"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

A Personal Reflection on the Significance of July 4

Our daughter Charis Downey is in labor. Depending on how long her labor endures, she could give birth to our third grandson, Henry Hribko Downey sometime today, July 4, 2017.

Allow me a 4th of July reflection on the significance of this day, in terms of both my family and our nation.

Henry's middle name will be Hribko. It is an unusual name. When I asked about it, Charis and her husband, Travis Downey, told me that Travis' father, Rodney, was Rodney Hribko as a child. However, Rodney's father, Andrew Hribko Jr., died when Rodney was only six years old. Rodney and his younger sister Sue Hribko would eventually be adopted by Mr. Downey, a wonderful man who married their widowed mother. Rodney's surname was changed to Downey.

Travis and Charis Downey are honoring the Hribko family by giving Hribko as the middle name of their soon-to-be-born son. 

However, Travis and Charis didn't know much about their Hribko heritage, so a few weeks ago, they asked their hopelessly historical father (me) to do some research.

What I found out about the Hribko family deepens my appreciation for this great nation we call America.

Wade, Travis, Charis, and Rachelle
After our daughter's son is born, they will one day be able to tell him that the name Hribko honors his paternal great-great-grandfather, Andrew Nicolas Hribko. On Christmas Day, 1912, at the tender age of 16, Andrew Hribko left his home in White Russia (Belarus) and immigrated to the United States. 

At the time, White Russia was in the middle of a violent political revolution. The Hribkos, a farming family who planted and harvested crops from the river bottomlands south of Minsk, had personally witnessed many of their Jewish friends rounded up and executed. The Hribkos themselves had helped hide Jews at their farmhouse, preventing many Jews from facing certain death.

On Christmas Day 1912, Andrew Hribko's father told him the greatest gift he could give his 16-year-old son was liberty. He handed Andrew some money that he'd saved for the occasion, and instructed his son to leave White Russia and "go to America."

Andrew Hribko headed to the United States in late 1912 by himself. He was 16. He spoke no English. He sailed from White Russia to Scotland, and then from Scotland to New York aboard the U.S.S. California.

Ellis Island
Andrew Hribko entered New York Harbor in the spring of 1913, sailing past the Statue of Liberty. The U.S.S. California docked at Ellis Island. It was there that Andrew Nicolas Hribko registered as an immigrant from White Russia.

Lonely, scared, and in need of a job, he found work at a lumber mill with other Russians. After a year, Andrew Hribko made his way to Youngstown, Ohio where he would work several odd jobs and eventually meet and marry a young Polish girl named Walenza Sarna.

The Hribkos soon became citizens of the United States. They also started a family.

Their son, Andrew Nicolas Hribko, Jr. would fight for the United States during World War II, but die suddenly at the age of 34, leaving behind his six-year-old son (Rodney) and his two-year-old daughter (Sue). That son, Rodney Hribko, is our son-in-law's biological father.  Rodney and his sister Sue would eventually be adopted by Mr. Downey and have their surnames changed from Hribko to Downey.

So of course, our son-in-law Travis Downey grew up as a part of the Downey family and knew very little about his Hribko heritage. In fact, Travis and Charis didn't know any of the Hribko story that I've written for this July 4th reflection. They've said my research has added meaning to the naming of their son, Henry Hribko Downey, and they've given me permission to share it with you.

I will also one day be able to share with Henry how the Cherry side of his family immigrated to America from London in the 1830's, the Burleson side of his family immigrated to America from Ireland in the early 1700's, and the Mock side from Germany in the late 1700's.  We Americans are a blend of people from many countries.

My grandson Henry Hribko Downey and our national holiday, July 4, will always be a reminder to me that we who have the privilege of being citizens of the United States are all - every one of us - descendants of immigrants. 

And we are all Americans.
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."
Happy 4th of July!



11 comments:

Pege' said...

WELCOME TO THE WORLD HENRY!!!

Christiane said...

Wonderful story! Wonderful news!
prayers for Charis in labor and the new little one when he is born.

Loved this post. :)

Pege' said...

Hey PaPa Wade...how about some details about the wee babe. Size, weight, time of delivery :) How is Charis? I have been praying all day!

Wade Burleson said...

You bet Pege - as soon as possible. Henry made it into the world, but Rachelle won't let me post anything until Henry's mom and dad do so first! :) Thanks for asking.

Nancy2 said...

Congrats Papaw Wade.
Beautiful story.

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Rex Ray said...

“Happy July 4.”

That would have been easy to do since Judy and I were married July 4, but it didn’t work out that way since I was in the hospital with a broken back. This is my first day back home and am doing well.

Christiane said...

REX RAY
how did you break your back? Oh my goodness! What happened?
Prayers for your full recovery, yes.

Rex Ray said...

Hi Christiane,

I built a 40 foot high slide nine years ago. 647 people have gone down on a sled that would slow down and stop; with total trips of 1,521. The old sled was worn out so I made a new one. I tried the new one, but it was too fast. It went in the air, nosed dived, and did a cartwheel. It banged me up all over. Judy was to take a video but had her cell phone on photo. I’ve been home four days and am walking with a cane. I drove to town today by myself. It felt good.

Thanks for asking.

Christiane said...

Hi REX RAY,
please, please heal up completely before your next stunt! (Not sayin' you're getting old or anything, and no disrespect intended, but TAKE IT EASY for a while)

You must have many guardian angels, and the older you get, the more are put on duty, I'm sure. Thanking God that you did not injure your spine.

You bring a lot of joy to this world, friend. May you long be blessed with health and with all good things. :)

harada57 said...

You bring a lot of joy to this world, friend. May you long be blessed with health and with all good things. :)

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