1800s Midwestern America and our Czech autobiographer is continuing to take us along during this lifetime! First it was Bohemia and other Czech lands, then the ocean, and now America and his first stops in the Midwest!
Enjoy this exclusive translation — only here from Onward To Our Past® as we continue our project to bring you these marvelous stories of early Czechs in America, which appeared in the pages of the Czech-American annual journal, Amerikán Národní Kalendář!
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®
John Zajíc, Sr. Edgerton, Alberta, Canada.
“However those ridiculers could not have imagined this. They came to America during the corvée, or immediately after it when reeds were growing on the fields of a farmer and were laughed at by the city dwellers. During my time, however, it was something different. The farmers themselves were employing modern serfs and in a cheaper way than the nobles from former times. In my time so many working people from the mountains flowed into the sugar beet district that they worked for one crown a day. And do you know what such a crown would buy? For a salary of twenty cents a worker had to be at four o’clock in the morning in the horse stall and in the evening he went home only at ten or eleven o’clock, and not only that. He also had to work for his bread giver spiritually. In the morning if the poor man went to work he would meet the farmer and his wife in front of the building. They had both hands outstretched as if they were testing whether it was raining, and then the poor man had to kiss them, even though sometimes these hands were not exactly clean and he had to push out the words, “May the Lord Give You Good Health! I kiss your hands gentleman and lady.”
In the evening he went home with an empty stomach, because the farm did not provide him with food. His master gave him room and board, which altogether amounted to about the one crown. The dwelling was one room and usually it was “healthy.” The goat, the rabbits, goslings, all those were competing with half a dozen children for the right to dwell in this room. This was the dwelling for those poor people. That is where they were cooking, eating, sleeping, and that’s where the next generation was raised – and officials did not make a peep about it, even if, according to the law, it was forbidden to stay in such a dwelling.
I could only smile bitterly at those local ridiculers. They inherited farms from their fathers, and they did not even know what it was like to be renting. And to pay the rent for a year ahead in cash. Many of them could not count or read: when they sold their corn or cattle, they had to go to a lawyer so that he would count it for them. By making fun of me, they only strengthened me in my work. Over the summer at auctions I bought the live and not live “fundus instructus” [agricultural furnishings] except for a cow. There was not enough left for it. That is why during the first summer we were without milk. A rich neighbor woman would sell us a quart of milk for 25 cents.
The farm was cheap. However, it was neglected; not even a small piece of fencing was in order. Across the plowed fields there were many gullies. In the spring, I called my dear wife to come from Cleveland with the two smaller children. The older boys stayed there. They were getting a salary, and they were supporting us on the farm with this money. I and my fourteen-year-old boy planted 100 acres of corn. The planting gave me a lot to think about. There was nobody to ask, since I was afraid of being made fun of, and none of the neighbors would advise me either.”
Tomorrow this wonderful story continues as our exclusive translation of this 1934 Czech article unfolds in English for the first time ever! Only from Onward To Our Past® and nowhere else!
Onward To Our Past®