Our wonderful exclusive translation from the pages of the 1934 edition of the marvelous Czech-American annual journal, Amerikán Národní Kalendář, continues today!
This article, “From the History of Caledonia, an Old Czech Settlement in the State of Wisconsin”, is just a portion of a larger article we are translating, but this portion contains some amazing details about the lives and times of early Czech immigrants in America and their struggle to maintain their cultural heritage in their new homeland as well as over 50 surnames!
In this installment you will see that I have added emphasis on a portion of the first paragraph. They are stirring words as our ancestral Czech compatriots looked towards the future of Czech-Americans.
Indeed they are bittersweet!
Amerikán Národní Kalendář
Volume: LVII, Year: 1934, Pages: 187-213
“FROM THE MEMORIES OF OLD CZECH SETTLERS IN AMERICA”
Translated by Layne Pierce and Dr. Mila Saskova-Pierce
©Onward To Our Past®
“From the History of Caledonia, an Old Czech Settlement in the State of Wisconsin.”
(From the Recollection of J. L. Peťura, deceased on the 13th of March 1930)
“It is the duty of each one of us to have the place of last rest maintained in a dignified manner, since after the years it will become the only constant messenger that in the past there were Czech immigrants. This is all that we can expect. There will be a time when America will absorb us completely, and the only thing left after us, somewhere, will be some mispronounced Czech names and our cemeteries. “It is a vain speculation,” Václav Lenoch used to say, “that it will get better; the immigrants are not coming, and our youth — does not give a damn about the national movement and Czech language. Talk with them in Czech and they answer in English, and if they speak in Czech then they mangle it to the point that nobody can understand it.” What can one do? Other nationalities are in no better place. The same applies to the Germans, for example. Each year they are going down in the number of their countrymen. The same also for Danes. They don’t have it any different. I have a nice illustration in my own family. My brother sent all of his children, there were eight of them, to a Czech school, and today after the daughters got married he has four sons in law; they are Danes and Germans and not a single one of his grandchildren knows Czech, nor German, nor Danish. All of them speak only English. I wanted to try it with one of the little boys, and I started in a good humor to make him speak with me in Czech, but he only laughed at it, and so I started with discipline, and then it was even worse and it did not lead to anything. In the end the boy told me in English: “Uncle, you are already too old and you do not understand anything. We don’t need Czech language in America. Here we are up-to-date Americans only, and that’s all.” That’s when I gave up.
After the above-mentioned second school building was constructed everything was going along in a somewhat calmer way, and both associations, Slavonic Linden Tree [Slovanská Lípa] and the Enlightenment [Osvěta] joined together once again. It was the smartest thing that they did, and what all the fraternal associations should do if they want to stay in existence for a longer time. We have all kinds of beautiful slogans such as “Love and Fraternity” and “Strength is in Unity,” and so on; however, usually only on paper, while in reality, it is constantly thinning out. I don’t want to be a false prophet, however, I would wish to hold onto each other as long as possible. However, after all my experiences and association life, and after everything that I went through during my seventy-three years I cannot keep from thinking that if our associations do not join together, everything will disappear at the earliest time. At the present time, one association takes over the members of the other one, and the younger generation joins in general American associations. And where can the associations acquire new members? That is why I am calling: “Merge with one another as soon as possible!”
Jan and Vincent Novák, the sons of a known Free Thinker Jan Novák, and Jan Vojtíšek, founded Sokol sometime after the year 1890. The exercises took place in the barn at the Novák’s home. They were joined by Czech youngsters and soon there were twenty of them. They were exercising all the time in the barn until it became too small for them. So then there was thought about the need to build some kind of a newer bigger hall. One time they called together a meeting and during it, Mr. Jos Štěpán offered for free one acre of land if they wanted to build a building. It was a pricey gift since it was one of the best places on the Milwaukee road. They gladly accepted the gift and the building started. A beautiful building was built and it is still standing today. It has a nice ground floor, a spacious hall with a neat stage that was painted and arranged by Farský from Chicago. The exercises took place in this building and also all the social events took place in it. Also taking place in this hall were orations by F. B. Zdrůbek, Professor B. Šimek, B. Bittner, and even the one who disappointed us so much, Iška, and a number of other famous men. Mostly those used to be Free Thinking speakers.”
Tomorrow we conclude our exclusive translation of this portion of the article from the pages of the 1934 edition of Amerikán Národní Kalendář! Be sure to stay with Onward To Our Past® for the ending — as well as an index of the 52 surnames!
Onward To Our Past®