Briscar Family History

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A History of the Briscar Family
(Submitted by Dolores Briscar Gallagher)

Anna Briskar Felegi (John's mother) was the first to arrive in America around the year 1904 from Slovakia.*  John's stepfather, George Felegi came later on.  Baba and Dzedo Felegi lived in Republic, PA.  Next to Arrive in America was John Briscar from Bardejov, Slovakia.  John, not being dissuaded by the barrier of a mere ocean, sent for Anna Mika, who lived in Nova Ves, Slovakia, and who was to be his bride.   Anna arrived in Connellsville, PA on September 20, 1910.   John and Anna were married on November 10, 1910 at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Uniontown.    After a while they took in relatives and friends as boarders who were coming from Slovakia to live in America.  Then, when financially able, the boarders moved on to other locations.

John Briscar worked at the Summit Hotel performing various jobs.  The Summit Hotel is still located on Rt. 40 East of Uniontown, PA.   His next employment was at People's furniture store on Main Street in Uniontown.   While employed at People's, his boss wanted him to learn the business.  They thought John was very artistic and knowledgeable and that could lead to great possibilities.  For some reason or other, John left the store and went to work in the coal mines.  Most likely it was because the pay was better.

Joe Kuharik recently told me that his Godfather, John Briscar was very artistic, that John made a gun stock for Joe, and a ball bat for his brother Steve.   At one time he asked Joe, "You still have this old Victrola?"  Then John took the cabinet apart and made a smaller, beautiful cabinet to hold the Victrola and records.  Joe also said that John made a very nice carved casket for a Kuharik baby that was still-born.

John and Anna lived in a town called Helen, near the town of Dearth off Rt. 40 in PA.  They stayed there a short time and then Baba Felegi asked them to move in with them at Republic, PA.  John and Anna's first child, Mary, was born in Republic on August 29, 1911.  Later they moved to Continental #1.   Baby Anna was born there in 1914.  She lived only three days.  Helen and Vincent were also born there, Helen in the year of 1915, February 20, and Vincent on January 20, 1917.

Leaving Continental #1, John, Anna and family moved to Takoch Farm, South of Rt. 119 in Uniontown, PA.  The farm is still there today.   The family didn't live there very long.  They moved to Jamison, PA (off South Mt. Vernon Avenue in Uniontown) where their next child was born.  Her name- Sally, October 13, 1919.   Then in 1921 another child was conceived.  Her name also was Anna.  Anna died as an infant.  Then a son was born on May 18, 1924.   They named him Joseph.   After Joseph a baby girl was born.  Her name was Catherine.  She also died as an infant.

From Jamison, the Briscar family moved to Lemont Furnace, PA.  There John continued to work in the coal mines.  Their ninth child, Veronica was born on April 27, 1929.  Four years later another daughter was born on January 25, 1933.  Her name was Dolores.

As the years went by, the children went in different directions.  Mary married William Ellsworth and settled in Connellsville, PA.   Helen and her husband John Chuska stayed in Lemont.  Vincent and wife Agnes Stoots stayed in Cleveland, OH after World War II.  Joseph and wife Betty Valentovich ended up in Strongsville, OH.   Veronica and her husband Joseph Valentovich (brother of Betty Valentovich) stayed in Uniontown.  Dolores married a service man, John Gallagher,  who was in the Air Force.  They ended up in Fayetteville, NC (near Ft. Bragg) as transplanted Yankees.  Sally and her husband, Herschel Sampson went to Baltimore, MD.

While living in Lemont the family had a cow, some chickens, ducks, geese and pigs.  Baba Briscar and Baba Felegi made pillows and bed covers called a perina (feather tick) from feathers of the fowl.  From the milk of the cow was made sour milk, churned butter and cottage cheese.  The cottage cheese made some tasty kolatche.

When the weather got colder, the pigs were butchered.   There was a smoke shanty near the bake oven where the meat was smoked.  We had smoked hams, sausage and bacon.  Dzedo made the outside oven from bricks and then covered it with metal sheeting.  Baba then baked bread and kolatche in the huge oven.   There was nothing better tasting than the baked goods from that brick oven.

