Sister Cities 25th
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.
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
Club which is now the Fifth Floor restaurant on Commerce
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.
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.
Youngstown-Spišská Nová Ves Sister Cities!
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
Do Videnia Miriama a
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.
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)
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 Ružomberok. 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
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