Sokol USA
Farrell, Pennsylvania
                                   Sokol Farrell History




            Under the leadership of Julius Pleteník, Michal Ivan, Izidor Cvik and Štefan Bohunický, 22 Slovak immigrants gathered on June 10, 1906 for a meeting with the aim of founding the 103rd lodge of the Slovak Gymnastic Union Sokol of the USA in Farrell, Pennsylvania. From the historical records available to us, this first meeting was held in the Polish Home, at that time located on Emerson Avenue, just a few hundred feet north of Idaho Street.


(The following italicized print is a literal translation of the historical account of our unit written in Slovak by Brothers Michal Babey and Michal Evan, pictured above (Translated from the Slovak by Stephen J. Banjak) which was printed in the Program Book of the IV Slet and the Twentieth Anniversary of the Slovak Gymnastic Union Sokol, USA in 1916, just ten years after our founding.)


            In this time, immediately after the founding of the unit, we began to work hand in hand in a fraternal way to cultivate Sokol ideals by arranging dances and other activities. From time to time we participated in gymnastic activity, but just in our own old country ways, mostly so that we would have fun with each other. We did not have competent gymnastic instructors; since truly, the whole organization did not have many. We efficiently carried out our fraternal responsibilities toward the unit.


            More and more we read in the Sokol newspaper that units were becoming more active in gymnastics, but we could not do this. It gnawed at us very much, but what could we do? There was no one to help. We survived times of honey, but truly we also suffered. By luck, in 1907, District Matúsčák Trenčianský was organized and we were located in that district. The districts were organized to promote gymnastic activity and this would have been useful for us, but the problem was that we were 79 miles distant from the headquarters in Pittsburgh.


            We paid our dues to the district, but because of negligence and indifference we did not send representatives to the meetings and therefore, we didn't know what was happening in the district. Since we did not ask for help, the district wasn't able to give us any. From time to time we grew, but we also fell. So that, in the year 1909, we had only eight members and the unit would have dissolved, but for two of our brother Sokols, Michal Ivan and Štefan Bohunický, both of whom had so much interest in our Sokol, and took such great pains and time, so that the unit would continue. And so we endured with about twenty members until 1913, when the unlucky number 13 brought us good luck.

            At the beginning of March, Brother Martin Červenák, from unit #87 of Pittsburgh came to Farrell. He was known far and wide in the whole organization as a tireless worker for the Sokol cause. Our ideas quickly developed, that we would not be disappointed and that he would lift our Sokol spirit; and this did transpire.


            Brother Červenák was, first of all, a businessman; he didn't waste time, and with his help we started a brisk activity. We began to produce theatrical plays that were so successful, that we noticed a rapid growth in our unit. This growth had an effect, even outside of our unit, because the public, both the Slovak and English community began speaking about us. When we saw that we were on a firm basis, we began to think about gymnastic activity.


            At that time we received into membership Štefan Franka, who organized a gymnastic team and we began to perform calisthenics, since he knew nothing about working on the gymnastic apparatus. The team participated immediately in the III Sokol USA Slet in Cleveland, Ohio in 1913. We longed for gymnasts who would also be able to perform on the apparatus.


            Brother Červenák got for our unit an instructor from Unit #5 in New York by the name of Brother Pavel Gallik. Under his guidance, gymnastics become a very lively activity. Brother Gallik spent much time and work to bring the team to perfection. Immediately, the English speaking community became to know of us and we were invited to perform in public appearances with them. These appearances were so successful that the city newspaper devoted a whole column to us on the front page along with a picture of the team and our instructor. They especially admired the remarks of our instructor and called him the "Professor of Gymnastics". Under the leadership of Brother Gallik, the team participated in the District competitions on the 4th of July, 1915 and won second place in low division.


            Immediately after the competition our instructor returned back to New York but, in his place we got another well known instructor, Brother Juraj Hamrák from unit 63 in Homestead, with whom we are presently practicing. (Editor’s note: i.e. 1916) For us, the year 1915 will be one to remember. We participated in a competition for new members and we accepted into membership thirty new brothers and for our efforts we received a new Slovak flag. In December, 1915 we established a juvenile branch with 22 boys which is rapidly expanding and after only three weeks, in January, 1916 performed so well that they captured the admiration of our entire audience. Credit for this goes to our instructor, Brother Hamrák.