Dzedo Briscar was a good hunter and fisherman.  So was brother Vin.   They would travel with their friends to different places to hunt.  To fish, there were reservoirs around the area.  The Youghiogenny Lake, Confluence Dam, and Ohiopyle were good places to fish.

Dzedo Briscar made a small cement pond in the cellar where he kept minnows and crabs that were used for fishing.

Everything was put to good use.  Baba Briscar sewed beautiful aprons, kitchen curtains, dresses and whatever else she could make from printed flour sacks.   The plain muslin flour sacks were used to make mattress covers, etc.  The canvas bags from feed and potatoes were placed on the floor and used as rugs.  Later, as years went by, Baba Briscar and Baba Felegi and with the aid of neighbors and at times children, made rugs by cutting strips of all kinds of material and placing different colors of rug string through a wooden loom.  Then working the wooden loom together, a colorful product was finished.

On the land in Lemont there were apple and peach trees, currant berry bushes, and a couple of raspberry bushes.  The family planted different kinds of vegetables and then Baba would can the vegetables.  There was a trellis just outside the back porch, always covered with grapes.  At times, Dzedo Briscar made wine and home brew.   The home made root beer was something we looked forward to even though it would pop during the middle of the night and some of us would jump.

There was a brick walkway leading from the back porch to the dirt road above the house.  On each side of the walkway was a bench.  A trellis hovered the benches covered with roses.  A brick walkway also led from the back porch to a one-room house were Baba and Dzedo Felegi lived.  Throughout the yard there were many colorful flowering bushes, such as lilacs, peonies, and roses.  There were iris along the walkway in the back yard and other small, pretty flowers throughout the yard.

May the peace of Jesus and St. Francis be with each one of you always.

Dolores Briscar Gallagher

* Slovakia was known as Austria-Hungary in the late 19th century and later became part of Czechoslovakia.  In the 1990's there was a separation resulting in independence for two countries,  The Czech Republic and Slovakia.


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The Czechoslovak Republic was established in 1918 at the end of the First World War as one of the successor states to the collapsed Hapsburg Monarchy. Before 1918, the Czechs had been subjects of the Hapsburg ruler in his capacity as Austrian Emperor and King of Bohemia since 1620, while the Slovaks had been subjects of the Hungarian Crown of St. Stephen for almost one thousand years. Bohemia's independent status before 1620 (albeit with an elected Hapsburg ruler in the decades before the Thirty Years War) gave the Czechs a different historical status.

The Munich Agreement (30th September, 1938) set in train the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. President Benes went into exile and Emil Hacha assumed the presidency, but the growth of German power encouraged Slovak nationalism.
On 14th March, 1939, egged on by German influence, the Slovak nationalists led by Monsignor Tiso declared the "Independent State of Slovakia". This precipitated the collapse of rump Czechoslovakia. On 15th March, Hitler's army entered Bohemia and Moravia under the pretext of re-establishing "public order" and established the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Until the final defeat of the German forces there on 12th May, 1945, Bohemia and Moravia were ruled directly by a German Protector in Prague albeit President Hacha's government nominally continued to function under his supervision.

The situation in Bratislava was different. The new Slovak government owed its independence to Hitler's power, but it was not directly subordinated to a Nazi proconsul. Throughout the years 1939-45, the Slovak regime was in a much stronger position to determine its own internal policies. In practice, these fell into line with German desires, often anticipating Nazi wishes (as was the case with other collaborationist states like Vichy France) before they were formally expressed.

Unlike Bohemia and Moravia, however, and only partly as a result of more favourable terrain, Slovakia developed an anti- fascist resistance movement which operated both against the Tiso forces and the Germans as the fighting front in the east drew nearer to Slovak territory. When the Red Army entered eastern Slovakia in August, 1944, a partisan rising assisted their advance by disrupting the German Army's rear.
Despite the formal alliance between Hungary and the "Independent State of Slovakia" during the Second World War, relations between the Tiso and Horthy regimes were bad. The Hungarian treatment of Slovakia in the decades before the First World War was undoubtedly much harsher than the Austrian approach to the Czechs. Attempts at Magyarization and to suppress Slovak culture left a bitter legacy. The bad blood between Hungarians and Slovaks was continually stoked up during the inter-war period because the Horthy regime in Budapest was unwilling to accept the loss of territory by the Treaty of Trianon. After the Slovak declaration of independence in 1939, Hungary's claims to southern Slovakia and the trans-Carpathian Ukraine were endorsed by Hitler and the Tiso regime was obliged to cede substantial territories to Hungary. The renewed suppression of Slovak culture in those areas enhanced the pre- existing bitterness between Slovaks and Hungarians, despite the fact that both "Independent Slovakia" and Hungary were Axis allies against the Soviet Union.

