Slovakia Consul WPSCA Sister Cities Program Links

The 5.5 million Slovaks are a strong, hardy, God fearing people who kept their nationality, religion and culture alive during very difficult times of foreign domination for centuries. Due to the hardships in their homeland, many young men and women mainly from Eastern Slovakia immigrated to the United States in the years 1890 to 1915. The young immigrants flocked to areas where cheap and dangerous labor was needed. Western Pennsylvania, especially the Pittsburgh region welcomed them.

It is estimated that close to 100,000 Slovaks came to Western Pennsylvania during the peak years of 1890 to 1920. Presently it is the third and fourth generations who count themselves as American Slovaks. It is estimated that close to 200,000 live in Allegheny County.

The new immigrants settled in the Pittsburgh area and the hills and valleys were very similar to their mother country. There the hills were covered with forests, wheat fields and wild flowers, whereas here the hills were covered with company row houses where the men lived as boarders and shared beds according to their work schedules in the mines and steel factories. The smoke and soot was constantly belching out of the chimneys of the factories along the Monongahela river. Towns such as Braddock, Rankin, Swissvale, Homestead, Munhall, Whitaker, West Mifflin, Duquesne, McKeesport, McKeesRocks, South Side and North Side were all heavily settled by the Slovaks. They were unique neighborhoods located close to the workplace and they tended to be settled by immigrants from similar areas of Slovakia. For example the South Side was mostly settled by the Spis immigrants. The North siders were from Saris and Zemplin and so on.

Life was hard and dangerous for these newcomers to America. They endured ostracism and name calling because of their nationality and lack of education. They banded together by forming fraternal organizations which helped whenever the breadwinner of the family was injured or killed in the mines and steel mills. The new immigrants were hard working religious people, so they built churches and schools to keep their heritage alive. At one time there were 28 Roman Catholic, 15 Lutheran, 4 Calvinist and 15 Byzantine Catholic churches which were classified as Slovak in the Pittsburgh region.

Most of the churches and schools no longer exist, but the 2nd and 3rd generation Slovak Americans are finding other ways to preserve their history and customs. The six Slovak fraternal societies support activities of Slovak cultural groups which were recently formed. The University of Pittsburgh which is the only university in the United States with a permanent Slovak Department, also promotes the Slovak history.
The appointment of Joseph Senko as Honorary Consul to Pennsylvania helps to promote and represent Slovakia in the numerous programs and activities which the consul attends. The Western Pennsylvania Slovak Cultural Association, which was founded by Joseph Senko, is a vital and growing non-profit organization with many interesting programs and activities pertaining to Slovak culture, history, entertainment and instruction of the Slovak language.