Mykhailo Zubrytskyi is a Greek Catholic priest and a public figure who analyzes the phenomenon of migration to the United States from the Carpathian village of Lyutovytska, in the Ukrainian newspaper Dilo. The author describes the migration strategies of peasants, the stages of the migration process, adaptation to a new place, and difficulties with returning. Although the text focuses on Ukrainian migration, the author mentions Jews who were also leaving for the United States, as well as Jews who acted as intermediaries in migration. At the same time, for the author, as for a public figure, the influence of migration on Galicia was important, which he saw as multidimensional. Migration meant the outflow of young able-bodied people from the region, but at the same time financial assistance for their families. However, he seems to find it the most important to have the possibility of adopting the political culture of the democratic region and the implementation of its principles in Galicia. This text illustrates that the phenomenon of migration was important not only for socialist environments, but also for Ukrainophiles.


Mykhailo Zubrytskyi. Our Emigration, Dilo, 1902

Mykhailo Zubrytskyi
Printed in:
Our Emigration, Dilo, 1902, February 14 (27), part 36, p. 2 [Unsigned]. Mykhailo Zubrytskyi. Collection of essays and materials in three volumes. Volume 3: Newspaper publications, ethnographic and archival materials. Lviv: Litopys, 2019. P. 671-672.
Original language:

Our Emigration
From under Lyutovyska, they write to us:

In our lands, people now do not talk about other things than the trip to “Hamerica”. From all villages around Lyutovyska, a great many people are leaving for the United States of North America for labour. Usually the poorest people leave having borrowed the money, either from some richer ones, or in the church, or elsewhere. When the rich man has a larger family, he would send one son out to the world to make money. Young lads leave, even 17-year-olds, and the older men, too. Sometimes, the debtors go because they hope to pay off their debts with their earnings. Even the Jews are migrating. Several dozens left from Lyutovyska, young Jewish women also left from the villages. Wherever our Christian people go they are following and live by because they fear lest our people miss them. In the beginning of this year, people in Ustrzyki hired a Jew as a guide to Hamburg but it had happened several times that the Jew was arrested in Przemysl, then again somewhere else, and the people were delayed. Those who went to America, threw away their outfits in Ustrzyki Dolne, bought some other clothes from the Jews to look more upper class and continued their journey that way. Now, they go directly to Oświęcim, to the agency house of Zofia Biesiadecka who sent her announcements and information to all the villages, There, they change the clothes and go on. At the border, the immigrants are sometimes detained when they have not served military service or exercises, or have not paid a military tax. 

We have been experiencing the consequences of having so many people immigrating to America everywhere. From the communities located further in the west, people have been already leaving for work to America for over twenty years now. During this time, they have sent much money back home, which paid the debts, built better houses, and some villages bought the landlords’ lands into private property. However, much money was also wasted. Our peasant people found themselves in America in totally different conditions. There, their daily meals would be better than they used to have at Easter here; they would buy themselves better clothes; they would always have money at hand; and they did not have to struggle like they used to in their homeland, discriminated by every other ruffian. People longed for their native land, but upon their nostalgic return from America, they faced the old lifestyles they no longer wanted. They would not enjoy the taste of lean potatoes, oatmeal, or corn bread. They would try to have a better life with the money they earned, and when they ran out of money, they would go back to America as soon as possible. In many villages, almost all the young people left, leaving behind the young girls and old people. Because of this, there was no one to run the households, and the young girls did not have any grooms to marry. Because of this, the dowry increased and the fathers with adult girls would often search for grooms in the surrounding villages. Thus, immigration to America brought much money for our people but also inflicted much damage to community life. 

It would be good if our people could be more cautious of the immigration, and tried to make it bring some benefits to our people’s cause. When leaving for America, our people find themselves in a richer and wealthier country, in a country of personal freedom and respect for the dignity of every citizen, whereas at home, they left behind poverty, illiteracy, arbitrariness, and exploitation. Our Constitution, although well-designed, exists only on paper. If our peasants, having looked well at everything in America, having understood everything, and therefore having returned to the homeland, if they could try and transfer those things at home, to share them, and thus, they would have contributed largely to the growth of their nation. Some people are happy to have earned the money and buy the land upon return. However, for Ruthenians, it does not do any good if land simply passes from one peasant to another. It would be very good if peasants earned money overseas, and bought parceled landlord lands. It would not hurt us if such people looked for earnings in trade, in entrepreneurial activity. We know how difficult this is for us and why, but goodwill can help overcome many hardships. As to those people who enjoyed American life and cannot downshift to come back and live here, they will do better when they stay in a new place and earn their daily bread there.

