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Member Story

Miss Czech-Slovak US 2019-2020 National Queen Anna Sophia Tombazzi

Many thanks for the encouragement and trust of GCU Lodge 302 President Judy Weitzel, who at the lodge’s February 2019 meeting suggested sponsoring GCU member Anna Tombazzi, in her quest to obtain the Miss Czech-Slovak US 2019-2020 crown. Anna attained her goal being crowned as the first ever Miss Czech-Slovak US of Rusyn descent.

The knowledge for Anna’s national title began as a member of the Cleveland, OH based Rusyn folk ensemble, Karpato-Rus’ Ensemble in 2009. Anna was the lead violinist and a dancer. Her mother, Laurel Tombazzi, was the ensemble director. Laurel received information about the Miss Czech-Slovak US Pageant, but the Pageant requires ladies age 16 to 26, the Karpato-Rus’ Ensemble had no female performers old enough at the time.

In 2015, Laurel notice on the Miss Czech-Slovak US Pageant website that the nationalities of Czech, Silesian, Moravian and Slovak were listed on the pageant application. The winning contestant is awarded a trip to either the Czech Republic or Slovakia. Since Rusyns live in Eastern Slovakia, Laurel asked the pageant committee to add “Rusyn” to the application. (Rusyns live as a minority group in present day Slovakia and do not have a land to call their own.) The committee happily agreed and asked Laurel to be one of three judges to select a Queen that same year.

The Czech Days Festival has been ongoing for 58 years in Wilber, NE. The event draws over 50,000 people annually during the first weekend of August with the Pageant as a part of the festivities. The single female contestants are judged in four categories: private interview, on-stage interview, Kroj (costume) modeling and talent. Despite the huge crowd, contestants only need to impress the three judges during the two day Pageant.

Anna’s maternal Rusyn lineage comes from her great-grandfather, Stephen Pusti from Šoma (now called Driencia) in Šaryš County near Prešov. Her great-grandmother, Anna Bittner Pusti was from Kamienka, in Spiš County. Both Anna’s great-grandparents came to America in the early 1900’s.

Born and raised in Ohio, Anna was active in her Rusyn heritage from a young age: donating to an orphanage in Eastern Slovakia, speaking on a Rusyn Radio program based out of Pittsburgh, PA and acting as a family’s little girl in a traditional Christmas Eve Velija play in Youngstown, OH. Anna has also played her violin at multiple Rusyn cultural events and volunteered at other ethnic centered festival events.

A GCU scholarship awardee, Anna completed her Chemical Engineering degree from the University of Akron, OH in May 2018 with minors in mathematics, chemistry and business. Upon college graduation, Anna accepted a position at The Spaceship Company/Virgin Galactic in Mojave, CA, as a Spaceship Propulsion Test Engineer testing the most powerful hybrid rocket motor in the world.

Anna received three individual awards at the Pageant: Oratory, Authentic Kroj and Grand Talent. Her authentic Kroj (costume) was from Ugoča County in the foothills of the Carpathian mountain range. Anna performed on her great-grandfather’s violin “The Valleys of the Mountains,” a Rusyn medley, as her talent.

Anna stated that she wanted to become Miss Czech-Slovak US because “…As a rocket scientist with humble beginnings and Rusyn roots, I aspire to be Miss Czech-Slovak US because I want to be an ethnic face both in the scientific and to the rest of the world shattering the perceived segregation of being both strong culturally rooted and working on cutting edge technology…”

Anna belongs to a 100% GCU Lodge 302 family. She is the daughter of Frank & Laurel Tombazzi, younger sister of Joseph, granddaughter of Florence Pusti Orris, and niece to the lodge’s Publicity Directory Chris Bratnick. Anna is a member of the Proto-Cathedral of St. Mary in Sherman Oaks, CA.

As Anna begins a year of travel as National Queen, she is happy to share her Rusyn knowledge and gratefulness to the GCU for sponsoring her in this historic event. Congratulations Anna!

In the photo Anna holds two crowns in her hand while a third crown is on her head. She will wear these crowns during her reign as National Queen.

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