Their odyssey began in the displaced persons camps of Europe after World War II and ended on a block in the Maryland suburbs.
The Kondrats came first, then the Wynnyks, and then families with names including Kyrnickyj, Koniuchowskyj, Romaniuk and Slota. Within a few years, the small dead-end street just a block into Prince George's County from Northeast Washington had become a tight-knit Ukranian American enclave within the larger mosaic of metropolitan Washington.
The 4500 and 4600 block of 21st Street remain largely so today, a half century after the first families moved into the small brick Tudors and Colonials, built mostly in the 1930s.
While many whites and, increasingly, middle-class blacks have forsaken Prince George's for outer counties, the Ukranians, particularly the older ones, have stayed put. As many in the first generation pass on, some of their homes are occupied by their children or grandchildren.
It was, and is, a solidly blue-collar block of people who have traditionally made a living with their hands -- as plumbers, housepainters, barbers and the like. The block today is more ethnically diverse, with a few blacks, two Hispanic families and a smattering of other groups. But about half of the 23 original homes are still owned by Ukrainian Americans.
Many of the older residents, who worked in factories or cleaning buildings, never learned to speak English, using their children as translators when needed.
"On the street, in church, we communicated in Ukrainian," said Maria Koniuchowskyj Stransky, 56, whose parents -- married in a displaced persons camp in 1947 -- moved to 21st Street in 1963.
"We went to Ukrainian school on Saturday to learn how to write Ukrainian," Stransky said. "You could come straight from the Ukraine to 21st Street and feel at home. It was like one big extended family. There was not a lot of interaction with other streets."
Her parents, she said, "spoke enough [English] to be understood. One of my jobs was to be a translator very early on."
Growing up on the block "was wonderful," recalls Anne (Honya) Weeks, 44. "The Ukrainians always congregated at someone's house in the evening, to drink a beer, play cards. My fondest memory is playing outside with all the neighbors out on the steps.
"We all went to the same public schools," she added. But her generation has mostly sent its children to parochial schools, such as Hyattsville's St. Mark's Church School and DeMatha Catholic High School for boys, or to Elizabeth Seton High School for girls in Bladensburg.
Anne Weeks lives in a Colonial right next to her mother, Anna Wynnyk, 78, a resident since 1957. "The children say, 'Why you stay here all this time?'" said Anna Wynnyk. "I love my neighbor, new neighbor, old neighbor, doesn't matter. I stay nice to everyone. I hate [to] move."
Weeks, her husband Carl and their younger daughter Sarah, 20, a nursing student at Catholic University, are also staying put. "There's not a big turnaround in houses for sale," said Anne Weeks.
According to public records, the last two older homes to change hands were sold in 2000 for $129,900 to a Hispanic family and in 2001 for $127,000 to a South Asian family.
This unincorporated area carries a Mount Rainier postal address and adjoins that Maryland municipality. On legal documents, it is the North Woodridge subdivision. Right across Queens Chapel Road is Avondale, where there are five more Ukrainian households, but 21st Street continues to hold the largest concentration.
They all belong to the Ukrainian Catholic Church two miles away on Harewood Road NE in the District, but the priest lives on 21st Street, in a new, larger house the Ukrainian Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia bought in 2002.
"I like 21st Street a lot," said Father Nestor Iwasiw, 38, in his third year here. "It's nice and quiet. The people are friendly. It's a safe neighborhood as far as I'm concerned."
Stransky no longer lives on the block -- she lives less than a mile away, in Mount Rainier -- but with her brother she still owns her late parents' house. They rent it out, she said, to "regular Americans." But Stransky has been a frequent presence on the street, regularly checking on a Ukrainian widow who recently went into a nursing home.
For its elderly Ukrainian residents, the road to 21st Street was tortuous. German soldiers wrested Anna Wynnyk from her mother's home in the town of Vindrat at 1 a.m. on Dec. 9, 1942. From there, she recalls, she was transported by train "like a cow, no windows, nothing" to Germany, where she was forced to work in a textile factory.
Liberated by U.S. troops, she was given food and clothes and, later, the opportunity to come to the United States. She met and married her late husband Petro, also Ukrainian, in a displaced persons camp in 1945. He, too, had also been part of a slave labor force in a German factory.
They came to the United States in 1950, and after working for a farmer in Virginia for a year, moved to Washington, where he worked as a busboy at a downtown hotel. Eventually, they followed other Ukrainians to 21st Street, where they raised five children. Petro cut hair for 40 years in College Park, eventually owning the Campus Barber Shop.
The Ukrainian Americans of 21st Street are fiercely patriotic. "They hung their Ukrainian flag, but with the American flag above it," said Anne Weeks's husband, Carl, who says he is of Cherokee and "hillbilly" descent.
Most of the homes on the street are small, generally 1,300 to 1,700 square feet, on lots of 6,000 or 7,200 square feet. But since 1999, seven larger houses have sprouted at the end of the block.
Starting at $224,200 in 2000, the new houses have sharply escalated in price. This February, one sold for $399,000, and this summer the last of seven sold for $470,000, said builder Nathaniel Smith, who also lives on the cul-de-sac.
"This is one of the best deals you could find," said Smith, 57, who retired from Giant Food Inc. to build five of the seven new homes, each of which boasts more than 4,000 square feet of living space, including finished basements.
"It's a nice neighborhood; it's quiet," said Smith, who is African American, sounding very much like his Ukrainian neighbors. "It's mostly older Ukrainians who live in here. But [now] you got a mix of everything."
The older people, he said, "they're always walking, for exercise. There used to be one who would talk to me for hours about the war. He passed several years ago. He was a great guy. I think he was captured and imprisoned. He had some stories to tell."