Carpatho-Rusyn Society Celebrates Heritage
"There is a high exoticism about being Rusyn," she says. "We can concentrate on cultural stuff instead of worrying about politics."
She will be taking advantage of that aspect Saturday at the eighth annual Carpatho-Rusyn Event at the Andy Warhol Museum on the North Side. She also will be helping the effort with a PowerPoint presentation about Rusyn youths' outlooks for the future.
The celebration, held in collaboration with the local branch of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society, is a one-day look at arts, culture and heritage held at the museum named for famous Carpatho-Rusyn Andy Warhol.
The event features the culture of a region more than a country. Carpatho-Rusyns come from the Carpathian Mountains of east-central Europe, but also are located in Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine and Romania.
This year's event is called "Generations," and examines the way cultural knowledge and understanding have been passed on.
It is an action Silvestri, 19, fully appreciates, admitting much of her fascination with her heritage comes from her family. She says cultural elements "were always there" as she grew up, giving her a sense of being surrounded by the culture.
Much of her pride, she says, comes from her grandparents, John and Helen Timo, of Bentleyville, Washington County, who have been involved in spreading word of the culture in various ways.
John Timo, 89, downplays his work, jokingly referring to himself as "just a common peasant man." But he admits he often translates letters, helping members of families understand each other.
"It's important to know about the culture and the people and then pass it along to future generations," he says.
Helen, 87, says she has tried to spread knowledge of the Carpatho-Rusyn culture since she discovered about 10 years ago she had a heritage that was different from the Ukrainian one she had thought was hers.
Silvestri is an art history and Italian major at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. She agrees an appreciation of the past is vital in understanding a culture, but she is concerned with getting an understanding of where young Rusyns are taking their heritage. That is why she went to two Rusyn congresses held in Poland. There, she talked with "forward-looking" participants about their thoughts on the arts, use of the language and even economic globalization.
Silvestri is interested in the famous Christmas and Easter traditions of her people, but is more interested in seeing that current art and music find audiences.
Concentrating on such matters makes dealing with culture much more attractive than dealing with matters of governments and borders, she says.
"People can go to such extremes on those matters," she says. "I know what I am, and when I see the fun we are having, I am just glad to be a part of it."