Welcome! In 1934, the editors of the Czech-American annual journal, Amerikán Národní Kalendář, published a wonderful article on the life of a Czech immigrant, Johan (John) Zajíc. Thank goodness they did this, for Johan’s story is one of the most detailed accounts of life in Bohemia we have so far encountered in our translation series.
We continue our story today and we are happy to be doing it! Our Czech is still traveling in the Old World and now having thoughts about a future in the New World!
Enjoy today’s installment!
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.
The co-workers during the empty time were reading newspapers or books. I was looking at them with envy, because I did not know how to read.
Immediately on Monday, I went to the school of the Catholic Journeymen in Dlouhá Třída at the Blue Pike House. I continued school with excellent results as well as in the shop. In six months my teacher told me that he could not teach me anymore. I was no longer ashamed when I saw my co-workers reading newspapers and books; however, the yearning pushed me toward further learning. Each Monday I would go for lectures and also I would buy printed lectures and scientific books. My yearning aimed toward a knowledge of all existing laws; however, because I was a poor worker I did not get a diploma even though I was better than many others. Then I told myself that rich sons and the sons of clerks had a monopoly on diplomas, but I did not stop learning and it served me well.
Soon I became a first class worker in Prague. I saved 150 guilders. I had nice clothing and so I set off for Vienna where immediately I found good work, and I continued once again in my learning. I learned German. I successfully finished the continuing business-trade school. Then I set off into the world having been outfitted with all kinds of knowledge.
I knew how to make beautiful Hussar boots and therefore I went directly to Budapest. However, that was a mistake. The Hungarian masters did not refuse me work, however, they would tie me up for a full year as used to be the custom with our Czech field workers. I did not feel like it. I went all the way to Constantinople, and then Hamburg. —My goal was to cross to America in exchange for trade work on the ship. One day I was sitting in a park and an old man was sitting by me, and because I seemed nice to him, he asked me what I was waiting for. I told him about my travels throughout the world. He recognized my Viennese dialect. Immediately he started to talk, saying that he used to be a soldier in Vienna. I had to explain to him how Vienna looks nowadays. In exchange he advised me about such ships that take people in exchange for work, saying that those are mainly pirate ships and that I will not be administratively registered and that they will keep me on the ship sometimes even several years, and that I cannot get any legal redress, etc.
That scared me.”
Tomorrow we will continue with our wonderful story and perhaps we will discover if our young Czech makes his way across the ocean or not!
Onward To Our Past®