A Ukrainian father’s 74 year-old letter to his son in America


An old letter was recently posted online, asking to be translated from Ukrainian after it was discovered in the belongings of a great-grandmother who had passed away recently in upstate New York. On January 20th 1938, a man in Dehova, Ivano-Frankisk wrote to his son who is working in America (presumably) to send money back home – which was very common back then and still is now (but more so in Europe). In the letter, the father thanks his son for not forgetting about him from across the globe.  Some family issues are discussed, and the father asks for some extra money to be sent over, so he can purchase a new outfit for Easter – a камізелька.

A very rough translation of the entire letter was provided:

Dehova day 20 of January 1938

Dear son!

First of all, Merry Christmas to you, and I’m asking you about your health and how are you doing.

Then I am very sorry that last year, at Velykden(Easter), received 2 dollars from you and didn’t respond to you and didn’t thank you, that just happened so, day after day and time has gone but you must pay attention that post office is not close but far from me – and time is going on.

This year on Christmas received 2 dollars again that you sent to Kaska (looks like female name) many thanks to you, let God bless you because, even though you’re on another side of the globe, don’t forget about your father.

Also many thanks to your wife Kasi (hard to identify, maybe he meant Casey) that she don’t forget as well and sent me via Kaska 1 dollar, let God bless her because of that, and wish health to finish working on (word hard to recognize). Now I venture to ask you about a favor and don’t know what to start with. so you held on Christmas and sent 6 dollars, for that money I got kamizelka(have no idea what it is) and underwear but I hid it and wear only on big holidays and tell everybody that when I die I want to be dressed in those clothes (be buried in those clothes).

Knowing about thanks to you must be all the time in church, coat, that I have, have to wear on top but in that wear is not very good to go on public so be so kind you, Gana (Anna) and Matviy (few words failed to recognize) not very able to come to repair the coat because, as some say “many a little make a mickle” I think that Matviy my brother shouldn’t refuse, he was at relative’s (few unrecognized words) and I had a lot of troubles with him, so he may (something) well or forgot, ha! As saying says, old good gets forgotten, so give this letter to Matviy, let him read, and ask him to help, but I have doubts if he will.

Then I appeal to you with the deal about the floor that I gave crossbar (<- this sounds weird for me as well) so I’m asking you once again, write to Kaska’s mother and let her (do something) and give to me, otherwise write to me and will use it in business and will have something and remember that mother promised Kaska (something) before marriage and then you went to America and she booked to son (something) that field so at least mother used it but after son married with Nikola Pritikov(male name) daughter and she use that field so it is ridiculous and people laugh at it.

Finally sending to you greetings, give this letter to Gana and ask her to send it and very! very! prithee for answer sending greetings and wish you happiness, health and all the best

Your sincerely loving father

Oleksa Kostish(not sure about surname)

Hereby let you know that when Andryh(Andrew) Malariy was going to America I told something him to say something to you, please write if he said it to you and that letter give to Gaidza and Matviy to read

Ostap healthy

(‘healthy’ doesn’t look as surname but rather as report that some Ostap is ok or, more likely, greeting to some Ostap)

Waiting for response

[Read the entire letter in Ukrainian]


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