Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, March 13, 2016, pg. 13

Many years ago I was doing some genealogical research in the State of Michigan Archives in Lansing to look up my paternal grandfatherís U.S. citizenship application, where such Calhoun County applications are now located. While going through the ledger box containing my grandfatherís application, I began to notice numerous other "Declaration of Intention" applications from other Albionites. Very curious about this, I ended up copying as many as I could that afternoon and spent around $40 in copying fees at then 10 cents a copy.

A good portion of these applications were from mostly men (and a few women) who had come to Albion from the Czarist Russian Empire prior to World War I, to work at the Albion Malleable Iron Company. They began applying for citizenship during the 1910s and 1920s. These public records are now fortunately easily available there on microfilm in the State Archives.

While filing these applications in my Albion history archives under the appropriate surnames for later study, I began to notice one particular city repeating itself on the applications as the town of origin. It is the city of Kobrin (now spelled Kobryn), located in the southwest corner of Belarus (White Russia), and located northeast of Brest-Litovsk. Kobrin is also a district (Raion) surrounding the city. During the Czarist-era, Kobrin was part of the Grodno Province. Between the two World Wars, Kobrin was part of Poland.

Many Albion families came from Kobrin area in the early 20th century prior to World War I, as the men were recruited to work at the Malleable. They lived in the "foreign settlement" on the west end of town, or "hunkytown" as it was called. Many persons were related one way or another to each other back in the "old country." They came to Albion because America and Albion offered them work and hope for a better life.

The premier family from Kobrin of course, was the Ignatuk/Egnatuk family, headed by Helen (Bleshinski) Egnatuk.(1850-1946). Nicknamed "Starausska" (old Russian woman), she was the matriarch of the Russian community in Albion. Helen served as the liaison between the Albion Malleable Iron Company and the local Russian population, and was instrumental in the establishment of the Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in 1916. The church celebrates its 100th anniversary in April.

In looking through some of the documents Iíve assembled, here are the names some others who were also from Kobrin and environs: They include local west end grocers John Pavluchik (1887-1970) (from Kobrin) and his wife Harriet (Sedoruk) Pavluchik (1886-1946), who was from the village of Kaluhi in the Kobrin District. Their son Nicholas (1911-1944) was the first Albion soldier to die in World War II.

Wasil Kolodica (1892-1968), Alex Zozulia (1885-1930), Stefan Martinuk and William Lazarchuk (1891-1978) were four other persons from Kobrin who came here. Lazarchukís cousin, confectionary store owner Paul Koroluk (1888-1967) was most likely from the Kobrin area, as was his cousin, Konstantin Krysuik/Krusik (1887-1938).

Regarding Martinuk, the November 18, 1915 issue of the Albion Recorder stated: "Stefan Martinuk, a Russian member of Albionís foreign colony, returned this week from Russia where he went last August to look up friends and relatives. He intended to go to his native village of Kobrin in the state of Grodno, but was allowed to go no further than Moscow, where officials told him that Kobrin was in the hands of the Germans. He also learned that members of his family together with the other Grodno folk had fled to other parts of Russia before the Germans invaded the country."

Others came from Divin just south of Kobrin and they included: Konstantin Kowalchuk (1876-1968), Egnati Podayko (1893-1964), and Leon Kracko (1874-1958), the latter of whom also married his wife Lena there. Note: Leonís son George (1921-1994) was the first person from the local Russian community to serve on the Albion City Council.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a 19th century atlas map showing the location of Kobrin in the Grodno Province of Czarist Russia. Find the word "GRODNO" in the center. The move down to the large letter "R." Just to the right of that is labeled Kobrin, along the road between Brest-Litvosk and Prushani. If Albion ever wanted a real "Sister City" where many people actually came from to live in Albion, Kobrin would be the one. How many of our readers know the names of the towns or little villages your ancestors were from?

19th century map of Kobrin


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