Genealogy is Blossoming on The Great Plains and Across America with Stephen Ourecky
As one of our many online, free services, Onward To Our Past® (OTOP) Genealogy Services Company, conducts periodic interviews with individuals of interest to the genealogy community.
In the past we have interviewed genealogy experts from across the globe, including the likes of Dick Eastman, editor of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, Alan Pateman-Jones, at the time the Director General of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Peter Farina, expert in Italian genealogy, Myra Cordrey, lead genealogist for the Cornwall Online Parish Clerks organization, Miroslav Koudelka, Czech genealogy expert, and others.
Now today we bring you a brand new exclusive Onward To Our Past® interview for your genealogical edification, enjoyment, and enlightenment.
If you have an interest in Czech (Bohemian) genealogy, family history, ancestry, and culture you will find this interview of special interest I am sure. So sit back, grab your favorite beverage, maybe a nice glazed donut to accompany it, and enjoy today’s interview.
OTOP: Will today’s Onward To Our Past® genealogy guest please sign in!
“Hello, I am Stephen (Steve) Ourecky, Editor and Owner of Czech Slavnosti newspaper, in Wilber, Nebraska.”
OTOP: Steve, can you begin by giving us a bit of background on your newspaper, Czech Slavnosti?
Steve: “The Czech Slavnosti newspaper was originally started in 2008 by Tim Linscott as a supplemental publication to the Wilber Republican newspaper that he also published. With Wilber, Nebraska being a community that is very proud of its Czech heritage it was a good fit.”
OTOP: What led you to buy and become the Editor of Czech Slavnosti?
Steve: “Tim sold his publishing titles to a larger publishing company and Czech Slavnosti was not a very good fit with their other, mostly local, weekly newspapers. The new owners thought it might have potential with someone else, so they decided to put it up for sale and see if someone who would be interested in it might come forward. When I saw the ad, I knew if someone didn’t take it over, it would die. I had been getting more involved in the Czech festivals and had made connections all across the Midwest. I thought this paper might be a good way to help promote and unite the Czech-American communities across the States.”
OTOP: That sounds like a terrific mission and purpose for your newspaper, Steve. What is your vision for the revitalized Czech Slavnosti?
Steve: “Tim laid a great foundation with the slogan “All things Czech”. I want to put a little more focus on the U.S. Czech-American culture that our ancestors created in their new country. Like all the ethnic groups in the U.S., the Czech-American culture has its own unique food, music, dance, history, and even language. The many area festivals bring the people together and teach others about our beloved culture. I want to report on all aspects of this. I also want lots of photos!”
OTOP: Lots of photos, eh? Now you are talking the language every genealogist loves, Steve. Every genealogist and family historian I know certainly loves photos! It must be fun to see these pictures from across the U.S. So what do you like best about working on Czech Slavnosti?
Steve: “The people I meet and work with. It is also a great excuse to “have” to go to festivals!”
OTOP: Steve, I am sure that it is all not wonderful all the time, so what is your biggest challenge as the publisher and editor-in-chief of Czech Slavnosti?
Steve: “I have zero background in publishing. I asked around to all the people I knew to see if they knew someone who could be editor for me. Not finding anyone willing, I took the job on myself. I am lucky that the company I bought the newspaper from has been very helpful in teaching me the ropes. I hire them to do the layout, printing, and mailing. I handle the subscriptions and ads, and I provide them with the articles, general guidelines as to where I’d like to put them, and then proofread the newspaper before it is printed.”
OTOP: Speaking of backgrounds and your evident love of all things Czech Steve, is it safe to say you have Czech roots in your family?
Steve: “I certainly do. My father is 100% Czech, my mother is 1/8 Czech with the rest German. My paternal grandmother, Irma, was very active in the Czech-American community in Wilber and across neighboring states.”
OTOP: With such a great Czech background and an active grandmother, have you done any work on your own family history and if so do you still find time to work on it now?
Steve: “My Mother was the family genealogist and kept all the records. When she passed away 18 years ago, that job got passed to me. The Internet was just starting to have many great resources at that time and I took advantage of that to add to what she had accomplished. This was at the time when I only lived in Omaha and didn’t have the weekend house in Wilber yet, so I had plenty of free time.
It got to the point I needed to learn some Czech to help in my research. I found a class that a woman was teaching in her basement. It was there that I met the then Miss Czech-Slovak Nebraska. She encouraged me to join the Omaha Czech Cultural Club and it all snowballed from there. Since then I have joined other Czech heritage organizations and have become more involved in my businesses. I just don’t have the time anymore to do much family history research.”
OTOP: I certainly understand the wish for more free time to work on all the family history we’d all like to, Steve. Being so involved in Czech heritage, what do you think the future holds for preserving our Czech culture, roots, etc?
Steve: “Where I am involved there seems to be a renaissance in interest. Young people getting involved especially the girls researching the kroj from their home regions. When I was young, the Czech lands were still Communist and we were in the Cold War. Now that those are over and travel and communication is much easier, I see people becoming more interested in their roots.”
OTOP: That is great to hear, Steve. You might find it interesting to know that Dr. Francis Dvornik in his book “The Czech Contributions To The Growth of The United States” said, way back in 1961, the basis for his writing this work on Czech-American immigration and history was “the surprisingly vivid interest, which the Clevelanders of Czech extraction had manifested in the history of their fathers and forefathers who became American pioneers in the mid-West and West…”.
OTOP: Is there anything else you would like to add for our readers to know about you and Czech Slavnosti?
Steve: “Ha ha, no. I think I’ve gone on enough.”
OTOP: Thank you so much Steve! We certainly wish you and Czech Slavnosti well in the future. Personally, I certainly enjoy every issue of my subscription and look forward to it every other month.
By the way everyone, the cost for a year’s subscription to Czech Slavnosti is inexpensive at only $18.00 a year, delivered directly to your mailbox. You can subscribe to Czech Slavnosti by using the form found on their website or you can give Steve a call at (402) 616-2635.
It really is a great Czech heritage newspaper and a whole lot of fun to read!