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Sister Cities 25th

Anniversary Celebrated
by Hosting SNV

Mayor Jan Volny


Front row: Loretta Ekoniak, Ron Garchar, Ray Novotny, Spišská Nová Ves Councilman Adnan Akram. Back Row: Sister Cities Vice-President Ken Shirilla, Spišská Nová Ves Mayor Ján Volný, Sister Cities Secretary Bernadette Demechko, Youngstown Mayor John McNally, GiGi Bacon, Sister Cities President James Bench, John Slanina.

July 2017

Visitors from SNV

May - 2016

     From May 2nd through May 16th, the Youngstown area had visitors from Spisska Nova Ves. Maria (Sedlackova) Majercakova and her grandson Vlado made their first trip to America. Maria has relatives and friends in the Youngstown area and has not seen them for over 40 years. 

    Later in the visit, the Sister Cities organization treated Maria and Vlado to a special dinner in downtown Youngstown at the former Youngstown
Club which is now the Fifth Floor restaurant on Commerce St. 

   In attendance was seated L-R, Suzy Garchar, Maria, Loretta Ekoniak and Bernie Demechko. Standing L-R was Ron Garchar, Gigi Bacon, Vlado, Mike Ekoniak
and Ken Shirilla.  

      The Sister Cities organization seldom gets visitors from the old country, so when we do we will make sure to help them find relatives, see the sights around Youngstown and show them the same hospitality that we get when we visit Slovakia.

20th Anniversary
Youngstown-Spišská Nová Ves Sister Cities!

Youngstown-Spišská Nová Ves Sister Cities celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2011. To commemorate this event, YSCP delegates presented Mayor Volny with a special plaque to be displayed in the City Hall. The hand-struck aluminum plates and bars are resting on a red velvet background and show a Youngstown skyline, the Ohio seal, the SNV Coat of Arms and a list of the current Board of Directors.

Below is a picture of the plaque presented to Mayor Volny.

During the 14th tour to Slovakia,  in addition to the plaque, Jim Bench presented Mayor Volny with a check for $5650 to assist with the purchase of a new pump for the SNV fire truck. The amount was half the cost of the unit, with the balance to be paid by the city of SNV. As of this writing, the SNV Volunteer Fire Department has received and installed the new pump, benefitting the residents of Spiš county. A letter accompanied the donation listing the fraternal societies and private individuals who had donated to the project.

SNV firemen posing with new portable pump

  SNV firemen testing out new pump funded by Sister Cities donation

  Sister Cities V.P. Jim Bench delivering donation at SNV city hall

At a special anniversary dinner held for the tourists and local dignitaries, Mayor Volny and Jim Bench representing Youngstown, agreed to continue this working partnership into the future.

YSCP Hosts a Special Visitor!

On May 3rd, 2012, I had the pleasure of hosting special visitors from Slovakia. Miriama Svetkovská and her fiancé Marian Letovanec visited for one day and two nights, while on a two week vacation in the states. Our connection with Miriama started several years ago when Sister Cities vice president Jim Bench found out that a student from Spišska Nová Ves was attending Georgetown University in Washington D.C. Since Youngstown is the sister city of SNV, Jim was interested in making a connection with Miriama. Jim was able to obtain Miriama’s phone number and contacted her. The timing was such that the Slovak Fest at St. Matthias was approaching, so Miriama was invited to come and meet Slovak-Americans in the valley. Miriama made the drive to Youngstown and met many members of the Sister Cities and ASCA organizations. As luck would have it, I was out of town that day and missed the visit, but I was able to stay in contact through email and postal mail. During my last visit to Slovakia, I set aside time to meet Miriama and her family. I stayed with them for three days and had a wonderful time. They treated me like family and are good examples of down-to-earth Slovak hospitality. Miriama’s father Jan is a fireman with the SNV fire department. Miriama’s mom Anna works as an accountant and is a great cook (I liked everything she made!). Amazingly, her maiden name is Garčar (what are the chances?)! So, during my visit I was able to meet Dedo a Babka Garčar and verified that we are not related. Miriama has one sister, Dominika, who is in her first year of study in Bratislava to become a pharmacist. Both the Sister Cities and ASCA organizations have supported Miriama with her studies, and when we found out she was applying for a job at the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava, both Jim Bench and I wrote letters of recommendation in her behalf. The opening was for an Economic Advisor to the U.S. Ambassador. A large number of people applied for the position, but despite her youth, Miriama was awarded the position! Now, the Mahoning valley has a personal friend in the embassy in Bratislava! When we found out Miriama and Marian were planning a trip to the states, we suggested a stop in Youngstown was in order. We planned a reception at my house for members to come and visit and celebrate Miriama’s accomplishments. The weather cooperated and we had a great day with our guests and shared some great Slovak food (holubky and pirohy) and drink. Miriama and Marian had a great time as did the 16 visitors who came from as far as Pa. and Cleveland to attend. We hope this will not be the last time they visit the valley.

