In my last post, I mentioned how I constantly get spam comments and how I filter out all of the garbage so it doesn’t hit our blog. However, I occasionally get comments or emails that intrigue me. One such email came to me and my curiosity was peaked due to vagueness of the content. I am purposely not including the author’s name or website information, as to not incite a debate with them beyond what has already occurred.
Let me begin………………………….
In an email dated January 2, 2014, I received the following statement:
While your weblog is both lovely and interesting, I can’t help but wonder why you claim to be “Hunky” if you are Slovak and Croatian….
I was curious about the statement and being stubborn, I just couldn’t let it drop without further inquiry. I responded with the following on January 2, 2014 in reply:
I don’t quite understand your email, so I’m not really able to respond.
I felt it was a fair reply. Non-confrontational, but clearly stating my confusion about the statement. I really didn’t expect a response and I thought the matter was over. Lo and behold, the very next day brought a reply and a clarification of the previous statement’s intent. The email contained the following statement:
Someone posted a link to your weblog “The Duquesne Hunky” in Delphi Forums. I looked through it, in fact, bookmarked it.
“Hunky” nationally usually means Hungarian or Magyar, not Slovak or Croatian. The customs are somewhat similar and all are often tinged with Austrian, but the languages and historically the people are different. That’s why the latter voted themselves independent after the first world war.
Although many Slovak and Croatian people have been able to speak Hungarian — in later imperial years Hungary administered half of the empire homeland — and even have Hungarian blood lines, Hungary wasn’t exactly beloved.
I just found it strange that someone rather clearly not Magyar would rather generally claim be so in this day and age. Slovak is a Slavic (Indo-European) language like Polish or Russian. Hungarian or Magyar is Ural-Altaic (one of just four such languages in all of Europe). It was invasion from the east.
Now, I have often been accused of being overly sensitive. I accept that as one of my faults. However, I became rather offended about being accused of incorrectly calling myself a hunky after 62 years of existence. How could anyone be so naive as to not recognize people of Slovak, Croatian and other Slavic heritages as hunkies!! I took a bit of time and composed myself. I only wish I had some cabbage rolls to eat to remind me of my roots and gain inspiration before responding, however that was not in the cards. Instead, I settled for some holiday ham, a hard-boiled egg and some frozen perogies as motivation. I finished my meal and proceeded to respond as follows:
Thank you so much for helping me to understand how you view the historical etymology of the term “Hunky.”
My blog is intended as homage to my hometown and the era that I grew up in. My hometown, Duquesne, was a typical industrial town located in western Pennsylvania. The vast majority of the male residents were employed by USS (United States Steel,) and were of East-Central European descent. USS had a major facility in Duquesne called The Duquesne Works. You can read more about The Duquesne Works at this site: The Duquesne Works.
I explored the web a bit about the term Hunky and found the following on Wikipedia (not that Wikipedia is the definitive source for etymology):
“It originated in the coal regions of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where Poles and other immigrants from East-Central Europe (Hungarians (Magyar), Rusyns, Slovaks) came to perform hard manual labor on the mines. They were called hunkies by the American public which lumped them together into a category of Slavic immigrants, irrespective of their individual ethnic background. The use of the term as an ethnic slur has fallen into disuse, but the term hunky and the public image associated with it has historic relevance in the perception of Slavic immigrants in the United States. There is some usage of the term in other forms; for example, it is used to describe any mill worker in regions of Pennsylvania. The term would be Mill Hunky.
The term Hunky or Bohunk can be applied to various Slavic and Hungarian immigrants who moved to America from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The immigrants came en masse prior to the turn of the twentieth century (starting around 1880) seeking opportunity and religious freedom.”
“The overwhelming majority of these economic immigrants (initially 85%, later 65%) consisted of young working age men. Originally they planned to spend only a few years in America, and then return to Hungary with enough capital to transform themselves into independent farmers or self-employed artisans. This was precisely the reason why, instead of moving into agriculture in line with their traditions, they went to work in the coal mines and steel mills. Only in heavy industry did they have a chance to collect enough money to be able to fulfill their goals back in the Old Country.” – Wikipedia
Although I am certain that when the city was originally settled by the immigrants, their cultural and political differences were an issue as evidenced by the nationality based churches that were established. However, by the time that first generation Americans, our parents, were working at the Duquesne Works, the name Hunky had come to mean ANYONE of East-Central European descent, regardless of their parent’s original country or region of origin.
When I decided to write my blog, I had come to think of the term Hunkies as a word that was synonymous for all the citizens of Duquesne who embraced and demonstrated the strength, unity, love of family and formidable moral fiber, that WAS our parents. Coupled with this awe-inspired respect for its people, my blog is intended as a tribute and to serve as a recollection of the environment of friendship and the actual bricks and mortar of our city.
With all of that said, I hope you read through some of my posts. Take them for what they are intended, a loving heart-felt tribute to the town I grew up in and to the very people that provided my moral basis.
Keep well and Happy New Year!
I thought to myself after sending my reply, that I had clearly stated my point-of-view without being offensive. I had provided historical information to substantiate just WHY we all call ourselves hunkies. I felt that I had been victorious in defending my heritage and had set the story straight. But alas, I was wrong. On January 7th, the gauntlet was thrown down with the following:
I’m sure you were well-intentioned with your weblog, just missing a little background information.
I wrote because someone actually mostly Hungarian (like me) looking for information is mislead. I did look at (partly skimming) the first of your work and saw nothing I would call Hungarian. …But, of course I don’t know everything.
……… Personally speaking, if it were me, I would alter your title to read something like “The Duquesne Mill Hunky” and stick a few words of explanation somewhere. No regular reader would particularly notice the difference.
Good luck to you in the new year.
I have stewed for a while now, debating whether I should respond to this “person” or just let it go. I decided to take the high road and not stir the haluski any further. Instead, I decided to seek affirmation and comfort among all of you, my circle of friends! Whether our ancestors were Polish, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Slovakian, Croatian, Serbian, or of another heritage, we ALL are Duquesne. We come together to remember, reconnect and rekindle friendships. It has been over three years that we’ve shared stories, thoughts and recollections. That’s what makes this blog, “The Duquesne Hunky,” appropriate and correct! I know we’ve got each other’s back!