            A Women's “Unit 108” was founded on December 15, 1911 with eight members. We can not say that much good came from their activity. At one time, they even began gymnastic activity, but the indifference of the American education establishment toward physical activity for women was the cause of their inactivity. It was for that reason we combined the women into our unit on August 2, 1914, and now it appears better when we are together. During the entire time of the existence of both units, only two sisters died, Anna Kolarsky and Anna Marinčin.


            Concerning our unit's public life in our city, we stand at the highest level. Our Sokol members and Slovak countrymen work mostly in the steel mill here in the city where there are 8,000 people employed.


            In our city, we have at least 8 societies, among which we have the Slovak Home with 200 members. That we are progressing within the circle of the other nationalities, the evidence shows, that we have completed a $20,000 building under the name of the Slovak Educational Workingmen's Home. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. We Sokols hold a large portion of the shares and therefore deserve much credit for the construction of the building and because 3/4 of our unit members were members of the Slovak Home, we insisted that instead of spending $8,000 on a new Sokol building, which we didn't need, we decided to invest in a home that would serve all of the Slovak community.


            In the political field, we are doing very well. We have six Slovaks in the city administration, more than any other nationality, and of the six, three are Sokols; one is on city council, one is school director and the third is a member of the health department. Slovaks in our city own property worth one half million dollars.



            From that time until the present our instructors are products of the training schools the national organization initiated for the specific purpose of training members to direct the physical education programs that were prepared by the National Gymnastic Department. These preparatory schools, called "kurz" (the Slovak word meaning "course") were begun shortly after World War I and have trained nationally to this day, thousand of members as gymnastic instructors for their local gymnasiums.


            Brother Stephen Petrick Sr. was one of our first members to attend an instructor's school. Upon his completion of the course, he held the position of Gymnastic Director until 1921. After serving one year as Assistant Director under Brother John Kvočak, Brother John Beca assumed leadership of the Gymnastic Department for 12 years. Under his guidance, along with the help of the traveling instructor, Brother Victor Pokorny, our gymnastic program flourished and many fine gymnasts were produced. The two instructors practiced along with the gymnasts and finished each practice with ‘giant swings” on the horizontal bar. Because at that time, our lodge belonged to District Matuš Čak Trenčianský, most of the slets we attended were held at the Slovak Sokol Camp in New Kensington, PA.


            Between 1928 and 1932, interim instructor Mike Zobrack, brother-in-law of Joseph Madura (M.D.) and his brother George enrolled Andrew Madura in our club. Instructor Andrew Ondich trained the Junior Boys and started each session with a march, singing the song, “Sokol som a Sokol Budem” (A Sokol I am and a Sokol I will be). John Huryait helped and guided the gymnasts through the Slovak gymnastic terminology.


           During the years 1926 to 1933, the most talented gymnasts in the Sokol organization performed at the slets in New Kensington. The names, Frank Erhardt, James Balaš, Jim Šoltiš, and Jim Salay are only a few of those. These men articulated their gymnastic performances in the true spirit of Sokol. They seemed to use a minimum of effort to accomplish the most difficult movements and always with perfect timing. Our Farrell gymnasts studied every move of these talented Sokol gymnasts and this served them well. Bro. Andrew Madura became the first individual from Farrell to win a “silver” medal in the Men’s Division. In 1927 at the age of 14, Brother Steve Banjak, our current President, became a member of Sokol.


     All around competition at that time included scores not only in gymnastics, but also calisthenics and various track and field events. Under Brother Beca the gymnasts practiced 5 days per week, practicing gymnastics three days and track and field twice. During the “depression” years, the juniors slept in “pup tents” when they participated in district slets.


            Brother Beca relinquished his responsibilities to his star pupil, Brother George (Ture) Zipay in 1934. Brother Zipay put his whole energy into the position of Gymnastic Director. Under his leadership he produced some of the best teams in our unit’s history. In 1934 many Juniors and all of the Senior Men went to the VIII Slet in Philadelphia, PA under the direction of Brother George (Ture) Zipay. For most, it was their first long trip away from home.