After 1945, the Sudeten Germans were expelled from Bohemia and Moravia. The bulk of the much smaller German minority was also expelled from Slovakia. A large number of Hungarians were also driven out of Slovakia, but this aspect of post-war "ethnic cleansing" was carried out much less thoroughly. A population of several hundred thousand Magyars remained in their traditional homes on Slovak soil, especially in the south along the Danube where they formed the majority in many individual towns and villages.

Following the Warsaw Pact invasion in August, 1968, the pro-Soviet Husak regime tried to bolster its support in Slovakia by emphasising the CSSR's federal nature. Despite its theoretical equality with Prague and the presence of a Slovak Communist, Gustav Husak in the Hrad in Prague, in practice Slovakia did not benefit from "normalisation" except in the perverse sense that many uneconomic and ill-thought-out projects were started on Slovak territory. It is doubtful if the "divide and rule" tactics of the Husak regime did anything to improve the lives of ordinary Slovaks. In fact, the combination of forced heavy industrialisation and Soviet-style urban modernization in the 1970s and 1980s have left post- communist Slovakia were a more difficult legacy than the Czech two-thirds of Czechoslovakia.

Although the most famous dissidents were to be found in Prague before the "Velvet Revolution" of 1989, Slovakia did have its own anti-Communist groups. Some were composed of former reform communists, like Miroslav Kusy, expelled from the Party and imprisoned after 1968. Others were focussed around either classic liberal ideas or Catholic religious circles, like the one led by Jan Carnogursky. One of the last major events of the old regime was its arrest and trial of Kusy and Carnogursky in the summer and autumn of 1989. Carnogursky's release from prison marked the collapse of the Communist Party's authority in Slovakia.

The post-revolutionary failure to establish a mutually acceptable relationship between Prague and Bratislava reflected the problems that even East-Central Europe's most exemplary democracy had in dealing with nationalism. Undoubtedly, many Slovaks felt slighted by the Czechs. Whether real or imagined, these snubs promoted the Slovak feeling that only greater self- assertiveness could liberate them from their status as country cousins condescended to by Prague. How far such feelings came to mean that most Slovaks really wanted independence may however be doubted. Opinion polls in the run up to 1st January, 1993, suggested that a majority of Slovaks (and Czechs) did not support the separation of Czechoslovakia.

Many dark predictions were made about the fate of both republics after the break-up. It was feared that rows would erupt over the division of their spoils and over border disputes and immigration. In fact, the split has gone remarkably smoothly. A threatening border dispute was defused in July 1993 when Klaus and Meciar agreed to maintain border controls only for citizens from third countries. Relations have been harmonious. Last year Klaus refused to help Joszef Antall block Slovakia's entry to the Council of Europe and Slovakia supported enthusiastically the Czech Republic's attempt to gain a seat on the UN Security Council. It is also noticeable that official comments were fair and objective following the recent elections.

Of course, at the end of the day Vaclav Klaus was an even more enthusiastic proponent of the federation's demise than Meciar. While he is in power nothing will be done by Prague to disturb the status quo. However, there are, no doubt, those who would like to see closer contacts in the future. On the 23rd June, 1994, Slovak premier, Josef Moravcik, said that the division of Czechoslovakia was "only temporary" and that by 2000 when both countries should have joined the EU they would have "the closest possible contacts". Coupon privatization, the outgoing government's favoured model for privatization, would certainly tie the two countries closer together as many of the larger funds operate in both Prague and Bratislava.


bulletSlovakia Index - SLOVAKIA Slovakia 1998: A Pre-Election Analysis Is Slovakia really Central Europe's Problem-Child? Slovakia 1994: Two Years After Independence A somewhat older BHHRG report which, however, remains informative about Slovakia's present-day plight The.

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