Lorain’s International Legacy

Bulgarians and Macedonians

Bulgarians and Macedonians are South Slavs who share the Eastern Orthodox religion and Cyrillic alphabet. The largest number of Bulgarian and Macedonian immigrants came to the United States between 1890 and 1924 to escape the economic distress and political turmoil in their homelands. The majority arriving before World War I were from Greece, Serbia, Thrace (Turkey), and Bulgaria. Their journey to America often involved travel to points of departure in France or Germany, where they waited in camps with other immigrants for ships to take them to America. Others boarded ships bound for America in the Greek ports of Salonika and Peraeus.

Most Bulgarian and Macedonian immigrants were poor, uneducated, and unskilled, and they were attracted to large urban centers offering employment opportunities for manual labor in steel mills, foundries, mines, and railroad construction. It is estimated that some 50,000 Macedonians and Bulgarians settled in the large industrialized cities of New York, California, Washington, and the Midwest, including ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Wisconsin. However, adjustment to the industrialized urban environment of America was challenging for immigrants who were generally from a rural environment. Generally, immigrants from the same village or region tended to settle together, helping and supporting one another. Their churches helped to provide a sense of ethnic identity for the immigrants. However, boarding houses and coffeehouses were the center of social life in the immigrant community, for it was here that the immigrants, who were mainly single men, could socialize, reminisce about their homeland, exchange information about job opportunities, and provide advice and support to one another.

Post-World War II immigration was motivated largely by a desire to escape communism. Immigration was primarily from Yugoslavia, especially the Macedonian Republic. Macedonia became independent in 1992. Until the fall of the communist government of Bulgaria in 1990, only a small number of its citizens were permitted to leave the country.

Bulgarians and Macedonians comprise the principal small Balkan groups in Lorain County. In Lorain, they share the same churches. The first Bulgarian-Macedonian parish purchased the St. David Episcopalian Church on E 31 Street and Pearl for $6,000 in 1933 and renamed it SS. Cyril and Methodius Orthodox Church. More recently, the parish purchased St. Michael’s Catholic Church of the Byzantine Rite.