St. Mary’s Cemetery

St. Mary’s Cemetery. Photograph by Nick Kupensky (2015).

“The Pen of Kubek Will Write No More!”

Location of Kubek's grave. Enter St. Mary's Cemetery. Park to the left of the small building located on the right of the main road. Walk straight until you see a set of stairs on your right. Turn to left, and walk up the hill.
Location of Kubek’s grave. Enter St. Mary’s Cemetery. Park to the left of the small building located on the right of the main road. Walk straight until you see a set of stairs on your right. Turn to left, and walk up the hill.

On July 17, 1940, at the age of 82, Emil Kubek died. He was buried on July 20 in St. Mary’s Cemetery, and a large crowd made up of St. Mary’s parishioners, a number of priests, and Bishop Basil Takach himself attended the funeral. Father Nicholas Elko of Mahanoy City delivered the eulogy, which celebrated Kubek’s dedication to his flock and literary accomplishments. The text, which was later published in the American Rusyn Messenger, describes how Kubek’s work as a priest enriched his writing:

Those who preach funeral orations often begin by referencing to the sad assignment that confronts them. In this instance, however, it is different. For one who has lived to the ripe age of eighty-two, and has been a priest for fifty-eight years, and served in one parish for thirty-six years, can we not say that words spoken of him are such sweet sorrow? Isn’t his sleep of death comparable to the sleep of one as Bryant writes who has finished a hard day’s work and then wraps the draperies of his couch around him and lies down to pleasant dreams? Isn’t this departure of his as natural as the departure of a graceful actor who makes a fitting exist at a conclusion of a drama, leaving us with the sweet thought that he lives happily ever after. So, too, we like to think of Father Kubek as one leaving us with the thought that his soul, too, lives happily ever after in heaven.

We have come to the last page in the Book of Life of one who understood life so well. As one who worked with souls, he understood people and characters. He smiled with those who were happy and he shed tears with those who were sad. Having a deep understanding of human nature, he not only used this ability to teach from the pulpit but he was a respected writer. Those facts of life and culture which he left for posterity in his many writings will live on. (July 25, 1940)

As the news broke, more tributes began to pour in. The American Rusyn Messenger published its own memorial, which lamented that “the talented pen of Very Reverend Father Emilian Kubek will write no more!” Calling him the “Modern Duchnovych,” the ARV writes that “when we look at his career here in the free land of Washington, we acknowledge the truth of the proverb ‘Death doesn’t announce when it will strike’ (Smert’ ne trubit koli hubit), for in the loss of Very Reverend Father Emilian Kubek of Blessed Memory, American Rus’ has lost a lot” (August 1, 1940: 1). Mahanoy City also mourned the loss of its most prominent writer. “No words can do justice to the devoted pastoral care given to the parish since the accession to the pastorate of the Rev. Emil Kubek,” writes the Record American. Indeed, perhaps the most fitting tribute to Kubek is to let him speak through his poetry.

Kubek's death record in St. Mary's metrical books.
Kubek’s death record signed by Bishop Basil Takach in St. Mary’s metrical books.

Death and Resurrection 

“No! We Won’t Die!” published immediately after Kubek’s death in the American Rusyn Messenger (July 25, 1940).

In the issue immediately following his death, in lieu of an obituary the ARV published his poem “No! We Won’t Die!” (1922), a lyric which reprises all of the qualities Kubek valued most: an optimistic belief in the miraculous power of faith, a never-ending dedication to the Carpatho-Rusyn people, and a powerful call for the preservation and development of its cultural heritage. The theme of the poem is resurrection and the hope for eternal life, which is repeated again and again by the refrain, in Church Slavonic, of “Christ is risen!” (“Christos voskres!”).

Kubek sees the triumph of life over death in the changing of the seasons, as winter’s “blizzards and storms” give way to “spring showers.” Springtime is also the season of Easter, and Eastern-rite Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ by chanting “Christ is risen” (“Christos voskres”) throughout the Easter liturgy. Carpatho-Rusyn culture came back from near death twice in Kubek’s lifetime — during the first Rusyn Renaissance of the mid-19th century and again after World War I within democratic Czechoslovakia. Kubek is acutely aware that the fight for political freedom is a hard one and calls upon future generations of Carpatho-Rusyns “to ensure that this freedom survives.”

What Kubek could not have predicted, however, was the resurrection of his own legacy. How would he have reacted knowing that courses are taught about Marko Šoltys in Prešov, Slovakia, the city where he was ordained a priest? How would he have felt when the school he helped found in Snakov, Slovakia, was named in his honor? What would he have said about the appearance of new books dedicated to his life and work?

Emil Kubek the man lies alongside his wife Maria in this humble plot in St. Mary’s cemetery, but his name continues to live on in his poetry and prose. Indeed, with each recitation of “No! We Won’t Die!”, you resurrect his voice from the grave and bring his poetry back to life.

Emil Kubek's grave
Emil Kubek’s grave

“No! We Won’t Die!”
By Emil Kubek

No! We won’t die!
The winter has passed, spring has arrived…
Our race has awakened, and we are alive!
Blizzards and storms become gentle spring showers,
Which brighten the forests and water the flowers;
And the whole world sings from the depth of its chest:
Christos voskres! Christos voskres!

No! We won’t die!
A spirited nation can never be killed,
So long as we place our faith in God’s will!
But we’ve had to endure and have suffered for years,
Nothing would help bring an end to our tears.
But now rays from heaven slowly ease our distress:
Christos voskres! Christos voskres!

No! We won’t die!
For the poor are protected from sickness and strife,
By a masculine faith, so we charge into life!
We protect what’s been given to us by our fathers,
And we’re never ashamed of our hard-working mothers.
We trust in our church and proudly profess:
Christos voskres! Christos voskres!

No! We won’t die!
No matter how far we carry our cross,
Our father’s inheritance will never be lost.
We’ve starved and went hungry but have persevered,
Our love of our homeland is mixed with our tears,
We’re fearless and rugged, and will pass every test.
Christos voskres! Christos voskres!

No! We won’t die!
The Lord has revealed his justice and truth,
And we will defend his church from abuse.
As Christ walked to Golgotha, the crowds brutally beat him,
From the cross, he promised salvation and freedom.
He’ll raise up the poor, the weak and oppressed.
Christos voskres! Christos voskres!

No! We won’t die!
As a free people, in the land of the free,
We cherish our freedom on this side of the sea.
And so that our children will honor our lives,
We have to ensure that this freedom survives.
Together, in chorus, again we express:
Christos voskres! Christos voskres!


Walk to the top of the cemetery for a better view of Mahanoy City today.

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One thought on “St. Mary’s Cemetery

  1. I just finished the 11 pages of the “Tour.” I must say that it was a real eye opener for me. I am 50% Rusyn from my father. He passed when I was 18 months old, after which, my mother returned to Mahanoy City where we attended St. Canicus. I had lost my Rusyn roots and never reconnected them in Mahanoy City. I know much more about my Irish and German roots. Thanks for all you effort.

    Like

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