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.
—I was born on Christmas Day on the 25th of December 1859 in the village of Přebozi in the district of Kouřim, Čáslav region in Bohemia. My parents were very poor, since they worked on the ducal manor of the Duke of Lichtenstein for very low pay. I was neglected by my parents. – I did not go to school at all. When I was six years old, there was a war with Prussia. Many Prussian soldiers were streaming across our village and we could hear the cannonade from Hradec Králové. People were afraid of the Prussians, but they did not eat anybody. People were burying their valuables in the ground. The most that the Prussians were taking was the draft animals, and young cattle that were ready for slaughter, however, they were friendly towards poor people and they would distribute all kinds of foodstuffs among them.
In our village, there are large pits (common graves) from the battle at Křečhoř (which is about 8 kilometers from our village to the east). That is the place where the Prussians would pray in the evenings. They were sharpening their bayonets, and they were threatening the heavens. It was during the time of harvest and the harvest was very good. Very shortly after the war cholera came. Many people died; even whole families died off. We were not permitted to ring bells for the dead during their funerals.
The second year after the war (1867), many German agents descended upon Bohemia. During the war, the Germans learned that the center of the Czech Lands is suitable for raising sugar beets. Immediately there was a big change. Factories were built. Stone roads, new wagons with steel axles came into use. On all sides there was a paucity of workers. The factories were offering money without any collateral for loans. They were distributing beet seedlings to farmers, the inns were open all night. Everywhere the salaries went up, farmers took off their leather vests. The farm women threw out their spindles. Young farm girls put around their necks their whole dowry in gold. (Those were the ducats strung on a silk chord.) The shoemakers also had a lot to do. No woman would put on wooden shoes anymore. They had to have “patent leather shoes” (lakýrky) and the poorer ones at least had “Briner’s shoes”, which were leather pointed shoes embroidered with white silk. In sugar factories during the seasons, there were hundreds of men, women and children employed. The season lasted from St. Wenceslaus to God’s Mother’s Day (25th of March).
A fifteen or sixteen year old young girl would make 8 guilders one week and the second week 9 guilders. People learned how to fight. Every day there was a whole procession going to the district court because of a fight or an insult. Before that one notary was enough for the whole district, however, during the times of sugar beet cultivation even three lawyers and four judges were not enough. All tradesmen and of course all priests and musicians had good times; the villages changed. Thatched huts were replaced by showy houses, and the place where mud bricks were made was taken over by a circular brick works.”
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