Stories, legends, customs, memories.

  • Dušan Bajus
  • 2015

The legend of the cave

his story was told to me by my grandmother, Maria Utlakova, the widow Bajusova and later Brillova, (1890 -1965).She worked as a midwife in Blazov and surrounding area after she returned from the U.S. While she told me many stories, unfortunately, I remember only this one.

According to legend, a cave was located under the hill Zamcisko. In the middle of this cave sat a long flat rock, which looked very much like a table. Surrounding the ‘table’ were several large vertical rocks. As the legend goes, these were not simply rocks, but actually people petrified into stone. This is how it happened: Many years ago, everyone in the village lived happily in peace. War was unknown. Over the course of time, people began to know ill will and bitterness against their neighbors. Fights broke out. Hatred and fighting followed. The first war broke out among the people around the hill Zamcisko. People were threatened beyond anything they had ever imagined. Burning, destruction and murder broke out. The war was so cruel that only a few people who hid in this cave survived. However, they all turned into stone. To this day, they wait for the final war in the region…the very last one. As the legend predicts, when there is finally a permanent peace, these ‘petrified’ people will become human once again.

/ Translated Viera Uhlarova /

This story is about a stranger

The story was told to me in 2010 by Mrs. Anna Tebelakova, Maiden name: Valkova (1926 – 2011). After the village was evicted, she took a weekly walk from Tichy Potok, her new home, back to Blazov, where she was born. When I met her in 2010, her legs were no longer functioning well, but she always asked her children to drive her to see the village of Blazov. db

Sometime between the First and Second World Wars, a reeve from Blazov went to feed oxen on a summer pasture called “Siminy”.(Note: In those days, people referred to Siminy as a mountain territory ranging from outpost Blazovska Dolina to the hill Zamcisko). On a narrow forest road high on the hill behind the village, the reeve met an elderly stranger he had never seen before. At first sight, the man looked very odd. He had a long beard and was dressed in a long coat with a black hat on his head. This stranger was very friendly. After a brief conversation about the weather, the stranger began to ask questions:

“Do the women in your village borrow salt from each other if they run out?”

“Yes, they borrow, they borrow.” the reeve replied.

“And do they borrow bread, too, if their bread doesn’t last until the next baking?” asked the stranger.

“Naturally, they loan it,” the reeve confirmed.

“That is good, very good.” said the stranger, nodding his head.

Subsequently he asked: “How about men, do they help each others in the forest?’

“Yes, they do.” answered the confused reeve. He didn’t know what to think about this person, who didn’t seem to know anything about the way of life in his village.

The stranger replied: “So, it’s good, really good.”

Then they bid each other goodbye. After a brief moment, the reeve looked up, but the stranger had disappeared.

When the reeve returned to the village, he told his family and the men of the village about the incident. For a very long time the men at the pub discussed the strange meeting. And the women as they plucked feathers together, wondered who the stranger was. There were many theories. Some claimed that he was a devil who tricks people. Others claimed that he was a dead ancestor, who came to visit from the second world to check on them and wanted to see the lifestyle of his descendents. Those less superstitious claimed that he was some sort of recluse, who had lived for years in the dense forests under “Cierna hora”.

“Believe it or not, that was the way it was.” added Mrs. Tebelakova at the end of her story.

/ Translated Viera Uhlarova /

Caught a Thief

Newspapers Written in East-Slovakian Dialect, "Our Flag", May 1912

Some of our readers may remember a story from October 13 of last year about wagon driver Andrej Mienik, who was from Halic. His earl, Jakub Zichy – Mesko from “Blazovska Dolina” – sent him to the post office in Brezovica to get 5000 koruna. But instead of taking the money to his earl, he opened the leather postal bag and stole all the money. Leaving the horses and wagon in Lipany, he escaped to the United States. Mienik had left his family in Dolina. Some time later, when he thought the incident was forgotten and he was very homesick in the United States, he bravely returned to the old country to see his wife and children. During the day he hid in the woods and spent nights with his family. On May 14, he took his older daughter and attempted to return to the United States. As they were eating breakfast one morning in the village of Sambron, he suddenly saw a policeman. At that moment he was eating eggs and became so frightened that he put the whole egg, shell and all, into his mouth and almost choked. The police successfully captured the thief Mienik and took him to the public prosecutor in Presov.

Translated Vierka Uhlarova.

Customs in “Blazovska Dolina”

Even though “Blazovska Dolina” was part of the municipality of Blazov, life in this section was different from the life in the main village. Its population was Roman Catholic and they didn’t speak the “Rusyn” language of Blazov.Thanks to an interview with Mrs. Anna Bilekova and the notes of ethnographer Jan Lazorik from Krivany, a description of its folk customs are preserved.