            In 1935, again under the direction of Brother Zipay, our gymnasts participated in the American Sokol Organization (Czech) Slet in Cleveland, OH. They slept on cots in the Czech Sokol Hall on East 131st Street. The competitions and slet were held at a nearby high school athletic field. And again under Brother Zipay’s leadership, our lodge placed in Senior Men’s High Division at the National Sokol USA Slet in Detroit, Michigan in 1938. This was the first time that Senior Women competed representing our lodge. Along with all the men, there were ten women participating; among them Emily and Matilda Zipay and Agnes Evans. Among the men was Brother Steve Banjak.


            In 1938, Brother Zipay qualified for the Sokol USA National Team which was to travel to the X Pan Sokol Slet in Prague, Czechoslovakia, but the trip was cancelled because of the gathering clouds of World War II in Europe. Brother Zipay gave up the position of Gymnastic Director in 1939 and Brother Andrew Madura was elected in his place. In doing so, Brother Zipay offered to assist the gymnasts and the newly elected director. The officers of the unit were so impressed with Brother Zipay’s work in the gymnasium that they would not accept his resignation until he accepted the position of Assistant Director. During this time Sokol Farrell gave apparatus exhibitions at the Vatra Club Picnic Grounds, at Sharon High School and at the Slovak Home.


            With Brothers Madura and Zipay as gymnastic instructors, preparations began for the next American Sokol National Slet in Chicago on June 29, 1941. The Supreme Lodge hired Brothers Paul Lojpersberger and John Konopa as “traveling instructors” and they provided great assistance especially in preparing for this slet. At this time our lodge had 42 gymnasts, about 20 of those were in the Senior Men’s Class. During that era, the doors of the Slovak Home were always open during practices. Brothers Martin Červenák and Paul Krivoš seldom missed watching these practices.


               On Sunday afternoon, December 7, 1941, during our Annual Meeting, Brother Andrew Madura was again elected Director. But, shortly after the meeting the sad news was announced on the radio of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. At that moment the future of the lodge and all its members became uncertain and everyone realized nothing would ever be the same again.



            Dark clouds overshadowed all of America when on December 7, 1941 the Japanese Air Force made a surprise attack on the bases and naval fleet at Pearl Harbor. US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt with his “Day of Infamy” speech before a joint session of congress entered the United States into World War II. Members of the Slovak Gymnastic Union Sokol, USA from the entire country answered the call to serve. From our own Sokol USA Farrell, 35 members served in the armed services. One member, Brother John Chizmar, was killed in action. On April 28, 1947 our unit paid tribute to Brother Chizmar and to all of our members who served by hosting a Veterans Banquet in their honor.


            The years during the war were difficult years as far as gymnastic activity was concerned. During the early part of 1942, Brother Edward Zipay was named Director. He conducted classes until he was called to service. Brother Steve Banjak was then appointed to replace him. (Brother Banjak is presently serving as President of Sokol USA Farrell and continues to be the guiding force in our present day activity.) Brother Nick Zipay was appointed Assistant Director.


            At the conclusion of World War II, a former gymnast from our club, Brother Ted Zipay, accepted the duties of Gymnastic Director. Brother Ted was following in the long tradition of his brothers who had directed the Gymnastic Department before him. Brother John Sverchek, Jr. was his Assistant Director. But, they had a difficult task before them. It appeared that the veterans, the former gymnasts who were returning from the war, did not return to the gym; they were occupied in finding jobs and raising their families. They had no leisure time and no time for gymnastics. Brother Melvin Slezak (our present lodge treasurer) was sent to Sokol Instructors Training School in New Kensington. But, after many futile attempts to reorganize gymnastic activity, it was necessary to stop conducting classes in 1948.




            In the early months of 1952, Brother Rudolph Bachna, Traveling Instructor from Sokol USA Headquarters and District Svätopluk Director Brother Joseph Kisela, visited our unit a number of times in order to reactivate our gymnastic classes. With their encouragement, our unit elected Brother Andrew Baran as Director and Brother Steve Banjak as Assistant. Activity began immediately and we conducted our first local gymnastic exhibition (the Slovak word is “Akademia”) and dance in the post-war era. That same year we participated in the District Svätopluk Slet in Cleveland, Ohio.


