Today we begin an all new exclusive translation loaded with details not only about the life of a Czech immigrant in America, but also his life in Bohemia!  It is another terrific story and one we know you will all enjoy!

This larger article from the pages of the 1951 edition of Amerikan Národní Kalendar is one of the best when it comes to being incredibly full of details about the lives and times of early Czech immigrants to the United States!


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®

“Biography of Countryman Jan Podaný from Detroit, Michigan.”

1951 Podany image

            “I was born on the 23rd of December 1870 in the little village of Skaly in the district of Vodňany in the Písek region.  I attended a four room grammar school in Heřmaň, and at the age of 14 I went to learn a trade and I apprenticed as a machine smith with Master Fr.  Jareš in Vodňany.

I was keeping correspondence with my older brother Josef who was already in Detroit for several years and also with my sister whose married name was Ulanová and both of them advised me to come and join them in America.  In April 1889 I decided to do it.  Mainly, because I did not want to serve as an Austrian soldier for three years, and so In April 1889 I left my beloved country.  My parents got the travel money.  I was seventeen and a half years old and as a precautionary measure I asked for a passport and permission to work in Germany, however in the regional office in Písek they denied it to me, because at the end of the year I was supposed to present myself for a medical examination for military service, and therefore I decided that I would try it without a passport and upon advice from acquaintances I did it.  I said goodbye to my parents, sister and brothers, and as it was the tradition, mother as well as my father gave me their blessing for the trip with a prayer.  I got onto the train in Razice and around nine o’clock I got to Cheb.  It was a risky undertaking, however, it was successful.  I entered among travelers who were getting onto the train around five o’clock in the morning, and so I escaped the customs official and breathed a sigh, when I got unnoticed onto the train of the German Railroad, which was going to Hamburg. ***

However, when the train was several miles out of the train station, the conductor announced the control for passports.  What now?  I did not have any.  I had only the working book, which was good only in Austria.  I asked four women who were sitting on the bench, and all were Czechs, if I could escape the search.  I crawled beneath their seats (long skirts reaching the ground were being worn at that time) and they hid me.  After the search I crawled once again from the hiding place and thanked my protectors nicely.  At eleven during the night we reached Hamburg where we were expected by Czech agents of Hamburg-American Line and they took all those who had run away from Austria immediately to the hotel, where we were protected and from where they also took us to the ship, which after 19 days of sailing brought us to America.”

Tomorrow we complete this marvelous story, so be sure to return to Onward To Our Past®!

Onward To Our Past®

A Genealogical Historian, who is focused on family history and genealogy of the highest quality, but with a dose of fun. Avid about documentation and evidence. Loves helping folks of all levels in their genealogy pursuits, especially in the areas of Bohemia, Czech Republic, Italy, Cornwall, Kent, United Kingdom, U.S. Immigration and Cleveland, Ohio.

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