Onward To Our Past® is pleased to present the continuation of our exclusive translation of the 1898 article from Amerikán Národní Kalendář, titled “Paměti českých osadníků v Americe” or “Memoirs of Czech Settlers in America”.
Today we continue with the amazing story of Vojtěch Dolejš as he literally works his way from being an orphan in Bohemia to his working across America as he pursues his dream of a better life in the United States.
As with so many of our biographies here it is a story of amazing grit, determination, and strength.
We know you will find this biography of interest.
Amerikán Národní Kalendář
Volume: XXI, Year: 1898, Pages: 196-208
“Memoirs of Czech Settlers in America”
“Vojtěch sometimes fished for trout in a brook for himself and then baked it in dried cow dung so as not to fall down from hunger. Nobody cared about the poor orphan.
Sometimes someone would note: “I see it is Vojtěch, son of the old Dolejš from Radomilice“. However nobody gave him even so much as a crust of bread. The poor orphan cried many times not knowing why he was discriminated against. His older sister was the only one person who cared about him at all. She would at least patch his linen pants, but unfortunately she died very young.
Vojtěch was very happy when he became older and was advanced to the position of being a farmhand. The farmer was then giving him a lot of food, a bed in a shed (before he slept in wood chips), and Vojtěch started to wear leather pants instead the linen ones. At the age of sixteen years he served as a farmhand at Dubenec and he was proud that at that time he could give some food to the little orphans, who reminded him of his own, sad childhood. It was the greatest happiness for him: after being discriminated before now he could make some acts of kindness for other ones!
But now we move several years into the future. Dolejš served lastly in Chvalkovice district, owned by the Prince Schwarzenberg. The overseer, Prucha, was serving there and helped him a great amount. Dolejš rememebers him to this day as his second father. He will never forget him because the big-hearted man was the first person who treated him as an equal. He left the world a long time ago, may he rest in peace!
In the early 1850s there appeared rumors in Bohemia about the blessed land of America. Vojtěch started to think about emigration too. But he was unmarried and was, at this time, trying to find a woman who would follow with him on his journey through life. But the aforementioned friend, Prucha, advised him not to hurry because in America he could also find his wife. Vojtěch agreed and on Groundhog Day in 1853 he left his home.
He thought that the money he brought with him from Bohemia would be enough to travel through the whole of America. But he did not have any idea how large the United States was and the amount he had was just enough for him to travel across the ocean. Along the way he had to wait in Bremen for 8 weeks before he could finally enter Bremerhaven (Ed: Literally Bremen’s harbor). After eight more days he finally boarded his ship. Fifty-six days later he reached the coast of Louisiana – he was in New Orleans.
Why do we describe this passage? Almost all Czechs who have settled in America personally know how incredibly difficult making this passage was. Especially the older ones who can tell us a lot about it. Today it is much easier!
Another fellow passenger of Dolejs’ had enough money to continue farther – to St. Louis. But he (Ed: Vojtěch) was without even a penny and therefore he got the only job that was offered to him in New Orleans, which was among black slaves at that time. He did not like the work but he worked there for one month and earned enough money to travel to join his friend to St. Louis. Once in St. Louis he immediately found a job – unloading goods from the ships. This was very hard work and it led him to look for something easier, which he tried to find about 150 miles from St. Louis, in a small town (unfortunately he forgets its name) where 4 Czechs had already died from yellow fever.”
Tomorrow we continue with the biography of Vojtěch Dolejš as he continues across America in pursuit of his dream.
Onward To Our Past®