Traditionally, when the farming harvest was finished at the end of the year, the following tradition took place. That day was called “Deresovy” Day. In the 19th century, “Deresovy” Day was established to celebrate St. Michael’s Day. At the beginning of 20th century, the date was moved to the day prior to Advent, then after World War II, to any day between Christmas and New Year’s. Why “Deresovy” Day? On that day the area’s young single people elected their ‘board’ for next year. According to ritual, the new electees were confirmed with three gentle belt slaps on the buttocks. “Deres” was the bench situated in the middle of the spinning room, where the young people gathered. The election ceremony had a precise script with a few ad-libs thrown in resulting in a simple village theater performance

The main roles were:

Reeve – played by one of the oldest of the young men; ruff (a spinster) played by an older young woman, as well as the roles of the judge and his wife, the priest, drummer, hunter and two policemen.

Additional roles were added as times changed and according to the number of youngsters in the community. These included: butcher, pub bartender, chimney cleaner, dog walker. Some were elected to be dogs. The last position added was ‘telephone operator girl’. Almost every young single person in the community played a part. During the night following “Deresovy” Day, young people were permitted to ‘steal’ any unrestrained poultry roaming the area. Actually, the villagers planned in advance what they would leave for the young people to ‘steal.’ On the following day, the villagers pretended to investigate the crimes, which, of course, was just for fun. On New Year’s Eve, all the young men organized a parade and walked from house to house. Marching in front was the hunter (jager) holding a Christmas tree in his hands. They stopped at every house to wish every household a prosperous New Year. In exchange for Christmas carols, they received smoked sausages, cakes, eggs and money. The food was saved in the reeve’s house and the money was used for alcohol. On the evening of New Year’s Day, there was a girls’ parade through the village led by the ruff holding a leavened cake. Another girl held a small Christmas tree with round cake on top. Each cake had five lit candles. Behind them, girls with candles sang carols and the youngest boys followed in the rear. The parade ended in the tow (kudel) room, where a large celebration had been prepared featuring the food and ‘stolen’ poultry collected earlier. The New Year’s celebration, including music and dancing, continued well into the night until early morning.

/ Translated Vierka Uhlarova /

Weather-Related Disasters

On July 27, 1824, the day of St. Pantelejmon, a terrible storm struck. Hail as large as duck eggs poured out of the sky. Barley fields were destroyed. Many trees were reduced to stumps. And birds and poultry were killed. The roofs of the church and castle were badly damaged and many windows were broken. In just one hour, everything was completely destroyed. It was so dark that the people had to light candles, even during the daytime.

Report of Andreas Mankovits, priest in Blazov

/ Translated Vierka Uhlarova /

Newspaper "Nasa Zastava", 1912.

On May 16, late in the afternoon, the skies over Halic turned extremely dark as a thunderstorm with terrible lightning and hail struck the area. The Torysa River flooded its banks from Blazovska Dolina to Lipany, destroying pastures and fields in the valley. Total damage: 6000 koruna. Michal Matvej lost his house and surrounding buildings in the flood in Blazovska Dolina. Worst of all, he died while trying to rescue his property. Damage: 3000 koruna. Earl Jakub Zichy-Mesko lost all the wood in his storage room, which later washed up near Krivany. Also, his potato field was totally flooded. Damage: 7800 koruna. The entire main street in Blazovska Dolina was completely destroyed. Damage: 8000 koruna. Fields and pastures were flooded in Blazov. Damage: 4000 koruna. The Torysa River destroyed 130 meters (nearly 407 feet) of road. Damage: 5000 koruna. Miller Jozef Gercak lost his mill and floods destroyed an entire field. Damage: 1000 koruna. Sam Hartstein, Blazov merchant, lost all his stored woods. Damage: 2500 koruna.

/Translated Vierka Uhlarova/

Janko Bajus / John Bayus

During World War I, the “War to end all Wars”, the miserable conditions for many ethnic Slavs in the area controlled by the Austro-Hungary Empire made the idea of immigration to the America seem to be a good idea. But happiness was not a guarantee and soon after my grandparent’s arrival to their new home, the “Spanish Flu” took my grandfathers life. He is buried in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania in an old corner of the cemetery.

