Friday, September 30, 2011

Family Recipe Friday - Christmas Eve and Baba's Pogaca

My fondest childhood memories revolve around Christmas Eve at my grandparents' farm.  Christmas was celebrated on January 7, according to the Julian calendar, per Orthodox tradition.  So on the evening of January 6, the large extended family gathered at Baba and Zedo's for the traditional Christmas Eve meal.  Since it was winter, there was usually snow on the ground outside, but inside Baba's kitchen it was warm and welcoming.  Straw was spread on the floor. 

Several tables were set up in the large farmhouse kitchen. Upon each table was a small sheaf of wheat. Smaller children were seated at one of the tables; adults at the others.  My grandmother, and probably some of my aunts, had been cooking all day.  The meal was "lenten" - that is, no meat or animal fats.  But it remains to this day the best food I have ever tasted.  Traditionally there were 12 dishes served, to symbolize the 12 apostles. 
The ceremonies began at sundown.  Before dinner,  Zedo would take a pogaca, drizzled with honey,  out to the barn where it would be fed to the animals.  This was to honor the animals who were the first to see the baby Jesus.  Only boys were allowed to accompany him, and my cousin Andy told me that Zedo instructed him to feed a piece of bread to each of the animals.  Andy said that what he remembers most was how quiet and calm the animals were.  Even the most fractious of the horses accepted the bread quietly.  All during this, Zedo was reciting prayers.  Afterwards he and Andy stopped at the watering trough (brrrr...cold!) and washed their hands and faces before returning to the house.  He remains moved by this ceremony to this day.  After dinner, Zedo would toss coins  and candy in the straw on the floor and all the children would go scrambling for them.
My mother and I revived a modified version of the tradition some years ago, and invited friends to partake of what my mother called "peasant food" but was enjoyed by all.
Many of the dishes involved the use of zaprakash, or onions sauteed in vegetable oil, with flour added to thicken, or no flour at all, just the onions and oil.  It is surprising how this simple combination tastes so good.
Please excuse my phonetic spelling for the Rusyn words in this post.  Corrections are welcome.
For more about Rusyn Christmas traditions, please see
The bread recipe below was called pogaca(?) and was baked as a round loaf.  After baking, it was drizzled with honey and placed on the table so everyone could tear off pieces to soak up the zaprakash from the other dishes.  Thanks to my cousin Sonia Mickey Janson for the recipe
Pogaca or Pitpolak
2 pkgs       dry yeast
1/2 cup     warm water
1 tsp         sugar
1/2 cup     oil
2 cups       warm water
1 tsp         salt
1/4 cup     sugar
6-7 cups   flour
1. Dissolve 2 pkgs. dry yeast in 1/2 cup warm water.  Add 1 tsp. sugar.  Set aside.
2. Mix together 1/2 cup oil, 2 cups warm water, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 cup sugar.  Add yeast mixture.  Add 6 to 7 cups flour and knead well.  You may need more flour to form a bulk dough.
3. Let rise in oiled bowl until doubled in bulk.  Punch down and let rise again.
4. Form into 2 rounds and place each on oiled round pizza pan.  Let rise well.
5. Bake in 350 oven for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Maritime Monday: Gyorgy Mika arrives on the S.S. Belgravia

The Belgravia was built in 1899 for the Hamburg America Line.   She sailed primarily between Hamburg and New York until 1905 when she was sold to the Russian navy and renamed Riga.  She was later renamed Transbalt and served as a hospital ship from 1920-1923.   On June 13, 1945, she was mistaken for a Japanese ship and was torpedoed and sunk in the La Perouse Strait by the U.S. submarine Spadefish.

S. S. Belgravia

Gyorgy Mika sailed on the S.S. Belgravia on 05 December 1903 from Hamburg and arrived in New York on 22 December 1903.  He was a 20-year-old single laborer who could not read or write.  His nationality was listed as Hungarian and his race as Slovak.  His last residence was Parahuzocy [sic] and his final destination was Allegheny, PA.  He did not have a ticket to Allegheny when he arrived but he paid his own passage on the ship.  He had $15 or $16 in his possession on landing and this was his first time in the United States.  He stated he was going to join his brother Fedor Mika in Allegheny, PA. He was never previously in prison, or an almshouse or an institution for the insane, nor was he supported by charity.  He was not a polygamist or an anarchist  His health was good and he was not crippled or deformed.  He is shown on line 3 on the passenger list.