            Early in 1953, Brother Stephen (Petrick) Patrick, Jr. was appointed Director and Brothers Stephen J. Banjak and Donald Patrick, Stephen’s bother, became his Assistants. Activity began to again gain momentum and our teams participated in the Regional Slet in Ambridge, PA in 1953. When Brother Don Patrick was called to military service, his place was taken by Brother Andrew Churlik. Under their direction our teams competed in the Sokol USA Slet at Soldiers Field in Chicago in 1954 where all of our gymnasts competed on District Lake Erie “Svätopluk” teams. As Junior Boys, Brothers Churlik and Banjak were on the district four man quarter mile relay team that won the national title.




            On June 16 and 17, 1956 we celebrated our Fiftieth Anniversary with a Dinner Dance at the Slovak Home and a Slet at the Vatra Club Picnic Grounds. Gymnasts from Rossford, Canton, Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio as well as from Detroit, Michigan and the Pittsburgh area were in attendance. Also as part of the Anniversary celebrations, an exhibition was held at the Slovak Home. The highlight of this exhibition was the “special calisthenics number” written especially for the 50th Anniversary and included various “lifts” and pyramids. The composition was written and performed by Andrew Churlik and Diane Conte, Stephen Banjak and Joni Krukar, Stephen Patrick and Diane Kurtz and Don and Aggie Patrick.


            In Chicago, IL 1957, the long line of individual national title holders for our club began when Brother Stephen J. Banjak won the Low Division Men’s championship at the American Sokol Slet. The following year, at the XIII Sokol USA Slet in Cleveland our gymnasts won another individual national title when Joni Krukar won first place in Junior Girls Championship Division, the highest category in Junior competition which includes both compulsory and optional exercises. At that slet, Sister Aggie (Zabotsky) Patrick won second place in Championship Division Senior Women and our Intermediate Men’s Team, consisting of Brothers Andy Churlik, Stephen Banjak, and Steve and Don Patrick won second place.


            In 1962, Brother John Churlik III was elected Director of Men and Sister Diane Kurtz Director of Women. Preparations were in full swing for the XIV Sokol USA Slet in Pittsburgh which would celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Sokol in Praha (Prague), Czech Republic. Brother Stephen J. Banjak (as a gymnastic judge), who had been working for Sokol USA as a full time Traveling Instructor and Sister Diane Kurtz (as a competitor) were chosen to be on the official Sokol USA Team which was sent to Vienna, Austria to the 100th Anniversary celebrations in Europe. The oppressive communist regime in Czechoslovakia would not permit the Sokol to exist in its homeland.


            The decades of the 1960’s and 70’s were a very active time for our unit. Sokol Farrell hosted a Regional slet and competitions in 1964, a regional competition in 1966, a regional slet and competition in 1968, a Central Area competition in 1970 and a Regional Slet in 1978. In 1969, Sokol Farrell initiated sending periodic newsletters to the membership to inform them of local activity. In addition, local picnics for members were held annually. The unit sent teams to the XVI Sokol USA National Slet in Monessen in June, 1970.




            Tiffany Manor in Brookfield, Ohio was the sight of our 75th Anniversary celebration on Sunday October 25, 1981. The officers of the unit dedicated the Diamond Jubilee Program Book to our President, Brother Steve Banjak who “has been the leader and backbone of our unit for the past many years”. (Quotation taken from the 75th Anniversary Program Book.)


            At this time, our unit saw a transformation from having predominately male competitive gymnasts to having more female gymnasts. At the XIX Sokol USA Slet, held in Pittsburgh, Sister Beth (Borko) Schupp placed third in low division Juniors and our team, also including Kristin Kilgore, Heather Zuhowsky and Marla Matchak, placed second in that division. It was also in 1983 that we undertook the remodeling of our meeting room in the Slovak Home. During most of this time Brother Steve Banjak, in addition to being the president of the unit also acted as Gymnastic Director.


            In 1986, Sister Barbara Porter was elected Director of Women. She held this position until 1993. By her initiative, the lodge started holding annual “Sväty Mikulaš” (St. Nicholas) parties on the first Saturday in December and continues to this day. She holds the distinction of being one of the only current members in our unit who can directly trace her Sokol traditions to the Czechoslovak Sokol through her Aunt Louise Šebesta who was a Sokol in Frydek, Moravia before 1948 and continues in her membership to this day.