My Grandmother had a decision to make. Stay in America with her two young sons, one born in America and thus an American citizen, or return to the relative comfort of her homeland and the support of her family there. The decision was simple, she returned to Blazov. However America was not finished with her yet. Later on America once again intervened in her future The US Government to the fact that her younger son, John, must return to the US by age 18 or forfeit his US citizenship alerted her. Almost like a fairy tale she had another hard decision to make. Should she send her youngest son to America, or let him fall into the hands of either the fascists or the communists who were destined to square off on the war-ground of Europe. Again she made a decision that may have saved her youngest son’s life, but also affected the Bajus family in many unforeseen ways. John was never to see his older 'brat' Stephen again, and lost all of his childhood friends when he came back “home”. John was not keen on being away from his family and worked very hard on his sponsor’s farm in Burton, Ohio. He could not speak English but eventually learned enough to get by. Then the war in Europe became a world war, and John was drafted into the Army. His lack of English hardly mattered as he was put into the 1st Armored Division, sent to Africa and then into Italy where his language skills made him a popular GI with the Intelligence people. His nickname was 'DP John' and it stuck with him even after the war, this despite the fact that he was born in the USA. He had a few friends, one he mentioned was a “southern” Major, who treated him very well, but he claimed for the most part, most of the officers were fools. He said there were no difference in between the average German soldier and his American counterpart. In fact he said he had more in common with the Germans than with the Americans. Mostly the GI’s were just trying to survive the war and go back home. Eventually the war ended, he married Pearl and had six children. He died on January 7, 1992. In my last meeting with him, he spoke Slovak to me. Something he refused to do all of his life. I wish he would have had the patience to teach me the language, but he was unprepared for such a task.

Jan Bayus

Maria’s recollections and memoirs

Maria Boronová, maiden name: Bajusova, born in 1940 in Blazov.

I spent the first six years of my life in Blazov. My family and I then moved to Moravia, then back to Blazov. In 1952, the entire population was evacuated. Blazov was a lovely village. Residents mostly lived in wooden houses but there were brick houses as well. There were two stores and one beer garden in the center of the village. Goods were paid for with money in one store, and with vouchers introduced after WWII, at the other. We had a bus stop and three mills. One mill was at the lower end, the other in the center of the village and the last one at the upper end. The only school was Ukrainian which was located on the southern end of the village. Our teacher lived behind the church rectory. His name was Macek. Because I started elementary school in the Czech Republic and had not been taught Ukrainian, I did not attend this local school. I and eleven other children had to travel 10 kilometers away by bus to a Slovak school in Brezovica. I only remember half of my schoolmates: there was Maria, who was only 12 years old when she died of cancer; Anna Kolova; Janko Valko-Pickos; Janko Kravec; Anna Hoptova; Anna Musinska-“spoza vody”; Helena from the center mill whose last name I can’t recall. I do not remember many of the other Blazov residents, but a few stand out: Verona who was crippled and could not walk. She was housebound and made her living sewing clothing; Kol-Franco who kept the children away from the river by throwing snakes in the water; Maria Strembova who was mentally retarded. Agriculture was the main occupation of the residents of Blazov. They grew potatoes, beets, rye, oats and barley. They also raised sheep, goats and cows which were used for their milk and meat, but also for transportation. The wealthier residents had horses.

/ Translated Viera Uhlarova /


Pamela Kraynak a descendant of Michal Kraynak and Anna Haladej. They were born in Blazov. She lives in Vermont, USA and in september 2017 she visited Slovakia and Blazov. She shared with her experiences from her visit in this article.