(cluck to enlarge)

Information on the Belgravia from, accessed 26 Sep 2011.
Ship image and passenger list accessed on on 26 Sep 2011.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Meet the Family: Margaret Mickey Sampey (1925-2009)

Margaret Mickey Sampey
b. 29 Sep 1925 German Township, Fayette, Pennsylvania
d. 08 Aug 2009 Spokane, Spokane, Washington

This was my beautiful and beloved Mom.  I thought it appropriate to start my Meet the Family feature with her. 

Margaret was the youngest of the ten children of George and Teresa Dacko Mika.  She was born on her parents' farm in German Township, Pennsylvania.  Her eldest sister, Mary Mika, helped deliver her and named her. 

Margaret grew up, as did her five brothers and four sisters, helping her parents on the farm.  Since she was the youngest, she was also the last to leave home, so many of the duties that had previously been shared among the siblings fell to her.  Mom told us that one of these "duties" involved a custom her mother had brought with her from the old country.  This custom required a  young virgin, and went something like this...

One cold winter morning every year (she did not recall the season), she was awakened by her mother, told to undress, and handed a broom.  Her mother then directed her to go through all the rooms of the house, sweeping out the bad spirits, while her mother recited prayers.  This ritual was intended to purify the house in preparation for a holy day, possibly Christmas.  The family followed the Eastern Catholic rite church and the prayers were likely from the church, but the ritual itself sounds more pagan to me.  What do you think?  Have you heard of any similar traditions?

Margaret Mickey standing in front of her parents' farm house, German Township, PA, ca 1940

Margaret graduated from German Township High School at age 17.  At 19, she married my dad, Glenn R. Sampey, on 18 December 1944 at the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in New Salem, Fayette, Pennsylvania.  Glenn was a U.S. Army Air Corps veteran who served in the South Pacific in World War II. 
Margaret and Glenn Sampey
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, circa 1948
(special thanks to my cousin Marie Hvezda for the photo)

They lived in Philadelphia early in their marriage, where Margaret worked for Curtis Publishing Company.

Curtis Building on Independence Mall, Philadelphia from

Glenn and Margaret out for an evening with friends in Philadelphia, PA, ca 1946

Not long after I was born, Margaret and Glenn separated.  We lived for a time with her sister, Helen Mickey Novak, in Uniontown, PA, then moved in 1960 to Los Angeles, CA where another of her sisters, Sue Mickey Mason, lived.

Margaret worked at National Cash Register in Hawthorne, CA and Rancho Bernardo, CA until her retirement.  During her time in Rancho Bernardo, she owned a home in Poway, CA.

She lived with me and my husband for the last years of her life, first in Las Vegas, NV and then in Washington State.  She died at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, WA of complications after surgery to clear a blocked artery in her leg.

She was a woman of great warmth, humor and intelligence.  She remained interested in current events, family and friends (of which she had many) until her death.    Her loss left a large hole in our lives.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Greetings, and a very warm welcome to my new genealogy blog.  In it I will share my Mika/Mickey/Dacko family research and I hope to connect with cousins or others who are researching the family.  The picture above is of my grandfather, George Mika (later Mickey), contemplating his fields near German Township, Fayette, Pennsylvania.

My mother was born Margaret Mickey - the youngest of ten children and a first-generation American.  Her father's name was George Mika and her mother was Teresa Dacko.  They were both from Parihuzovce, a small village in the Carpathian Mountains in what is now Slovakia.  They immigrated to the United States in 1903 and settled first in Monessen, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania.  It was in Monessen that they married and began their family, although it is almost certain they knew each other in the old country.  From what I have learned, I am convinced that they were members of the Carpatho-Rus ethnic group.  I hope to share some stories about the Carpatho-Rus as this blog progresses.

Unlike many stories of family names getting changed at Ellis Island, my grandfather used his given surname until sometime between 1920 and 1930, when the name was changed to Mickey.  According to my mother, it was her eldest brother, George, who instigated the change.  He thought Mickey sounded "more American." 

George Mika had at least two brothers who also came to the United States.  I believe his brother, Frank, spelled his surname "Micka."  I hope to meet some of Frank's descendants through this blog.  Please contact me if you are related!