            Among the large delegation of gymnasts representing our unit at the XX Sokol USA Slet in Washington, D.C. in 1987 was the Championship Women’s Team of Sisters Beth (Borko) Schupp, Kimberly Hamilla, and Kelly (Daugherty) Knight. The women’s team brought back, the first ever for our club, Championship Division Team title.


            With the advent of the freedoms that were occurring in Slovakia as a result of the weakening grip of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia, in May of 1988 our unit sponsored a Folk Orchestra, “Šarišan” from eastern Slovakia to perform a concert at the Slovak Home. In the summer of the same year, under our Director Barbara Porter, our unit participated in the Canadian National Slet in Montreal with our Championship Division Women’s team of Sisters Borko, who placed second as an individual, Hamilla, and Daugherty winning their second consecutive first place team title and Brother Marc Banjak winning the Junior Boy’s Novice Division.


            The Sheraton Inn in West Middlesex was the sight of our 82 anniversary Dinner Dance on June, 1988. The Program and Program Book was dedicated to Brother Adam Krukar, longtime unit Treasurer, district officer and retiring Supreme Lodge Officer.


            In September 1989, in keeping with the Slovak cultural traditions of our club, “Olun”, a professional folk orchestra from Bratislava, Slovakia performed at the Farrell High School Auditorium under our sponsorship. Over 700 persons attended this performance. A reception for the performers was held at the Slovak Home immediately after their presentation where both the first and second floors were overflowing with people.

            1989 was another successful year for the Gymnastic Department as our gymnast flew to Omaha, Nebraska for the American Sokol National Slet. Our Championship Division Women’s team of Sisters Borko, Hamilla and Daugherty won the national title for the third year in a row. In addition, our low division Junior Girls team composed of Sisters Beth Palko, Jill Porter, Nicole Kurdupski and Jennifer Bateman (currently our Director of Women’s Programs) won that national title.


The Collapse of Communism…

The Close of the 20th Century:


            A slet in Paris France was already in the planning stages for the summer of 1990. But, the historic bloodless “Velvet Revolution" in which the oppressive communist regime in Czechoslovakia was overthrown occurred in November 1989 changed some of these plans. The elation that occurred in that country carried over to former Sokol members who reorganized the Sokol organization and began activity after 43 years of official banishment by the government.


            Since the planning for the slet in Paris was already in its advanced stages, it was decided to continue with these plans for Paris and then, one week following that slet to organize the first gymnastic exhibition of the Czechoslovak Sokol in Prague since 1948. Brothers Stephen Banjak, Steve Banjak and Michael Kolesar and Sister Barbara Porter, attended this historical event along with a delegation of about 20 members from Sokol USA. Under the leadership of National Director of Men, our own Stephen Banjak, this delegation which included National President Bro. John Walek and former National President Bro. Andrew Valušek made pilgrimages to the gravesites of Milan R. Štefanik and Thomas G. Masaryk and officially made the first visit of the Slovak Gymnastic Union Sokol, USA with Slovak Sokols in Bratislava, Slovakia.


            Another banner year for our unit occurred in 1991 when we held a well planned and executed gymnastic exhibition at the Slovak Home to celebrate our 85th anniversary. Our gymnasts also part-icipated in Regional competitions and in the XXI Sokol USA Slet in Indianapolis, Indiana. Again, under the guidance of our Director, Barbara Porter we had three national champions: Joseph Elavsky in Junior Boys; Jill Porter in Junior Girls and Kim Hamilla in Championship Women. Over thirty children, junior and senior members participated in the Slet at the Indianapolis Convention Center.


            In May 1992 our President, Steve Banjak was inducted into the Mercer County Hall of Fame for his untiring work with the Sokol organization. In the same year our gymnasts attended the Canadian National Slet and came home with three national champions: Stephanie Kilgore won the Junior Girls Low Division title; Jennifer Bateman won the Junior Girls Intermediate title and Beth Palko won the Senior Women Intermediate title.


            In June of 1993 our gymnasts under our Director Stephen J. Banjak ably represented us at the American Sokol Slet in Chicago with a first place team title in Junior Girl's Novice Division. Lauralee (Gilliland) Carlos won that event and Deanna Banjak placed third. Stephanie Stefanik ran on the Sokol USA four person quarter mile relay team that won against teams representing the Czech Republic, the American Sokol Organization and the D.A. Sokol Organization.


