April 23rd, 2022








Barbra Pivarrik


Central Connecticut State University


Andy: Alrighty, Barbara Pivarrik. OK and my name is Andy Strand and he said OK you're born in Yonkers?
Barbara: that's right.
Andy: and then now you live in Hartford?
Barbara: That’s right and then in between I went to high school and College in the Bronx so I’m always a New Yorker. And then I went to Boston. I was Boston teacher. Got my masters at BU. Did a little work at Harvard and finished a PhD at UConn and stayed there till. Thank God I’m back in the city.
Andy: So you’re back in the city?
Barbara: Back in the city.
Andy: Okay, and you found out about the heritage festival how?
Barbara: By the Veterans for Peace.
Andy: Oh.
Barbra: So professor Coronado had contacted Jim Russell and I had just met them about a month ago, that group. Because, I'm part of a weekly vigil at the courthouse on Main Street in Hartford, Peace Vigil. And Veterans for Peace had joined us during lent, and that’s how I got to meet them.
Andy: So you do a weekly vigil, uh where was it again? I forgot.
Barbra: So it’s set on Main Street in front of the federal courthouse. For immigration also. And it was started mainly by the Catholic Worker in Hartford which was I don't know if you know the catholic worker at all but I can just quickly- Catholic Worker was founded in 1934 in New York city by John Deday. There’s houses that were pieced on by community houses within major cities of the United States.
Andy: I see. What was the name of that again?
Barbra: It’s the Hartford Catholic Worker.
Andy: Hartford
Barbra: Catholic worker. And the other, the founder, there were three people who were instrumental to the founding, and I was- I helped them as they were beginning 27 years ago, to get that house in the North end. Yea so, they are now involved with college students. Um, I got, um, years ago, I got them involved with UConn’s sports Huskey program. And, so Connecticut law goes there. Many high schools go there. We would love to see, uh, Central Connecticut come. Um, they volunteered to be with the kids in my neighborhood. And to do sports, activities, and etcetera.
Andy: Okay so uh, when you, uh, hear about the Heritage Festival did that uh did that uh bring anything to mind as far as heritage?
Barbra: Oh yea! Absolutely. I mean that I uh, I think that working with students for most of my career- high school and college students, um, that, it really is an inclusive world and I think we should do anything that we can to sometimes make it not-
Andy: What about your own heritage?
Barbra: Oh! So my own heritage. Well, okay, so I’m one hundred percent Slovak from Slovakia.
Andy: Okay.
Barbra: That’s my grandpa and my grandparents. And my grandmother’s grandparents came from on uh, boats, when they were nineteen. Uh, the next year-
Andy: Uh, what did you say? You said your parents?
Barbra: Grandparents. From New York City to Ellis Island.
Andy: On both sides?
Barbra: On both sides. So, I was the first person who did not marry out of my heritage. Like, there was, you know, in New York we had the Italian area, Irish ghetto, and the polish for safety and solidarity.
Andy: So you’re the first one to have married out-
Barbra: Yea! Kind of. I just say that tongue in cheek. But I-
Andy: Alright, so you’re the first one to marry outside your uh-
Barbra: Yea well yea I probably wouldn’t, I don’t know, the fact that my grandmother came, she never saw her mother again. And she never went to school in Slovakia, so she wasn’t educated. She came from a farm, and they were very spiritual, religious, faith-oriented people. So she never had a letter. And now we think about Facetime, and I have relatives in New Zealand who I keep in touch with, that’s an example of you know, far away. But the first time that she heard, again, about her grandmother was 25 years later when she got a card in the mail about her grandmother- her mother in a coffin.
Andy: Wow.
Barbra: With the date that she died. Though they didn’t write, at least they prayed. Prayer was the strength within that gave them the ability to come and make a new life in the uh US. And, she worked, she and my grandfather worked in the a carpet factory for approximately four to six-
Andy: And where was that?
Barbra: In Yonkers.
Andy: In Yonkers?
Barbra: uh-uh. And uh…yea
Andy: And how did you end up in Connecticut? You, you moved here for school?
Barbra: Right. So I, so after I graduated from college in New York, Hunter College, and I got my masters at BU, and was a Boston School teacher, met my husband, and he had a job at UConn so we moved to get to know the cows and nature. And it was a great, it was also a great community.
Andy: So your grandpa worked at the same carpet factory your grandparents did?
Barbra: So my mom’s mom was an at home mom with six children and my dad was a painter- worked for, first Otis Elevator then for the city of Yonker’s painting public schools.
Andy: Okay. Alright, and so, lets see, do you have any other stories about migrating? You already told us a couple.
Barbra: Yea so I basically just remember one other thing. My grandmother always said that she was an American. And we nowadays imagine when we send our kids off the college, even from Hartford to Waterbury that that’s far or going to Massachusetts or that fact of sending a child to uh so far away and knowing you’ll never see them again I think is kind of incredible.
Andy: Yea
Barbra: And I know one of my students- graduate students from UConn she had come from uh Tasmania to study and she had left her daughter behind for two years. Never saw her because the opportunity was here to get her degree then go back and work in government there. But again, what we do for our children and what we allow our children to do for you- now I have four children, two of them live on the west coast and one is in washiongton DC, and I always tell them they are doing God’s work wherever they are and to stick to their values and they will make a differenence if the world- which is what we tell all the young people of today. These are the leaders- these are our leaders. I think it is a priviledge to work at a university and um to encouraging to and to know that Jacob will be taking care of me someday. Will you remember me Jacob? I sat here with you and you were just taking notes, will you get me some water? And he’ll be like “I kind of remember you”
Jacob: I will
Barbra: yea
Andy: Okay, and you’re not a veteran are you?
Barbra: I am not, and so the association here, so I actually thought it was all about veterans so the peace movement and why they were invited so I just uh bought this here, this is uh our military budget for 2023, so we can see where the money is going. And this is all online.
Andy: Those are for uh off subject here.
Barbra: Yea okay, so I’ll just leave them just incase someone might be interested. And the other thing- just as far as careers, and were all multitalented and could be a lawyer, business man, then change your mind and decide to do something else and to realize how gifted we are, and how gifted young people are and to just have the courage to stand up and persevere in spite of hardships- so that’s just my school counseling-
Andy: Nice.
Barbra: I say in spite, any time I have a college student, they become my victim.
Andy: Alright, well we got people lined up here waiting so our time is up. Thanks for sharing your stuff.
Barbra: You’re very very, very welcome.
Andy: Grab a lunch
Barbra: Thank you.

Original Format





“Barbara,” Latino History Harvest, accessed June 15, 2024,

Output Formats