During my vacation in March of 2017, I was doing some genealogy research about my father’s family who came to the U.S. from Slovakia. Generally I found nothing in Ancestry because we really didn’t know much. My father’s father and mother were typical of many immigrants who came to the U. S. in the early part of the 20thcentury. They did not leave much of a trail to their countries of origin. They were very poor, and after coming to the United States, continued to struggle for the rest of their lives. They wanted to join with the millions of other immigrants from all over the world and unite in being Americans. They did not keep in close communication with siblings who might have emigrated to different U. S. cities. Their children often did not know their grandparents, or even as in my father’s case, know their names. Very little information was passed down, no family stories, no letters, no possessions. Some could not read or write, like my grandmother, so they could not apply for U.S. citizenship. Few photos, often damaged, existed. Fortunately, my father did know the name of the village where his parents had lived. He tried to visit the village many years ago before Slovakia became independent and said the village had been eliminated along with the church and he could not find any records. On that day in March, just for the heck of it, I decided to search the name of the village, Blazov, instead of searching for my family’s records. To my amazement, I found a gold mine, a website with pictures and text in English complete with family trees!I searched and there were my grandparents with their family history going all the way back to the 1700’s! I immediately started to plan a trip to Slovakia. I wrote to Mr. Dusan Bajus, the Blazov website administrator, for information about visiting Blazov and about my family. He replied right away, said we were related. He put me in touch with a cousin in Prague, my first stop, who generously showed me Prague for three days! To feel that beyond your aunts and uncles and grandparents you know nothing about your family, where they came from, what their life was like before and to finally meet someone who can tell you stories is overwhelming and wonderful. Mr. and Mrs. Uhlar, more family relations, kindly hosted myself and my friend in their home and provided more family history and delicious food. Their daughter and grandson were very welcoming and Eric showed us videos of his performances of traditional dance and song. Mr. Uhlar took me to Blazov. When we walked to the chapel, my senses were absorbing everything. This is where my grandparents grew up, the river, the mountain, the fields, the plants, the smells, the sounds. I was trying to imagine my grandmother, Anna Haladejova, as a young girl walking up and down the hills. I was thinking about my grandfather, Michael Kraynak, and where his house might have been when he was a child, perhaps near the river. This place is beautiful, not unlikewhere I live in the state of Vermont, U.S. As Mr. Bajus told the history of Blazov, my interpreter translated. I wanted to make every precious minute last longer. I felt very privileged to be there and to be welcomed with such kindness. I don’t really understand myself yet why connecting to a lost village, lost family history, lost family is so moving. While I pride myself in valuing equally all people from around the world, perhaps this experience just taps into our ancient tribal feelings and makes us feel like we belong. Exploring the hills of Blazov, meeting the gentlemen at the hunting cabin (thank you for the beautiful song), and meeting the Krajnaks in Zakovce made lifetime memories. I want to thank everyone who has been involved in the effort to honor the memory of Blazov and its original residents. I imagine that there will be many others from around the world who, like myself, will also someday find the website and realize they too can return to their family’s homeland. Thank you to all for the generosity shown to me and I look forward to staying in contact in the years to come.

Pamela Kraynak, 2017

The Uhlar sisters from the show "The Land sing": We cry when we look at the homes of our ancestors.

This article is an unedited copy of an article published in the Nový Čas daily on March 4, 2018.

Although the sub-Tatry village of Blazov was razed to the ground in the 1950s, the original inhabitants and their descendants did not forget their homeland. Even the three sisters Uhlar - Marta (53), Hanička (49), and Maria (39) from the show "Zem spieva" regularly return to the region of their ancestors to sing in places where once stood houses, a church or a cemetery. Looking at the bare meadows they have tears in their eyes. The village of Blazov has existed for more than 600 years. You won't find a single house there today. Only a small wooden chapel suggests that people once lived here with their joys and worries. Talented singers, sisters Marta, Hanička, and Maria Uhlar also come from this region, whose mother Anna (77) experienced violent emigration first-hand in the 1950s. In 1952, the government decided to create a military training area in the Blazov area. At the end of May, people had to leave their homes with police assistance and move out. "I was 15 at the time. They first moved us to Spacince near Trnava. Families spread all over Slovakia and the Czech Republic. However, since people did not receive anything for their property, 127 families agreed and returned to Blažov, "recalls Anna Uhlar, a mother who has been singing with her daughters for a quarter of a century. They then farmed in their home village for another two years. However, the authorities eventually ordered them to leave because living near the military area was dangerous. The shooting range was in nearby Zalubica behind Kezmarok, the bullets could fly to Blazov at any time. Most of the families ended up in the village Zakovce, where 95 new houses were built. "They moved us almost from day to day, there was no time to pack up. When the soldiers loaded furniture and duvets into military cars, all together, then was no one who would not cry, " Mrs. Anna sighs even after years and adds with sadness that the army gradually demolished all the houses and the school so that people would have nowhere to return. The last inhabitant left Blazov on May 26, 1955.

Emotional returns.

At the place where the village with a thousand inhabitants stood, only the church remained, but later it was demolished so that it would not become a place of pilgrimage for the former inhabitants. "It was almost scary for us when we learned that they had collapsed the church as well. From the beginning, we were not allowed to look at our native Blazov. Soldiers were guarding the gate, and those who did not have permission could not go to the village, "describes Anna Uhlar. Only after 1989 did the situation changes. "In the places where our native village once stood, we were able to assemble a wooden chapel and we meet there every year. Everywhere the houses once stood, there is grass, sheep and cattle graze in the meadows ... Always we are going there together with my daughters. We sing, also we cry. For example, we have a song where we have to cry, "Mrs. Anna will subconsciously wipe her eyes and spontaneously sing: „Hori tym Bvažovom, zimnyj viter duje a moje serdečko, hej lem za nym banuje...“