            In October 1993, our gym was the site of the first of three, two day training periods, to prepare gymnasts who were going to Praha, Czech Republic for the XII Pan Sokol Slet. Brothers Steve Banjak, Michael Kolesar and Stephen Banjak represented Sokol Farrell in Praha in the summer of 1994. As Director of Men of Sokol USA, Brother Stephen J. Banjak led the Sokol USA delegation in a parade through the streets of Prague which was witnessed by an estimated 1 million people. Over 30,000 gymnasts participated in this slet, the first slet on Czecho-Slovak soil since 1948. The Slet was held in the world famous Strahov Stadium, one of the largest in the world (approximately the size of 10 football fields) which was built especially for the Sokol Slets. For many, it was a dream come true; one which, because of the 43 year Communist stranglehold on the Slovak and Czech peoples, no one thought would ever come to pass.


            The X Sokol Canada Slet was held in Toronto in June, 1995 and our gymnasts again won National titles. Sister Kendra Ashby won in Junior Girl's Novice Division and Sister Becky Michaels won second in that Division. Sister Denise Pegg won the national title in Junior Girl's Level 2.


            On June 29, 1996 our unit signed a "Sister Sokol Club Agreement" with Sokol Vranov n/Toplou in the Eastern District of the Sokol in Slovakia, the first such agreement between a Slovak Sokol unit in the US and a unit in Slovakia. Representatives from Sokol Vranov, Brothers Jan Krišanda, Mikulaš Svoreň and Sister Maria Krišanda, attended our 90th Anniversary Celebration at Oak Tree Country Club where the agreement was formally signed by our President, Steve Banjak and our Recording Secretary, Aggie Patrick. In addition, a historical flag with a large white falcon on a red field, the name of our organization and the date of our founding was dedicated at this most important and historical occasion for our unit. The Program Book was dedicated to Bro. Don Patrick, gymnast, former instructor and at that time, the Chairman of the Juvenile Branch.


            In the same year our gymnasts, under our Director, Stephen Banjak participated in the 100th Anniversary Slet of the Slovak Gymnastic Union Sokol USA, which was held July 4 - 7, 1996 in Philadelphia. National competitive activity continued with the American Sokol Slet in Chicago, IL. in June 1997. In artistic gymnastics, Amanda Allan won another national championship for our lodge in level 2 Jr. Girls and she along with teammates Sari Durney and Beckey Michaels placed third as a team in level 2 Jr. Girls.

            The year 1998 was one of excitement and preparation for participation in the first Sokol na Slovensku (Sokol in Slovakia) slet which was held in a large soccer stadium in Košice before a large and appreciative audience. Our club sent a delegation to participate in the slet calisthenics which included: Bros. Andrew Churlik, Chuck Balik, Steve and Stephen Banjak and Sisters Amanda Allan, Stephanie Banjak, Gloria Hilko, Becky Michaels, and Denise Pegg (currently an instructor in our club). It was on this trip that our club made its first official visit to our Sister Sokol Club in Vranov nad Topľou in eastern Slovakia.


            As much excitement as there was about the closing of the old century and the coming of a new century and millennium, the excitement grew even greater with our preparations for the XXIII Sokol USA Slet in Cleveland, Ohio June 23 – 27, 1999. We had 16 women and junior girls (an entire block) participating in the combined girl's and women's calisthenics and 6 men and 8 women performing in the "masters" calisthenics. We returned home with yet another National Champion in Junior Girls Level 2 artistic gymnastics, Trica Teglo.


            Our lodge was preparing to close out the 20th century with plans to attend the XIII Pan Sokol Slet in Praha, Czech Republic in July 2000 but, because of unforeseen local events we were unable to send participants.


A New Millennium…

A New Century of Activity:


            The new century and millennium began with our participation in the American Sokol Slet in Detroit in 2001. Sokol USA Farrell continued to add names to the list of gymnasts who have won national titles. This time it was our "one - two punch” that brought not only the "gold" but also the "silver" to Farrell. Sister Keresty Kelly, in her first national competition took first place in Level 2 Junior Girls with a total all-around score of 41.750 (five events). And, it couldn't have been any closer... Connie Whaylen took second place, just .05 behind her teammate. A total of 13 members participated in the Slet calisthenics.