                               Do Videnia Miriama a Marian,                  
                                                                       Ron Garchar

Miriama Svetkovská
Economic Advisor to the U.S. Ambassador in Bratislava

A Meeting with the SNV Mayor Jan Volny


   In August of 2009, while visiting relatives in Slovakia, I had the pleasure of delivering a small gift to the mayor Jan Volny of Spišská Nová Ves. Youngstown is one of a handful of cities that are designated ‘sister city’ to Spišská Nová Ves. Whenever someone from our organization visits the region, it is customary to pay a visit to the mayor and exchange friendship and gifts. A YSU wall clock was given to the mayor so he will think of Youngstown as he checks the time. In return, he provided me with posters, literature and maps for our members to enjoy.

I talked to the mayor with the help of translator Lucia Kormošová. At the time, she was the Public Relations director for the mayor. My visit lasted 20 minutes and we both reaffirmed the commitment of Youngstown and Spišská Nová Ves working together in the future for the benefit of both cities. My visit ended with the customary ‘double shot’ of slivovica and Lucia escorted me out of the mayor’s chambers. In the city hall lobby, I also gave Lucia a small gift from Youngstown for all her help. (see photo below)


By Ron Garchar         

Ružomberok Orphanage Update

   In August, 2009 I spent three weeks in Slovakia visiting relatives and doing family tree research. One of my side trips I had planned, was to visit the Roman Catholic orphanage in Ružomberok. I had been there twice before, and each visit was both enjoyable and sad. The Sister Cities organization has supported the work going on there for years, and I was to deliver some financial aide on behalf of our group. One of the older nuns was there to greet me as I arrived. Sister Viliamas Mihalusova OSF was thrilled to have a visitor from America, and she immediately brought out kolači and drinks for us to share. Sister will be 80 years old soon but you would never know it by the way she scurries around the grounds. As is common in most of eastern Slovakia, outside the orphanage is a large garden and many surrounding flower beds. The children help to maintain both and they are very proud of the yield from each.
  Sister was very appreciative of the gifts I delivered and wished to thank everyone in Youngstown for their support over the years. She then proceeded to say that there are 70 children supported by the orphanage and they are divided up in to two groups. The first group of 40 children are ones that have learning disabilities or handicaps. These kids who range in age from 3 to 18 stay on campus and attend school and live in an adjacent building next to the school. Both groups are a mixture of boys and girls. The second group consists of kids who can function without help. They are housed in three apartments off campus in downtown Ru
žomberok. There are 10 kids in each dorm and they are supervised by three nuns and two aides. This arrangement is designed to prepare the kids for foster homes in the future which the government is directing. They want to follow the pattern that the United States is using to handle the same situation. This is a new direction from the way the kids were handled in the past. Sister said she has mixed emotions as to the outcome of this approach. After visiting with some of the kids that were available, I toured the grounds and tried to conclude my visit. As in past visits, the kids do not want you to leave and were asking a million questions about America. If you sit down, they crowd around you as if you are the first visitor they have had for months. As demanding as it was, I enjoyed every minute. As bad as my Slovak is, they hang on every word you say and laugh often at my ‘broken’ angličky. I happened to rent a large SUV for my vehicle there, and the kids were facinated with the size of it and the big tailgate that lifted up. Before I left, I let each one sit in the driver’s seat and blow the horn. How amazing it was to see how thrilled they were to do such a simple act that kids in America would consider boring! As I left, I could hardly get out the gate because of the kids waving goodbye and running around. It was very evident how starved for attention they were. One of the things that strikes you, is the way the kids interact. Many walk around arm-in-arm, or hands on each others shoulders. It’s evident these are their only friends, and they stick together like a family. Many of the kids there have no parents at all, and no relatives either. Some may have known one parent only for them to disown their child and give them to the orphanage. Others were abandoned at a young age and will never know their parents. As you leave, you can’t help but feel sad, even though the kids are very lucky they have a place to stay and people who care for them.
   Sister appreciates any donations she may receive, so I have included her address below in her behalf:
Mníška Viliamas Mihalusová OSF
Dietky Dom
Zelena 2
034 01        Ružomberok
Slovak Republic

by  Ron Garchar  

Roman Catholic Orphanage in Ružomberok, Slovakia

Sister Viliamas Mihalusová OSF

Sister Viliamas and Ron Garchar at the orphanage

Some of the 70 children I visited on my birthday

at the orphanage, August 8th, 2009

by Ron Garchar 

 revised 10-May-2016