It’s here! After over a week of our installment postings of this wonderful story from the 1934 edition of the Czech-American annual journal, Amerikán Národní Kalendář, we are pleased to bring you the entire, exclusive English translation of “From the History of Caledonia, an Old Czech Settlement in the State of Wisconsin”. We bring it to you today in pdf! It is a portion of a much larger article, which when published ran some 26 pages with the overall title “From the Memories of Old Czech Settlers in America”.
This translation is one of our most highly detailed accounts of the struggles of an early Czech community in America. It also contains a whopping 52 Czech surnames, which we have included as an index at the end of the article.
For anyone who loves Czech genealogy and our culture and traditions, etc. this is an especially important article as it deals in large part with the efforts of this Czech community to maintain at least a portion of their Czech heritage while living in the United States as Americans.
There is one particular passage, which stood out to me in a most significant, and unfortunately sad, manner. It is the following:
“For a number of years the cemetery was quite neglected. It did not look very enticing. It lacked order. Many had kept their graves tidy; however, many graves were neglected. Today, everybody has to add two dollars to the cost of the lot for the upkeep of the grave. It is the duty of each one of us to have the place of last rest maintained in a dignified manner, since after the years it will become the only constant messenger that in the past there were Czech immigrants. This is all that we can expect. There will be a time when America will absorb us completely, and the only thing left after us, somewhere, will be some mispronounced Czech names and our cemeteries. “It is a vain speculation,” Václav Lenoch used to say, “that it will get better; the immigrants are not coming, and our youth — does not give a damn about the national movement and Czech language. Talk with them in Czech and they answer in English, and if they speak in Czech then they mangle it to the point that nobody can understand it.” What can one do? Other nationalities are in no better place. The same applies to the Germans, for example. Each year they are going down in the number of their countrymen. The same also for Danes. They don’t have it any different. I have a nice illustration in my own family. My brother sent all of his children, there were eight of them, to a Czech school, and today after the daughters got married he has four sons in law; they are Danes and Germans and not a single one of his grandchildren knows Czech, nor German, nor Danish. All of them speak only English. I wanted to try it with one of the little boys, and I started in a good humor to make him speak with me in Czech, but he only laughed at it, and so I started with discipline, and then it was even worse and it did not lead to anything. In the end the boy told me in English: “Uncle, you are already too old and you do not understand anything. We don’t need Czech language in America. Here we are up-to-date Americans only, and that’s all.” That’s when I gave up.”
It is hard to ignore the feelings behind the above quoted words. When I first read them, I stopped. Thought about them for a moment, then immediately reread them. I think I reread them a dozen times or more. As a genealogical historian they hit me like a sledgehammer and harkened me back to my own grandmother who said to me, when I asked her to teach me Czech “What for? You have no use for Czech! You need to learn your English spelling better from what you mother told me about your last report card.” She never taught me a word of Czech…
Now enjoy this marvelous exclusive translation right below in pdf! All you need to do is let your cursor hover over the first page and a footer bar will appear. This will give you options to move through our wonderful story right here!
Enjoy and stay with Onward To Our Past® for even more exclusive translations coming right up!
Onward To Our Past®