Today we complete the fabulous and intriguing story of the “Forgotten Immigrant” as published in the fabulous pages of the Czech-American annual journal, Amerikán Národní Kalendář!
This is has been a highly interesting story of just an ordinary Czech immigrant, whose story ran the risk of easily being forgotten forever — except for the foresight of the editors and publisher of this treasure trove of Czech-American history! We owe a debt of gratitude to the author and to August Geringer for his publishing house!
Enjoy this final installment of the story of Antonín Wíša today!
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®
“The Sentimental Story of a Forgotten Immigrant
From the Life of Antonín Wíša. For Kalendář Amerikán written by Antonín Klobása”
“I was able to find him once again in his former settlement, but he was already a different person, and I was scared just looking at him. The previously, beautiful, big strong man was paralyzed in his body and his spirit.—He had one leg much shorter than the other one, and there were other marks of the cruel fight on his body. His eyes, however, still showed a quick intelligence. He did not invite me into his home. (What happened to his home from before the war, and to his “museum”, I never learned.) In the yard where I met him he had “a paint shop” to paint carriages, which was his employment at that time.
I conveyed to his brother that I had found Antonín and what he was doing and that, however, he did not live in the best of conditions. He himself did not mention his personal life in a single word, and I did not ask because I could read it from his face.
I noticed that in the courtyard, there was a little boy playing, and I got the feeling that it was probably his offspring. The little boy was very frisky, probably like Antonín used to be himself when he was little.
Sometime later several countrymen from Chicago came to St. Louis, and among them was also Mr. Václav J. Wíša who was yearning to visit his younger brother whom he had not seen since he said goodbye last time at home at the railroad station when that vivacious youth was going to America to seek his fortune. We took him to his brother. A newly painted carriage was standing in the courtyard. There were two men who were circling and looking at it. One of them was beautifully dressed and had a tall hat on his head, which at that time everybody was wearing, except for the working class. The second one was wearing an outfit stained with colors and a squashed hat on his head. We remained standing on the side, and we were waiting for the men to depart. Then Mr. Wíša from Chicago asked me: “Which one among them is my brother, the one in the tall hat? “ Oh how bitter for me it was to say the truth, and nevertheless I had to say: “No, it’s the second one.” It was a sad surprise.
When the owner of the carriage left, I introduced the two brothers who fell into each other’s embrace and both were weeping bitterly. The scene also made my eyes shed tears. We stayed for about an hour and we asked him to come to visit us next Thursday to make the acquaintance of several guests from Chicago. When we were taking our leave, the older brother said: “Antonín, if you are poor tell me: I am in a position to help you. Just tell me and it will be a pleasure for me to help you.”
The brother, however, turned his head away and said: ”No.” We both understood how his heart was rebelling with pain. We never saw him again. When later I went to visit him, I was told by his wife, who I had not seen before, that he had died just a short time before, and that she herself would take her family to go to stay with her friends in the east.
How it all could have turned out differently, if religious fanaticism would not have torn apart two loving hearts that could have been happy in the world.
When several years ago the daughters of Mr. J. W. Wíša, the son of Václav J. Wíša from Chicago went on an excursion to Europe in New York they met Mr. Louis Wíša, the descendant of the late Antonín Wíša. They saw in him a very intelligent person who had already been working as an illustrator for the journal “Evening News” for a long time, and who was a very gifted designer.
Not long ago he painted a very well done portrait of President Roosevelt for the above-mentioned periodical and he sent its print to the Wíša Chicago family. The meeting of the so-far unacquainted female cousins with their male cousin was very happy and created new friendships among them. Also their aunt, Mrs. Marie Behrensová, who is living not far away from the family of Louis Wíša in New York, is visiting them and is keeping up the friendly contacts. Mr. Louis Wíša, we are told, is worthy of the name of his unfortunate father.”
Editor’s Note: You may recognize this image! It is from the series of highly successful and popular children’s books “Uncle Wiggly”. Look closely at the signature in the bottom left corner!
Tomorrow we will begin an all new biography as we continue, and conclude this amazing article published in 1934 in the pages of Amerikán Národní Kalendář!
Only from Onward To Our Past®