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  • Preparing scans of the photos I took for my little photo-story about Ruthenians in America I came across this one, it's Andy Warhol's mothers grave, in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pa.

    Her name was Julia, Julia Warhola (Юлія Варгола), she was Ruthenian, Lemko precisely. She was born in 1892 in what was then Austro-Hungarian empire, in the early 1920s she moved with her husband to USA. Andy was her youngest son (already born in the new country) and they spent most of their lives together, before Andy became wealthy and famous artist he already brought her from Pittsburgh to live with him in his New York apartment. Andy Warhol was living kind of double life, he spent days with all those freaks in Factory but then he was going home to his mother. They still celebrated traditions from her old country like decorating eggs for Easter, every Sunday they've been going to church, habit that Andy continued to the end of his days. He kept his home life very private he hardly invited anyone, actually he preferred people not to know where he lives, not even his friends.

    At home they've been using Rusyn language, the place where Julia was born was now in a new country called Czecho-Slovakia, so Andy all his life thought he is "Czechoslovakian" - he wasn't (neither Czech nor Slovak). Lemko people were minority in every country they've been living, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine (Soviet Union then) and Poland. They had different language, different customs.

    Shortly before Andy died he had some doubts about his descent, it was after the meeting with Czech model Paulina Porizkova in 1986. She came with her mother, Andy was trying to catch their conversation but he couldn't understand a word. "(...) and I guess maybe I'm not really Czech, because I didn't understand it when they were talking." - he wrote in his diary that day.

    I wonder, was it a rule or an exception. Coming from some culture and not being interested in details. Is it common in US that people hardly know anything about their roots, even first generation born there? Are simple distinctions enough for them? like: Jewish, Polish, Irish, Indian, Chinese...? It is so much more complicated, Jew coming from Austro-Hungary had very different heritage then one from Russia. In Europe you have to be aware of those little differences, I guess it's a huge difference in Scotland if you are from Edinburgh or Dundee. Growing up in Eastern Europe I saw people being beaten just because they came from other village.
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