On July 7, 2001 a threefold fanfare opened the celebration of our 95th Anniversary of service to Farrell and the greater Shenango Valley. The United States, Slovak, Czech, Sokol Farrell and Sokol Vranov flags were presented and the respective anthems were played. Esteemed dignitaries included Senator Robert Robbins of the 50th Senatorial District of Pennsylvania; William Morocco, Mayor of the City of Farrell; Cliff Harriger, Mayor of the City of Greenville and Brother Milan Kovač, Financial Secretary of our National Office.


Over 125 members and friends attended the Dinner-Dance at the Oak Tree Country Club in West Middlesex. Celebrating this historical milestone with us were members of Sokol Greater Cleveland, Sokol USA Pittsburgh, Sokol USA Youngstown and the Slovak Home of Farrell. We were also happy to greet 27 Sokols from T.J. Sokol Vranov and Župa (District) Jan Kollar of the Slovak Republic. A highlight of the evening was the signing of the “Reaffirmation of the Sister Sokol Clubs Agreement” between representatives of Sokol USA Farrell and those of Sokol Vranov n/Topľou of Slovakia. Brother Stephen Banjak acted in the role of "Master of Ceremonies".


     At our September 2002 meeting, Br. Melvin Slezak announced that he and his wife Dorothy, also a member of Sokol USA Farrell, would donate a substantial sum of money as the initial contribution toward the creation of a Sokol USA Farrell Scholarship Fund. It was decided that the goal would be to raise at least $10,000 by our 100th anniversary year and to invest all the monies collected. Our club would then award the interest from this investment in the form of a scholarship. The scholarship was created to financially assist members of our club who intend to study beyond high school in the field of their choice.


            Br. Slezak was chosen chairman of the Scholarship fund. Upon Br. Slezak’s recommendation, it was unanimously approved by the membership to name the scholarship in honor of the long time president of our club and Sokol activist, Bro. Steve Banjak.


            On Wednesday July 2, 2003 a charter bus left early in the morning with 25 Sokol Farrell members headed for the Sokol USA Gymnastic Festival in Valparaiso, Indiana. Gymnasts from the US and Canada participated; additionally it had become common to have Sokol gymnasts from Slovakia and the Czech Republic participating in the slets in North America. Again, the results were excellent for the Farrell gymnasts: Sisters Bibiana Murcko captured first place in Girls Level 2; Connie Whalen, second place Junior Girls Level 4.


            Our second participation in a slet in Slovakia began on Friday evening, July 2, 2004 when 9 Sokol USA Farrell gymnasts stepped onto the floor at the Festival Pódiových Skladieb (Special Number Festival) which was held as part of the Sokol na Slovensku Slet program in Skalica, Slovakia. Led by our Director of Women, Jennifer Bateman and our Director of Men, Stephen Banjak, the group also consisted of Stephanie and Sasha Banjak, Betty Felesky, Bibiana, Lucia and Zuska (sister) and Zuska (mother) Murcko. The Murcko family had immigrated to the US from Prešov, Slovakia two years earlier and immediately became members of Sokol USA Farrell. Br. Louis Domin from Sokol USA Central Jersey quickly learned the composition and “substituted” as a last moment replacement to complete our group of ten.

The Second Farrell delegation in Slovakia 2004:

(From top) Stephen and Stephanie Banjak, Louis Domin of Sokol N. Jersery, Betty Felesky, Lucia and Zuzana Murcko, Saša Banjak, Jennifer Bateman, Bibiana and Zuzka Murcko.


            Our Sokol Farrell gymnasts marched onto the floor behind our American flag to take their positions and a vigorous applause from the Slovak audience welcomed them. The Special number was composed by Bibiana Murcko, Jennifer Bateman and Stephen Banjak and was given the title, “Conflict”. It began with the Slovak folk tune “Karička” to which four persons of our group, representing “traditional values”, performed traditional types of calisthenics movements. The audience quickly got involved with our number by rhythmically clapping with the music.


