Today we conclude our story about one Czech-American couple. Unlike many of our prior translations, this one not only includes the female half of the couple, but a wonderful story about her youth and early years in Bohemia!
It is a wonderful story, which gives us great insight into how difficult life could be in ‘the old country’ for some of our ancestral Czech compatriots.
You can click here for Installment #1 of this story if you missed it and then click here for Installment #2 if you missed that one as well.
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Amerikán Národní Kalendář
Year: 1951, Volume: LXXIII, Pages: 117-144
“Old Settlers’ Memories”
Translated from the original Czech by Dr. Mila Saskova-Pierce and Layne Pierce
©Onward To Our Past®
“50 YEARS OF HAPPY MARRIAGE: ANN AND ALOIS LIŠKA FROM BROOKFIELD ILLINOIS”
“After 7 years we were pushed to sell it. We were stricken with sicknesses and we had 7 operations in one year. So all seven of us one after another went to the hospital. During the same year the husband of our daughter died. He was sick from the First World War, so we all needed some rest. We bought a house on 18th St. and East Ave and moved there. We lived there for 12 years. Both our youngest sons got married. The house was big for the two of us, and so we sold it and we moved to live with our daughter for a while, until we built another house, but before we got to it, new buildings were not permitted, and so instead of three months we stayed with our daughter for 5 years. After the war we built a house in Brookfield where we like it very much.
My wife was born on the 29th of August 1880 in Lhota near Střelohoštice in the district of Horažďovice. Before marriage her name was Anna Braun. They had a small Cottage with 35 strych [One strych = 0.7 acre] in fields and they were not doing too well. When one year they built new cowsheds, then the following year in November, exactly during the St. Martin Thanksgiving her mother was cooking the butter. It spilled over and started a fire. There was a big wind. The straw roof was flying around and setting fire to other houses, and so the whole village was burning from all four sides. The brook was frozen over and they did not have enough time to pump water from wells, so almost the whole village turned to ashes. The father did not have any insurance paid on time, and so instead of 4,000 of insurance, he got only 400. They chased the cows and the horses beyond the village, but the pigs, hens and sheep burned up, as well as the already thrashed grain and flower in the granary. And so they found themselves impoverished.
After some time the oldest brother of my wife got married onto a farm and my wife and her sister, Marie, had to work for sustenance. Her sister went to serve and stay with her aunt in Třeboň and my wife went to work on the railroad, throwing stones with a shovel, and whatever she earned she had to give to her sister-in-law, so that she did not even have enough for clothing. Her parents told her to go somewhere for service, and she decided to go to America. She arrived at the home of her brother and sister-in-law whom I already mentioned. She had to look for employment. Her sister-in-law went with her to the work broker, but even there was a paucity of service opportunities. Every day 10 to 15 young girls were waiting there for a job. Finally she was successful in obtaining work with one woman. They were washing clothes on the first day and Anna was really surprised that they had so much male winter clothing. In the evening she learned why, when about 5 men who were working with the woman came back from work. She left the woman and several days later she was granted a different job with Czech people who were kind to her. They had one little boy and then a little girl was born to them. The first week she went back to her brother’s place on foot. Around 6 p.m. on Sunday in the evening, she was returning by the streetcar where she was taken by her sister-in-law. She had the address of the people where she was living. Suddenly the car stopped and it would not go anywhere else. Meanwhile all the people got off and Anna did too: she did not know where to go. She started to cry, when a young black man asked her what was wrong, she did not understand him. She showed him the piece of paper with the address. He took her to a different street car, said something to the engineer, who once again after several stations stopped, since nearby the steel works were on fire and one could not go on, and so Anna continued on foot. In places she was going through snow up to her knees, and then once again she was crying out loud. A young woman approached her and tried to speak to her in several languages until finally she tried Czech, which, to Anna, seemed like the voice of a guardian angel. The lady took her into her apartment, gave her dry clothing and a dress and gave her hot coffee. After midnight then her two brothers took Anna home. Her employers had already called the police wondering whether something had not happened to her, and everybody was happy that she came home all right. After about three and a half years she left them when we had our wedding.
My wife still remembers this nice lady who took care of her and she regrets that she does not even know her name and where she was living, since she would like to thank her additionally.”
Tomorrow we begin an all new biography in this wonderful series about the lives and times of Czech immigrants to America from all corners of the country!
Onward To Our Past®