer and an important voice within the American literary tradition. The first half of the twentieth century was the great age of the urban novel, and Kubek was the first Carpatho-Rusyn writer who attempted to make sense of the effects of urban mining life on Carpatho-Rusyn Americans. Kubek draws upon Mahanoy City to create the settings of his short stories, incorporates many recognizable buildings, individuals, and neighborhoods into his prose, and gives voice to the immigrant experience in his lyrical poetry.
For this reason, the Kubek Project invites you to take the West End Walking Tour, discover this unique literary talent, and experience the sights of historic Mahanoy City that inspired his work.
The West End Walking Tour includes:
1. The St. Nicholas Coal Breaker
Experience the ruins of the world’s largest coal breaker through Kubek’s “Lullaby to a Miner’s Child.”
2. St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church
Be inspired by the church where Kubek lived and worked while reading his farewell to the Carpathians “My Native Land.” Then go inside and encounter Eastern-rite religious art through Kubek’s “A Mother’s Love” and the “Three-Bar Cross!”
3. The West End Café
Take a shot in the oldest barroom in Mahanoy City over a recitation of Kubek’s “The Good Dad.”
4. West Railroad Street
Explore the Slavic neighborhood that inspired Kubek’s short story “An Easter Gift.”
5. Smith’s Market
Imagine the former site of John Žinčak Smith’s grocery store that serves as the setting for Kubek’s “Merry Christmas.”
6. The American Rusyn Messenger
Discover the history of Carpatho-Rusyn fraternal organizations at the first home of The American Rusyn Messenger, and read Kubek’s fiery polemics with its influential editor, Paul Zhatkovich.
7. Smith’s Mansion
Marvel at the East End home of Mahanoy City’s wealthiest Carpatho-Rusyn, John Žinčak Smith, whose biography served as the foundation for Kubek’s protagonist in “Palko Rostoka.”
8. Slovak Lutheran Church
Take a photo of the charming parish of Rev. Louis Sanjek, friend of Kubek and translator of his work, and read about his experiences as a Lutheran pastor to Mahanoy City’s Slovak community in his autobiography In Silence.
9. St. Nicholas Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Learn about the evolution of ethnic identity in the Coal Region at the site of a defection from Kubek’s parish of Carpatho-Rusyns and Ukrainians from the Austrian province of Galicia, and hear Kubek discuss the disastrous consequences of ethnic factionalism in his essay “Our Ancestral Curse.”
10. St. Mary’s Rectory
See the house the Kubek lived in throughout his time in Mahanoy City, and experience what it’s like to leave Mahanoy City in Kubek’s travelogue “My Journey to Florida.”
11. St. Mary’s Cemetery
Celebrate the life of Emil Kubek by visiting his grave, and reflect upon his legacy by reciting his poem “No! We Won’t Die!” about resurrection and life after death.