            All at once the music changed to “Magic Bird” a “jazz” adaptation of the classical Stravinsky composition of “Fire Bird” and six other members of the group, representing contemporary values, began performing quick aerobic type movements, which got the audience into full applause mode! Then the music quickly changed back to the slower “Karička” and just as quickly back to the much faster “Magic Bird” with the appropriate and accompanying movements on the floor… and again back and forth…


            The composition ended with a triumphant pyramid as the finale to the number. The number attempted to illustrate the conflict that sometimes occurs in society between traditional and contemporary values, but in the finale, how these can be blended into complete harmony.   (This is the same music that we are using to accompany a new composition of movements at our Centennial Cele-bration


            As we marched off the floor, waving to our Sokol brothers and sisters from Slovakia and the Czech Republic, each one of our members felt the meaning of “Sokol brotherhood” and the pride that can only come through participation in such an international occurrence. In all, 45 different Sokol clubs from Slovakia and the Czech Republic participated in this event.


            Representatives of the various Sokol groups in attendance were invited to a reception held at the town hall by the mayor of Skalica, Ing. Stanislav Chovanec. Introductions of Sokol were introduced and were asked to sign the Historical Records Book of the city of Skalica; Brother Stephen Banjak signed the book as a representative of Sokol USA Farrell. In all, approximately 4,000 gymnasts participated in this event.


            Our last major Sokol event prior to our Centennial year celebration began very early in the morning on June 21, 2005 when the 34 members and friends of our club boarded our Southwest Airlines flight which was scheduled to leave Pittsburgh International Airport headed for Chicago’s Midway and the XXI American Sokol Slet.


            The slet opened that same evening with a program featuring the flags of the various Sokol clubs participating in the Slet. Our bright red Sokol USA Farrell historical flag was proudly displayed along with the Slovak Gymnastic Union Sokol, USA organizational flag.


            In Novice Division (Ages 10 to 12) Sokol USA Farrell gymnasts dominated the competition by sweeping the first four places. The results were final with first place, Sisters Kylee Tillery-Sagenich; second place, Courtney Maniscalco; third place, Zuzana Murcko; fourth place Adiena Biblis. Sister Amanda Goda won the Girls Level 3 (Ages 10 to 12) competition. In Junior Girls Level 3 (Ages 12 to 14) Sisters Brittany Maniscalco won first place and Bibiana Murcko placed second with Marissa Gibson in fourth place. Sister Katie Shebeck won First Place in Junior Girls Level 3 (Ages 15+). And so, our 99th year of Sokol USA Farrell activity successfully concluded with four first places at the national Sokol competition.


            Plans for our One Hundredth Anniversary at the Radisson Hotel on May 20, 2006 were begun with the formation of our Centennial Celebration Committee in November, 2005. The Committee consists of Brothers Steve and Stephen Banjak, Andrew Churlik, Dave Goda, Mark Frantz and Melvin Slezak; and sisters Shiela Biblis, Carrie Blair, Debbie Goda, Lisa Maniscalco and Lisa Newmeyer.


            The life of any organization depends greatly on the dedication and perseverance of its leadership.   Sokol USA Farrell has undergone many crises, especially in its formative years and during the period following World War II. But, we have truly been fortunate to have had persons in leadership roles that have stepped up and, as their belief in Sokol ideals dictated, have accepted the challenges, whatever they may have been.


            Currently our gymnasium is full of activity; both males and females participate; and the range of ages of those participating is from 4 years to 80+ years. Yet, it is only a small percentage of our entire membership. Although the future is full of potential, it can only realize fulfillment if we continue to produce leaders with the same dedication, perseverance and vision that our forbearers have offered. The challenges continue to be great!


            At this time, our club is preparing to send gymnasts this summer to the XIV Pan Sokol Slet in Prague, Czech Republic and next year, in 2007 to the XXV Sokol USA Slet in the new Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA.


“ If our efforts, dedicated to the welfare of the entire community, are to meet with deserved success, the greater part of the population cannot content itself with the role of a spectator, calmly viewing our work from without. Even in the physical culture field itself, we are devoting ourselves to mass education. It is not our desire that a few specialists entertain passive audiences. No, we want that audiences enrolled in our classes, to take active part in our gymnastics. Not a definite demarcation of “actives” and “passives”, but their interchanging: once performing, then watching. The individual who would confine himself only to watching could derive no benefits from our physical culture. The building of a strong sound body by my neighbor will not strengthen my physique. I must take active part in the Sokol gymnastic work if I want to reap its benefits to the fullest. .” (Dr. Miroslav Tyrš – “Sokol Task, Aim and Goal”, written in 1871.)