In mid-August of this year, twelve students of Middlebury College's famous Russian School received their M A degrees in the Russian language and literature. (Each summer 150 students, mostly teachers, from almost every state attend the school. This year the Russian School is celebrating its twentieth anniversary). Among them was Andrew J. Yurkovsky, son of John and Eva Danilo Yurkovsky, now residing in New York City.
Andrew J. Yurkovsky was born in Olyphant, Pa. Five years later the family moved to Mayfield, Pa., birthplace of his mother. Here Andrew and his two sisters and brother attended the local public schools. They, also, like their mother before them, attended the Russian Orthodox parochial school in Mayfield for seven years. (The parish school in those days was crowded and on “double sessions”, as to speak). One large group of pupils attended on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 4 to 6 P. M. Another group attended on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on Saturdays from 10 to 12 A. M. The curriculum consisted of catechism, study of the Bible, Russian literature, history, writing. Courses were conducted in the Russian-Galician dialect. Andrew's mother recalls that one of her teachers, the late Mr. Alexey Shlanta, for many years a postmaster in Mayfield, and keenly interested in Russian culture, had proposed the inclusion of the Russian literary language in the parish school curriculum, but influential though backward parishioners disapproved of the farsighted idea.
Andrew’s father, John, long was active in parish affairs and interested in Russian culture. He was especially fond of the Russian Brotherhood Organization and the Lemko Association. He was a keen reader, also, of many Russian language newspapers and subscribed ito newspapers, books, and magazines published by the Katchkovsky Organization or Society in Europe. He had emigrated to the United States while in his late teens from Peregrimka, Galicia. As did most of the immigrants of that day, he worked at various jobs, but mostly as a fireman. In that capacity, he worked as a fireman for the Sunshine Biscuit Company in Long Island City, until his retirement a few years ago. As regards education, Mr Yurkovsky, like the late, revered Mr. Shlanta and a few others in Mayfield, also tried to promote an interest in literary Russian. When his efforts got nowhere in this respect, that is, inclusion of the literary language in the parish school curriculum, he arranged for Andrew to take рrivate lessons in the Russian language, literature and history with Prof. Constantine Leontovich (now of Yonkers, N. Y.), a splendid teacher and choir director, with a deep love of Orthodoxy and Russian culture. Fine textbooks were bought and lessons were begun with great expectations. Alas, young Andrew was ashamed to study “high Russian” in those days, and went to these private sessions with his Russian textbooks hidden under his shirt! But perhaps it couldn’t be helped. And, despite the trepidation and boyish desire to conform, to do only what his classmates were doing, before these lessons ended he did sense in some degree the beauty of literary Russian and literature, and the fascination of ancient Russian history.
As regards the faculty of the parish school, mention must be made of some of the other outstanding teachers, such as the Rt. Rev. Basil Repella, now of Minersville, Pa.; Michael Senio, now of Yonkers; and Michael Kulick, at the present time a teacher of Russian in the local high school.
Not long after Andrew graduated from Mayfield High School, the family moved to New York City. There, working in the daytime, Andrew took courses at Columbia University in the evenings. During World War II, he worked for the Office of Postal Censorship in New York City. In 1953, he received a B A. degree in Russian history from City College. Not long afterward, he began teaching school. At the present time, he is a teacher of English in the Jersey City school system. He is certified to teach both English and Social Studies.
Peter, Andrew's brother, also attended City College, but just before World War II began he enlisted in the U. S. Coast Guard and stayed in the Service for six years. He then attended Hunter College in New York City. Upon receiving his В A degree in Sociology, he enrolled in the New York School for Social Work, a division of Columbia University. After attending for two years, he received his M A degree. He now lives in Milford, Conn.; is married to a former college classmate and school teacher; and works for the New Haven school system.
Sister Mamie is now Mrs. Peter Velsko, and lives with her family in Mineola, New York. Mamie is employed as a telephone operator.
Leona, Andrew’s youngest sister, is now Mrs. Nicholas Wislosky. The family lives in Woodside, N. Y. She, too, is a telephone operator. Her husband is a graduate of Manville High School in Manville, N. J. After seeing service in the U. S. Army in World War II, Nicholas attended Queens College in New York City and received a В A in history. He then attended New York University and received an M A degree. At present he works for the New York City school system.
Andrew is a member of the Russian Brotherhood Organization, and the Lemko Association. He has in years gone by, contributed many articles to the R. B. O. weekly newspaper, both in Russian and English. He is also on the editorial staff of the Lemko Youth Journal.
Teaching, reading, translating, and a little bit of writing take up most of his time. In spring, summer and fall he likes to play golf on weekends. And he manages to see many high school, college, and professional football and basketball games in Jersey City.