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Documents (7)

Polish émigré song, 1918-1939
The socialist movement actively tried to attract emigrant workers. The theme of the hard labour of workers in factories or sweatshops appears in the works of socialists, who were often emigrants themselves. Some songs were anthems, and were created for that collective singing. An example of this is the Polish émigré song. There, emigrants leave their native land because of social injustice. Landlords, magnates, and priests are opposed to oppressed workers or soldiers who returned from the war and did not receive the expected guarantees. At the same time, the song emphasizes the temporary nature of emigration, because emigrants will return to their native land to make a revolution.
Image for Excerpt from the memoirs of Ukrainian еmigrant in Canada Vasyl Plaskonis about his migration experience in 1925
Excerpt from the memoirs of Ukrainian еmigrant in Canada Vasyl Plaskonis about his migration experience in 1925
An excerpt from the autobiography of Ukrainian migrant, Vasyl Plaskonis, describes his experience of leaving interwar Poland for Canada in 1925. The motivation for emigration was not only economic, but also political, as Vasyl Plaskonis felt persecuted in Poland as a former participant in the Polish-Ukrainian war. The author considered his decision to migrate as temporary. The text describes the process of making a decision about the departure, journey, and the first months of adaptation in Canada. An important issue is the mediation of agents who helped emigrants to purchase tickets and leave. In Canada, new Ukrainian migrants found work in mines, or as day laborers on farms. The text explains how the...
Image for Excerpt from the Ben Reisman autobiography, a native of the Galician town Kalush, who emigrated to America in 1896
Excerpt from the Ben Reisman autobiography, a native of the Galician town Kalush, who emigrated to America in 1896
The autobiography was sent to a competition of migrant autobiographies organized by the YIVO Jewish Institute. Its author is Ben Reisman from the Galician town of Kalush, who recalls his childhood in Galicia, his arrival to America in 1896, and his involvement in the socialist movement. The selected passage shows the process of travel and the importance of a network of social contacts between migrants from the same region. Such connections made it possible and easier to make a decision on migration, job search, or an adaptation to a new place. One of the typical moments of involvement in a new place is interest in politics. Ben Reisman arrived in the United States...
“My Mummy Is Back Home, When I’m In America”, song about emigration
The song is built on the emigration-home dichotomy. It reflects the popular strategy of rural families who sent some of their children to emigration, so that they could help support the household with money transfers. In the song, a daughter who has a hard job in the factory and suffers as a “green”, that is, an inexperienced migrant, from not speaking the language, unfair wages, and difficult work conditions. Women were often migrant workers, but they worked in worse and less paid jobs. She reproaches the mother who sent her to earn money and does not know about the hardships of labour. The experience of young migrants who went through numerous trials, but...
“It Feels Good in America”, song about emigration, recorded in 1949
The song highlights the difference between life in America and life back home, in Europe. Unlike the songs that mention disappointment from the unfulfilled hopes in the United States, this piece shows work as a safeguard for higher economic status. America allows immigrants to lead a comfortable lifestyle, one of the attributes of which is a pocket watch. But the conflict of the song is built on the opposition of the wealth of the migrant and the poverty of his wife and children at home. Despite the economically comfortable life, there is a problem of emotional discomfort and a feeling of alienation from family and home.
“Amidst America, There’s a Solid Brick Inn”, song about emigration
The song covers several topics at the same time. It focuses on the difficulties of migrant work, adaptation in a new country, and separation from the family. New migrants sit and drink in the inn (korchma). The use of this term demonstrates the domestication of a new space through familiar concepts and rituals. At the same time, migrants have an important connection with the “old land”, with Europe, where their wives stayed behind. Contacts with home mainly happen when they transfer money and the man is worried lest the woman gets a lover. From this song, we can also understand that it is more profitable to work in the mines, underground. One such...
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Grine kuzine (Green Cousin), song about emigration, 1921
The song, with a debatable authorship, was written for a Jewish theater. It was performed both in Europe and in the United States, and it became one of the most popular migrant works. The word “green” was an ironic definition of new immigrants who did not navigate well in American reality. The song “Green Cousin” raises the issue of disappointment of migrants in America, where hard work exhausts new-comers and does not bring the expected profit. The “Columbian state” appears not as a dream country where dreams come true, but a society of inequalities. Despite the hilarious music and satirical plot, the song shows the anxiety of emigrants due to the lack of...
A brivele der mamen (A Little Letter to Mama), song about emigration, 1907
The song was written by a Belarusian composer and singer, Solomon Smulewitz (1868-1943) in 1907. The author also had experience of migration to the United States. The song became very popular. In particular, it was used as a basis for a theatrical production and a film in Yiddish. The work raises the issue of migration caused separation of families. While the son who went to America has a successful life and a new family, his mother feels abandoned. Before her death, she asks her son not to forget to read Kaddish, a memorial prayer for her. The problem of separated families remained common to all migrants, but in this text the Jewish prayer...
“Goldene land” (Golden land), song about emigration, 1889
The song was written by a Lithuanian Jewish poet, Eliakum Zunser (1840-1913) based on his own experience of emigrating to the United States. The song "Golden Land" touches on the issue of new migrants, whose high expectations fail. The American city turns out to be a space full of dirt, noise, and poverty. Although jobs are available, they are poorly paid and dangerous to health. America is also not a place of social equality, because like in Europe, there is a disproportion in the distribution of wealth. This is an urban experience that was shared by many Jewish migrants who found work in the textile industry, or like Zunser himself, in the printing...
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Related modules (1)

The end of the 19th century through the beginning of the 20th century is known as the period of mass migration from Europe to other continents, when more than 55 million people changed their place of residence. In particular, this process captured the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires, where a difficult economic situation, job shortages, and persecutions stirred various groups of the population to leave. Such groups included both Ukrainian and Polish peasants, and Jews from urban centers who were small-scale craftsmen or workers. Most often, they moved to the United States, Canada, Argentina, and Brazil, where labor was needed at factories or farms.
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