Mila Rechcigl: A Man for All Seasons – Especially Czech Genealogy, History, & Heritage
A few years ago I had the pleasure of first meeting Miloslav (Mila) Rechcigl and since then things have never been the same – thank goodness!
Among his myriad accomplishments in the field of Czech history and genealogy, Mila is one of the founding members of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU), as well as a past president, scholar-in-residence, and archivist. If you are not familiar with this wonderful organization, be sure to check it out at http://www.svu2000.org.
You may not know Mila now, but you feel as though you do after you read our exclusive interview with him here at Onward To Our Past®. Personally I believe his name is destined to become ensconced with such other Czech luminaries as Jan Habenicht and Thomas Čapek.
OTOP: Where were you born and where was your family from?
“I was born in Mladá Boleslav, Czechoslovakia to a son of the youngest member of the Czechoslovak Parliament. My parents actually resided in the village of Chocnějovice, about 7 km from Mnichovo Hradiště, where I spent my childhood. I spent the War years under Nazi occupation and after the communist’s coup d’état I escaped to the West and immigrated to the U.S. in 1950.”
OTOP: What is your academic and career background?
“I received training as nutritional biochemist at Cornell University and later served as a research biochemist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD. Following additional training, I became a science administrator, first at the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (DHEW) and later at US Department of State and the US Agency for International Development (AID).
OTOP: What triggered your interest in Czech (and Slovak) research, genealogy, and writing books on these topics?
“My interest in Czech American history got its start in my early days in New York City, soon after my arrival there in 1950. During my first of many visits to the Czech Library located in the “Česká čtvrt” on the East side of Manhattan, the librarian, who was of Czech extraction, recommended Josef Koudelka’s book on Augustine Heřman.
I read the book with great interest “in one breath,” as the Czech say, and became so fascinated by the life and the exploits of this first Czech permanent settler in America, that it almost became an obsession with me.”
OTOP: How many books on Czech history you written?
“I must have written tens, if not hundreds of articles on this topic. As for the books, let’s see. I don’t know how many I have actually written.
OTOP: What is the title of your most current work, which is about to be published?
“I have one book, which was just published on July 31st, titled Czech It Out: Czech American Biography Sourcebook and another monumental book manuscript Encyclopedia of Bohemian and Czech American Biography, which is in final stages of preparation.”
OTOP: What caused you to become interested in writing this particular book?
“Even though Czechs have been living in the US practically since Colonial times, no composite biographical dictionary exists about the accomplished Czech Americans. Biographical information about them is scattered in a plethora of sources, which are difficult to find and some are not readily accessible.”
OTOP: This is a huge and very significant undertaking. How long have you been working on it?
“I have literally devoted several decades of my life to study of Czech-American history and have canvassed hundreds of sources at national and local levels to identify, not only notable individuals but also pioneer settlers who0 played a significant role in the growth and development of the US.”
OTOP: Has there been a particularly intriguing or surprising aspect of your research or findings so far?
“The most intriguing and exciting thing for me is if I find some notable ‘canceled Czech’, who might not be even aware of the fact that he may have Czech roots. Here are a few examples: Fred Astaire (orig. Austerlitz) – American dancer, choreographer, singer, musician and actor, whose ancestors came from Prague. Michael Eisner – American businessman, the chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company, whose ancestors came from Horažďovice Bohemia. Henry W. Bloch and Richard Bloch – American businessmen and philanthropists, the co-founders of the American tax-preparation company H&R Block, whose grandfather came from Janovice, Bohemia. James D. Kern – an American composer of musical theatre and popular music and one of the most important American theatre composers of the early 20th century, whose maternal grandparents came from Bohemia.”
OTOP: Where can we buy a copy?
“You can purchase my newest book either directly from the publisher, AuthorHouse, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.com.”